Discuss the purpose of "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" by William Wordsworth.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads helps to articulate and identify what Romanticism, as a movement, is.  It is a declaration of sorts of what Wordsworth and Coleridge believe to be the defining elements of Romanticism.  The movement is articulated in the writing so that there is a clear understanding of how one can both write in the Romantic style and recognize it in other writing.  For example, when Wordsworth and Coleridge write that the subject or nature of poetry is driven by "incidents and situations from common life," it helps to bring out the idea that Romanticism is about the world around the individual.  Anything can have poetic value and it is upon the shoulders of the poet to make the smallest and most insignificant item possess poetic importance.  The Preface talks about elements such as this in terms of outlining the parameters of Romanticism according to Wordsworth and Coleridge.  It is important to note that much of what was featured in the Preface flew in the face of traditional conventions, and was especially challenged by those who followed the Neoclassical school of thought.  It was essential that the new movement of Romanticism be defined in as clear and direct of a manner as possible and the Preface was an attempt to do just that.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial