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Gender issues in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King are a focus of critical interest. Some claim that the Idylls propagates established patriarchal Victorian values, while others explore the complicated gender roles that the Idylls intends to explicate. This paper explores the female narrative voices in the Idylls via discussions of the water imagery. Water imagery abounds throughout, and the main female characters are often associated with this imagery. It is this author’s contention that Tennyson uses water—or fluid in general—to underscore the female narrative voice, and lend it narrative power beyond the patriarchal discourse that the Arthurian legends purport to uphold. Furthermore, this paper also explores Julia Margaret Cameron’s photographic illustrations of the Idylls. As a female photographer, Cameron does not simply visually reproduce Tennyson’s texts; a feminine voice speaks through artistic choices and techniques. Cameron’s photographs and working process are characterized by a sense of fluidity, reflecting the way that the women’s narrative voices in the Idylls are characterized by water.


KEYWORDS: Lord Alfred Tennyson, Julia Margaret Cameron, water imagery, female narrative, photography, Arthurian legends

DOI: 10.30395/WSR.202112_15(2).0006