Becoming Wordsworthian: a performative aesthetics by Elizabeth A. Fay

By Elizabeth A. Fay

This leading edge publication explores the speculation that "Wordsworth the Poet" is an imaginitive projection during which either William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy collaborated, constructing a personality that the siblings strove to inhabit. simply because William was once its critical enactor, either publicly and privately, poetically and experimentally, his tendency was once to sublimate Dorothy into an audible yet invisible muse, positioned simply at the back of him. Dorothy, notwithstanding, continuously imagined herself in a collaborative or twinned relation to William, even if he was once absent. She skilled the Wordsworthian function as more and more alienating, extra a classy functionality to be enacted at will, while William chanced on the position ever extra traditional and inseparable from himself.

This booklet explores the ways that the Wordsworths have been quite fitted to improve their collaborative personality, the literary fictions they drew on, and the worth they derived from this sort of concerted and utopian attempt. the writer bases her paintings on famous Wordsworthian texts, in addition to little-read lyrics and essays of William and the relatively unknown oeuvre of Dorothy.

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He came over Helvellyn. Wm.  . We sate and chatted till 1/2-past three, W. in his dressing gown. Coleridge read us a part of Christabel. Talked much about the mountains, etc.  . Losh's opinion of Southeythe first of poets. Grasmere Journals Geoffrey Hartman, to whom we always return to understand Wordsworth's verse, wrote of the "selfhood Wordsworth knew," its relation to Nature and the death of Nature, its relation to his special mission and the death of his mission (Hartman, 338). In just such a way, we know the self called Wordsworth through the eyes and sensibility of older critics whose judgment we trust: Coleridge, with his descriptions of masculine poethood; Mill, with his Wordsworthian curative for the sick soul; Arnold, with his cure for a Philistine culture.

We comprehend Wordsworth to be first of all a strong poet in the Bloomian sense, a Miltonic successor sensible of both his inheritance and his seed. He is thus a visionary, just as he and Cole- Page 14 ridge claim; a teacher, as he and Arnold claim; and Nature's priest, as he and Mill claim. It must be noted that like all transmitted beliefs, these are so little self-evident that students must be taught them over and against their own observations. Within the parameters of these critical beliefs, we also accept that Wordsworth was the strong partner and Coleridge the weak, albeit Coleridge's imagination and genius were rich enough to fertilize that strong ground.

She is not objectified as courtly beloved (Dante's Beatrice) or as a natural woman (William's Lucy); instead, she is partly self and partly other, and as such her character can be recognized in other women who share some or all of her sisterly characteristics. Her own posture is ambiguated by her participation in a situation orchestrated by the Wordsworthian speaker to position himself powerfully against her. In empowering his voice she allows her own sublimation, but the very structure of the address speaks against a simple objectification of the woman.

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