Patterns of Epiphany: From Wordsworth to Tolstoy, Pater, and Barrett Browning

Synopsis

After explaining his new methodology, Bidney identifies and discusses epiphanies in the works of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Matthew Arnold, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Walter Pater, Thomas Carlyle, Leo Tolstoy, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Taking his cue from the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, Bidney postulates that any writer's epiphany pattern usually shows characteristic elements (earth, air, fire, water), patterns of motion (pendular, eruptive, trembling), and/or geometric shapes. Bachelard's analytic approach involves studying patterns of perceived experience- phenomenology- but unlike most phenomenologists, Bidney does not speculate on internal processes of consciousness. Instead, he concentrates on literary epiphanies as objects on the printed page, as things with structures that can be detected and analyzed for their implications.

Bidney, then, first identifies each author's paradigm epiphany, finding that both the Romantics and the Victorians often label such a paradigm as a vision or dream, thereby indicating its exceptional intensity, mystery, and expansiveness. Once he identifies the paradigm and shows how it is structured, he traces occurrences of each writer's epiphany pattern, thus providing an inclusive epiphanic portrait that enables him to identify epiphanies in each writer's other works. Finally, he explores the implications of his analysis for other literary approaches: psychoanalytical, feminist, influence-oriented or intertextual, and New Historical.