Becoming Wordsworthian: A Performative Aesthetics

Becoming Wordsworthian: A Performative Aesthetics

Becoming Wordsworthian: A Performative Aesthetics

Becoming Wordsworthian: A Performative Aesthetics

Synopsis

This innovative book explores the hypothesis that "Wordsworth the Poet" is an imaginative projection in which both William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy collaborated, developing a persona that the siblings strove to inhabit. Because William was its principal enactor, both publicly and privately, poetically and experientially, his tendency was to sublimate Dorothy into an audible but invisible muse, located just behind him. Dorothy, however, always imagined herself in a collaborative or twinned relation to William, even when he was absent. She experienced the Wordsworthian role as increasingly alienating, more an aesthetic performance to be enacted at will, whereas William found the role ever more natural and inseparable from himself. This book explores the ways in which the Wordsworths were particularly suited to develop their collaborative persona, the literary fictions they drew on, and the value they derived from such a concerted and utopian effort. The author bases her work on well-known Wordsworthian texts, as well as little-read lyrics and essays of William and the comparatively unknown oeuvre of Dorothy.

Excerpt

Becoming Wordsworthian argues that the Wordsworthian imagination necessitates the performative. the performative is not "performance," the artful and artificed role playing often associated with Byron; nor is it the awareness of the self as a social, and socially symbolic, entity, as for Mme. de Staël or Mary (Wollstonecraft/Godwin) Shelley. the sense of the term as it will be used here is also in contradistinction to the linguistic "performative," where the agency of the word act creates reality, although this linguistic function is clearly operative in certain of William Wordsworth's poetic forms. Indeed, Becoming Wordsworthian is less concerned with Wordsworthian poems -- the Lucy poems, for instance -- that call into being their own constitutive reality. Rather, I will be concerned here with the imaginative impetus that compels the creation of such poems, as well as others, so that they appear descriptive rather than performative, remembered rather than enacted, naturalized rather than socialized.

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