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William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

A selective list of online literary criticism for the nineteenth-century English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, with links to reliable biographical and introductory material and signed, peer-reviewed, and scholarly literary criticism


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Introduction & Biography

"William Wordsworth: Biography," by Prof. Glenn Everett. Also "William Wordsworth," essays on Wordsworth's writing technique, themes, biography, and the historical background. The Victorian Web, ed. Prof. George P. Landow.

"William Wordsworth." An introduction, biography, and brief critical overview for William Wordsworth, from educational publisher Pearson Literature.

"William Wordsworth." A very short introduction to Wordsworth, with text for some of his most famous poems. Also, On Wordsworth and Common Speech," by poet Tom Thompson; "A Brief Guide to Romanticism." Academy of American Poets.

Photos of Wordsworth's homes in the Lake District, Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount, with interiors and views, from a travel site.

Miall, David S. "Wordsworth and The Prelude. Prof. Miall's syllabus, includes a summary of some of the critical issues surrounding the poem: Wordsworth's extensive revision process, the extent of his true interest in history and nature, and the poet's self-presentation.

Williams, John R. "William Wordsworth." Literary Encyclopedia. Eds. Profs. Robert Clark, Emory Elliott, Janet Todd. An introduction to Wordsworth, from a professionally-edited online service that provides original-content, signed literary criticism by experts in their field, and is available to individuals for a reasonably-priced subscription [subscription service].


Literary Criticism

Ahmed, Soheil. "Figures of Revision in Wordsworth's Critical Arguments." Addresses three arguments in Wordsworth's poetics: the theorization of tautology, the definition of the poet, and the relationship between thoughts and feelings. Romanticism on the Net 24 (2001).

Allen, Stuart. "Metropolitan Wordsworth: Allegory as Affirmation and Critique in The Prelude." Allen contends that the use of allegory in The Prelude enables Wordsworth both to convey the alienating character of the city and to explore London's affective and imaginative potential. Romanticism on the Net 40 (2005).

Altieri, Charles. "Strange Affinities: A Partial Return to Wordsworthian Poetics After Modernism." Romantic Circles (2003).

Anderson, Robert. "'Enjoyments, of a more exquisite nature': Wordsworth and Commodity Culture." Anderson investigates Wordsworth's attitudes towards the consumerism, industrialism, and materialism that was emerging in England at the turn of the nineteenth-century through an examination of "The Ruined Cottage" and the Preface to Lyrical Ballads. Romanticism on the Net 26 (2002).

Bainbridge, Simon. "'Was it for this [. . .]?': The Poetic Histories of Southey and Wordsworth." Contrasts the ways Robert Southey and Wordsworth responded to the war with France, and how that military conflict played a major role in shaping their poetic identities; shows similarities in Southey’s "History" and Wordsworth’s The Prelude as both redefine poetry as a manly pursuit after its increasing feminization in the final decades of the eighteenth century. Romanticism on the Net 32-33 (2003).

Burkett, Andrew. "Wordsworthian Chance." Writes Burkett, "First-generation Romantic poets generally hold a deeply rooted faith in the notion of the limitless nature of possibility, and in reaction to Enlightenment determinism, several of these poets strive for an understanding and representation of nature that is divorced from Enlightenment notions of causality. This essay specifically explores William Wordsworth's poetic denunciation of such deterministic accounts of causality through an investigation of [The Prelude]." Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 54 (2009).

Chandler, David. "'One Consciousness', Historical Criticism and the Romantic Canon." Award-winning article covers New Historicist views of Wordsworth's centrality in the Romantic tradition. Romanticism on the Net 17 (2000).

- - - . "Wordsworth's 'Are There no Groans?': Source, Meaning, Significance." Chandler discusses a previously unpublished Wordsworth fragment in the Cornell edition of Lyrical Ballads. Romanticism on the Net 14 (1999).

- - -. "Vagrancy Smoked Out: Wordsworth 'betwixt Severn and Wye.'" On a possible allusion in "Tintern Abbey." Romanticism on the Net 11 (1998).

Duggan, Robert A. "'Sleep No More' Again: Melville's Rewriting of Book X of Wordsworth's Prelude." In Herman Melville's poem "The House-top" he attempts to rewrite the climatic "Sleep No More" episode of Book 10 of Wordsworth's The Prelude for post-Civil War America, revisiting the mix of violence and idealism Wordsworth encountered during the French Revolution. Romanticism on the Net 38-39 (2005).

Faflak, Joel. "Analysis Interminable in the Other Wordsworth." Faflak relates Freud's thoughts about psychoanalysis to Wordsworth's desire for philosophical closure in The Prelude. Romanticism on the Net 16 (1999).

Farnell, Gary. "Wordsworth's The Prelude as Autobiography of an Orphan." The Prelude is literally the autobiography of an orphan, Farnell notes, since it records in a disjointed way the death of his mother when he was almost eight and of his father when he was thirteen. But although the poem is about Wordsworth's mental growth, the deaths of his parents are barely mentioned, which has lead many critics to speculate about the emotions that stand behind this. Romanticism on the Net 13 (1999).

Fay, Elizabeth. "Wordsworth's Balladry: Real Men Wanted." "Two Hundred Years of Lyrical Ballads." Romantic Circles (1999).

Fulford, Tim. "Cowper, Wordsworth, Clare: The Politics of Trees." On tree imagery in John Clare, Wordsworth, and William Cowper. The John Clare Society Journal 14 (1995).

Graver, Bruce and Ronald Tetreault. "Editing Lyrical Ballads for the Electronic Environment." Romanticism on the Net 9 (1998).

Hall, Dewey W. "Wordsworth and Emerson: Aurora Borealis and the Question of Influence." Hall argues that the influence of Wordsworth upon Ralph Waldo Emerson is linked vitally to light. Romanticism and Victorianism the Net 50 (2008).

Halmi, Nicholas. "Lucy, Lucia, and Locke." Halmi considers madness in opera and literature. Special issue on Opera and Nineteenth-Century Literature, Romanticism on the Net 34-35 (2004).

Hanley, Keith. "Wordsworth's Revolution in Poetic Language." Examines Lyrical Ballads in the light of Julia Kristeva's 1974 doctoral thesis, La Révolution du langage poétique. Romanticism on the Net 9 (1998).

Hirschfield, Lisa. "Between Memory and History: Wordsworth's Excursion." Hirschfield states that The Excursion attempts to stave off time's destructive quality by establishing memorial sites, becoming a book-length elegy for memory itself. Romanticism on the Net 16 (1999).

Jackson, H.J. "Lucy Revived." On the connections between Wordsworth's Lucy Poems and Lord Lyttelton's poems about Lucy Fortescue. Romanticism on the Net 13 (1999).

Johnston, Kenneth R. "Romantic Anti-Jacobins or Anti-Jacobin Romantics?" Johnston considers Wordsworth's and Coleridge's "anti-Jacobin" and "Romantic" credentials. Romanticism on the Net 15 (1999).

Jones, Chris; and Li-Po Lee. "Wordsworth’s Creation of Active Taste." The authors write, "Building on Bakhtinian approaches to Wordsworth's early poems, we extend their findings to The Prelude, using analytical tools from narratology and film criticism to trace the interplay of different views and voices." Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 54 (2009).

Labbe, Jacqueline M. "Smith, Wordsworth, and the Model of the Romantic Poet." Labbe examines how Charlotte Smith and Wordsworth explore the figure of the Romantic Poet, Smith in Beachy Head (1807) and Wordsworth in The Prelude (1805). Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 51 (2008).

Lindstrom, Eric. "What Wordsworth Planted." On the metaphor of "planting" in Wordsworth's poetry. Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 56 (2009).

Malachuk, Daniel. "Labor, Leisure, and the Yeoman in Coleridge's and Wordsworth's 1790s Writings." On the yeoman as an ideal: "As a union of ancient opposites, the yeoman was a compelling but politically unstable character in republican theory, as suggested in the work of Jefferson and Rousseau. The same is true of the yeoman in Coleridge's and Wordsworth's early writings." Romanticism on the Net 27 (2002).

Malpas, Simon. "'I cried "Come, tell me how you live!" / And thumped him on the head': Wordsworth, Carroll and the 'Aged, Aged Man.'" Malpas compares Wordsworth's encounter with the old man in "Resolution and Independence" to Lewis Carroll's parody in Through the Looking-Glass. Romanticism on the Net 5 (1997).

Miall, David S. "Locating Wordsworth: 'Tintern Abbey' and the Community with Nature." Award-winning article about the importance of a relationship with nature for Wordsworth. The author proposes a precise location for the opening scene in "Tintern Abbey" and contends that the location of the poem is central to Wordsworth's view of man's relationship with nature. Romanticism on the Net 20 (2000).

O'Neill, Michael. "'The Words He Uttered...': A Reading of Wordsworth." An interpretation of Wordsworth's The Excursion. Romanticism on the Net 3 (1996).

Pace, Joel. "Emotion and Cognition in The Prelude." Pace contends Wordsworth shows that the soul arrives at truth through both emotion and thinking. Romanticism on the Net 1 (1996).

- - -. "'Gems of a soft and permanent lustre': The Reception and Influence of the Lyrical Ballads in America." Romanticism on the Net 9 (1998).

- - -. "Wordsworth, the Lyrical Ballads, and Literary and Social Reform in Nineteenth-Century America." "Two Hundred Years of Lyrical Ballads." Romantic Circles (1999).

Page, Judith W. A book-length critical study, Wordsworth and the Cultivation of Women. "Focusing on the poems of Wordsworth's 'Great Decade,' feminist critics have tended to see Wordsworth as an exploiter of women and 'feminine' perspectives. In this original and provocative book, Judith Page examines works from throughout Wordsworth's long career to offer a more nuanced feminist account of the poet's values." California Digital Library (U of California P 1994).

Persyn, Mary. "The Sublime Turn Away from Empire: Wordsworth's Encounter with Colonial Slavery, 1802." Persyn argues that the Haitian Revolution, and Toussaint l'Ouverture's role in it, strongly influenced Wordsworth during his early years, and that the 1802 sonnet to Toussaint l'Ouverture epitomizes the development of the Wordsworthian sublime. Romanticism on the Net 26 (2002).

Rzepka, Charles J. "From Relics to Remains: Wordsworth's 'The Thorn' and the Emergence of Secular History." Rzepka notes "In their recurrent focus on the relationship between narrative and experience, 'testimony' and 'relics,' the Lyrical Ballads show Wordsworth to be our first truly archaeological poet, the first to take seriously the notion of 'pre-history' as a mode of encountering the material world in the present." Romanticism on the Net 31 (2003).

- - -. "Elizabeth Bishop and the Wordsworth of Lyrical Ballads: Sentimentalism, Straw Men, and Misprision." "Two Hundred Years of Lyrical Ballads." Romantic Circles (1999).

Setzer, Sharon M. "Precedent and Perversity in Wordsworth's Sonnets Upon the Punishment of Death." Nineteenth Century Literature 50 (1996) [first page of article only].

Smith, Christopher. "Robert Southey and the Emergence of Lyrical Ballads." Romanticism on the Net 9 (1998).

Snow, Heidi J. "William Wordsworths Definition of Poverty." On William and Dorothy Wordsworth's considering themselves "living in poverty" for a number of years, and Wordsworth's broader definition of poverty. Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 56 (2009).

Tanter, Marcy L. "Introduction." "Two Hundred Years of Lyrical Ballads." Romantic Circles (1999).

Tetreault, Ronald and Bruce Graver. "The Lyrical Ballads Bicenterary Project," 1998. Presents texts from the books electronically, supplemented with images of the first editions. Romantic Circles.

Tetreault, Ronald; and Bruce Graver. "Selected Studies of Lyrical Ballads. A secondary bibliography.

Treadwell, J. "Innovation and Strangeness; or, Dialogue and Monologue in the 1798 Lyrical Ballads." Romanticism on the Net 9 (1998).

Trott, Nicola and Seamus Perry. "Lyrical Ballads 1798-1998." Romanticism on the Net 8 (1998).

Underwood, Ted. "How to Save "Tintern Abbey" from New-Critical Pedagogy (in Three Minutes Fifty-Six Seconds)." On teaching Wordsworth's lyrics using comparisons with contemporary and rock music. Romantic Circles (2002).

Wu, Duncan. "Tautology and Imaginative Vision in Wordsworth." Wu contends that tautology is integral to Wordsworth's "spots of time." Romanticism on the Net 2 (1996).


Web Sites

The Wordsworth Centre at Lancaster University. Directors Keith Hanley, Sally Bushell and Simon Bainbridge. Includes digitized Wordsworth manuscripts and a GIS project mapping the Lakes District.

"Enchanting Ruin: Tintern Abbey and Romantic Tourism in Wales." A selection of images and manuscripts related to the history and geography of Tintern Abbey, the subject of Wordsworth's poem "Lines, Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," and critical commentaries. U of Michigan Special Collections Library.

Romanticism on the Net. Ed. Michael Eberle-Sinatra. An international, peer-reviewed electronic journal devoted to British Romantic studies, an impressive scholarly enterprise that has been making essays freely available since 1996.

Romantic Circles. Eds. Neil Fraistat, Steven E. Jones, and Carl Stahmer. "A refereed scholarly website devoted to the study of Romantic-period literature and culture." An innovative publication on topics in Romanticism.

The Wordsworth Trust at Dove Cottage. News and events, a Wordsworth biography, Wordsworth quotes, and more.

"A Romantic Natural History." Ed. Ashton Nichols. The relationships between literary works and natural history in the century before Darwin, with articles on Wordsworth and other Romantics.

The John Clare Page. Ed. Simon Kövesi. Contains links to articles from the John Clare Society Journal and additional resources on the poet John Clare.


Primary Materials

Tetreault, Ronald and Bruce Graver. The Lyrical Ballads Bicenterary Project, 1998. Ed. Ronald Tetreault and Bruce Graver. Electronic texts from the books, which have been transcribed and encoded using sgml, supplemented with images of the printed pages of the first edition.

Wordsworth Editions. Full-text first editions of Wordsworth's poety, compiled from Google Books sources by LiteraryHistory.com.

The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth. The complete text of The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, by Dorothy Wordsworth, edited by William Angus Knight, published by Macmillan in 1904. A facsimile online edition from Google Books.

"Lucy Gray of Allendale," by Robert Andersen, 1798. A poem by Robert Anderson, the "Cumberland Bard," which may have inspired Wordsworth's "Lucy Gray." In Andersen's Poems on Various Subjects, 1798. Facsimile of this edition at Google Books.


Reviews

Benis, Toby R. A review of Romanticism on the Road: The Marginal Gains of Wordsworth's Homeless (St. Martin's 2000), reviewed by Patrick Vincent in Romanticism on the Net 22, 2001.

Curtis, Jared, ed. A review of William Wordsworth, Last Poems, 1821-1850 (Cornell UP 1999), reviewed by Brennan O'Donnell in Romanticism on the Net 24, 2001.

Hanley, Keith. A review of Wordsworth: A Poet's History (Palgrave 2001). Reviewed by Kenneth Johnston in Romanticism on the Net 25, 2002.

- - -. A review of An Annotated Critical Bibliography of William Wordsworth (Harvester Wheatsheaf 1995). Reviewed by Ruth Mead in Romanticism on the Net 8 (1997).

Kneale, J. Douglas. A review of Romantic Aversions: Aftermaths of Classicism in Wordsworth and Coleridge (McGill-Queen's UP 1999). Reviewed by Brennan O'Donnell in Romanticism on the Net 18 (2000).


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