Date of Award
Benjamin Kim, Ph.D.
Don Juan, George Gordon, Lord Byron, Midlife
For Byron, the knowledge that he would one day have to become old was always on his mind. By the time Byron had relocated to the Continent, the idea had become something of an obsession. Thirty had always been Byron's turning point, the age at which youth would have to end and he would have to become an old man. Upon finally reaching that age, Byron found himself in a place much like Dante's selva oscura--dark, confusing, fearful, but with no other way left to go. There are allusions to this opening scene throughout Don Juan. It is in that work, begun in 1818, the year he turned thirty, that Byron plays out his journey through midlife on the page and truly confronts what it means to transition from youth to age. The composition of Don Juan took place over five years in two distinct periods: Cantos I-V from July 1818 to November 1820, and Cantos VI-XVII from April 1822 to May 1823, with an intervening sixteen-month hiatus. In the early cantos (I-V), Juan is a means through which Byron can revisit and reevaluate his youth; through Juan Byron can indulge nostalgia for his youth and mourn its passing. The later cantos (VI-XVII), however, reflect a change in Byron. They show an increase in digression and Byron's intrusion into the narrative. As he makes his way through his midlife crisis, the task of reliving his youth through Juan loses importance and the plot takes on a supporting role. As early as Canto VII Byron begins to speak of transcendence (VII.1-2) and by Canto X has decided that he is ready to embark on that journey (X.4), as Juan seems poised to follow Aurora into the heavens, as Dante made it through Purgatory to follow Beatrice to God.By the time Byron reaches thirty-five he appears to be well on his way out of the crisis and into mature adulthood; Juan, the manifestation of his lost youth, is on the verge of manhood himself, whether it be achieved through marriage in English society or the philosophical influence of Aurora.
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Parker, Melanie J., "Byron and 'the Barbarous . . . Middle Age of Man': Youth, Aging, and Midlife in Don Juan" (2010). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 496.
Received from ProQuest
British and Irish literature