Representations of Hair in Mid-Victorian Arthurian Poetry

Jasmin Böhm


This article analyses images of women's and men's hair in mid-Victorian Arthurian poetry: Alfred Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King, William Morris' Defence of Guenevere, and Matthew Arnold's "Tristram and Iseult". I distinguish erotic, disgusting and threatening aspects of seductive hairplay and examine the significance of hair style and colour as a moral qualifier. In these functions, hair can relate to Victorian cultural discourses of moral purity, gender, and race and allude to both Christian and pagan tradition. Finally, as I demonstrate in a short analysis of Arnold's poem, characters may also be linked and identify with each other through hair typification.


Victorian Poetry; Arthurian; Gender Studies; Alfred Lord Tennyson; William Morris; Matthew Arnold

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