Dialogical Self in Tennyson’s “Ulysses” and Farooq Guwaida’s “A Star Looking for an Orbit”

By Ebtihal Elshaikh.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Dialogical Self theory sees the self as a complex system consisting of several other selves or “I-positions.” The theory is an important technique to study the narrative discourse, especially in literary genres like drama and novel; but rarely applied to poetry.
The aim of this paper is to apply the theory of dialogical self to two poems: “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and “A Star Looking for an Orbit” by Farooq Guwaida. The paper is going to discuss how these two writers use two mythical figures that have much in common, Ulysses and Sinbad, to represent two different experiences of Victorian England and Postmodern Egypt. Both writers reflect the psychological conflict and the identity crisis that are the outcome of such societies at crossroads. In “Ulysses” and “A Star Looking for an Orbit,” we face a multi-layered identity, or what Hermans calls different I-positions in a dialogue with each other.
Tennyson is known to be one of the speakers of the Victorian age. His poetry comes to reflect the Victorian interests and issues. In his poem, “Ulysses,” Tennyson expresses, through his use of the Greek myth of Ulysses, the social and political dilemma of the Victorian society and the conflict that rises between an individual identity and a social one. Throughout the poem we confront many I-positions that represent Tennyson’s self and his contemporary culture.
Guwaida, likewise, and through his use of the oriental myth of Sinbad, represents the psychological conflict that tears the contemporary Egyptian self apart. The I-positions that we meet in Guwaida reflect the difficulty of dialogue between the two realms of the poet’s self: the external realm representing the harsh postmodern reality, and the internal realm representing the adventurous romantic self.

Keywords: Poetry, Dialogical Self, Identity, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Farooq Guwaida, Victorian England, Post-modern Egypt

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 9, pp.393-404. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 639.885KB).

Prof. Ebtihal Elshaikh

Assistant Professor of English Literature, Department of English, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Tanta University, Madinah, Egypt

Elshaikh has graduated from English Department, Tanta University, Egypt 1992. In 1997 she has got an MA in English poetry, Ain-Shams University, Egypt. The dissertation is about the influence of Platonic thought on Edwin Muir’s poetry. In 2003 she has got a PhD in Arab- American poetry; the dissertation is about dual sense of belonging and alienation in Elmaz Abinader’s poetry. (2000-) She is as an assistant Prof. in English Dept. Faculty of Arts, Tanta University. Elshaikh has published papers in Arab-American writing and comparative literature: “Arabo- phobia in Abinader’s Sixty Minutes” and “Etel Adnan Challenging Borders in the Heart of the Heart of another Country.” Elshaikh is interested in cross-cultural studies, Arab-American poetry, gender studies and comparative literature.


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