Arthur Hugh Clough's Amours de Voyage (1858) provides a revealing lens through which to explore the implications for genre of the changing status of action in the nineteenth century. For historical reasons, conceptions of action shifted in the Victorian period, leading most notably to a decrease in the legibility of deeds. The shift opened up a critical dispute concerning the relative importance of the Aristotelian categories of character and action in literature. This dispute resulted in an emphasis on a literature of inaction - both frustrated external action and heightened internal action - which in turn had consequences for the development of the novel as a genre concerned with character and states of consciousness. Clough's own Hamlet-like inability to act is the stuff of legend, and his hero Claude suffers from the same affliction, as is made manifest by the failed courtship plot of the poem. Amours de Voyage, as an epistolary novel in verse, in mock-epic hexameters interspersed with lyrical elegiacs, stands at the place where genres - and the different attitudes toward action that they represent - collide. Both its subject matter and its method reflect the Victorian crisis of action.
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