William Wordsworth Analysis

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Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

ph_0111201606-Wordsworth.jpg William Wordsworth Published by Salem Press, Inc.

In addition to his poetry, William Wordsworth’s preface to the second edition of his Lyrical Ballads is the single most important manifesto of the Romantic position in English, defining his ideas of the primary laws of nature, the working of the imagination, the process of association of ideas, and the balance of passion and restraint in human conduct.

Achievements

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

William Wordsworth was one of the leading English Romantic poets. Along with William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats, Wordsworth created a major revolution in ideology and poetic style around 1800. The Romantic writers rebelled against the neoclassical position exemplified in the works of Alexander Pope (1688-1744) and Samuel Johnson (1709-1784). Although all such broad generalizations should be viewed with suspicion, it is generally said that the neoclassical writers valued restraint and discipline, whereas the Romantic poets favored individual genius and hoped to follow nature freely. Wordsworth’s poetry praises the value of the simple individual, the child, the helpless, the working class, and the natural man. Such sentiments were explosive in the age of the French Revolution, when Wordsworth was young. He helped to define the attitudes that fostered the spread of democracy, of more humane treatment of the downtrodden, and of respect for nature.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Explain the effects of William Wordsworth’s blend of first-person singular and first-person plural pronouns in “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.”

What poetry, or what type of poetry, was Wordsworth rejecting in his preface to Lyrical Ballads?

Is Wordsworth’s phrase “intimations of immortality” part of a philosophical statement about childhood?

What are the structural features of the Pindaric ode as exemplified by “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”?

Did Wordsworth’s difficulties with The Prelude reflect the differences between his conception of poetry and that of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who advised him in this effort?

The Prelude has been called a great religious poem. In what sense is it religious? Would “spiritual” be a better adjective to describe it?

Bibliography

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Barker, Juliet. Wordsworth: A Life. New York: Viking, 2002. This biography traces Wordsworth’s life over eight decades, shedding light on his relationship with his family, his early poetic career, and his politics.

Bloom, Harold, ed. William Wordsworth. New York: Chelsea House, 2009. A collection of critical essays on Wordsworth, with an introduction by Bloom.

Bromwich, David. Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790’s. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Bromwich connects the accidents of Wordsworth’s life with the originality of his works, tracking the impulses that turned him to poetry after the death of his parents and during his years as an enthusiastic disciple of the French Revolution.

Gill, Stephen. William Wordsworth: A Life . New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. This first biography of Wordsworth since 1965 makes full use of information that came to light after that time, including the 1977 discovery of Wordsworth’s family letters as well as...

(The entire section is 719 words.)