How might one analyse Preface to Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one approach that can be taken in analyzing Wordsworth's Preface is to examine how he is able to articulate the theoretical foundations to Romanticism within it.  This becomes one of the most valuable aspects to the Preface.  Wordsworth and Coleridge were able to use it as a manifesto for Romanticism.  They were able to carve out the definition to Romanticism.  The movement needed definition as it was a stark departure from the tenets of Neoclassicism.  The Preface can be analyzed as a work of Romanticism because it is so direct in wishing to define the movement.  Some of the movement's most important words can be found in the Preface, and it is in this idea where one can devote much in way of analysis.

Wordsworth and Coleridge were deliberate in wishing to reconceptualize what poetry and art should be according to the Romantic sensibilities.  Consider the ideas of what poetry should encompass as part of this exploration in the Preface.  The establishment of  poetry as the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" was one of the defining characteristics of Romanticism.   Another instance of Wordsworth being able to use the Preface as a way to define poetry would be in praising the subject matter as every day life.  The ordinary could be seen as extraordinary for it contained the spirit of life within it.  Romanticism came to strictly adhere to many of the standards in the Preface.  Examining the Preface for its definitions of Romanticism is one avenue to pursue. Analyzing language that sought to define Romanticism in the Preface can be an approach one can take in studying it and being able to unearth its literary and intellectual relevance.

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