Wordsworthian Errancies: The Poetics of Cultural Dismemberment

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9780801848483: Wordsworthian Errancies: The Poetics of Cultural Dismemberment

According to David Collings, Wordsworth interpreted the outbreak of war between England and France in 1793 as a cataclysmic event, one whose utterly disfiguring effect he would trace in his work over the next decade. Expanding upon this extravagant interpretation of events, Collings argues, Wordsworth constructed a poetics of cultural dismemberment -- a way for culture to imagine that it survives in the midst of its own destruction. In Wordsworthian Errancies, Collings challenges prevailing critical approaches to Romantic poetry by describing and critiquing this deconstructive account of culture in Wordsworth's poetry.

Drawing ideas from deconstruction, psychoanalysis, Marxism, feminism, and queer theory, Collings' reading reveals a radically new Wordsworth, one who is far more concerned with various "queer" modes of sexuality than previously suspected. In a provocative reading of The Prelude, for example, Collings argues that Wordsworth associated his poetic power with homoerotic masochistic fantasies and with his involuntary delight in traumatic events. He also redefines the debate concerning the politics of Wordsworth's poetry: disputing recent critics who claim that Wordsworth retreated from history into a poetry of the self, Collings argues instead that the very notion of the solitary, autobiographical subject derived from Wordsworth's sense of cultural trauma.

The suspect dimension of Wordsworth's poetry, Collings concludes, is not its retreat from history but rather its claim that history is disaster.

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About the Author:

David Collings teaches in the Department of English at Bowdoin College.

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"Wordsworthian Errancies is an important and timely study that marshalls the theoretical resources currently available in a continuation and sophistication of the deconstructive project which resists in ways both timely and responsible the tendency to flatten or contain Wordsworth through an arbitrary process of historicization." -- William Galperin, Rutgers University

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