Essays in Romanticism

Alexander’s Expedition: Genre and Conquest in Thomas Beddoes’s Revolutionary Epic

Essays in Romanticism (2019), 26, (2), 177–193.

Abstract

Thomas Beddoes’s heroic poem Alexander’s Expedition down the Hydaspes and the Indus to the Indian Ocean (1792) is an intervention in the cultural politics of its time, and a key statement on the relationship of poetry to the sublime historical moment of the Revolution. Beddoes produced his Alexander as a quick response to political events, attempting a self-reflexive and critical performance of heroic style rather than a fully fledged epic poem; the central theme of imperial conquest is explored through the loose control of a fluid heroic couplet. Through a dialogue between the declamatory verse narrative and the discursive historical and political footnotes which mediate it, Beddoes presents to his reader a heroic poem which indicts the epic genre, a masquerade of exotic violence which delivers a republican message. The article makes a claim for Alexander’s Expedition as a worthy inclusion among the heroic poetry of first-generation Romantic writers.

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Author details

Bradshaw, Michael