Romantic Poems, Poets, and Narrators

By Joseph C. Sitterson Jr. | Go to book overview


Conclusion

This book began with a question about the usefulness of any distinction between poet and speaker (or narrator) for interpretation that no longer depends, as formalism so often has done, on a unified subject, whether poet or narrator, which thereby guaranteed the integrity of (aesthetic) intentions. Manning has asserted the necessity of the distinction, in his careful argument about Wordsworth's “Poor Susan” that “the historical situation of the text can only be reached along the treacherous, badly signposted byways of representation, and taking the circuitous route such recognition implies.” Taking this route, Manning demonstrates, requires that we locate not only historical signposts but the theoretical one that distinguishes between poet and narrator; when historicist interpretation bypasses that signpost, its tendency is to restrict “the meanings of the poetic text to the generalized ideological matrix to which it is declared to belong.'” By developing Manning's travel metaphor in this manner, I do not mean to ignore historical signposts. Following only the one, theoretical signpost would lead to a timeless world of representation, where all texts would exist in the same place—much like Eliot's “simultaneous” and “ideal order”2—and in which the “narrator” is always the same. At least, in that world how we characterize such a narrator in 1950,

-137-

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Romantic Poems, Poets, and Narrators
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Introduction to the Songs of Experience the Infection of Time 12
  • 2: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Distinguishing the Certain from the Uncertain 34
  • 3: The Prelude Still Something to Pursue 65
  • 4: The Intialthoughions Ode an Infinite Complexity 88
  • 5: Lamia: Attitude is Everything 110
  • Conclusion 137
  • Notes 153
  • Works Cited 185
  • Index 199
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