Revisiting 1970: Carl Woodring and Politics in English Romantic Poetry

By Gaull, Marilyn | Wordsworth Circle, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Revisiting 1970: Carl Woodring and Politics in English Romantic Poetry


Gaull, Marilyn, Wordsworth Circle


"If only our Counter-culture were a bit more articulate and sensitive to literature, it could work together with literary scholarship and learn from Romantic insights into the political function of the imagination.... Mr Woodring's book opens up these issues at a most opportune time, not only for a revaluation of the English Romantics, but also for the teaching of literature in an age of political confusion and sheer ignorance." Although these remarks could have been written this morning, they were actually published in 1971, in a review by Rudolph Storch (TWC, II: 32-36) of Carl Wood-ring's Politics in English Romantic Poetry. The book appeared the same year as the Wordsworth Bicentenary and the founding of The Wordsworth Circle, and may have begun the revolution in literary studies in which we participated and celebrate. Before ideological and identity criticism, before theory and cultural studies, through close and subtle readings of some major and familiar poets and their contemporaries, Woodring identified the energies poets derived from political life and the conflicts they encountered. Before feminist scholars awakened readers to their presence, Woodring used Helen Maria Williams as a biographical paradigm for poets. Like so much else in the book, it was prophetic.

Woodring published Politics in English Romantic Poetry when, apart from politics, literary studies were enjoying golden hours, as I believe we do again now, great teachers, gifted critics, learned scholars, and accomplished writers published books that engaged with literature and with those who wanted to study it. The emphasis was on formalism, new criticism, history of ideas, comparative studies, and structuralism; the required readings included Cleanth Brooks, Kenneth Burke, Northrop Frye, Wayne Booth, Raymond Williams, Foucault, the Freudians, the Marxists, Germanic-philosophic studies, the visionary, as in Bloom's The Visionary Company, Abram's Natural Supernaturalism, Erdman's Prophets against Empire, the inner life of Hartman's Wordsworth's Poetry, audiences in Richard Altick's English Common Reader, the populist tradition in Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class.

A literary education in the 60's was still Arnoldian: "Our aim was simple," as Nina Auerbach wrote in her profile of Woodring (TWC, XI:3 [Summer, 1980] 180-183), "to learn everything in the world and to be unyieldingly brilliant about it." But politically, many academics in the 60's, students and faculty, especially Romanticists, were populists, counter-culture, as Storch called it, all in some degree anti-war, anti-authoritarian, and emotionally engaged. But the critical tradition still divided literary life from the political: standard studies such as Crane Brinton's Political Ideas of the English Romanticists (1926) juxtaposed literature and politics, delineated how poetry reflected and deflected the French Revolution, the balancing oppositions of Paine and Burke, Godwin's deviations, a little Bentham, Malthus, Ricardo, culminating in Coleridge, most admired in the 19th century as a political thinker and the subject of Carl Woodring's Politics in the Poetry of Coleridge (1961). While many scholar/critics considered the Romantic writers revolutionary, the politics were tangential, metaphoric, idealistic, philosophical, appealing to those traditional students who would never storm a barricade and surround the Pentagon.

In Politics in English Romantic Poetry (1970), Woodring proposed that the political is the "generative force and an argumentative presence" in Romantic poetry, that they are as entwined and inseparable as language and experience. In sweeping, engaging, precise and insightful chapters he demonstrated the drama of interacting political ideas, personal experience, and poetic imagination. Such propositions sound less risky and revolutionary in 2005 than they did in 1970, before neo-historicism, before McGann's Romantic Ideology (1983) which became a landmark work itself, creating the very hegemony (to use his words) that his critique was to replace.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Revisiting 1970: Carl Woodring and Politics in English Romantic Poetry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.