Essays in Romanticism

“Mock’d the Sight”: Misdirection of Interpretation in Byron’s The Giaour

Essays in Romanticism (2016), 23, (2), 211–224.

Abstract

In The Giaour Byron experiments with a style of poetry that both gratifies and resists his readers’ expectations. Reflecting on how readers seized the biographical hints of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and interpreted the hero of the poem as a figure of the poet, Byron invites similar biographical inferences in The Giaour. Yet he also turns the interpretive distortions that such inferences produce into a theme of the poem. The fragmentary form of the poem, for instance, invites readers to fill in the gaps of the story according to their preconceptions about Byron’s work, while the scenes of reading in the poem emphasize how these preconceptions cover up significant omissions, obscure unexpected details, and exclude alternate possibilities. Signaling the beginning of an important stage in Byron’s rhetorical relationship with his audience, The Giaour denies any hermeneutic privilege to personal intimacy with the poet and presents every image as subject to the limits of interpretation.

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Author details

Tedeschi, Stephen