"Come forth and feel the sun" : Wordsworth's relational invitation /

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Date
2010
Authors
Hall, Cristy
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Middle Tennessee State University
Abstract
True to Wordsworth's reformist agenda, this dissertation attempts to revive a vital aspect of his achievement and sensibility. Though his critical reputation as a "nature poet" persisted through the nineteenth century, the frequent imagery of nature's sights and sounds---the warbling of a choir of redbreasts or the blinking of a glow worm in the hills---has become a secondary consideration in recent decades both to idealist critics with their gaze fixed toward the Imagination and to New Historicists preoccupied with the poet's attitudes toward the French Revolution and the indigent and working poor.
Nonetheless, the current school of eco-critics also errs in setting up the sensory imagery of Wordsworth's nature poetry as an antithesis to the sublime and, most significantly, in rejecting the urge to embrace the power and grandeur implicit in our humanity as an egotistical pursuit that sets us at odds with nature. Thus, the novelty of my study (a revamped ecological interpretation, necessarily adjusted to encompass Wordsworth's culminating poetic achievement) is that it ultimately reveals Wordsworth at home not only amongst shepherds caring for their flocks in the tranquil pastures of Westmoreland but also as he stood atop Mount Snowdon absorbed by the unity yet threatening power of the natural sublime.
This study argues that Wordsworth uses the body of his poetry to invite his readers to come into relationship with especially the non-human world in which they dwell, a project that only becomes possible with the discovery of his own imaginative potential. Still, even at the height of his poetic powers, he conceptualized Imagination not as a self-centered tool for exercising original genius but as a mode of contact and relationship---an expression of his love for the world. My chronological survey of Wordsworth's life and art, which discerns a circular, even spirical return to his birthplace following a series of self-discoveries, thus traces how the poet was guided by nature to a new awareness of the indestructible strength of his humanity, an affirmation that enabled the poet-wanderer to overcome his alienated condition and experience himself in relationship to the greater cosmos.
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Adviser: Tom Strawman.
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