“Let Knowledge Grow More to More”: Faith, Knowledge and Friendship in Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H.

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Bancha Rattanamathuwong

Abstract

This essay examines Lord Alfred Tennyson’s theological reflection In Memoriam A.H.H. Written in the Victorian era when religious beliefs were challenged by the proliferation of scientific knowledge, In Memoriam thematizes a spiritual journey from skepticism to unquestioning faith. With a deconstructive approach, I shall argue that the poem’s theodicean conclusion is unearned because (1) the narrative trajectory of the poem invalidates Tennyson’s own assertion that the existence of God should be deemed axiomatic, and that (2) the secular idea of friendship and the religious concept of God’s love are too conceptually incompatible to be extolled in the same narrative. My reading will pay particular attention to the varying concepts of knowledge and their dynamic within Tennyson’s elegiac gesture so as to point out that, at its finest, In Memoriam bespeaks a Christian subject’s quandary: faith must always come at the expense of the desire to know.

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Author Biography

Bancha Rattanamathuwong

Bancha Rattanamathuwong holds a BA (first class honors) in English from the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University.  He recently received his MA in English from the University of Oregon. 

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