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British and Irish Literature William Wordsworth
by
Simon Bainbridge

Introduction

William Wordsworth (b. 1770–d. 1850) was one of the most important poets of the Romantic period and is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest poets writing in the English language. He was born in Cockermouth in the Lake District and went to Hawkshead Grammar School in the same area. His mother died in 1778, and the death of his father in 1783 left him and his siblings, including his sister Dorothy, in financial difficulties. Wordsworth studied classics at St. John’s College Cambridge, after which he spent time in London, France, and southwest England, where his friendship with fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge became a vital inspiration. In 1798 the two poets published jointly the first volume of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth’s own claims for which contributed to a debate about the volume ushering in a new age of poetry, a debate that continues to this day. After a brief stay in Germany, William and Dorothy returned to the Lake District, settling in Grasmere, an event celebrated in the poem “Home at Grasmere.” Wordsworth lived in the Lake District for the remainder of his life, and the poet and the region continue to be strongly associated. In 1799 Wordsworth completed the first version of what would become his poetic masterpiece, the epic autobiography The Prelude, a work that he continued to expand and revise and that wasn’t published until 1850, after the poet’s death. He married Mary Hutchinson in 1802 and the couple had five children, though two died in 1812. Poems in Two Volumes (1807) and the long work The Excursion (1814) were published to mixed receptions, and Wordsworth’s acceptance of the government-funded role of Distributor of Stamps for Westmoreland in 1813 seemed to some contemporaries to be symbolic of the poet’s increasing orthodoxy and conservatism after his radical, nonconformist youth. Wordsworth’s critical reputation improved from the 1820s on, culminating in his appointment as Poet Laureate in 1843, seven years before his death. The strange and often disturbing power of Wordsworth’s poetry has always been recognized, though contemporaries were often critical of the poet’s choice of “low” subject matter and of what John Keats defined as the “egotistical sublime” character of his verse, qualities that since have been recognized as central to Wordsworth’s poetic achievement. Wordsworth has been central to discussions of Romanticism and English literature more generally and continues to stimulate a wealth of critical readings and theoretical approaches.

General Overviews and Introductions

Wordsworth’s work has been the subject of a vast amount of critical analysis and has often been used as a battleground for different theoretical approaches. Williams 2002 provides a valuable guide to the changing critical responses, alongside a useful introduction to a wide range of the poems. Danby 1960 gives a detailed reading of the major poems from 1797 to 1807 that readers new to the poetry will find particularly helpful. Gill 2003, a collection of essays written by some of the leading current Wordsworth scholars, offers a good starting point. Hartman 1964 is one of the most important studies of the poet and is often seen as the first major modern study of the poet and the touchstone for later criticism. Wordsworth 1982 provides a good place to start, this time with an emphasis on manuscript study. McFarland 1992 offers a powerful attempt to characterize the essential nature of Wordsworth’s achievement, responding in particular to New Historicist readings of the poetry. The beautifully illustrated Jaye, et al. 1987 locates the poet in the period’s wider contexts. Purkis 2000 also provides very useful introductions to the various contexts in which Wordsworth was writing, along with helpful close readings of the poetry.

  • Danby, John F. The Simple Wordsworth: Studies in the Poems, 1797–1908. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1960.

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    A good starting point with detailed and helpful close readings of the major poetry.

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  • Gill, Stephen. The Cambridge Companion to Wordsworth. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521641160Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Both a good introduction to the poet and his work and a valuable snapshot of the current state of Wordsworth scholarship. Fifteen essays by leading Wordsworth scholars offering a wide-ranging study of key works and themes.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. Wordsworth’s Poetry, 1787–1814. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1964.

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    One of the most important and influential studies of Wordsworth of the 20th century. Offering careful, detailed, and revelatory readings of the poetry. Unlike much preceding criticism, presents a Wordsworth in conflict, unsure whether to commit to nature or the imagination. Explores idea of tension between the poet’s “two consciousnesses,” a consciousness of nature and a consciousness of self. The author added a valuable preface to the 1971 edition.

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  • Jaye, Michael C., Robert Woof, and Jonathan Wordsworth. William Wordsworth and the Age of English Romanticism. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987.

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    Well-illustrated introduction to the poet in his context. Sections on key topics in the writing of the period, including nature, memory, imagination, and the sublime. Powerfully conveys the excitement of the Revolutionary age.

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  • McFarland, Thomas. William Wordsworth: Intensity and Achievement. Oxford: Clarendon, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112532.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Positions itself against the New Historical criticism prevalent in the 1980s and opens with a reading of “Tintern Abbey” in response to Marjorie Levinson. Argues for “intensity” as the definitive element of Wordsworth’s poetry.

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  • Purkis, John. A Preface to Wordsworth. Rev. ed. London: Longman, 2000.

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    Very good starting point for undergraduates or general readers, including a valuable introduction, sections on “economic history” and “philosophy and religion,” and critical readings of a good selection of poems.

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  • Williams, John. Critical Issues: William Wordsworth. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2002.

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    Useful survey of the critical responses to Wordsworth from his own time until the present day, with a detailed discussion of key essays. Considers the whole span of Wordsworth’s career. Ordered in terms of major publications with two chapters on The Prelude. Investigates Wordsworth’s ongoing value for modern readers. A valuable volume for advanced undergraduates or postgraduates.

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  • Wordsworth, Jonathan. William Wordsworth: The Borders of Vision. Oxford: Clarendon, 1982.

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    A collection of essays on major themes in the poetry that together constitute an important study. Critical emphasis on early versions of the poems, especially The Prelude, drawing on manuscript sources. Good on the relationship with Coleridge. As title suggests, argues for Wordsworth as a poet of “border vision.”

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Reference Works and Resources

Wordsworth is well served by some excellent reference works. For a detailed and exhaustive chronological biography up to 1815, see Reed 1967 and Reed 1975. These two volumes provide an invaluable, often day-by-day account of the poet’s activities as well as chronological lists of the works written during their respective periods. For a similarly detailed study of Wordsworth’s reading, see Wu 1993 and Wu 1995, which together list the writers and works the poet is known to have read from childhood until 1815. Peacock 1950 provides a very useful guide to Wordsworth’s criticism of other writers, quoting the poet’s comments. Cooper 1911 is the major concordance to the poet’s works, drawing on Thomas Hutchinson’s one-volume edition Wordsworth: Poetical Works, with Introductions and Notes (London: Oxford University Press, 1904). Blanshard 1959 catalogues portraits of Wordsworth, reproducing sixty-three of them and providing a valuable discussion. An invaluable online resource for scholars is the Wordsworth Trust Online Catalogue, where over 90 percent of the poet’s manuscripts are held. This catalogue enables searches for manuscripts, objects, and printed books, as well as the fine art collection, and many of the Museum’s paintings can be viewed online.

Bibliographies

Currently, there are no complete bibliographies of either Wordsworth’s writing or the extensive criticism his work has generated. The most useful general guide is Hanley and Barron 1995, which provides a very well-ordered account of the poet’s writings and of scholarly and critical materials. Supported by valuable annotations, the volume includes nearly one thousand entries and is a major resource for those interested in Wordsworth at any level. Its “Criticism” section covers the period 1798–1993. The authoritative bibliography of 19th-century criticism is Bauer 1978, which includes valuable annotations and a good index. Logan 1947 is divided into two parts to cover contemporaneous responses to Wordsworth and the criticism from the period of his death to 1944. Jones and Kroeber 1985 gives an edited selection of criticism from 1809 to 1972 followed by a much more detailed comprehensive catalogue of publications for the decade 1973–1983.

  • Bauer, N. Stephen. William Wordsworth: A Reference Guide to British Criticism, 1793–1899. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978.

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    Very useful annotated listing of pre-20th-century responses to the poet’s work, ordered chronologically year by year. Valuable indexes.

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  • Hanley, Keith, and David Barron. An Annotated Critical Bibliography of William Wordsworth. London and New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1995.

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    Invaluable. A very clear and useful volume. Arranged in four sections: Editions and Manuscripts, Aids to Research, Biographies and Memoirs, and Criticism. Three indexes, with a particularly useful “Subjects and Persons” one (see, for example, index entry for “Imagination”). Each item is very helpfully annotated. Lists critical work to 1993.

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  • Jones, Mark, and Karl Kroeber. Wordsworth Scholarship and Criticism, 1973–1984: An Annotated Bibliography, with Selected Criticism, 1809–1972. New York and London: Garland, 1985.

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    Valuable selective listing of major criticism from 1809 to 1972, followed by detailed year-by-year bibliographies for 1973 to 1984. Helpful “Selective Topic Index.”

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  • Logan, James Venable. Wordsworthian Criticism: A Guide and Bibliography. Columbus: Ohio State University, 1947.

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    Part 1 surveys Wordsworthian criticism from poet’s own day. Part 2 is a bibliography for 1850 to 1944. Useful indexes.

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Journals

Several journals regularly publish essays on William Wordsworth. As its title suggests, the Wordsworth Circle has a particular focus on the poet and other writers to whom he was closely linked. The American journals Studies in Romanticism and European Romantic Review and the British journal Romanticism have a wider scope but frequently carry essays on the poet or on related subjects. RaVoN places the poet’s work in a wider context, covering as it does Victorian as well as Romantic-period literature.

Biographies

Gill 1989 is now probably recognized as the best overall modern biography of the poet and is both an excellent place to start and a valuable resource for students and scholars, skillfully integrating the poetry and biographical material. As the standard biography, it has superseded Moorman 1957 and Moorman 1965, which provide a detailed and highly informative account of the poet’s life and still remain very valuable, especially on the later years, which are treated more sparingly in other works. Johnston 1998 is both a highly readable account of Wordsworth’s early life and an important work of scholarship, making several new suggestions about particular events in his life and offering detailed analysis of writing by Wordsworth and others. Barker 2000 is a very carefully researched and detailed account, sympathetic to the poet, conveying a good sense of his domestic life and dealing with the later years well. Williams 1996 is designed to combine biographical and literary critical approaches to the subject. The emphasis of Wu 2002 is on the early years and combines biographical material with a reinterpretation of the poet’s works as particularly shaped by his experience of grief.

  • Barker, Juliet. Wordsworth: A Life. New York: Viking, 2000.

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    Readable, informative, lengthy biography, sympathetic to its subject. Little detailed engagement with the poetry. An abridged version (without notes or bibliography) was issued by Ecco in 2005.

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  • Gill, Stephen. William Wordsworth: A Life. Oxford: Clarendon, 1989.

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    The recommended biography, covering the poet’s entire life. Good use of the poet’s own writing (and awareness of the potential problems in doing so). Authoritative and sympathetic. Valuable for scholars, students, and those looking for an introduction to the poet’s life.

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  • Johnston, Kenneth R. The Hidden Wordsworth: Poet, Lover, Rebel, Spy. New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1998.

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    Weighty but very readable biography that traces the poet’s life up to the completion of the 1805 Prelude. As subtitle suggests, reads Wordsworth’s early life as more dramatic than is generally acknowledged.

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  • Moorman, Mary. William Wordsworth, a Biography: The Early Years, 1770–1803. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957.

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    Very detailed account of the poet’s early life, drawing on what at the time were the recent scholarly advances made by Ernest de Selincourt and Helen Darbishire in their editing of William’s and Dorothy’s poems, letters, and journals. The standard biography for several decades.

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  • Moorman, Mary. William Wordsworth, a Biography: The Later Years, 1803–1850. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965.

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    Second volume of biography, covering the period up to the poet’s death. Draws on previously unpublished letters and diaries and with a sustained interest in the poetry.

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  • Williams, John. William Wordsworth: A Literary Life. Macmillan Literary Lives. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1996.

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    Detailed engagement with the poetry throughout, including analysis of Wordsworth’s grammar school verse and his later work. Shows a particular concern with the issue of readership, examined in relation to familial, social, and political contexts. Valuable readings of a good range of poetry.

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  • Wu, Duncan. Wordsworth: An Inner Life. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.

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    Focuses on the period from 1787 to 1813, with an emphasis on the impact of grief rooted in the loss of his parents on the major poetry. Includes a detailed analysis on the juvenilia. Also concerned with the failure to write The Recluse. Provides a reading text of the 1808 version of The White Doe of Rylstone.

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Editions

There are a good number of editions of Wordsworth catering to a wide range of different readerships, from magnificent scholarly editions aimed at academics to single-volume texts intended for undergraduates or the modern reader.

Poetry and Prose

Gill 2000 is the best single-volume edition of the poet’s writings, containing both poetry and prose, and is the recommended edition for undergraduates. In line with developments in modern textual editing, it prints the text that comes as “close as possible to the state of the poem when it was first completed” (p. xxxi).

  • Gill, Stephen, ed. William Wordsworth: The Major Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    First published as William Wordsworth: The Oxford Authors. Best one-volume edition of poet’s work and ideal for undergraduates. Ordered chronologically by date of composition, presenting earliest possible versions. Includes 1805 Prelude and a good selection of Wordsworth’s prose.

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Poetry

Wordsworth was a habitual reviser of his poetry, and many of his texts exist in several different manuscript and published versions. The last collected edition that he oversaw, Poetical Works, of 1849–1850, provides the basis for Selincourt and Darbishire 1952–1959, which was the standard edition for several decades. Hayden 1977 also works from the last authorized edition, though it presents the poems in chronological order rather than the thematic groupings the poet had himself used from Poems, 1815 onward. The editorial challenges are particularly well illustrated by The Prelude, which was never published in its entirety during the poet’s lifetime and exists in several manuscript versions. Wordsworth, et al. 1979 prints the three main versions of the poem and the inclusion of the 1799 Prelude is indicative of the increasing value accorded to the earliest recoverable versions of the texts. Wu 1997 argues for a five-book Prelude completed in March 1804. The move toward early versions of the texts is enshrined in Parrish 1975–2007, the magisterial multivolume edition of the poet’s work that was the product of three decades of scholarship. Lyrical Ballads illustrates the potential contribution of online editions to the future editing of Wordsworth.

  • Hayden, John O., ed. Wordsworth: The Poems. 2 vols. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1977.

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    Continues the tradition of de Selincourt and Darbishire in using Wordsworth’s own last edition of 1849–1850 and gives the latest manuscript versions of texts not published in the poet’s lifetime, such as The Prelude. Orders the poems by date of composition.

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  • Parrish, Stephen, ed. The Cornell Wordsworth Edition. 21 vols. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1975–2007.

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    A major editorial venture that aims to present the earliest versions of the poems together with a complete record of all variant readings. The edition runs to twenty-one volumes, some devoted to individual poems, others to collections. Each volume includes extensive scholarly apparatus and reproduction of manuscripts.

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  • Selincourt, Ernest de, and Helen Darbishire, eds. The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth Edited from the Manuscripts with Textual and Critical Notes. Rev. ed. 5 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1952–1959.

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    Based on the last text overseen by Wordsworth, that of 1849–1850. Originally published 1941–1949.

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  • Wordsworth, Jonathan, M. H. Abrams, and Stephen Charles Gill, eds. The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850. Norton Critical Edition. London and New York: W. W. Norton, 1979.

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    Recommended edition for undergraduates. Provides the three main texts of Wordsworth’s verse autobiography. Helpful annotations to the texts. Includes valuable section on “Context and Reception” and a selection of critical essays.

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  • Wordsworth, William, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lyrical Ballads: An Electronic Scholarly Edition. Edited by Bruce Graver and Ronald Tetreault. Romantic Circles and Cambridge University Press.

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    Online edition that gives all four main editions of the collection and enables a range of cross-comparisons.

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    • Wu, Duncan, ed. The Five-Book Prelude. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.

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      Posits a five-book Prelude, completed in March 1804. Though controversial in the construction of this text, the edition greatly facilitates thinking about the development of The Prelude.

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    Prose

    While Wordsworth’s prose texts do present editorial challenges (for example, the different versions of the “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads), these are not as complex as those posed by his poetry. The superb Owen and Smyser 1974 is generally recognized as the standard edition for the prose, and Hill 1967–1993 as the standard edition of the letters. A useful shorter edition of the letters is Hill 1984, edited by the same scholar who oversaw the revision of de Selincourt’s magnificent 1935–1939 edition. Owen 1974 constitutes a useful collection of the literary criticism, while Curtis 1973 provides the poet’s dictated comments on his work, not included in Owen and Smyser 1974. There are a number of good editions of Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes, but Bicknell 1984 is a beautifully illustrated version.

    • Bicknell, Peter, ed. The Illustrated Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes. Exeter, UK: Webb and Bower, 1984.

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      Beautifully illustrated edition.

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    • Curtis, Jared R., ed. Wordsworth: The Fenwick Notes. London: Duckworth, 1973.

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      Collection of the notes Wordsworth dictated to his friend Isabella Fenwick in 1834, constituting a review of his life’s work. Covers approximately 350 poems. Valuable both as comments on specific poems and as a collection of statements on the poet’s major preoccupations. Very helpful editorial notes.

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    • Hill, Alan G., ed. The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. 8 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1967–1993.

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      The standard edition, revised from Ernest de Selincourt’s six-volume edition (Oxford: Clarendon, 1935–1939).

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    • Hill, Alan G., ed. Letters of William Wordsworth: A New Selection. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.

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      A very readable selection, with useful supporting materials.

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    • Owen, W. J. B., ed. Wordsworth’s Literary Criticism. London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974.

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      Very useful gathering of all Wordsworth’s formal literary essays—including “Advertisement,” “Preface,” and “Appendix” to Lyrical Ballads, “Note” to The Thorn, Essays upon Epitaphs, “Preface” of 1815, and “Essay, Supplementary to the Preface”—together with a number of important critical statements from his correspondence. Valuable index.

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    • Owen, W. J. B., and Jane Worthington Smyser, eds. The Prose Works of William Wordsworth. 3 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1974.

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      A masterful edition with detailed annotations and previously unpublished material. Full scholarly apparatus reveals different versions of texts.

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    General Collections of Essays

    Wordsworth’s importance, and his central position in both the canon of English poetry and the curricula of schools and universities, have resulted in the regular collection of critical essays and extracts on his work into single volumes, aiming to offer the best, most innovative, or most representative accounts of his work. McMaster 1972 provides one of the fullest collections of this sort, gathering materials from the poet’s own time until 1971. Abrams 1972 is a good collection of the major 20th-century critical writings on Wordsworth, including several key pieces from the 1960s and early 1970s. Bloom 1985 similarly collects key essays from the postwar period, with a particular emphasis on those of the “Yale school,” with which the editor was associated. Manning 1990, Fletcher and Murphy 1992, and Williams 1993 all show the dramatic developments in Wordsworth criticism stimulated by the developments in literary theory during the 1970s and 1980s. The essays in Elam and Ferguson 2005, while responding particularly to the critical legacy of Geoffrey Hartman, give a snapshot of Wordsworthian scholarship in the 21st century and include several important reassessments of the poet. Johnston and Ruoff 1987 offers a good starting point for the general reader with a collection of essays specifically designed for the nonacademic. More specific collections are included in relevant sections.

    • Abrams, M. H., ed. Wordsworth: A Collection of Critical Essays. Twentieth Century Views. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1972.

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      Orders essays in terms of “The Poet Wordsworth,” “Lyrical Ballads and Early Poems,” “The Prelude,” and “The Later Poems.” Includes key essays by Robert Mayo, Harold Bloom, Paul de Man, Geoffrey Hartman, and M. H. Abrams.

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    • Bloom, Harold, ed. William Wordsworth. Modern Critical Views. New York: Chelsea House, 1985.

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      Essays from 1950s to 1980s, illustrating a range of approaches and including several key critical appraisals. Like Abrams 1972, includes the important essay by Paul de Man “Intentional Structure of the Romantic Image,” which examines The Prelude, Book 6.

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    • Elam, Helen Regueiro, and Frances Ferguson, eds. The Wordsworthian Enlightenment: Romantic Poetry and the Ecology of Reading. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

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      A valuable collection of essays on Romanticism and particularly Wordsworth that respond to the thinking and influence of the critic Geoffrey Hartman. Includes an essay by Hartman himself on recent approaches to Romanticism.

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    • Fletcher, Pauline, and John Murphy, eds. Wordsworth in Context. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1992.

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      Product of a conference on “Revolutionary Romanticism 1790–1990,” collecting a series of essays that look at the poet in relation to Revolutionary context and the “theory wars” of the 1980s. Helen Vendler’s “Tintern Abbey: Two Assaults,” a response to New Historicist readings of the poem, is particularly interesting.

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    • Johnston, Kenneth R., and Gene W. Ruoff, eds. The Age of William Wordsworth: Critical Essays on the Romantic Tradition. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987.

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      Excellent collection of essays intended for a nonacademic audience, including studies of the poet’s works, his relationships with his contemporaries, and his influence.

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    • Manning, Peter. Reading Romantics: Text and Context. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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      Several important studies of Wordsworth in this collection of essays that combines psychoanalysis, textual criticism, and historical scholarship, including examinations of The Ruined Cottage, Lyrical Ballads, The Prelude, and The White Doe of Rylstone.

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    • McMaster, Graham, ed. William Wordsworth: A Critical Anthology. Penguin Critical Anthologies. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1972.

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      Valuable collection of criticism from Wordsworth’s time until 1971. Includes crucial contemporary and Victorian reactions and some key essays, such as Robert Mayo’s “The Contemporaneity of the Lyrical Ballads.” Provides an excellent overview, with helpful introductions.

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    • Williams, John. Wordsworth: Contemporary Critical Essays. New Casebooks. London: Macmillan, 1993.

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      Provides a good introduction to the theoretically informed Wordsworth criticism of the 1980s, including important essays or extracts from books by Geoffrey Hartman, Nicholas Roe, David Simpson, John Barrell, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Mary Jacobus.

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    Individual Works

    The two works that have received the most critical attention are the collection jointly authored with Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads, first published in 1798 and sometimes claimed as ushering in a new era of literature, and The Prelude, the poet’s epic autobiography that is frequently assessed as his masterpiece. These two works have each been the subject of a number of important, focused studies. In addition, there have been a number of Other Studies of Individual Works, Volumes, or Periods.

    Lyrical Ballads

    Lyrical Ballads occupies a key position in the history of English literature, in part due to Wordsworth’s various claims for it in the “Advertisement” and “Preface” and the subsequent critical debate about whether or not the collection was revolutionary, initiating a new age in poetry and kick-starting “Romanticism.” Campbell 1991 and Blades 2004 provide good, wide-ranging introductions to the volume, examining the poems themselves, the contexts of their production, their reception, and the critical debates they have stimulated. Parrish 1973 and Jordan 1976 provide scholarly analysis of the poetry, both emphasizing and examining Wordsworth’s contribution. Critical understanding of the volume was transformed by Robert Mayo’s essay “The Contemporaneity of the Lyrical Ballads,” first published in 1954 and reprinted in Jones and Tydeman 1972, a valuable collection of relevant materials and critical responses. Mayo argued that the volume was much more conventional and in line with current taste than had previously been thought. The issue of the volume’s relationship to its contexts is the subject of Jacobus 1976 and Glen 1983, both very important studies. While Jacobus looks at the literary and philosophical influences, including the ballad revival, Glen reads the poetry in relation to the period’s popular magazine verse. Glen extends her analysis to include the 1800 edition, which is the subject of the collection of critical essays contained in Trott and Perry 2001.

    • Blades, John. Wordsworth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads. Analysing Texts. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

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      Good introduction for students. The first part offers detailed close readings of a good number of the poems, while the second part analyzes the poems in relation to historical and literary contexts and introduces some of the most important critical responses (Richards, Mayo, Hartman, and de Man).

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    • Campbell, Patrick. Wordsworth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads. Critical Perspectives. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1991.

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      A useful introductory guide to the volume, with a particular focus on the contexts of its production and the critical responses to “Tintern Abbey,” “The Thorn,” and “The Idiot Boy.” Also offers the author’s “Personal Perspectives” on the other poems in the 1798 edition.

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    • Glen, Heather. Vision and Disenchantment: Blake’s Songs and Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

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      Revealing and informative readings of the poems in the context of similar types of verse from the period. Particularly interesting in its analysis of “Tintern Abbey.”

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    • Jacobus, Mary. Tradition and Experiment in Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads (1798). Oxford: Clarendon, 1976.

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      Detailed readings of Lyrical Ballads, considered in a range of contexts—the Godwinian background, the 18th-century legacy, the dialogue with Coleridge, magazine poetry, and the ballad revival. Identifies what distinguishes Wordsworth’s writing from comparable texts.

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    • Jones, Alun R., and William Tydeman, eds. Wordsworth: Lyrical Ballads: A Casebook. London: Macmillan, 1972.

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      Collects Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s comments on the project, a selection of contemporary and Victorian opinions, and critical essays from the 1950s and 1960s. Includes Robert Mayo’s very important “The Contemporaneity of the Lyrical Ballads,” an essay that calls into question the revolutionary conception of the collection by tracing the similarities with other popular verse of the period.

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    • Jordan, John E. Why the Lyrical Ballads? The Background, Writing and Character of Wordsworth’s 1798 Lyrical Ballads. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

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      Focused study of the poems, paying attention to the contexts and critical environment of the project and arguing that the works written between March and May 1798 exemplify Wordsworth’s sense of poetry as “the history or science of feelings.”

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    • Parrish, Stephen Maxwell. The Art of the Lyrical Ballads. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973.

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      Emphasizes the experimental nature of Wordsworth’s contribution to the volume, stressing their dramatic nature and their engagement with the pastoral. A valuable overall assessment of the volume. Good on Wordsworth’s relationship with Coleridge.

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    • Trott, Nicola, and Seamus Perry, eds. 1800: The New Lyrical Ballads. Romanticism in Perspective: Texts, Cultures, Histories. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave, 2001.

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      Wide-ranging set of essays on the second edition of Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s collection.

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    The Prelude

    Though not published until after his death in 1850, Wordsworth’s epic autobiography The Prelude is now generally recognized as his masterpiece and one of the greatest works of English poetry. A good starting point for thinking about the poem is Gill 1991, which provides a valuable introduction to key aspects of the poem. The rich critical response is illustrated by some valuable collections of essays: Harvey and Gravil 1972, Bloom 1986, and Gill 2006. Lindenberger 1963 offers a detailed, critically traditional consideration of the many aspects of the poem. Other volumes show how developments in literary theory have transformed responses to the poem. Jacobus 1990 contains a number of theoretically informed essays to the poem, while Kneale 1981 employs a broadly “deconstructive” approach. Wood 1993 aims specifically to show how theoretical approaches enrich our understanding of the poem, presenting four essays that view the texts through various “deconstructive” and “New Historical” lenses.

    • Bloom, Harold, ed. William Wordsworth’s The Prelude. Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.

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      Ten major essays or extracts from books from the 1950s to the 1980s. Gives a strong sense of changing responses to Wordsworth’s epic autobiography. Several key essays.

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    • Gill, Stephen. William Wordsworth: The Prelude. Landmarks of World Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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      An excellent introduction, which examines the poem’s formal and thematic aspects (“God and nature”), offers close readings of each part, and traces responses.

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    • Gill, Stephen, ed. William Wordsworth’s The Prelude: A Casebook. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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      Collects together thirteen modern and influential essays, reflecting the various theoretical approaches developed in recent decades.

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    • Harvey, W. J., and Richard Gravil, eds. Wordsworth: The Prelude: A Casebook. London: Macmillan, 1972.

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      Valuable collection of documents and essays, including a chronology of the unfinished The Recluse project, responses to the poem from within the Wordsworth circle, and critical assessments from the Victorian period up to 1967.

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    • Jacobus, Mary. Romanticism, Writing and Sexual Difference: Essays on The Prelude. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.

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      A collection of essays that use postcolonial and feminist theory to reread The Prelude. Essays cover a range of issues, including autobiography, theatrical politics, the slave trade, poetic language and form, and the role of gender.

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    • Kneale, J. Douglas. Monumental Writing: Aspects of Rhetoric in Wordsworth’s Poetry. Lincoln: Nebraska University Press, 1981.

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      Theorized reading of The Prelude in the tradition of Paul de Man, exploring the poetry as rhetorical constructions marked by reflexivity, metalanguage, repetition, and self-consciousness. Very detailed readings of the poem.

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    • Lindenberger, Herbert. On Wordsworth’s Prelude. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963.

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      A wide-ranging examination of the poem that eschews a single approach, aiming to “illuminate a single major literary work from a number of points of view.” Detailed studies of the poem’s contexts, themes, forms, and reception.

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    • Wood, Nigel, ed. Theory in Practice: The Prelude. Buckingham, UK, and Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1993.

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      Four essays commissioned to illustrate how theory can be used in relation to a major work of literature. Heavily influenced by the work of Paul de Man and New Historicism.

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    Other Studies of Individual Works, Volumes, or Periods

    There are several full-length studies devoted to individual works, volumes, or periods of Wordsworth’s writing. Sheats 1973 examines the early writing, including Lyrical Ballads, and Bromwich 1998 examines the poetry of the 1790s, while Wordsworth 1969 focuses on two of the early works that were to be part of The Recluse, the major unfinished project that is itself the subject of Johnston 1984. Like Wordsworth and Johnston, Curtis 1971 draws on manuscripts for its examination of the poems from 1802. Jones 1990 and Bushell 2002 focus on two of the publications for which Wordsworth was best known in his lifetime, Poems in Two Volumes and The Excursion.

    • Bromwich, David. Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

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      Stimulating and at times demanding study of the poetry of the 1790s, emphasizing how personal and historical crises contributed to Wordsworth’s becoming a poet. Good close readings of the texts.

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    • Bushell, Sally. Re-reading The Excursion: Narrative, Response and the Wordsworthian Dramatic Voice. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002.

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      Reclamation of Wordsworth’s poem, rejecting conventional critical reading of it as didactic, arguing instead for it as dramatic and seeking to engage the reader as an active protagonist in the poem.

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    • Curtis, Jared. Wordsworth’s Experiments with Tradition: The Lyric Poems of 1802, with Texts of the Poems Based on Early Manuscripts. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1971.

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      Combines an edition of the poems written in 1802 (including those published in Poems, 1807 and previously unpublished pieces) with supporting essays and analysis. Detailed examinations of “Resolution and Independence” and “Intimations of Immortality.”

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    • Johnston, Kenneth R. Wordsworth and The Recluse. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1984.

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      Major study of Wordsworth’s planned masterwork, arguing that it can be reconstructed from existing fragments. Provides a detailed account of the project’s history and illuminating readings of its component parts, including “Home at Grasmere,” The Prelude, and The Excursion.

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    • Jones, Alun, ed. Wordsworth: The 1807 Poems: A Casebook. Basingstoke, UK, and London: Macmillan, 1990.

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      Collects examples of the early reception of “Poems, in Two Volumes,” critical comments from 1820 to 1909, and influential essays from the 1950s to the 1970s.

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    • Sheats, Paul. The Making of Wordsworth’s Poetry, 1785–1798. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973.

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      Examines early poetry up to and including Lyrical Ballads, providing close readings with particular emphasis on poetic style.

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    • Wordsworth, Jonathan. The Music of Humanity: A Critical Study of Wordsworth’s “Ruined Cottage”; Incorporating Texts from a Manuscript of 1799–1800. London and New York: Nelson and Harper and Row, 1969.

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      Detailed study of “The Ruined Cottage” and “The Pedlar,” drawing on manuscripts.

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    Writing Practices, Revision, and Textual Issues

    Wordsworth’s writing practices, and particularly his processes of revision, have made his work an important focus for studies of composition and debates about editing. Bennett 2007 gives a detailed analysis of Wordsworth’s theory and practice of writing, while Bushell 2009 uses the poet as one of three case studies in its examination of poetic composition, drawing heavily on manuscripts held at the Jerwood Centre, Grasmere. Wordsworth’s revisions, understood in a range of different ways, are the subject of several important studies. Leader 1996 looks in detail at specific textual revisions, considering how they link to issues of identity, while Wordsworth’s revisions of his earlier selves provide the focus for both Galperin 1989 and Stillinger 1991. The textual and editorial issues raised by Wordsworth’s revisions are very clearly discussed in Gill 1983, a revised version of which appears in Brinkley and Hanley 1992, alongside several other essays that establish links between specific textual revisions and wider issues in the poet’s work. Stillinger 1989 similarly combines textual study and broader analysis in its reading of the poet’s development.

    • Bennett, Andrew. Wordsworth Writing. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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      Illuminating study that looks at the importance of writing to poet’s work, revising previous critical emphasis on oral modes of composition. Examines Wordsworth’s theory and practice of composition and issues of revision, dictation, inscription, and graffiti. Valuable detailed readings of wide range of poetry.

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    • Brinkley, Robert, and Keith Hanley, eds. Romantic Revisions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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      Opens with five essays (by Jonathan Wordsworth, Stephen Gill, Jonathan Barron and Kenneth R. Johnston, Nicholas Roe, and Keith Hanley) investigating the different dimensions of revision in Wordsworth’s work and making links to issues of composition, manuscript study, editing, and history.

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    • Bushell, Sally. Text as Process: Creative Composition in Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Dickinson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009.

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      Pioneering and ambitious study of poets’ compositional methods based on a study of manuscripts. The chapter on Wordsworth looks particularly at the earliest draft material for The Prelude.

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    • Galperin, William H. Revision and Authority in Wordsworth: The Interpretation of a Career. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989.

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      Revisionary study of the entirety of Wordsworth’s career with a reevaluation of the middle and later poetry, seen as a critical engagement with the poet’s earlier writing. Important discussion of The Excursion.

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    • Gill, Stephen. “Wordsworth’s Poems: The Question of the Text.” Review of English Studies, n.s., 34.134 (May 1983): 172–190.

      DOI: 10.1093/res/XXXIV.134.172Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Good account of the editorial and textual challenges raised by Wordsworth’s practices of revision, alteration, and republication. Valuable overview of published editions.

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    • Leader, Zachary. Revision and Romantic Authorship. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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      A detailed and well-documented examination of the material practices of authorial revision in the Romantic period with a chapter on “Wordsworth, Revision, and Personal Identity.” Argues for the positive role of revision in Wordsworth, presenting the later versions of poems as possessing more authority than the earlier ones.

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    • Stillinger, Jack. “Textual Primitivism and the Editing of Wordsworth.” Studies in Romanticism 28.1 (Spring 1989): 3–28.

      DOI: 10.2307/25600757Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Through an examination of the history of the editing of The Prelude, examines the consequences of the promotion and positive evaluation of early versions of texts over later ones. Voices particular concern over “the virtual exclusion of Wordsworth’s final texts from the Cornell Wordsworth” and the “inadvertent standardising” of early versions.

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    • Stillinger, Jack. Multiple Authorship and the Myth of Solitary Genius. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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      Includes chapter on “Multiple ‘Consciousnesses’ in Wordsworth’s Prelude,” looking at the poet’s revising of earlier versions of himself as a form of self-collaboration. Advocates acceptance of different texts, each studied within its own context. Also addresses collaboration with Coleridge in Lyrical Ballads.

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    Sources and Influences

    The influence of other writers on Wordsworth, and Wordsworth’s response to them, are now well-researched fields. Crucial resources in this area are Wu 1993 and Wu 1995 (both cited under Reference Works and Resources). The major theoretical study is Bloom 1973, which sets out an antagonist theory of relationships between writers and their precursors. Stein 1990 establishes Wordsworth’s astonishing engagement with other writers, identifying 1,300 echoes and locating him within a tradition of English poetry. Wordsworth’s knowledge of classical writers is studied in Clancey 1999 and Kneale 1999, the latter also looking at neoclassical influence on the poet. There are a number of studies of the influence of particular writers on the poet, including Bate 1989 on Shakespeare, Jarvis 1991 and Newlyn 1993 on Milton, and Griffin 1995 on Pope.

    • Bate, Jonathan. Shakespeare and the English Romantic Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

      DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198129943.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Contains chapters on “Wordsworth on Shakespeare” and “Shakespeare in Wordsworth.” Examines Wordsworth’s response to Shakespeare in relation to the poet’s self-representation as in the tradition of Milton, and discusses the role of Shakespearean allusions in a range of texts, including The Borderers, “Home at Grasmere,” “Tintern Abbey,” and The Prelude.

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    • Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.

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      Classic study of poetic influence that sees strong writers as seeking to overthrow their precursors. Examines Wordsworth in relation to his precursor, John Milton, and as, in turn, the powerful precursor for later poets, including Shelley and Keats.

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    • Clancey, Richard. Wordsworth’s Classical Undersong. New York: St. Martin’s, 1999.

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      Argues that Wordsworth’s academic training and the education of his teachers instilled in him a love of Ovid, Virgil, and Homer that can be detected in his poetry, especially The Prelude, which is analyzed in detail.

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    • Griffin, Robert J. Wordsworth’s Pope: A Study of Literary Historiography. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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      Argues for links between Romanticism and writings of the mid-18th century in that both were defined against the literary authority of Alexander Pope. Uses Wordsworth as a figure for Romanticism more generally. Suggestive readings of “Tintern Abbey” and “The Boy of Winander.”

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    • Jarvis, Robin. Wordsworth, Milton and the Theory of Poetic Relations. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Macmillan, 1991.

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      Analysis of interrelationship between Wordsworth and Milton. Examines different approaches to “influence” and “intertextuality,” especially Bloom’s anxiety of influence. Offers detailed comparisons of The Prelude and Paradise Lost.

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    • Kneale, J. Douglas. Romantic Aversions: Aftermaths of Classicism in Wordsworth and Coleridge. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 1999.

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      Analyzes Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s indebtedness to classical and neoclassical literary conventions, considering areas such as apostrophe, rhetoric, and persuasion. Valuable close readings and considerations of form and genre.

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    • Newlyn, Lucy. Paradise Lost and the Romantic Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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      An examination of the complexity of Romantic period responses to Milton’s Paradise Lost, a key text for the writers’ thinking about revolution, religion, sexuality, and selfhood. Organized thematically, it includes analysis of how Milton’s epic mediated the experience of the French Revolution for Wordsworth.

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    • Stein, Edwin. Wordsworth’s Art of Allusion. University Park: Penn State University Press, 1990.

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      Argues that Wordsworth was unprecedented in the extent of his literary allusions and incorporation of the English poetic tradition into his own work. Identifies a huge range of echoes, allusions, and quotations that are seen as part of the poet’s commitment to ideas of continuity and his ability to recognize and revitalize the poetic tradition.

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    Relationships with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Dorothy Wordsworth

    Sisman 2007 provides an informative and readable account of what some see as the crucial poetic relationship of Wordsworth’s life, that with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, while Beer 1979 is strong on the link between the friendship and the quality of the writing. For other critics, the focus on Coleridge is misrepresentative, however, and in particular excludes and underplays the importance of Dorothy. Matlak 1997 includes the poet’s sister in its study of how personal relationships influenced the writings, while Worthen 2001 widens the circle still further to include Sarah and Mary Hutchinson as important members of the poets’ creative community (see also Women and Gender). Magnuson 1988, McFarland 1981, and Ruoff 1989 all provide valuable analyses of the poetic dialogue between Wordsworth and Coleridge. For an examination of the relationship in terms of poetic language, see Eilenberg 1992 (cited under Language). Newlyn 1986 emphasizes the differences between the two poets as underpinning the creativity of the relationship. For the important but unorthodox argument that Coleridge was a bad influence on Wordsworth’s poetry, see Wu 2002 (cited under Biographies).

    • Beer, John. Wordsworth in Time. London: Faber and Faber, 1979.

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      Argues for the importance of friendship with Coleridge to the high quality of Wordsworth’s writing and thought. Valuable analysis of The Prelude.

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    • Magnuson, Paul. Coleridge and Wordsworth: A Lyrical Dialogue. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

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      Argues for the recognition of both poets’ work as part of a “dialogue” in which they respond to, and rewrite, each other’s poems. Includes valuable close readings and analysis of compositional material and makes interesting links between the forms of individual poems and the overall structure of composition. Covers a good range of Wordsworth’s poetry.

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    • Matlak, Richard E. The Poetry of Relationship: The Wordsworths and Coleridge, 1797–1800. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1997.

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      Examines the relationship between William, Dorothy, and Coleridge, finding in it the origins of themes in their work including romance, incest, guilt, familial breakdown, and reunion. Particularly interesting on The Borderers and the “Lucy” poems.

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    • McFarland, Thomas. Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin: Wordsworth, Coleridge, and the Modalities of Fragmentation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.

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      A weighty examination of the development of Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s careers, exploring the role of the relationship in both poets’ creative successes and failures.

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    • Newlyn, Lucy. Coleridge, Wordsworth and the Language of Allusion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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      Focuses on the two poets’ relationship in the period 1797–1807, tracing its development. Argues that while intellectual and imaginative differences led to the breakdown of their relationship, their “misunderstanding” was creative and a means of self-definition. Very valuable readings of “Resolution and Independence” and The Prelude.

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    • Ruoff, Gene. Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Making of the Major Lyrics, 1802–1804. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989.

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      Valuable examination of the poetic dialogue conducted in “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” (‘There was a time’), Coleridge’s verse letter to Sarah Hutchinson, “The Leech-Gatherer,” “Resolution and Independence,” and “Dejection: An Ode.” Detailed investigation of mutual influence.

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    • Sisman, Adam. The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge. London: HarperPress, 2007.

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      A lively and engaging account of the friendship, written for the general reader. Good on the revolutionary context of their writing and on the role Coleridge played in Wordsworth’s establishing of himself as a poet.

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    • Worthen, John. The Gang: Coleridge, the Hutchinsons, and the Wordsworths in 1802. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.

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      Extends the usual focus on the two poets to include Dorothy Wordsworth and Sarah and Mary Hutchinson as part of the creative grouping, making good use of letters, fragments, journals, and reported conversations to see the origins of many of the major poems as collaborative.

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    Reviews and Histories of Criticism

    There are three invaluable collections of contemporary critical responses to Wordsworth’s writing: Hayden 1971 provides extracts from reviews of the major works; Reiman 1972 provides comprehensive facsimile reproductions of published reviews of first Editions to 1842; Woof 2001 includes comments from diaries, letters, reminiscences, and exchanges as well as published reviews. Hayden 1969 offers a valuable discussion of the reviews of Wordsworth as one of “The Lake School.” Moving into the later Romantic and Victorian period, Swaab 1996 collects extracts from the various 19th-century memoirs of the poet, including highly influential essays and reminiscences by De Quincey and William Hazlitt. These materials are perhaps best read alongside the critical account of Wordsworth’s reception provided in Gill 1998 (cited under Reception, Posterity, and Influence). A valuable guide through the early and Victorian responses is Mahoney 2001, which extends its account of the poet’s critical reception to cover the 20th century. The importance of Wordsworth to the origins and development of English studies is examined by Reid 2004.

    • Hayden, John O. The Romantic Reviewers 1802–1824. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.

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      Examines contemporary critical responses to Wordsworth as part of a discussion of “The Lake School” and provides a listing of reviews.

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    • Hayden, John O. Romantic Bards and British Reviewers: A Selected Edition of the Contemporary Reviews of the Works of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats and Shelley. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971.

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      Very useful collection of contemporary reviews of Wordsworth’s published poetry with good supporting materials.

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    • Mahoney, John L. Wordsworth and the Critics: The Development of a Critical Reputation. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2001.

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      Examines the evolution of the poet’s critical reputation from the earliest responses to the end of the 20th century. Valuable summaries of a wide range of works.

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    • Reid, Ian. Wordsworth and the Formation of English Studies. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

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      Considers the origins of English studies as an academic discipline, comparing the institutional histories of the University of London, the University of Melbourne, and Cornell University. Uses Wordsworth as a focal figure, analyzing the part that his writings have played within institutional and academic processes.

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    • Reiman, Donald, ed. The Romantics Reviewed. Part A: The Lake Poets. 2 vols. New York and London: Garland, 1972.

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      A collection of all the reviews of Wordsworth’s first editions from 1793 to 1842. Reviews are reproduced in facsimile. Very valuable supporting materials.

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    • Swaab, Peter. Lives of the Great Romantics: Part 1, Shelley, Byron and Wordsworth by Their Contemporaries. Vol. 3, Wordsworth. London: Chatto and Pickering, 1996.

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      Collects extracts from 19th-century memoirs of the poet, including Christopher Wordsworth’s influential Memoirs and other important passages and essays by Coleridge, Crabb Robinson, Hardwicke Rawnsley, and Aubrey De Vere, among others. Includes the crucial essays “Mr. Wordsworth” and “My First Acquaintance with Poets” by William Hazlitt, and “Lake Reminiscences from 1807–1830” and “Sketches of Life and Manners” by Thomas De Quincey.

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    • Woof, Robert, ed. William Wordsworth: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 2001.

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      Very valuable collection of responses from the period 1793–1820. Includes private materials (extracts from diaries, letters, comments) as well as published reviews and opinions. Extremely full and detailed coverage of the chosen period.

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    Reception, Posterity, and Influence

    A number of studies have addressed Wordsworth’s influence on specific areas of writing and his literary afterlife more generally. Bennett 1999 and Newlyn 2000 both provide interesting routes into this area by examining the poet’s own thinking about others’ responses to his writing during his life and after his death. Blank 1988 shows how important the poet was for Shelley, though surprisingly, there is no overarching major study of Wordsworth and the canonical Romantic writers. Gill 1998 is an outstanding examination of the Victorian response to Wordsworth, highly illuminating about the poet and those to whom he was so important. O’Neill 2007 establishes the poet’s major legacy in 20th-century poets in Britain, America, and Ireland, while both Gravil 2000 and Pace and Scott 2004 examine Wordsworth’s importance for American writing.

    • Bennett, Andrew. Romantic Poets and the Culture of Posterity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511484100Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Includes a chapter on “Wordsworth’s survival” as part of its argument that it is during the Romantic period that writers began to feel the need to address an audience of the future. Examines Wordsworth’s fascination with remains and ruins, and considers how Wordsworth’s poetic confidence was shaken by the death of his children.

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    • Blank, Kim G. Wordsworth’s Influence on Shelley: A Study of Poetic Authority. London: Macmillan, 1988.

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      Argues for Wordsworth as the key influence on Shelley, with valuable discussions of the younger poet’s response to key works including “Tintern Abbey” and The Excursion.

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    • Gill, Stephen. Wordsworth and the Victorians. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

      DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119654.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Excellent study of responses to Wordsworth. Examines the poet’s influence on Victorian writers—particularly George Eliot, Matthew Arnold, and Tennyson—and institutions, including the Church and the National Trust.

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    • Gravil, Richard. Romantic Dialogues: Anglo-American Continuities, 1776–1862. New York: Palgrave, 2000.

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      After a general consideration of Anglo-American literary relations, Wordsworth features heavily in the analysis of the intertextual dialogues between British and American Romantic writers. Valuable accounts of Wordsworth’s influence on Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Whitman.

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    • Newlyn, Lucy. Reading, Writing and Romanticism: The Anxiety of Reception. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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      Considers the relationship between readers and writers in the Romantic period, with a case study focusing on Wordsworth’s anxiety of reception, expressed in both his public and private writings. Some excellent readings of individual poems.

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    • O’Neill, Michael. The All-Sustaining Air: Romantic Legacies and Renewals in British, American, and Irish Poetry since 1900. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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      Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality,” “Tintern Abbey,” and The Prelude are major and repeated reference points in this consideration of how Romanticism has persisted in the work of British, American, and Irish poets since 1900.

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    • Pace, Joel, and Matthew Scott, eds. Wordsworth in American Literary Culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

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      Collection of essays that examines Wordsworth’s influence on major American writers of the 19th century, including Thoreau, Whitman, Melville, and Dickinson.

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    The Poetic Role

    Wordsworth sought to establish himself as a major poet in a period when established notions of the poetic role and poetic identity were in question and gradually shifting from the patronage system of the 18th century to a new professional status in the 19th. The changing literary contexts in which the poet operated are studied in Pfau 1997, Hess 2005, and Goldberg 2007, all of which combine valuable examinations of the issue of a literary career with close readings of the poetry. Murphy 1993 similarly investigates Wordsworth within the context of changing conceptions of literature and poetry, in his case a contest between a traditional artistic model and an economic “occupation.” Gravil 2003 and McLane 2008 share an alternative approach to the issue of the poetic role, considering how Wordsworth locates himself in relation to previous poetic models, particularly those of the bard, the balladeer, and the minstrel. Fulford 1999 explores issues of poetic authority as articulated through the figure of Burke and the discourse of the sublime, analyzing the way the poet’s self-authorizing operates in relation to existing ideas of manliness, and how they refine them.

    • Fulford, Tim. Romanticism and Masculinity: Gender, Politics and Poetics in the Writing of Burke, Coleridge, Cobbett, Wordsworth, De Quincey and Hazlitt. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.

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      Includes a chapter on Wordsworth’s versions of masculinity, especially as defined through Edmund Burke and the sublime, arguing that the poet relocated Burke’s gendered chivalric politics onto the natural landscape and the figures who lived in it. Also sees Wordsworth as disturbing and redefining existing models of masculinity.

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    • Goldberg, Brian. The Lake Poets and Professional Identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511484247Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Very interesting account of the Lake poets’ and their precursors’ relationships with the literary marketplace and their self-definition in an age in which the poet’s role was seen as becoming increasingly professionalized. Includes a chapter on “William Wordsworth’s Romantic Professionalism” with good discussions of Lyrical Ballads and its “Preface.”

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    • Gravil, Richard. Wordsworth’s Bardic Vocation, 1787–1842. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

      DOI: 10.1057/9780230510333Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Analyzes an impressive range of the poetry, focusing on various versions of the poetic role—balladist, minstrel, elegist, prophet of nature, and national bard. Very interesting discussions of manliness and politics, both of which are explored in relation to some of the less well-known verse.

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    • Hess, Scott. Authoring the Self: Self-Representation, Authorship, and the Print Market in British Poetry from Pope through Wordsworth. New York: Routledge, 2005.

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      Examines Wordsworth’s confrontation with the increasing isolation and alienation of the poetic role through a consideration of his representation of his own professionalism. Argues that Wordsworth created new modes of poetic identity, function, and relationship with readership. Provides readings of “Old Cumberland Beggar” and “Resolution and Independence” with a culminating discussion of The Prelude.

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    • McLane, Maureen. Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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      Includes an important discussion of Wordsworth’s work in the context of an examination of the relationship between Romantic poetry and the production, circulation, and textuality of ballads. Interesting attention to the “oral” and “literary” qualities of poetry. Good on the relationship between Wordsworth and Ossian and with a valuable discussion of The Prelude.

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    • Murphy, Peter T. Poetry as an Occupation and an Art in Britain, 1760–1830. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511519062Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Wordsworth is one of five case studies in this study of the tension between two different models of poetry in the Romantic period, as an “occupation” motivated by economic pressures, and as an “art,” in line with traditional concepts. Good readings of “Tintern Abbey” and the “Yarrow” poems.

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    • Pfau, Thomas. Wordsworth’s Profession: Form, Class, and the Logic of Early Romantic Cultural Production. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997.

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      Heavily theorized examination of Wordsworth’s professionalization as a writer in the context of the rise of the English middle class. Detailed discussions of Lyrical Ballads and The Prelude.

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    Imagination

    In the period after the Second World War, criticism of the canon of the six major Romantic poets (a canon to which Blake had recently been added) very much focused on the concept of the Imagination. Bowra 1950 gives the main statement of this critical interest, with Wordsworth’s “Intimations Ode” at the heart of its argument. Jones 1954 provided a book-length study of the subject, offering a developmental model of the Wordsworthian Imagination and seeing the major poetry as increasingly transcendent. Bloom 1962 focused on the “visionary” nature of Romantic poetry with detailed readings of Wordsworth’s texts. Abrams 1971 is one of the most important studies of Romantic poetry, offering a major reconception of the Romantic Imagination as an internalization of, and compensation for, the disappointed hopes for the political ideals of the French Revolution. It is a crucial study with which much Wordsworthian criticism of the following decades has engaged. Scroggins 1966 examines Wordsworth’s classification of his poems in relation to “fancy” and “imagination” in the 1815 collection.

    • Abrams, M. H. Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature. New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1971.

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      Wordsworth and particularly The Prelude play a major part in this classic account of the Romantic Imagination. Argues that the Romantic poets’ disappointed millennial hopes for the French Revolution led them to recognize the Imagination as the area in which their hopes could be realized. See particularly chapter 2, “Wordsworth’s Prelude and the Crisis-Autobiography.” Highly influential.

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    • Bloom, Harold. The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry. London: Faber, 1962.

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      Includes a chapter on the development of Wordsworth’s imagination through a detailed reading of the major poetry, including The Excursion.

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    • Bowra, Maurice. The Romantic Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950.

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      Classic study of the subject with chapter-long analysis of the “Ode on Intimations of Immortality.”

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    • Jones, John. The Egotistical Sublime: A History of Wordsworth’s Imagination. London: Chatto and Windus, 1954.

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      Sees the most vital quality of Wordsworth’s mind as its literalness—the ability to see things as they are—and argues that the poet’s principal claim to greatness lies in his understanding of the relationship of the inner to the outer.

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    • Scroggins, James. Imagination and Fancy: Complementary Modes in the Poetry of Wordsworth. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

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      An important discussion of the way Wordsworth obsessively organized his poems into categories, looking particularly at their classification in relation to “fancy” and “imagination” in Poems (1815).

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    Suffering and Feeling

    Critics have always responded to the humanitarian qualities of Wordsworth’s poetry, though there has been debate about whether the poetry shows a genuine concern for the suffering of others or appropriates that suffering as part of an investigation of the poetic persona. Beer 1978 offers a sympathetic account of Wordsworth’s humanitarianism, while Averill 1980 provides a detailed analysis of the relationship between suffering and the mind, considering the ethical issues raised by making others’ pain a poetic subject. Blank 1995 argues that the characteristic emotional quality of the poetry arises in childhood experience, while Perkins 1964 explores the way in which the idea of a sincere poetry is questioned by language and style. Pinch 1996 is informative on the culture and literature of sensibility as a context for the early verse. Jones 1993 and Allen 2010 both locate the poetry of feeling and suffering within a political context. Jones explores the radical sensibility of the 1790s, while Allen locates feeling in relation to Whig ideology.

    • Allen, Stuart. Wordsworth and the Passions of Critical Poetics. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

      DOI: 10.1057/9780230283343Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A politicized reading of the role of affect in Wordsworth’s poetry, considering the function of feeling and pleasure in the context of Whig ideology. Reads Wordsworth in relation to Shaftesbury and Burke. Detailed examinations of a good range of the poet’s writing, including the “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads and The Prelude.

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    • Averill, J. H. Wordsworth and the Poetry of Human Suffering. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980.

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      Examines the Wordsworthian spectator and the suffering to which he responds. Covers early poetry up to The Prelude, tracing a developing interest in psychology and an awareness of the peculiar moral status of sentimental pleasure, based as such emotion is on the suffering of others.

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    • Beer, John. Wordsworth and the Human Heart. London and Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1978.

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      Argues for Wordsworth’s humanitarianism, developed in relation to Dorothy and Coleridge. Emphasizes early visionary experience and what they illustrate about human consciousness within the time-process.

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    • Blank, Kim G. Wordsworth and Feeling: The Poetry of an Adult Child. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995.

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      Argues that the poetry has its origins and power in the poet’s difficulties in integrating feelings originating in childhood into adult life. Focuses on the early poetry, with detailed readings of “Tintern Abbey,” the 1799 Prelude, and “Immortality Ode.”

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    • Jones, Chris. Radical Sensibility: Literature and Ideas in the 1790s. London and New York: Routledge, 1993.

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      Very interesting reading of the politics of sensibility in the 1790s, using Wordsworth as one of three case studies as a guide to the transformations of sensibility across the decade. Includes material on the importance of Godwin for Wordsworth’s poetic development.

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    • Perkins, David. Wordsworth and the Poetry of Sincerity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964.

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      Examines ideas of sincerity, as challenged by the inadequacy of language and the seeming artifice of poetic form.

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    • Pinch, Adela. Strange Fits of Passion: Epistemologies of Emotion, Hume to Austen. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996.

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      Includes the chapter “Female Chatter: Gender and Feeling in Wordsworth’s Early Poetry,” which places the early writing within 18th-century contexts and explores the poet’s response to sentimental women poets and to suffering women. Examines Wordsworth’s “extravagance” of feeling and considers representations of suffering in Lyrical Ballads.

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    Language

    Austen 1989 provides a good starting point for those interested in Wordsworth’s poetic language, while Davies 1986 offers a study of the “worth of words” in the major poetry, linking it to a number of broader themes, including the relationships with Coleridge, Mary, and Dorothy and the aesthetic of the picturesque. Baron 1995 emphasizes issues of relationship and community as enacted through language. The increasing interest in the complexities of language, particularly as informed by various versions of deconstructive criticism, has informed a number of important studies. Ferguson 1977 draws on the “Essay upon Epitaphs” as the basis of the poet’s own interest in language, while Reed 1984 and Eaves and Fischer 1986 collect a number of essays that provide theorized readings of the poetry. Eilenberg 1992 examines the relationship with Coleridge through a detailed consideration of poetic language. The essays in Hartman 1987 utilize a number of approaches but share an interest in the deconstructive theories of language, perhaps best illustrated by “Words, Wish, Worth: Wordsworth.”

    • Austen, Frances. The Language of Wordsworth and Coleridge. London: Macmillan, 1989.

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      Focused examination of Wordsworth’s poetic language, emphasizing the break with the poetic diction of precursors. Detailed close readings, paying attention to form, meter, diction, and syntax with a particular focus on ballads and blank verse. Valuable models for students looking to see close reading in action.

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    • Baron, Michael. Language and Relationship in Wordsworth’s Writing. London: Longman, 1995.

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      Argues that poetry incorporates contemporary concepts of language difference and explores issues of relationships between characters in poems and between the poet and readers. Interesting examination of community and collaboration. Focuses on some of the less studied poetry, such as The White Doe of Rylstone.

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    • Davies, Hugh Sykes. Wordsworth and the Worth of Words. Edited by John Kerrigan and Jonathan Wordsworth. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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      Posthumously published study of the poet with a particular focus on language. Valuable analysis of Wordsworth’s views on poetic diction and striking account of writing in relation to the language of the picturesque.

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    • Eaves, Morris, and Michael Fischer, eds. Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.

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      Includes important essays by J. Hillis Miller and M. H. Abrams that use Wordsworth as a focus for discussions of deconstructive theory and criticism.

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    • Eilenberg, Susan. Strange Power of Speech: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Literary Possession. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

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      Examines collaboration between Wordsworth and Coleridge with a particular focus on images of property, possession, and theft, using them as the basis of a consideration of the ownership and meaning of language, words, and images. Detailed consideration of Lyrical Ballads.

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    • Ferguson, Frances C. Wordsworth: Language as Counter-Spirit. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1977.

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      Investigates Wordsworth’s interest in language, particularly as expressed in the “Essays upon Epitaphs.” Explores the discontinuities between world and language through a series of compelling reading of the major poetry.

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    • Hartman, Geoffrey H. The Unremarkable Wordsworth. London: Methuen, 1987.

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      An important collection of essays by one of the leading Wordsworth critics of the 20th century. Offers detailed close readings of the poems, comparisons with other writers, and examinations of revisions and intertextual echoes.

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    • Reed, Arden, ed. Romanticism and Language. Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1984.

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      Collection of essays on the Romantic poets’ alertness to the linguistic status of their work. Includes important essays by Cynthia Chase, Timothy Bahti, and Mary Jacobus that focus on The Prelude and one by Reeve Parker on The Borderers.

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    Form

    Curran 1986 and Duff 2009 are the two major considerations of Romanticism, form, and genre and are very valuable for Wordsworth, who features throughout, with Curran showing how he operated across a wide range of genres and Duff exploring the tension between his employment of traditional forms and his interest in formal experimentation. Wolfson 1997 offers a more focused analysis of The Prelude in relation to autobiography and revision. O’Donnell 1995 is the most detailed study of Wordsworth’s metrical theory and practice. Devlin 1980, Wolfson 1986, and Bialostosky 1992 all consider the “mode” of Wordsworth’s poetry: Devlin 1980 argues for its links with epitaph, Wolfson 1986 considers its interrogative nature, and Bialostosky 1992 examines it through Bakhtinian theory as “dialogic.” Bialostosky 1984 focuses particularly on the role of narrative, again drawing on the theory of Bakhtin.

    • Bialostosky, Don H. Making Tales: The Poetics of Wordsworth’s Narrative Experiments. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

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      Focuses on Lyrical Ballads in relation to the “poetic systems” of Wordsworth and Coleridge, especially a poetics of speech. Concludes with an investigation of the encounter with the discharged soldier in The Prelude.

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    • Bialostosky, Don H. Wordsworth, Dialogics and the Practice of Criticism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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      Uses Bakhtin and followers to read both poetry and critical responses to it. Examines Wordsworth’s “dialogic art,” seeing it as responding to various contexts, and creates a “dialogic” critical synthesis of Wordsworth criticism from Coleridge to de Man. Good readings of sonnets and “The Solitary Reaper.”

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    • Curran, Stuart. Poetic Form and British Romanticism. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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      Wordsworth’s use of form is a major part of this classic work. Includes consideration of Wordsworth and ballad, epic, hymn, pastoral, and sonnet.

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    • Devlin, D. D. Wordsworth and the Poetry of Epitaphs. London: Macmillan, 1980.

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      Uses Wordsworth’s three “Essays upon Epitaphs” as a guide to reading the poems. Sees epitaph as Wordsworth’s characteristic mode, the epitome of what the poet considered the truest mode of poetry, defined by loss and separation but reconciling past, present, and future.

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    • Duff, David. Romanticism and the Uses of Genre. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

      DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572748.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Important reexamination of the relationship between Romantic literature and genre that makes frequent illuminating reference to Wordsworth, especially in relation to Lyrical Ballads.

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    • O’Donnell, Brennan. The Passion of Meter: A Study of Wordsworth’s Metrical Art. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1995.

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      Pioneering extended study of Wordsworth’s metrical theory, undertaken within the framework of Wordsworth’s own comments about verse. Very detailed readings of the poetry. At times highly technical but overall a very valuable account.

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    • Wolfson, Susan J. The Questioning Presence: Wordsworth, Keats, and the Interrogative Mode in Romantic Poetry. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.

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      Compares Wordsworth’s and Keats’s writing in the interrogative mode, arguing that in Wordsworth’s poetry this develops into a questioning of both the poet himself and his readers. Valuable discussions of The Prelude and The Excursion.

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    • Wolfson, Susan J. Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997.

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      Combines formal and historical approaches to poetry of the Romantic period. Includes a chapter on Wordsworth’s revision of The Prelude as part of an analysis of the poet’s autobiographical mode.

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    Philosophy and Aesthetics

    Wordsworth’s poetry has frequently been read in relation to the philosophical and aesthetic contexts of his day. A good starting point for considering these issues is Thomas 1989, which examines the poetry in relation to what could be seen as the two competing philosophies of the Romantic period, empiricism and transcendentalism. Kelley 1988 discusses the poetry in relation to the aesthetics of Burke, Kant, and Hegel, offering a sophisticated account of Wordsworth’s development in relation to the key concepts of the sublime and the beautiful. Bewell 1989 locates Wordsworth in the context of an impressive range of Enlightenment discourses and theories, arguing for the anthropological nature of the poet’s overall project. Manly 2007 makes strong claims for the importance of John Locke’s theories of language, particularly as they inform Wordsworth’s own theories and practices. Dart 1999 examines the importance of Rousseau, especially in relation to the poet’s response to the French Revolution. Jarvis 2006 is a major study, arguing for the essentially philosophical quality of Wordsworth’s poetry and drawing on an impressive range of theorists and philosophers including Descartes, Hegel, and Heidegger.

    • Bewell, Alan. Wordsworth and the Enlightenment: Nature, Man, and Society in the Experimental Poetry. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1989.

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      Argues that Wordsworth reshaped the language of Enlightenment anthropology when writing a history of the origins and development of the human mind—his own, and that of the human race. Detailed readings of Peter Bell as a version of primitive encounter and “Resolution and Independence” in relation to geological theory, as well as a sustained focus on The Prelude.

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    • Dart, Gregory. Rousseau, Robespierre and Romanticism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511484162Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Valuable examination of Rousseau’s influence on English Romanticism that particularly explores the relationship between the philosopher’s confessional writing and his political theory. Examines mediation through Robespierre’s speeches. Includes an important chapter on “Wordsworth and the Politics of the Mountain,” which focuses on The Prelude.

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    • Jarvis, Simon. Wordsworth’s Philosophic Song. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511484308Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Sees Wordsworth as a writer who combines philosophy and poetry in his verse. A sophisticated, demanding, but important study, with detailed readings of The Prelude, The Recluse, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” (‘There was a time’), and “The Tuft of Primroses.”

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    • Kelley, Theresa M. Wordsworth’s Revisionary Aesthetics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

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      Examines Wordsworth in relation to aesthetics and particularly ideas of the sublime and the beautiful, tracing a conflict between the two and seeing the poet as more suspicious of the sublime than is usually acknowledged. Illuminating on the politics of the aesthetics.

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    • Manly, Susan. Language, Custom and Nation in the 1790s: Locke, Tooke, Wordsworth, Edgeworth. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

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      Examines the influence of John Locke on the “revolutionary” poetry of the 1790s. Traces the influence from Locke’s ideas of language, through Tooke, to the “real language” of Wordsworthian Romanticism. Contains a chapter on “Wordsworth and Common Cultivation: Language, Property and Nature,” which focuses on Lyrical Ballads.

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    • Thomas, Keith G. Wordsworth and Philosophy: Empiricism and Transcendentalism in the Poetry. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989.

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      Study of Wordsworth’s relations to empiricism and German transcendental idealism, which it sees as, respectively, the dominant and emergent philosophies of the poet’s youth. Traces a development from the empirical-pantheist poetry of “Tintern Abbey” to the transcendental poetry of the “Intimations Ode,” The Prelude, and The Excursion.

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    Psychoanalytic Criticism

    Onorato 1971 is the major psychoanalytic study of Wordsworth, at once a biography and a reading of The Prelude in relation to trauma. Ellis 1985 positions itself against Onorato, arguing that the earlier book fails to properly investigate the tensions and problems of its methodology, offering alternative readings of key moments of Wordsworth’s epic, particularly the “spots of time.” Hanley 2001 offers a career-long examination of the poet’s writing, focusing on issues of self-representation in poetic language and the linguistic traumas prompted by the French Revolution, making use of ideas derived from Jacques Lacan.

    • Ellis, David. Wordsworth, Freud and the Spots of Time: Interpretation in The Prelude. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

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      Uses Freud to read two of the “spots of time” from The Prelude. Also includes a detailed reading of the “discharged soldier” episode as part of its interest in fathers and sons.

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    • Hanley, Keith. Wordsworth: A Poet’s History. London: Palgrave, 2001.

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      Powerfully combines close reading of poetry with psychoanalytic theory to trace the origins of Wordsworth’s self-representation in the trauma of language acquisition in infancy, reawakened first by his mother’s death and then by the French Revolution.

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    • Onorato, Richard J. The Character of the Poet: Wordsworth in The Prelude. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971.

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      Psychoanalytic reading of The Prelude, emphasizing the traumatic effect of the early deaths of Wordsworth’s parents and tracing his attempts to create himself as “Poet.”

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    Historical Criticism

    As with most areas of Romantic and indeed literary studies in general, the major focus of Wordsworth criticism in the closing decades of the 20th century was on the political dimensions of the poet’s work and the historical context in which he was writing. There are a number of General studies of Wordsworth and the history of his own times. Wordsworth was a major focus for the theoretically informed criticism of the 1980s that came to be known as “New Historicism.” The bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989 also stimulated tremendous interest in the poet’s own revolutionary history, with the focus widening more recently to cover the Revolutionary Aftermath and War. With his deliberate choice of “low” subject matter and language, and his frequent encounters with figures from the margins of society, critics have also found Wordsworth’s poetry stimulating in relation to Social and Economic history.

    General

    Good starting points for thinking about Wordsworth in his historical context are Woodring 1970 and Butler 1981. Woodring provides an informative account of the poet’s political thinking as expressed in his poetry, and Butler outlines the wider contexts in which he operated. Friedman 1979 gives a detailed consideration of the overarching trajectory of Wordsworth’s career as it moves from radical youth to more conservative maturity, a trajectory also considered in Fulford 1996 through examination of the politics of landscape. Simpson 1987 links the social and political concerns with Wordsworth’s anxiety about his own role. Janowitz 1998 reads Lyrical Ballads in the context of radical lyric poetry, while Roe 2002 is particularly concerned with the relationship between politics and nature. Bourke 1993 traces the relationship between poetic and political discourses from Wordsworth to the late 20th century.

    • Bourke, Richard. Romantic Discourse and Political Modernity: Wordsworth, the Intellectual and Cultural Critique. New York and London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993.

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      Examination of relationship between poetic and political languages, not only in Wordsworth but also in the critical tradition that includes Coleridge, De Quincey, Arnold, Hartman, and de Man. A challenging read.

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    • Butler, Marilyn. Romantics, Rebels, and Reactionaries: English Literature and Its Background, 1760–1830. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.

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      Classic study of the historical context of Romantic literature, including an important discussion on Wordsworth’s writing as part of the debate over art for the people in the 1790s.

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    • Friedman, Michael H. The Making of a Tory Humanist: William Wordsworth and the Idea of Community. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.

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      Important study of Wordsworth’s political development tracing his response to the French Revolution and his later embracing of what he came to see as the ideal community of the Lake District where he settled. Interesting combination of Freudian and Marxist approaches to the subject.

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    • Fulford, Tim. Landscape, Liberty and Authority: Poetry, Criticism and Politics from Thomson to Wordsworth. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511519000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the politics of the landscape tradition, including consideration of Wordsworth in relation to issues of land and landscape, ownership, and authority. Shows how the 18th-century literary and political debates influenced the poet’s shift from radicalism to conservatism.

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    • Janowitz, Anne. Lyric and Labour in the Romantic Tradition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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      Includes a detailed examination of Lyrical Ballads in the context of the large body of radical poetry published in newspapers and periodicals. Valuable readings of Wordsworth’s poems and a reassessment of his influence on radical political culture.

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    • Roe, Nicholas. The Politics of Nature: Wordsworth and Some Contemporaries. 2d ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

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      Series of essays offering contextualized readings of Wordsworth and his contemporaries. Includes new material on Wordsworth’s radical years and an important reading of “Tintern Abbey” in response to the Miltonic picturesque, arguing that it enabled the poet to accommodate human society and history. Also stresses Wordsworth’s developing compassionate view of humanity. First published in 1992.

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    • Simpson, David. Wordsworth’s Historical Imagination: The Poetry of Displacement. New York and London: Methuen, 1987.

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      Important reading of Wordsworth’s poetry in its social and political contexts. Valuable examination of Wordsworth’s uncertainty about his own poetic role, illustrated through close readings. Emphasis on “displacement” shows the study’s link with other “New Historicist” criticism of the 1980s.

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    • Woodring, Carl. Politics in English Romantic Poetry. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970.

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      Classic study that examines all the canonical poets (except Coleridge, the subject of an earlier account) and includes a wide-ranging chapter on Wordsworth, conducted through contextualized close readings of the major poetry. A good starting point for anyone interested in the subject.

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    “New Historicism”

    The 1980s saw the publication of three major studies of Romanticism and Wordsworth that reconceptualized the poet’s relationship with history and stimulated passionate ongoing debate, as witnessed in a number of works in the French Revolution and Revolutionary Aftermath and War sections. McGann 1983 provided the theoretical manifesto for what became known as “New Historicism” as it operated in Romantic studies, arguing that criticism failed to recognize how it was implicated in the ideology of Romantic literature, an ideology which itself obscured its relations with history and politics. Levinson 1986 elaborated on this argument with individual readings of four major poems and an important introduction. Liu 1989 marked the culmination of these New Historicist readings of Wordsworth, providing a highly stimulating, powerfully argued, and meticulously detailed examination of the poet’s attempts to deny history, illustrated through readings of an impressive range of poetry. Hamilton 1986 offers a broad overview of the poet’s works, informed by theories of history and literature.

    • Hamilton, Paul. Wordsworth. Harvester New Readings Series. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1986.

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      A stimulating general introduction, aimed at advanced students and reflecting the theoretical developments in literary studies of the 1980s.

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    • Levinson, Marjorie. Wordsworth’s Great Period Poems: Four Essays. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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      Along with McGann’s Romantic Ideology, provided the manifesto for the “New Historicist” reading of Romanticism as the repression, suppression, or displacement of history, an idea brilliantly if controversially examined through readings of “Tintern Abbey,” “Michael,” the “Intimations Ode,” and “Peele Castle.”

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    • Liu, Alan. Wordsworth: The Sense of History. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989.

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      The culmination of the 1980’s “New Historicist” approach to Wordsworth that, following McGann and Levinson, sees the power of Wordsworth’s poetry as stemming from his denial of history. A stimulating study that covers a huge range of topics. A demanding but highly rewarding study.

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    • McGann, Jerome J. The Romantic Ideology: A Critical Investigation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

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      A very important and highly influential examination of how canonical Romanticism obscures and denies the history in which it originates. Includes a chapter on “Wordsworth and the Ideology of Romantic Poems,” which includes readings of “Tintern Abbey” and “Intimations of Immortality” and has become a touchstone for debates about Romanticism and historical method. Remains required reading at any level.

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    Social and Economic

    Simpson 1982 and Hewitt 1997 offer detailed examinations of the relationships between literature and society, with both exploring Wordsworth’s own concern with the ethical and social dimensions of his own literary practices. Benis 2000 focuses particularly on the representation of homelessness in the poetry (see also Langan 1995, cited under Travel), while Connell 2001 provides the major study of Wordsworth in relation to economic theory and practice. Spiegelman 1985 presents a socially engaged poet who redefines the conception of heroism.

    • Benis, Toby R. Romanticism on the Road: The Marginal Gains of Wordsworth’s Homeless. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 2000.

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      Examines Wordsworth’s representation of the homeless, seeing his treatment of the figure of the vagrant as a critique of the political dogma of both aristocrats and radicals. Detailed readings of Salisbury Plain, Lyrical Ballads, 1802 poems, and The Prelude.

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    • Connell, Philip. Romanticism, Economics and the Question of “Culture.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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      Informative analysis of Wordsworth throughout this major study. Includes chapters on “The Old Cumberland Beggar,” Lake School anti-economics, 1805 Prelude and Malthus, the ideological legacy of the Lake School, and a section on the politics of apostasy.

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    • Hewitt, Regina. The Possibilities of Society: Wordsworth, Coleridge, and the Sociological Viewpoint of English Romanticism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

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      Uses sociological theory to see Wordsworth and Coleridge as addressing issues of social organization in their poetry, making the case for them as engaged social thinkers. Sets up a comparison between the “poetic” sociology of the Romantic period and the “scientific” sociology that has since been institutionalized.

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    • Simpson, David. Wordsworth and the Figuring of the Real. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1982.

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      A compelling study of Wordsworth’s imagination, examining the social and ethical dimensions of the poet’s acts of figuration. A major consideration of the social function of literature.

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    • Spiegelman, Willard L. Wordsworth’s Heroes. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1985.

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      Sees Wordsworth as redefining heroes and heroism, discovering them in the ordinary and commonplace. Offers detailed discussions of the long poems The Prelude, The Excursion, and The White Doe of Rylstone.

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    French Revolution

    When it was first published in 1963, Abrams 1984 constituted an important identification of the centrality of the French Revolution to Romanticism, even if it saw the cultural movement as turning away from politics to the imagination. Thompson 1969 offered a valuable alternative to Abrams’s influential account, seeing the tension in Wordsworth’s response to events in France rather than his sense of disappointment as stimulating his poetry. The most detailed consideration of Wordsworth’s engagement with Revolutionary France and British radicalism is Roe 1990, which also provides valuable readings of the poetry (and see also Johnston 1998, cited under Biographies). Chandler 1984 studies the increasing importance of Burke in Wordsworth’s political development, while Williams 1989 traces the poet’s political sympathies back to a republican tradition that predates the French Revolution. Collings 1994 discusses the French Revolution sections of The Prelude as the culmination of its account of Wordsworth’s errancy. Hanley and Selden 1990 include three important essays on the subject of Wordsworth and Revolution.

    • Abrams, Meyer Howard. “English Romanticism: The Spirit of the Age.” In The Correspondent Breeze: Essays on English Romanticism. Edited by Meyer Howard Abrams, 44–75. New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1984.

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      First published in 1963, a key essay that emphasizes the importance of the French Revolution to Romanticism and establishes the model of Romanticism as shaped by a turn away from history and politics as writers sought to establish their utopias internally through the power of the imagination.

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    • Chandler, James K. Wordsworth’s Second Nature: A Study of the Poetry and Politics. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

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      An important study of Wordsworth’s politics, particularly as they developed in relation to Rousseau and Burke, using the latter as a context for a politicized reading of the “spots of time.” Supported by enlightening readings of The Prelude.

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    • Collings, David. Wordsworthian Errancies: The Poetics of Cultural Dismemberment. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

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      Highly theoretical account exploring politics and sexuality in Wordsworth, including “queer modes of sexuality,” as a response to the cultural trauma of his youth, especially the French Revolution and the outbreak of the war between England and France.

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    • Hanley, Keith, and Raman Selden, eds. Revolution and English Romanticism: Politics and Rhetoric. Hemel Hempstead, UK: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990.

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      Important collection of essays, with three focusing on Wordsworth: Anne Janowitz, “‘A Night on Salisbury Plain’: A Dreadful, Ruined Nature”; Kenneth Johnston, “Wordsworth’s Revolutions, 1793–1798”; and Jonathan Wordsworth, “Wordsworth’s Dim and Perilous Way.”

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    • Roe, Nicholas. Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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      Important rereading of the early careers of Wordsworth and Coleridge in the context of 1790s radicalism. Examines Wordsworth’s time in Revolutionary France and explores his relations to William Godwin and John Thelwall. Valuable readings of Lyrical Ballads, The Prelude, and The Recluse as part of an overall argument that it was the failure of the Revolution that made Wordsworth a poet.

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    • Thompson, E. P. “Disenchantment or Default? A Lay Sermon.” In Power and Consciousness. Edited by Conor Cruise O’Brien and William Dean Vanech, 149–181. New York: New York University Press, 1969.

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      An influential essay considering Wordsworth’s political allegiances in the 1790s and early 1800s. Argues that Wordsworth’s poetry was produced by the tension between his aspirations and an unregenerate reality.

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    • Williams, John. Wordsworth: Romantic Poetry and Revolution Politics. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1989.

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      Assesses the importance for Wordsworth’s political views of a long-standing tradition of political dissidence that predated the French Revolution.

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    Revolutionary Aftermath and War

    In contrast to the arguments of Abrams that Wordsworth turned away from history (see French Revolution) and the New Historicist critics that he denied and obscured it (see “New Historicism”) a number of studies have focused on the poet’s continued engagement with European events following the French Revolution. Bainbridge 1995 traces the poet’s response to Napoleon Bonaparte from the late 1790s until the battle of Waterloo, arguing that it had an important shaping influence on his sense of his own role. Thomas 1971 gives a clear account of Wordsworth’s writing about the Convention of Cintra. Cronin 2000, Shaw 2002, Bainbridge 2003, and Watson 2004 all consider the poet’s response to the events of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

    Women and Gender

    Developments in feminist literary criticism and gender studies have had an important impact on understandings of Wordsworth and his writing. Mellor 1988 is a significant collection of essays that includes several reassessments of the poet, both looking at the gendered elements of his writing and reading it in the context of the increasing awareness of women’s writing of the period, particularly that of his sister, Dorothy. Mellor 1993 gives an account of these and other developments in the reading of Wordsworth. Ross 1989 provides a major study of how the rise of women’s poetry had a powerful shaping influence on male writers’ verse and sense of vocation. Barrell 1988 is a pioneering study of Wordsworth’s representation of himself and his sister in “Tintern Abbey” and has been highly influential, as has the feminist account of The Prelude in Spivak 1987. Page 1994 considers the influence of the women who were part of the poet’s circle, while Fay 1995 takes this approach a stage further, arguing that Dorothy as well as William were crucial elements of “Wordsworth the Poet.” Labbe 2011 examines the mutual influence between the poet and Charlotte Smith. On Wordsworth and masculinity, see also Fulford 1999 and Gravil 2003 (both cited under the Poetic Role), and Bainbridge 2003 (cited under Revolutionary Aftermath and War).

    • Barrell, John. “The Uses of Dorothy: ‘The Language of the Sense’ in ‘Tintern Abbey.’” In Poetry, Language and Politics. Edited by John Barrell, 137–167. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1988.

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      Important reading of “Tintern Abbey” that draws on a range of theoretical approaches to consider how Wordsworth’s representation of his sister enables him to establish his own poetic identity and authority.

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    • Fay, Elizabeth A. Becoming Wordsworthian: A Performative Aesthetic. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1995.

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      Examines relationship with Dorothy, arguing that the siblings’ collaboration produced the literary persona “Wordsworth the Poet.”

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    • Labbe, Jacqueline M. Writing Romanticism: Charlotte Smith and William Wordsworth, 1784–1807. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

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      Makes an important claim for the significance of Charlotte Smith in Wordsworth’s development, suggesting that the poetic mode we think of as Wordsworthian could be reformulated as Smithian. Valuable analysis of the mutual influence and “virtual partnership” between the two writers up until Smith’s death in 1806.

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    • Mellor, Anne K. Romanticism and Gender. London and New York: Routledge, 1993.

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      Includes analysis of Wordsworth as part of its examination of “Gender in Masculine Romanticism” and in a chapter titled “Writing the Self/Self Writing” provides a comparison between The Prelude and Dorothy’s Journals.

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    • Mellor, Anne K., ed. Romanticism and Feminism. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988.

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      Includes several important essays focusing on, or with relevance to, Wordsworth: Alan Richardson, “Romanticism and the Colonization of the Feminine”; Marlon B. Ross, “Romantic Quest and Conquest”; Kurt Heinzelman, “The Cult of Domesticity”; and Susan J. Wolfson, “Individual in Community.”

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    • Page, Judith W. Wordsworth and the Cultivation of Women. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

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      Feminist examination of how the women in Wordsworth’s life—Dorothy, Mary Wordsworth, Sara Hutchinson, Dora, and Isabella Fenwick—provided an intellectual and emotional context for Wordsworth and made his poetry possible.

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    • Ross, Marlon B. The Contours of Masculine Desire: Romanticism and the Rise of Women’s Poetry. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

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      Wordsworth is a repeated point of reference throughout this important reassessment of Romanticism in the context of the reincorporation of women poets into the literary landscape. The chapter “The Will to Write” includes detailed analysis of The Prelude.

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    • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Sex and History in The Prelude (1805): Books IX to XIII.” In Post-Structuralist Readings of English Poetry. Edited by Richard Machin and Christopher Norris, 193–226. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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      A major, influential, and complex feminist critique that examines how Wordsworth responded to the crises of his own identity and the French Revolution by asserting the power and authority of poetry.

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    Religion

    There is a long tradition of religious readings and spiritual responses to Wordsworth’s writing. Bainbridge 2007 surveys such responses from the poet’s own time up to the present day. Gill 1998 (cited under Reception, Posterity, and Influence), contains an informative chapter titled “England’s Samuel: Wordsworth as Spiritual Power,” which looks at Victorian responses and includes analysis of the Oxford Movement. Prickett 1976 also considers how the poetry of Wordsworth shaped religious belief in the 19th century and examines the poet as a religious thinker. Ryan 2004 provides a valuable reading of the poetry, especially The Excursion, in the context of the religious belief and practice of the period, with a particular emphasis on Nonconformism. Westbrook 2001 gives a detailed examination of Wordsworth’s use of Biblical narrative. Brantley 1975 and Ulmer 2001 both seek to understand Wordsworth’s writing in terms of specific denominations, Methodism and Christianity, respectively. Watson 1982 and Easterlin 1996 both examine what they regard as the fundamentally religious quality of Wordsworth’s poetry.

    • Bainbridge, Simon. “Wordsworth and Coleridge: Theological Ways of Reading Literature.” In The Oxford Handbook of English Literature and Theology. Edited by Andrew W. Hass, David Jasper, and Elisabeth Fay, 465–482. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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      Examines a number of the key religious readings of Wordsworth from the poet’s own time until the early 21st century. Analyzes writing by John Keble, John Tulloch, Charles Kingsley, William Hale White (Mark Rutherford), John Wilson, Charles Lamb, and William Howitt as well as modern-day critical responses.

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    • Brantley, Richard E. Wordsworth’s “Natural Methodism.” New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975.

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      Examines the influence of Evangelical Anglicanism and Wesleyan Methodism, considering themes of conversion, covenant, faith, charity, spiritual perfection, and the Book of Nature. Focuses particularly on The Prelude and The Excursion.

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    • Easterlin, Nancy. Wordsworth and the Question of Romantic Religion. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1996.

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      Drawing on the psychology of William James, examines religious experience (rather than doctrine) in Wordsworth’s work. Provides valuable readings of “Tintern Abbey,” The Prelude, The Excursion, and the Ecclesiastical Sonnets.

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    • Prickett, Stephen. Romanticism and Religion: The Tradition of Coleridge and Wordsworth in the Victorian Church. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

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      Includes a chapter titled “Wordsworth and the Love of Nature” and argues that the religious experience found in the poetry involved a balance between the “internal” and the “external.”

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    • Ryan, Robert M. The Romantic Reformation: Religious Politics in English Literature, 1789–1824. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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      A very useful study asserting that the literature of the period aimed to effect the religious transformation of society. Provides a valuable contextualization of the writers in the context of dissent. The chapter devoted to Wordsworth, “Nature’s Priest,” offers one of the best discussions of The Excursion, arguing that it was the major work in which the poet addressed the social and economic condition of the nation.

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    • Ulmer, William A. The Christian Wordsworth: 1798–1805. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001.

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      Studies the development of Wordsworth’s beliefs from early secularism to the later Anglicanism, arguing that Christian elements can be identified as early as 1798.

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    • Watson, J. R. Wordsworth’s Vital Soul: The Sacred and Profane in Wordsworth’s Poetry. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1982.

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      A reading of the “religious” ideas and motivations of the poet’s work, attempting to “discover structures in the poetry which are akin to fundamental and primitive patterns of belief.”

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    • Westbrook, Deanne. Wordsworth’s Biblical Ghosts. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

      DOI: 10.1057/9780312299330Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the poet’s relationship with the Bible, considering Wordsworth’s adaptations of biblical narrative forms and his apocalyptic mode.

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    Nature and Ecology

    Wordsworth has long been understood as the great poet of Nature, an idea classically expressed in Brooke 1920, which sees him as the first poet to make the natural world his subject. This critical tradition is valuably examined in Fry 2008, which also offers its own model of Wordsworth as a “nature poet.” Hayden 1973 offered an early account of Wordsworth as an ecologist, but it was Bate 1991 that made the most forceful case for Wordsworth’s importance to the ecological movement and for later poets and thinkers of nature. Bate’s work stimulated many responses, one of the most interesting of which is Pinkney 1995, which conducts its argument through close readings of “Poems on the Naming of Places.” Kroeber 1994 provides a sustained reassessment of the importance of the natural world for Wordsworth, while McKusick 2000 places a valuable emphasis on the specificity of place in the poet’s response to the world around him. Oerlemans 2002 uses Wordsworth’s poetry to consider the absolute materiality of the natural world.

    • Bate, Jonathan. Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition. London and New York: Routledge, 1991.

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      Influential and much-discussed call for criticism to go from “red” to “green,” claiming Wordsworth as the first truly ecological poet. Important analysis of writing about the Lake District, located within the context of its economic condition. Examines writing and ideas in relation to those of John Ruskin and Edward Thomas.

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    • Brooke, Stopford A. Naturalism in English Poetry. London: Dent, 1920.

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      Includes the essay “Wordsworth, the Poet of Nature,” which argues that Wordsworth was the first poet to take as one of his main subjects “outward Nature,” “the natural universe as it presents itself in all its vast variety to our thought and our affection” (p. 135).

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    • Fry, Paul H. Wordsworth and the Poetry of What We Are. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

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      An important and impressive study offering a broadly phenomenological reading of Wordsworth, arguing that the poet sees the imagination as the openness of the mind to the revelation of unity. Includes as a chapter the previously published essay, “Green to the Very Door? The Natural Wordsworth,” which examines Wordsworth as a “nature poet” with a detailed tracing of different critical versions of this idea.

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    • Hayden, Donald E. “William Wordsworth: Early Ecologist.” In Studies in Relevance: Romantic and Victorian Writers in 1972. Edited by Thomas Meade Harwell, 36–52. Salzburg, Austria: Universität Salzburg, 1973.

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      Interesting pioneering assessment of Wordsworth as an early ecologist, considering him as a landscape writer, a preservationist, and an anti-industrialist, and examining his influence.

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    • Kroeber, Karl. Ecological Literary Criticism: Romantic Imagining and the Biology of Mind. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

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      Important and innovative study of Romantic poets’ relationship with the natural environment, reading their work in the context of ecological theories. Argues that Wordsworth’s major significance lies in showing that the natural environment is the source and sustaining force of human consciousness and that the use of consciousness to separate ourselves from nature is dehumanizing.

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    • McKusick, James. Green Writing: Romanticism and Ecology. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000.

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      Includes a chapter “Wordsworth’s Home at Grasmere” examining the poetry as it emerges from the lived experience of dwelling in the English Lake District, exploring the poet’s representation of childhood experience in The Prelude and providing close readings of “Home at Grasmere,” “Intimations of Immortality,” and “Tintern Abbey.”

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    • Oerlemans, Onno. Romanticism and the Materiality of Nature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.

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      Seeks to read Romanticism as a series of encounters with the absolute materiality of the natural world. Investigates Wordsworth’s encounters with this absolute materiality through close readings of a number of poems, including “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal” and The Ruined Cottage, arguing that the discovery of “a kind of naked empiricism” offers “an essential route to truth” (p. 43).

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    • Pinkney, Tony. “Naming Places: Wordsworth and the Possibilities of Eco-criticism.” In News from Nowhere: Theory and Politics of Romanticism—Romanticism, Theory, Gender. Edited by Tony Pinkney, Keith Hanley, and Fred Botting, 41–66. Keele, UK: Keele University Press, 1995.

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      Very powerful consideration of the possibilities for eco-criticism, and the challenges facing it, conducted through an analysis of Wordsworth’s “Poems on the Naming of Places.” Closely engaged with Bate 1991, arguing that the poetry needs to be read more carefully and located within the wider frameworks provided by Marxist, feminist, or poststructuralist theory.

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    Place and Space

    Wordsworth’s association with the Lake District has been the subject of a number of studies, perhaps most valuably McCracken 1984, which doubles as a guide to Wordsworthian locations and an examination of the poetry. Thompson 1970 provides a wealth of information on the village where Wordsworth was educated, while Buchanan 2001 examines Wordsworth’s gardens and his philosophy and practice of gardening. Wiley 1998 offers an important study of Wordsworth and space, drawing on concepts from geography to read the poet’s work.

    • Buchanan, Carol. Wordsworth’s Gardens. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2001.

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      Detailed descriptions of Wordsworth’s gardens at Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount, with links to the poetry. A well-illustrated book aimed at the general reader.

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    • McCracken, David. Wordsworth and the Lake District: A Guide to the Poems and Their Places. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.

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      An excellent resource analyzing the poems and the locations that they invoke. Well supported by maps and accounts of the places themselves.

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    • Thompson, T. W. Wordsworth’s Hawkshead. Edited by Robert Woof. London: Oxford University Press, 1970.

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      A detailed and lively study of the village in which Wordsworth was educated, with a particular focus on Ann Tyson. Makes links to Wordsworth’s poetry.

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    • Wiley, Michael. Romantic Geography: Wordsworth and Anglo-European Spaces. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1998.

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      Focuses on the importance of physical, social, and political places for Wordsworth’s conceptions of Nature, solitude, and the Imagination. Examines the nexus of geography and literary-imaginative configurations of space and particularly Wordsworth’s configuration of a utopian space.

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    Travel

    The study of Wordsworth has been central to the recent development of interest in travel and travel writing in the Romantic period. Wallace 1993 and Jarvis 1997 provide examinations of his walking practices and their relationship with the production, themes, and forms of his writing. Wyatt 1999 focuses on Wordsworth’s later travel poetry, while Langan 1995 examines the darker side of his poetics of movement, exploring the theme of vagrancy in his work.

    • Jarvis, Robin. Romantic Writing and Pedestrian Travel. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997.

      DOI: 10.1057/9780230371361Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Valuable examination of the relationship between pedestrian travel and writing in the Romantic period. Contains a detailed account of Wordsworth’s own walking experience and his writing on the subject in texts, including “An Evening Walk,” “The Ruined Cottage,” “Salisbury Plain,” and The Prelude. Fascinating examination of the relationship between Wordsworth’s walking and his writing of blank verse.

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    • Langan, Celeste. Romantic Vagrancy: Wordsworth and the Simulations of Freedom. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511553509Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Parallels Wordsworth’s poetic practice with the wanderings of the homeless and dispossessed figures he encounters. Theoretically sophisticated and at times demanding. Very interesting readings of Lyrical Ballads, The Prelude, and The Excursion.

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    • Wallace, Anne D. Walking, Literature, and English Culture: The Origins and Uses of Peripatetic in the Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon, 1993.

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      A cultural history of walking in 19th-century England that includes a valuable analysis of Wordsworth’s pedestrian writing and practice, and argues for the previously unrecognized literary mode of the peripatetic.

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    • Wyatt, John. Wordsworth’s Poems of Travel, 1819–42: “Such Sweet Wayfaring.” Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.

      DOI: 10.1057/9780230286214Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examination of Wordsworth as a “poet of movement” through analysis of his self-conscious use of the travel poem genre, emphasizing his own knowledge of himself as poet-wanderer. Focuses on later poetry, stressing the need to read in terms of the sequences in which they were initially published and locating them in their local and national contexts.

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    Science

    A major development in 21st-century criticism of Romanticism has been to locate it in relation to the scientific ideas of the period, though many current critics acknowledge Piper 1962 as an important pioneering exploration of this field, illustrating as it does how Wordsworth’s understanding of the universe was influenced by scientific ideas that called into question the Newtonian model. Wordsworth’s response to Newton is explored in detail in Thomas and Ober 1989. A number of studies locate Wordsworth’s writing in the context of the emerging scientific disciplines of the Romantic period: Wyatt 1995 does so in terms of geology, and Richardson 2001 in relation to neuroscience, while McLane 2006 considers literature’s links to anthropology. Wordsworth features heavily in Jackson 2008, which examines the poet’s interest in perception and sensory experience as developed in 18th-century human sciences.

    • Jackson, Noel. Science and Sensation in Romantic Poetry. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511484292Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An informative examination of the literary uses of sensation in the writing of the Romantic period, using Wordsworth’s “language of the sense” as exemplary of an experimental idiom. Fascinating investigation of the relationship between embodied aesthetic experience and the political work of aesthetic culture. Several sections deal with Wordsworth, including illuminating discussions of the imagination and the “two consciousnesses.”

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    • McLane, Maureen N. Romanticism and the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of the Species. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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      Examines dialogues between poetry and human sciences in the Romantic period, reading the literature in the context of moral philosophy, political economy, and anthropology. Includes a chapter on Lyrical Ballads and a detailed reading of “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.”

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    • Piper, H. W. The Active Universe: Pantheism and the Concept of Imagination in the English Romantic Poets. London: Athlone, 1962.

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      Classic study of Pantheism and the Romantic Imagination which argues that the ideas of scientists, including Joseph Priestley and Erasmus Darwin, had an important influence on Wordsworth’s thinking and particularly his understanding of the universe as “active.”

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    • Richardson, Alan. British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511484469Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A major and pioneering study of the relationship between the emerging discipline of neuroscience and the literature of the Romantic period. The chapter “A Beating Mind: Wordsworth’s Poetics and the ‘Science of Feelings’” argues that the poet was attuned to the new biology and biological psychology of the time and uses ideas derived from them to clarify Wordsworth’s theory of poetry as articulated in the “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads.

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    • Thomas, Walter Kieth, and Warren U. Ober. A Mind For Ever Voyaging: Wordsworth at Work Portraying Newton and Science. Edmonton, Canada: University of Alberta Press, 1989.

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      A detailed examination of Wordsworth’s sources in his writings on Newton and Newton’s science. Argues that in such writings the poet sought to elevate “the mind to God.”

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    • Wyatt, John. Wordsworth and the Geologists. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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      Examines the relationship between Wordsworth and the emergent discipline of geology, illustrating how the developments in the field influenced his later poetry and prose.

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    LAST MODIFIED: 09/20/2012

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199846719-0062

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