Preface to Lyrical Ballads Questions and Answers
by William Wordsworth

Start Your Free Trial

What is Wordsworth's theory of poetry?  

Wordsworth believed that poetry was the "spontaneous overflow of intense emotions." He believed that nature was the best subject for poetry and that poetic language should be as close to the language of the common man as possible.

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write11,831 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Wordsworth’s theory of poetry represents a radical departure from the standards of neoclassical verse. Neoclassical poets believed, among other things, that poetry should be written about noble, high-born characters. As poems were generally written for an elite, literate audience, it was not thought appropriate to populate poems with ordinary folk. According to the prevailing aesthetic, poems should be written about the more socially prominent members of society.

Wordsworth challenged this notion completely. In his own theory of poetry, as set out comprehensively in the 1802 preface to Lyrical Ballads , he argued for the representation of ordinary people in verse. Wordsworth believed that as poetry was concerned with the spontaneous overflow of feelings, then it was only right and proper that ordinary folk should be represented in poetry. After all, they had emotions and feelings too; they also had, in many cases, a deep connection with the natural world, which for Wordsworth the...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 990 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Octavia Cordell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write1,136 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write3,307 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Science

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial