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Showing posts from January, 2010

Wordsworth 2: The Wordsworthian Ego (and its Edges)

Keats famously condemns Wordsworth for egotism, for constituting a sublimity out of his own overbearing subjectivity. It is a viewpoint for which many an undergraduate will have had no small sympathy. In contrast to Keats's fugitive, sceptical 'negative capability' - where the poet aims to de-constitute identity altogether and efface themselves in the object of representation - Wordsworth famously decides the best way to continue to the epic tradition that runs through Homer, Virgil, Dante and Milton is to write a poem about...well, a poem about Wordsworth. Hence The Prelude, a blank-verse autobiography: in its fully-fledged textual form, thousands upon thousands of lines of Wordsworth meditating on himself.
However, it's worth remembering that we would hardly trouble ourselves to turn again and again to The Prelude were it really so unambiguously prey to the tyranny of the almightly Wordsworthian ego. It is often around the edges of this sovereignty, at least for me,…

Wordsworth 1: Lyrical Ballads, Ellipses, Enigmas

Due to a quite startling series of conjunctive misfortunes, I have been subject to Wordsworth threefold this week: teaching Lyrical Ballads to first years, drawing up seminars and lectures on first-generation Romanticism for second years, and trying to get back into a piece of research on Wordsworth, the city and the body which will hopefully turn into an article at some indeterminate point in the future.
On the other hand, you can never get too much Wordsworth, so...
What I'm kind of interested in is the way that the simple, sing-song logic of the Lyrical Ballads hides a very strong sense of enigma. Just as Wordsworthian joy is always shadowed by mortality, the deceptive lucidity of the style is always haunted by what cannot be said. A passage which neatly includes both is the following from 'The Thorn': Ah me! what lovely tints are there!
Of olive-green and scarlet bright,
In spikes, in branches, and in stars,
Green, red, and pearly white.
This heap of earth o'ergro…