Preface to Lyrical Ballads Questions and Answers
by William Wordsworth

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Would you concider Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads the manifesto of the romantic movement?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To a great extent, I believe that the Preface to Lyrical Ballads does operate as a type of manifesto, or declaration, as to the purpose of Romanticism.  Wordsworth understood clearly that the poetic experiment upon which he and Coleridge were embarking was radical and fundamentally different from anything else envisioned.  It made sense to him that the Preface operate as both an understanding of the poems featured in Lyrical Ballads, but also talk about the purpose of Romantic inquiry in poetry.  The manifesto element is present in how the Preface talks about the nature of Romantic poetry, and declares how poetry, itself, is a type of experiment in which the emotive takes precedence over structure and form.  The fact that Wordsworth devotes so much of the Preface in talking about the purpose of poetry and the rationale behind it lends further credence to the idea that this is a manifesto, a declaration, about the intent within poetry and what individuals seek to gain from it.  The analysis and emphasis on how poetry operates on art seems to be speaking more than what Wordsworth features in the collection of poems, but rather towards a new way of thinking and envisioning what poetry can be.  It is here where I think that the Preface can operate as a manifesto of the Romantic movement that Wordsworth leads in forever transforming literature.

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