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Charles Lyell’s Churches and the Erosion of Faith in Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”

Jan Marten Ivo Klaver


The author discusses how in the poem “Dover Beach” (1851-52) Matthew Arnold engages with literary texts of the past as well as with works of contemporary writers. Thus parallels in Arnold’s text with passages written by Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Thucydides, Arthur Clough, William Shakespeare, and William Wordsworth are highlighted. Special attention is paid to Arnold’s metaphor of the retreating tide of the sea of faith by linking it to the processes of erosion described in great detail in the first volume of Charles Lyell’s influential Principles of Geology (1830), and it is argued that the numerous descriptions and woodcuts of collapsing churches along the British coast in this volume might have inspired Arnold to represent the loss of faith as a process of erosion.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/ling-2014-001-klav


Linguæ & - Rivista di lingue e culture moderne
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (06/04/2012 n. 185)
Online ISSN 1724-8698 - Print ISSN 2281-8952

Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione, Studi Umanistici e Internazionali: Storia, Culture, Lingue, Letterature, Arti, Media
Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo

Editor-in-Chief: Roberta Mullini
Editorial Board: Maurizio Ascari - Stefano Beretta - Antonio Bertacca- Tania Collani - Chiara Elefante - Marina Guglielmi - Maryline Heck - Richard Hillman - Reinhard Johler - Stephen Knight - Cesare Mascitelli - Sonia Massai - Aurélie Moioli - Maria de Fátima Silva - Bart Van Den Bossche 

Editorial Staff: Margaret Amatulli - Alessandra Calanchi - Riccardo Donati - Ivo Klaver  - Massimiliano Morini - Antonella Negri - Luca Renzi

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