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Algebraic ArtMathematical Formalism and Victorian Culture$
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Andrea Henderson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198809982

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198809982.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 05 March 2021

Invariant Forms

Invariant Forms

“[T]he bonds of verse”: Form as Discipline

(p.169) 5 Invariant Forms
Algebraic Art

Andrea Henderson

Oxford University Press

In the later nineteenth century formal regularity was regarded as the hallmark of mathematical and scientific inquiry as well as the burgeoning “social sciences” and the arts—all presumed to be governed by formal “laws.” But insofar as formal regularity was seen to characterize natural and civil law, it allowed for an equivocation between them, such that formal laws might be understood to be not an abstraction from but an imposition on content. Thus conceived, form and content could actually be at odds, and this would have important implications for the arts. In the context of linguistic and literary study, the structures of languages and literatures were often allied with formal law while individual words were perceived as rich in meaning but wayward. Max Müller’s philology, Coventry Patmore’s prosody and poetry, and Christina Rossetti’s poetry all present form and content as being in tension, locked in a struggle for domination.

Keywords:   Law, formalism, Max Müller, Coventry Patmore, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Victorian linguistics, Victorian prosody, The Angel in the House, Monna Innominata

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