William Wordsworth - The Prelude (Readers"e; Guides to Essential Criticism)

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The essential part of his poetic work is almost entirely comprised in the period — He attempts to explain his theory of poetry and to defend it in the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads. Below are some extracts from this, but it would be worth your while to read the Preface for yourself to obtain a greater understanding of his work. Wordsworth was one of the earliest of the Romantic poets. He was one of a number of poets who composed in a new way and who treated subjects that had previously been shunned in poetry.

The Romantic poets sought to reject artificiality; they appear to be sincere to themselves and to their readers. Wordsworth, unlike his predecessors, sought out his subject matter in the simplicity of rustic life, which he had grown to love as a child. Wordsworth rejected, therefore, the traditions of the Augustan poets that preceded him. Poets such as Alexander Pope had composed poetry with an emphasis on elegant expression and emotional restraint. For the Romantic poet, imagination rather than reason, became central in shaping poetry.

The work met with critical hostility and so Wordsworth added his famous Preface to the second edition, which was published in He intended the Preface as a defense of his unconventional theory on poetry. The main assertion of the Preface was that the source of poetic truth was in the direct experience of the senses. This theory went completely against poetry of the day, which was very intellectual in approach and tended to shun personal emotion.

However, there are passages of language in the poem that are nothing like that of ordinary men. Nonetheless, Tintern Abbey also includes conversational language and phrasing. If you read the poem aloud you should be able to hear the way his language moves in eddies, as it would in conversation — there are moments of certainty, moments of hesitancy, pauses to reflect or to doubt, backward reflections and forward glances.


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These are as much features of conversational language today as they were years ago. He often composed while walking, speaking the words aloud, but he rarely wrote as a tourist. He felt that he belonged to or lived in the places he describes and celebrates in his poetry and his poetry was startlingly original in its day. Wordsworth belongs to what is now known as the Romantic Age and the age preceding it was known as the Augustan Age. I did re-read Tintern Abbey the other night and it reminded me why I love this poet and feel umbrage at the summary take-down. I have sat at a table when a young writer was told that this or that passage was boring only to hear her respond that it was supposed to be boring because it reflected the content of the story.

This is called The Fallacy of Imitative Form. This, along with the Enactment Fallacy , is precisely the defense Jonathan mounts elsewhere and repeatedly.

Here is a definition of the fallacy from here :. It is a fallacy made too often in modern literature and is too often praised by popular critics and reviewers. I am sure that Winters has had very little influence suppressing this fallacy. Most authors and critics seem wholly unaware of it to this day. Nonetheless, knowing the fallacy is very useful, for it immediately cuts through to the reasons so much of modern literature seems weak and formless and purposeless.

There is no passage in Winters, however, that makes a good case for this idea, in my opinion. Winters simply states, without elaboration, that it is a fallacy. In this passage, Winters says that the fallacy leads to disintegration, but, of course, this is just what many modern writers intend it to lead to, though, perhaps, not to COMPLETE formlessness or dissolution. To say that a poet is justified in employing a disintegrating form in order to express a feeling of disintegration, is merely a sophistical justification for bad poetry…. In other words, as Jonathan apparently admits, the same flaws that mar the current passage mar the rest of his poetry but it just so happens that it works well here.

In that case, all good or bad writing is solely in the eye of the beholder. This is the beauty of the Fallacy of Immitative Form. It means you can never say anything is objectively bad because maybe that badness was meant to enact badness, or dullness, or confusion. In that case, all criticism is subjective. What is mediocre writing to one person is a work of genius to another because the latter can justify the mediocrity as an ingenious enactment of mediocrity. Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare Rides upon sleep: a drunken soldiery Can leave the mother, murdered at her door, To crawl in her own blood, and go scot-free; The night can sweat with terror as before We pieced our thoughts into philosophy, And planned to bring the world under a rule, Who are but weasels fighting in a hole.

The headlong pace is crucial. We might get this my words, with apologies to I.

Richards for adapting one of his tactics :. Now days are slow and easy, the summer Sighs into fall: a purring bumble-bee Can leave the flower, softened to a blur, To soak in the noon sun, and fly carefree; The night can breathe with pleasure as once more We weave our visions into poetry And seek to bring our thoughts under a rule, Who are the mindful servants of the soul.

Analysis of The Prelude by William Wordsworth

In a book review or essay, committing this particular fallacy is a minor error. Most critics do it regularly I certainly have. To that effect, I have edited comments to remove anything that smacked of posturing, verbal abuse, or digression.

Annotated Bibliography

I want to keep discussion constructive and informative. Patrick, allow me to make one suggestion: Start a new blog post on The Enactment Fallacy. It would also be nice if you would respond to some of the points I made in those comments, because I still feel like I said some things you never really responded to. The very qualities that are praised in one generation are damned in another.

You either appreciate those qualities or you do not, and there are plenty of Godard lovers and haters. Popular Music: You mentioned Bob Dylan earlier. Classical Music: You also mentioned Bach and Mozart. Really, most Mozart and Haydn are praised for their simplicity more so than Bachian complexity. The standards of each era seems to contradict those of the previous. Read Lyrical Ballads after immersing yourself in Pope, Dryden, Swift, Johnson and you can see why it was such a revolutionary text, a complete breath of fresh air.

Quite often, the great artists become great not by adhering to what seem like universal standards, but by showing how the very things considered to be in bad taste at the time can be utilized to make great, substantial, influential art.

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Wagner even addressed this issue specifically in his opera Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Briefly, my initial response is, like you say, that form and technique can reinforce content. You can find criticism that drills right down to the very sounds of the vowels and consonants — as if the poet had a another language to choose from and decided English was just perfect for enacting a given affect! This fallacy is usually unleashed by the poet as a defense of his or her writing or by defenders of said poet. In my view, a sure sign that something has gone wrong is when the Imitative Fallacy appears.

Like the enactment fallacy, it too is self-justifying. It assumes that given techniques enact meaning. But such claims are also entirely subjective and for this reason are as arbitrary as the readers and poets making the claims.

William Wordsworth’s Poetry – Reviews Rants and Rambles

Again, just the short form here…. I think he makes a beautiful argument laying out the reasons this type of criticism should be considered a fallacy. The critics referred to might argue that enactment is a sympathetic resonance between the meaning of a line of poetry and its sound, that is, an interaction between two things. But if a line or a word mentions something explicitly then the suggestion contained within its sound pattern is redundant — redundant, that is, for as long as it is only a suggestion. In fact, not only is it a great exaggeration of the powers of stress to suppose it capable of doing such a thing, but it is also a fundamental misconception about the nature of poetry to believe that its formal structure is so crudely representational.

He also makes the point that this fallacy was, in fact, described hundreds of years before prior to the pathetic fallacy by Dr. The Rambler, No. Hence my statement that any invocation of the Enactment Fallacy is a subjective one.

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