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Mark Schoenfield, The Professional Wordsworth: Law, Labor, and the Poet's Contract

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Mark Schoenfield, The Professional Wordsworth: Law, Labor, and the Poet's Contract. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996. xiv + 360pp. $50.00. (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-8203-1791-8).

Reviewed by

John Rieder
University of Hawaii at Manoa

One of the repeated claims in Mark Schoenfield's reading of "law, labor, and the poet's contract" is that aesthetic issues in William Wordsworth's day were inevitably political issues as well. While the claim itself has become something of a literary-critical commonplace in the 1990s, Schoenfield evokes its pertinence to Wordsworth and Wordsworth's milieu with considerable skill and precision. The primary context for Schoenfield's historicizing interpretation is not contemporary politics but rather the growth of the free market and the rise of the modern professions. The entanglement of aesthetics with social issues arises from a tension between value and judgment, or between consumption and criticism, that inevitably accompanied the published work's dual status as commodity and work of art. Schoenfield's counter-figure for the Wordsworthian poetic imagination is therefore not Napoleon or empire but rather a composite character, the lawyer as critical reviewer. Many reviewers were, like Francis Jeffrey, also lawyers, and Schoenfield begins his book by noting that in classical Athens kritikos meant both critic and judge. One of the main merits of The Professional Wordsworth is that it develops this general overlapping of legal and critical domains into a supple tool for the study of Wordsworth's poetry.

The thematic emphases of Schoenfield's readings are hardly new. The book's subtitle will no doubt remind Wordsworthians immediately that the poet raises the issue of a contract between poet and reader in the "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads. An extensive critical literature exists concerning the way Wordsworth's poems and poetics treat law, justice, property, and the relation of contractual agreements to the bonds of community and to economies both of wealth and of social interaction. Schoenfield's study is distinctive and original in at least two ways, however. The first lies in his knowledge of legal history and the specificity with which he brings it to bear on Wordsworth's poetry. No other critic has written in comparable detail about the relevance of English common law, Blackstone's commentaries, and contemporary legal developments to the treatment of property and rights in the Lyrical Ballads and The Excursion. The second has to do with Schoenfield's emphasis on Wordsworth's sense of professionalism. The turn Schoenfield gives to Wordsworth's contention in the "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads that the poet speaks "not as a lawyer, a physician, a mariner, an astronomer or a natural philosopher, but as a Man" is away from the formula's essentialism or humanism to its struggle to wrest priority over a certain kind of authority from the poet's professional rivals, and especially from the lawyer who heads up the list. Schoenfield is interested in Wordsworth's self-conception as a professional producer, owner, and distributor of words, a self-conception he links to Wordsworth's penchant for laborious revision, his attention to the publication and republication of his work, and above all to an ongoing confrontation between legal and poetic conceptions of authority in his poetry.

Poetry's confrontation with legal authority often evokes some variation of the "unacknowledged legislator" of Johnson's Rasselas or Shelley's Defence of Poetry, and Schoenfield's analysis includes such a moment. For Wordsworth, he says, "[Poetic discourse] is not so much beyond law as a lawmaker, or more precisely, a trace of the totemic moment which, as Freud speculates, preceded law as an institution" (89–90). This sounds as if Schoenfield is placing Wordsworth's poetics within a theory of social contract in such a way that poetic authority precedes and makes possible the break between the state of nature and political order. Thus Schoenfield writes of "the transformational power of [Wordsworth's] poetry not as a violation of custom or law but as the recuperation of the aesthetic roots of the former and a legitimate critique of the latter" (108). But the paradoxical resonance of calling poetry a "legitimate critique" of law catches more accurately the prevailing tone of Schoenfield's work. The poet's efforts to assert his priority over legal discourse always seem to end up repeating the legal figures and procedures they try to overcome. For example, Wordsworth's transformation of an oral tale into written poetry in "Michael" is said to "reenact within literature the legal empowerment that is the object of his social critique" (38). This simultaneous resistance to and containment by legal discourse is the overriding burden of Schoenfield's analysis.

The prevalence of the resistance-containment paradigm also attests to the enveloping presence and determining power accorded to market forces. The market forces at stake here are those driving late eighteenth-century English law away from the common law monumentally elucidated in Blackstone and towards statutory law. Schoenfield's reading of "Michael" turns on the contemporary transformation of the notion of a legal contract from its common law status, the representation of an obligation that needed to be rooted in prior conditions, to the more financially responsive concept of a written instrument that itself performs the agreement. The explicit and implied contracts Schoenfield carefully unpacks reveal that an abiding tension between local and national economies involves Michael and his property in a web of "dependencies which mean and affect more than Michael can understand and contain" (39). A similar set of legal and economic tensions informs Schoenfield's interpretation of "Goody Blake and Harry Gill." The poem's narrative of "a crime, a trial, and a punishment . . . overlays features of medieval law onto modern law to demonstrate the deficiency of the latter, and structures the trial as between two theories of property" (103).

The most telling legal-historical context Schoenfield brings to bear on this poem is to connect neighborly testimony in the poem with the medieval concept of a jury whose members are chosen because they are members of the litigants' or defendant's community and therefore are in a position to recognize the truth about them. In a modern jury, of course, such foreknowledge instead disqualifies the prospective juror. Thus when Harry Gill sets out to catch Goody Blake in the act of stealing from him, his concern with private, mobile property (Schoenfield also compares Gill's attitude toward the hedge with the logic of enclosure and wage labor) demands a neutralization of the communal bonds formerly embodied in the power of one's word. The power of the word enacts the poem's version of justice, of course, but ultimately Harry Gill's logic is echoed by the tendency of the poem's early reviewers to criminalize Goody Blake by "inventing" her witchcraft. Schoenfield's emphasis on market forces appears most clearly in his commentary on the relation of Wordsworth's poems to the reviews. Schoenfield draws a strong contrast between Wordsworth's famous insistence on the face-to-face relationship between poet and reader and the reviewers' assumption of a serial relationship between readers and their readings of a poem. This, once again, is an opposition Wordsworth resists but cannot contain. His face-to-face reader inevitably also comes to stand for an anonymous reading public, with the result that the tension between resistance and containment collapses into an ideological contradiction: "Individual readers can accumulate into a market, and indeed must to the extent that books are sold, discussed, reissued, and so on; but they do so, in Wordsworthian terms, by denying the collective market character of their endeavors as readers and poets" (135).

After a chapter on the 1800 Lyrical Ballads, with particularly good sections on "Hart-Leap Well" and "The Brothers," the final chapters of The Professional Wordsworth turn to what Schoenfield calls Wordsworth's "juridical" epic, The Excursion. Wordsworth's extended meditation on nature, labor, property, and rights enters into dialogue with legal discourse first of all, according to Schoenfield, over the issue of reason. Schoenfield carefully rehearses the rather familiar theme of the Wanderer's and Wordsworth's attack on abstract philosophical reason, represented in the poem by Voltaire and allied among the reviewers to Hazlitt. The more important contribution of Schoenfield's reading, however, is to complicate any attempt to freeze this discussion into a binary opposition of radical and conservative views by setting this disagreement into tension with another, equally thoroughgoing one. Here the standard of reason is represented by common law and Francis Jeffrey, and Wordsworth's more or less straightforward disagreement with the latter involves his attempt to wrest from the lawyer's grasp the authority of the former. Thus the poem models a practice of retelling, reinterpretation, and adjustment of precedent to present contingencies that is closely analogous to common law and so asserts a poetic authority as originary and broad as legality itself. Schoenfield calls the dialogue among the characters—or more accurately, the narratives—of The Excursion a "sustained experiment in translating the visible into the legible" (209). As such it seeks to elaborate that laborious and sustained production of the "obvious" that Jeffrey denies. The way one tells the stories of the dead is a bedrock political and social issue for Wordsworth because, as Schoenfield says, "In a nation governed by common law, determining history amounts to determining law" (218). Wordsworth parts not only from Jeffrey's dogmatism but also from Blackstone's (or Burke's) constitutionalism here by insisting that the way in which nature underpins contractual law is not discernible within the tradition of common law as an object of interpretation (i.e., the British constitution) but rather, and solely, as a method of interpretation. What the Poet learns from the Wanderer is, finally, both "the voice of a particular social structure" and "what forms of mediation transform nature into the most humanly accessible form" (213, 219).

All of this complicates the status of the poem itself as interpretable object, method of interpretation, and commodified and circulating property. The final turn of Schoenfield's argument takes up this set of problems by locating in The Excursion the concept of a "radically unalienated" property, "arising only to the extent of contact and not transferrable," that models the reader's labor on and debt to the poem: "What can the poem transfer? Not beauty, but the awareness of beauty, the desire for it. The poet creates, and markets, a lack that demands its own fulfillment" (216). The poem attempts to reproduce a communal bond where property signifies obligation, a version of inalienable rights antithetical to the alienable property of the free market. The circulation of the poem pointedly echoes the Wanderer's wandering: "Wordsworth can, in the myth of The Excursion, always find the reader at home, and thus continue the role of the peddler in an economy that has extinguished that role, and has substituted instead lawyers, critics, and merchants" (250).

The poet who emerges from Schoenfield's readings of the Lyrical Ballads and The Excursion is socially committed, politically astute, resolutely non-Whiggish, suspicious of modernity and yet thoroughly embroiled in and engaged with it. One might well ask whether this profile is also adequate to the more personal and eccentric poet of The Prelude, "Tintern Abbey," or the Lucy and Matthew poems, none of which receive more than a glance in this study. Schoenfield's neglect of Wordsworth's lyricism and sublimity is in part a side-effect of the book's predominant focus on poems that attracted a lot of attention among contemporary reviewers, such as "Goody Blake and Harry Gill" and The Excursion. At the same time, Schoenfield's slightly unusual choice of texts reflects another of the book's strengths. By successfully integrating close reading of poetry with the history of law and of publishing, The Professional Wordsworth makes visible a provocative version of literary history in which poetry is one among a number of writing practices competing for readership, class standing, and social authority in the expanding economy of early-nineteenth-century England.

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Daniel P. Watkins, Sexual Power in British Romantic Poetry

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Daniel P. Watkins, Sexual Power in British Romantic Poetry. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996. vxii + 157 pp. $34.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-8130-1438-7).

Reviewed by
Samuel Lyndon Gladden
Texas A&M University

Daniel P. Watkins's study of works by three major Romantic writers—Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats—examines the place of sexual roles and gendered struggles for power within a social and political landscape marked by profound economic change. Specifically, Watkins investigates the shift from an aristocratic, feudal economy to an emerging capitalism, and he points to gendered subjectivity as the primary experiential space through which anxieties over that shift were mediated. Posing the model of "sadeian logic" as the template for making sense of both social and interpersonal relations, Watkins reads a number of well-known Romantic works through the lenses of gender, class, and power finally to conclude that while the idealistic tendency of Romanticism remains compromised by the masculinist biases of its day, a feminist materialist investigation of the history and historicity of that dilemma—the very sort of project in which Watkins' study participates—offers Romanticism its only way out of the convoluted patriarchalism that structured social, economic, and interpersonal relationships in the early nineteenth century.

Throughout his book, Watkins argues that "during the romantic period there are close relations between visionary idealism, patriarchy, and sadism" (60), and he demonstrates how "[the] three admittedly nonparallel categories of society, philosophy, and sexuality seem . . . to be crucial in the attempt to locate and explain, in historical terms, the romantic imagination and romantic textuality" (xvi). Anticipating skepticism about his subject and approach in the brief "Introduction" that opens the book, Watkins remarks that a central "problem" of Romanticism—in particular, how that movement's " . . . entanglement in the turbulent conditions of both feudalism and capitalism [and] its involvement with the declining energy of the Enlightenment project . . . [shapes] the romantic understanding and portrayal of gender" (xv)—"can be considered most usefully when gender is cast in its strongest possible form and then set in relation to other prominent, or constitutive, features of romanticism" (xvi). Indeed, for Watkins, the hallmarks of Romanticism—"[f]ragmentation, alienation, and reification"—are never overcome but, instead, are "pushed further down into the inner recesses of social life until they are almost hidden away in one of the most basic relations of human existence-sexuality" (120). Watkins offers the strongest support for his subject and methodology near the end of his chapter on Keats where he justifies the turn to sadeian logic by underscoring a phenomenological link between the almost simultaneous and, Watkins suggests, the contingent emergence of the works of Sade and the development of the Romantic attitude. Of the particular gender bias for which Romanticism has long been attacked, Watkins writes that "[i]t is important to call the logic of this masculinist poetic strategy sadeian because the word both suggests the severity of the poem's portrayal of gender and helps to link various social and cultural energies of the age within a single historical and cultural framework" (123). Watkins concludes his study by pointing to the three ways in which such a project—which, he maintains, might seem to invalidate any reading of Romantic poetry as anything other than oppressive, particularly at the level of gender—remains useful to larger questions about Romanticism and its cultural moment. Specifically, Watkins argues that "feminism must explain the enabling logic and shaping conditions of violence if it is to be defused and its energies positively redirected"; that his project "calls attention to the historical field where oppression takes place and, therefore, where goal-oriented materialist feminism must always begin"; and that "feminist intervention . . . enables romanticism to be brought forward as history rather than as ideology or nostalgia, serving not only as a poetic expression of hope but also as a historical register of the real conditions of that hope" (129).

This reviewer's lengthy focus on Watkins' subject and methodology underscores the anxiety the author himself voices throughout Sexual Power and British Romantic Poetry; indeed, Watkins admits that his decision to focus on exclusively a few well-known works by canonical writers results from the fact that while he believes his model to hold true for the larger Romantic movement, these familiar and easily accessible texts function as test cases in which his theory may be satisfactorily investigated. Watkins begins with Wordsworth, whose own attitude about political revolution and whose plan for poetic revolution mark him as an important figure to consider in terms of the shifting climates that shaped the early portion of the Romantic age. Focusing on "Tintern Abbey," "Nutting," and the "stolen boat episode" from The Prelude, Watkins argues that Wordsworth's meditations on the self and its place both in the narrow register of individual imagination and in the larger scheme of social relations demonstrate an obsession with emerging subjectivity, which Watkins ties to a cultural and economic shift from feudalism to capitalism. As a member of a developing capitalist society, Watkins argues, Wordsworth struggles to find a place for himself in an increasingly self-made world.

Watkins acknowledges the now familiar argument about Wordsworth's masculinist bias, but he urges the reader to reconsider this problem apart from the concerns of identity-politics and to focus instead on the ways in which the poet's attitude speaks about the "social logic of exploitation and domination" that is manifested not only in Wordsworth's treatment of gender relations but also throughout the larger corpus of Romantic writing (32). Approaching "Tintern Abbey" with the understanding that Wordsworth's retreat from the political in no way signals his retreat from the ideological, Watkins argues that in its nostalgic appreciation of a ruined, feudal structure, the poem demonstrates "not a simple escape from politics but rather an embrace of a masculinist logic that is vigorously ideological and hence political" (35), for the poem's understanding and depiction of gender, exemplified in the relationship between Wordsworth and Dorothy, "participates in the cultural and social realities of its day-particularly in the assumption of the autonomy and authority of the masculine subject and the absolutely dependent status of femininity" (42–43). Watkins also points to the extra-textual circumstance surrounding the composition of Wordsworth's The Prelude, which was written primarily to Coleridge, to underscore the homosocial nature of Romantic exchange, not only at the level of the textual, Watkins argues, but at the levels of experience and ideology, as well (52).

While his reading of "Tintern Abbey" does indeed advance a provocative argument about the depletion of feminine subjectivity in the service of masculine autonomy, Watkins' reading of the "stolen boat" episode in The Prelude demonstrates far more convincingly the intricate links between Wordsworth's vision of the formation of an autonomous, subjective identity and the larger cultural shift in economic relations. In short, Watkins understands this episode as primarily masturbatory in nature, and, accordingly, he reads the poet's rowing of the boat and the rise of the mountain before him as auto-erotic in its symbolism. And where masturbation functions in the interest of selfish pleasure, so, too, Watkins argues, does the emergence of individual understanding as it is depicted in The Prelude: for Watkins, the stolen boat—the object crucial to ego-formation and the development of individual subjectivity—represents property-to-be-overtaken, which represents woman as she is appropriated by man, which represents bourgeois social and psychological terrain, which manifests capitalism at the register of interpersonal relations (51). Wordsworth's focus on the particular nature of the boat—its stolen-ness, we might say—further emphasizes the poet's understanding, appreciation, and value of individual property as identity: in stealing the boat Wordsworth claims some sort of power or control through that property itself and in returning the boat after suffering from guilt over this transgression of property, Wordsworth solidifies his own complicity in such an economic system, the return of the boat signaling Wordsworth's tacit acceptance of and respect for the property—the masculinity—of another (55). In a powerful assertion, Watkins subsumes guilt within the larger framework of sadeian logic by arguing that the psychic phenomenon "humanizes and personalizes the sadistic actions that have transpired, cleansing them of their violent horror and civilizing them without changing them; in this way, guilt assures that sexual violence and imperialist conquest are sanctified" (56–57, emphasis added).

Watkins opens his study of Coleridge by focusing on Christabel, a poem that recounts a "problematic social situation [that] renders extraordinarily complex the relation of individuals to one another, to the society whose authority they vocally support, and to the values and principles that seem in fact to motivate their personal lives" (67); in short, Christabel demonstrates the intrinsic links between individual relationships and social structures or, more generally, the private and the public. For Watkins, the central figure of Christabel operates as "both a model daughter of patriarchy and an agent of its disruption" (72), for her "transgression" with Geraldine is "motivated by personal desire that . . . is not entirely hers; at the very least, the form of her desire derives from the rule of the father" (73). The women's "single sexual embrace," which is "generated entirely within a frame of feminine sexuality" (78), "locate[s] sadeian thought at the intersection of the body, the mind, and society, and that intersection is portrayed in such a way as to desanctify 'the idea of any community' [Annie Le Brun's phrase] and to emphasize the particular arrangement of bodies within the desanctified-or fully secularized-community" (79). Geraldine's violation of Christabel offers the innocent maiden the only way out of the ideology in which she remains trapped, for the lesbian embrace "marks the claim of the female body against a centralized masculinity and masculine definitions of the female body" (81). In this way, Watkins argues, Coleridge demonstrates the efficacy of sadeian logic to cultural transformation, for it is from the pleasure-and-pain Christabel experiences at the hands of Geraldine that another sort of social structure emerges which threatens to topple the dominant patriarchalism of Christabel's world by enabling "a reclaiming of the female body" (83). Such a reclamation is not unproblematic, however, for if the poem's real figure of feminine liberation is Geraldine, that evil woman who seduces Christabel into her own ways, we see that the hope of a different kind of order, though present at the level of Christabel's transgression, is nevertheless compromised and trapped beneath the weight of masculine feudal and aristocratic authority (86).

Similarly, Coleridge complicates the liberatory potential of "The Nightingale," for not only does he reverse the usual symbology of the central character to align the bird's song with joy rather than with melancholy, but he also reminds us of the history of the nightingale and its mythological association with sexual violence. In sum, the essentially masculinist vision of "The Nightingale" fails to make room for a feminine subjectivity, for its very vision is predicated upon-derives from-an artifact of sexual violence and gender inequality, the mythological origin of the nightingale itself (91). The only fissure in this construction, Watkins observes, emanates from that same mythic figure, for it is the nightingale's song that motivates the narrator's masculinist vision, and thus it is on the basis of that song that masculine authority is simultaneously perpetuated (in the poet's vision) and disrupted (in the nightingale's own sexual history) (96).

Watkins closes his discussion of the place of sexual power in the works of Coleridge by pointing briefly to "The Eolian Harp" and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." In the former, the female figure, Sara, is constructed specifically in the interest of drawing the male narrator away from the larger, social world and into the smaller, more narrow, and ultimately more controllable world over which he may exercise his own mastery; thus, Sara functions as a guarantor of the unchecked control of masculine authority (100). In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the poet similarly retreats from the unfamiliar world—the threatening and specifically feminine specter of "the skeleton ship carrying Death and Life-in-Death" (101)—to escape to safer, more familiar territory, "retreating rapidly into the secure arms of domesticity and conventional religious belief" (101). Ultimately, Watkins shows how "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" maintains existing social structures by warning against all forms of transgression and by containing the figure of the "demonic" in a specifically feminine vessel-the ship itself (101, 103).

Watkins' brief chapter on Keats focuses solely on the "Ode to Psyche," a poem that represents the typical Romantic impulse toward idealization only to lay that impulse bare as ultimately unobtainable (107). Indeed, Watkins insists that Keats's poem suggests the poet's anxiety over the possibility that love and integrity may disappear amidst rampant social turbulence (107). In demonstrating such a disappearance, Watkins reads the poem in the context of commodity exchange to argue that the poem's ideal depends entirely upon the processes of shrinkage and loss-upon the complete isolation of the individual from the world around him (109–110). Watkins finds Keats's dilemma—the inability to realize his vision of liberation in the world around him and the consequent retreat into nostalgia (112)—to be representative of mainstream Romanticism, as is Keats's appropriation of a feminine figure, the goddess Psyche, in the service of his own empowerment (118). Throughout the poem, Keats's language of labor and fulfillment inscribes contemporary anxieties about alienated labor and class division (120), even as the poem unselfconsciously leaves in place the particular phenomenon—masculine authority—that underwrites those social issues.

Watkins concludes his book by acknowledging his debt to a range of other studies that preceded his own. Specifically, he places his work in the context of Marlon B. Ross's The Contours of Masculine Desire: Romanticism and the Rise of Women's Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), which Watkins reads as another attempt to employ a feminist model to rescue Romanticism from the very ideology it simultaneously attacks and reaffirms-an ideology that Watkins believes is rooted in the sadeian logic of sexual violence and gendered inequality. But Watkins's study might have been more fruitful had he expanded his survey beyond the genre of poetry to take as test cases the novels of women, whose own struggles with the very set of issues Watkins describes offer alternatives to the simple reinscription of masculine authority. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, for example, considers the problems with masculine authority as the stability of an aristocratic family unit succumbs to the radical instability of the single male who must create a place for himself in an ever-hostile world, and it points to communication and understanding as the processes that may ease social, political, and interpersonal crises. Mary Wollstonecraft's The Wrongs of Woman; or, Maria explores the problems women face in an emerging capitalist society, and it offers a way out of that dilemma neither through a Keatsian retreat into nostalgia nor through a Wordsworthian assertion of masturbatory masculine prowess, but instead through the formation of the feminine community, in which class structures dissolve as a new sort of family unit promises the health and well-being of Maria's own daughter.

Watkins might also have investigated alternatives to the re-inscription of masculine authority that are celebrated in the works of other canonical male writers; Byron's Sardanapalus, for instance, offers a critique of gender from the position of the "other" that is similar to Mary Shelley's and Mary Wollstonecraft's, for in the end, Byron's hero neither asserts his own masculine autonomy nor retreats into nostalgia; instead, he sacrifices his own life as a testament to his dedication to femininity, the very crisis for which he had come under attack. Even some of the obvious texts by the writers Watkins does consider—Wordsworth's "Michael" and Keats's "Isabella; Or, The Pot of Basil" and "The Eve of St. Agnes"—might have been better employed to examine the link between social structures, interpersonal relationships, and the psychology of the autonomous individual, for each seems to indict, rather than to return to, the privileges and pleasures of masculine authority and what in Watkins's view seems inevitably to be their bases in sexual domination and gendered inequality. Finally, Watkins's attention to shifts in the economic bases of society could have been more carefully nuanced: though he mentions the issue of class several times throughout his book, Watkins really leaves the matter unexamined, so that in the end the only real sense of class the reader is left with is a purely gendered one, masculine and feminine representing the privileged and the underprivileged classes, respectively.

Despite these problems and Watkins's focus on such a relatively small number of texts from such a canonical group of writers, his arguments about the relationship between sex and power in Romantic poetry are well proven, and his suggestion that Romanticism is profoundly affected by the shift from aristocratic feudalism to capitalism is made convincingly as well. Indeed, Sexual Power in British Romantic Poetry opens the door for a range of similar studies of lesser-known works, and, for this reason, Watkins's brief work accomplishes much.

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John G. Rudy, Wordsworth and the Zen Mind: The Poetry of Self-Emptying

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John G. Rudy, Wordsworth and the Zen Mind: The Poetry of Self-Emptying. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996. xv + 268pp. $59.50 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-7914-2903-2). $19.95 (Pap; ISBN: 0-7914-2904-0).

Reviewed by

Mark S. Lussier

Arizona State University

The use of Zen thought and art as a method for reading Wordsworthian poetic production is, to my mind, long overdue, especially since Wordsworth's mode of spiritual meditation remains embedded in a "discourse of the Other," whether anchored in the "capaciousness of natural process" or dispersed into the "isolation" of the Leech-Gatherer. John Rudy's small book certainly achieves its twofold purpose: "It seeks to provide a Zen context for understanding the spirituality of the English poet William Wordsworth (1770–1850) and attempts to enrich the East-West dialogue" emerging with considerable force in the West during the latter half of the twentieth century (xi). As a result, Wordsworth and the Zen Mind will undoubtedly, though not unproblematically, become a foundational text as this critical concern flows into other eddies within Romantic criticism. Indeed, in reviewing my marginal annotations for this assessment, I found continual intersection with other Romantic poets generally and William Blake particularly, suggesting the need for even wider application of the strategies embodied in Rudy's thoughtful book.

While many Romanticists continue to embrace the judgment of the second generation that the Wordsworthian process itself defines the "egotistical sublime"—a position not compatible with the practice of self-emptying at the spiritual core of most Buddhist vehicles of enlightenment—Rudy's thorough application of Zen thought and practice points to another Wordsworth, one engaged (whether consciously or unconsciously) in the eradication of "dualistic idiom[s]" buried in Western epistemology in order to perceive that "the entire phenomenal world, all that exists, is tied together in a gigantic, interrelated, interanimative web of moving aggregates" (11, 14). Viewed in this light, it is easy to see why Wordsworth was the first Romantic poet to receive ecocritical scrutiny since such a view anticipates James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis, but simply seeing Wordsworth's commitments in "green" political terms fails to confront the degree to which, as Barbara Schapiro argues, "imagination and Nature, or mind and the material world, are mutually reflecting realms for Wordsworth" (qtd. in Rudy, 10). This aspect of Wordsworth's poetic practice lurks on the margins of Rudy's text, which positions itself at the point where mental and material processes coalesce.

The tripartite structure through which Rudy organizes his discussion begins with the "characterless immensity" of capaciousness in inner and outer experience (27), expands into a comparison of the resonant "paths" explored by Wordsworth and Zen ("Each thing is a revealing of and a resting place for the infinite" [65]), and ends with specific consideration of discrete Zen "moods" (sabi/isolation, wabi/poverty, aware/impermanence, and yugen/mystery) manifest in several of Wordsworth's best-known works. The primary link between Wordsworthian and Zen modes remains the recognition of what quantum physicist David Bohm describes as the implicate state of mind/matter relations, the enfolding of one within the other. Rudy discusses this point through the representations of the Alpine crossing in the sixth book of The Prelude, where the collapse of poetic "intention" and "acceptance" of experiential flow provide the dynamic for visionary connection: "All is an endless swirl of forces, objects, and events folding inward on each other to form the pulsatory eternity of the present moment, a totality that is always with us, that is for all practical purposes the coming forth of each thing in its own right" (80).

To his credit, Rudy does not attempt to transmute Wordsworth into a Buddhist without nominal designation since "there is no evidence to suggest that he was formally influenced by the philosophy" (218); rather, Rudy's argument confronts the problem of Wordsworth's occasional inability to accommodate the implications of his own spiritual insights. Again focusing on the Alpine episode, Rudy argues that additional complexities arise "because Wordsworth himself had only the dimmest understanding of such experiences and resorted on many occasions to the very dualistic perspective" (84) that hinders post-nineteenth-century critical understanding of the poet's perception that mind and matter form an implicate order. Thus, while the application of Zen to Wordsworth (and vice versa) remains the textual steady state, the author never loses perspective on the limitations of those applications. As a result, within such complex framing, a new perspective of the poet becomes possible:

Indeed, throughout the Wordsworth canon, one senses that the many references to freedom and solitude, whether direct or implicit, celebrate not a resistance to the conditions of experience nor a transcendence to a higher state beyond the vicissitudes of life but an abiding acceptance so complete in itself that all moods, all states of being, are in some way positive and contributive. (107)

In its best modes (and "moods"), Wordsworth's poetry operates through dynamic exchange where "mind and nature, like the roaring of the one voice of the waters, are so conjoined as to be indistinguishable . . . a oneness in which all distinctions between the human soul and the soul of nature, the human imagination and the 'imagination of the whole,' fall inward on each other" (201).

Often those positive "states of being" reside in Wordsworth's poetical characters, rather than the node of poetic consciousness associated with the poetic eye: the Leech-Gatherer, rather than the speaking "I" of the poem, achieves emptiness, solitude, freedom (102–6); the child, rather than the father, cuts through spiritual materialism in "Anecdote for Fathers" (118–21), and the Cumberland Beggar, although "the very image of poverty" (125), underwrites communal charity by enabling "the villagers to forget the self and partake of a deeper goodness than mere utilitarian and religious institutional strategies can reach" (128). Through such characterizations, Wordsworth continually brings into view—to use Nishitani's phrase—"a `horizon of nihility at the ground of life'" (122), establishing a position from which to "move within ourselves to the bottomless depths of the individual" and allowing the discovery of "the true absolute, which is, paradoxically, forever negating itself through us in a self-emptying matrix of eternal creativity" (179). In a sense, one might say, Wordsworth's best poetry encourages self-erasure (or what Blake terms "self-annihilation") even when the poetic eye fails to enter such an annihilated subjective space.

Finally, readers should be aware of the limitations of the book, which Rudy states quite clearly in his preface: "On the few occasions when I have undertaken to comment on studies of Wordsworth, I have endeavored to avoid a critique of Western literary scholarship and the philosophical principles on which it is based, preferring instead to adumbrate lines of demarcation that provide opportunities for alternative rather than contending interpretive visions" (xii). Readers looking for a systematic analysis of Eastern thinking in a Western academic mode (a synthesis of the secondary) would need look elsewhere, but readers interested in the considerable confluence residing within Eastern and Western poetics as meditative practice will find this book extremely satisfying.

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Tim Fulford, Landscape, Liberty and Authority: Poetry, Criticism and Politics from Thomson to Wordsworth

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Tim Fulford, Landscape, Liberty and Authority: Poetry, Criticism and Politics from Thomson to Wordsworth. Cambridge Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Thought, 30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. xiii + 251pp. $57.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-521-55455-1)

Reviewed by
Gary Harrison
University of New Mexico

In Landscape, Liberty and Authority: Poetry, Criticism and Politics from Thomson to Wordsworth, Tim Fulford revisits territory made familiar by Raymond Williams's The Country and the City (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), John Barrell's The Dark Side of the Landscape: The Rural Poor in English Painting, 1730-1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), and most recently Elizabeth Helsinger's Rural Scenes and National Representation: Britain, 1815-1850 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997). Like Williams, Fulford attends to the opposition between the Country and the City, focusing in particular upon the works of Thomson, Cowper, Johnson, Wordsworth and Coleridge, as well as upon the picturesque theories of Uvedale Price, Richard Payne Knight, Humphry Repton, and William Gilpin. Like Barrell and Helsinger, Fulford examines in fine detail the complex web of relations among landscape aesthetics, poetry, rural poverty, and politics. More carefully attending to the particularities of party politics than these writers, Fulford traces a genealogy of transformations in the political inflection of landscape poetry from The Seasons to Home at Grasmere. In so doing, this remarkable book offers an implicit critique of the new historicism, while detailing the relationships among party politics, agrarian change, landscape poetry, and each poet's unique attempt—stylistically and thematically—to claim some moral, political and personal authority for his poetic voice.

As Fulford demonstrates with fine detail and with a stylistic grace all too uncommon to much contemporary critical discourse, landscape poetry, at least since the time of Thomson, was always fully imbricated in the changing social, political, and moral debates of its day. Eschewing the monolithic view of history as a succession of grand events, the sort of history that folds literary texts back into a Glorious, or American, or French Revolution writ large, Fulford focuses upon the local and contemporary, especially the agrarian, politics in which each poet was intimately involved. Fulford takes pains to describe how each poet's particular version of landscape poetry is shaped by the way private concerns and local incidents intersect with national issues and party politics regarding the changing status and social function of the landed gentry. Beginning with Thomson's landscape poetry of the 1730s and 1740s, Fulford argues, the erosion of moral authority and social responsibility of the landed gentry made increasingly problematic the British poet's ability to "represent an uncontroversial ground of liberty in which a providentially arranged natural order could be observed at leisure, thus perpetuating the taste and disinterest by which the gentry might reproduce that liberty and independence in wise government" (8). As the moral authority, political integrity, and social stability of the landed gentry gave way to the encroachment of the market economy into rural England, and as the landscapes of rural England increasingly became the sites of political contest between landed and commercial interests, British landscape poetry, as it were, lost its pastoral innocence. Because the virtual landscape was now fraught with the troublesome contradictions over land and landed interest permeating the actual landscape, the universalizing strategies and tropes of earlier pastoral and georgic poetry rung increasingly hollow. The prospect view, by means of which "the propertied classes were able to present their political dominance as confirmed by the natural scene" (3), began to lose its universal appeal as the "independence and disinterest on which depended the gentry's and nobility's legitimacy as the people's representatives in parliament was being undermined" by "a system of placement, pensioners and patronage" (8).

In their struggle to recover poetic authority and to preserve, or restore, the idea of liberty within a landscape poetry destabilized by its own politicization, British poets drew upon, modified, and sometimes challenged the landscape aesthetics of their precursors. Fulford shows that Thomson, Johnson, Cowper, the picturesque theorists, Wordsworth, and Coleridge engaged in a dialogical exchange that modified landscape poetry to meet the particular ideological problems faced by each writer as he engaged in his own version of pastoral politics. As Fulford explains in the introduction: "The representation of landscape was never simply a disguised ideology presenting gentlemanly aesthetic judgment as naturally, and by implication socially and politically, valid. It was also a discourse in which that judgment could be redefined, challenged, and even undermined . . ." (5). As these writers invoked the discourse on landscape to negotiate their own conflicted relation to the politics of the country and the city, they were also faced with the task of finding new ways to figure personal and public liberty and authority in a society that no longer would sustain the pastoral-georgic ideal of an earlier era.

Landscape, Liberty and Authority is divided into five chapters, each focusing upon key figures who transformed the "discourse on landscape," which Fulford defines as "writing which uses the motifs and scenes of landscape-description in the course of critical and political arguments" (1). Chapter 1, "Thomson and Cowper: the 'stubborn Country tam'd'?," sets up the framework for the other chapters by carefully documenting the way Thomson's and Cowper's poetry attempts to contain the political tensions between the country and city within scenes of national landscape. Thomson's The Seasons, Fulford explains, was the first work to combine the prospect view and the sublime in order "to transform the georgic and the Miltonic epic into a celebration of an order observable in the fields of Britain" (13). Thomson's landscapes, like those of Cowper, Johnson, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, dramatize the power relations within rural society. Fulford describes the rural scenes in The Seasons as theatrical tableaus, which effectively enact an Aristotelian catharsis for his mostly gentlemanly readers by placing them at a safe distance from the natural catastrophes afflicting the rustic poor, such as the shepherd in "Winter." As symbols of human vulnerability in general, Thomson's rustic victims of disaster invite pity from the gentleman reader; yet, because the poetry assures the reader that the suffering of the rural poor stems from God's providence and wisdom, it leaves him complacent about his comfortable distance from, superiority to, and control over, the rural poor. In Fulford's words, Thomson's poetry "reassures the reader of his virtue whilst he enjoys the dramatization of destructive power" (19).

The landscape poetry of The Seasons, then, effectively naturalizes the suffering of the poor as a part of nature's—and God's—indomitable order, an order that reaffirms the law of subordination in the English countryside that was itself on the brink of disaster. Or so it would seem. For the naturalizing tropes and topoi of Thomson's landscape poetry lose their power as they become increasingly mired in the political controversies over land, liberty, and authority in England. Aligning himself with what Fulford calls the "Patriot" group—centered around Bolingbroke, Chesterfield, and Lyttelton and upholding an ideal of a national governed by "disinterested and patriotic gentlemen" landholders—Thomson grew more aware of, and in his poetry more overtly opposed to, the encroachment of the financial interests affiliated with the City into the natural independence affiliated with the Country. Yet this Patriot opposition was itself divided, and some of its proponents, especially Chesterfield, were themselves accused of pandering to political favor. As his poetry becomes more overtly political, adorned with tributes to Chesterfield, Thomson's patron, and other Whig politicians, Thomson's later poems become tainted by their own love of Country. Revised versions of The Seasons and later works such as Liberty and Alfred, which "speak of a British liberty retreating to rural margins" (35) and which overtly criticize the corrupting influence of the City, present a rural landscape compromised by the contest for political power and subject to the charge of insincerity. The consequences for Thomson's own authority and the authority of landscape poetry are devastating: "And so Thomson's natural scenes became ambivalent, his poem indeterminate, posing the question for readers of his revised work (and for landscape poetry in the eighteenth century) of how poetry can be a discourse of moral instruction by means of the natural sublime when it reveals its own partiality, its own manipulation for political effect of a landscape in which disorder and contradiction are apparently signs of nature's and God's law" (37)? Thomson provided no answer to this nagging and persistent question, which he left hanging for those who came after him.

In the remainder of the first and in the next four chapters of Landscape, Liberty and Authority, Fulford details different versions of essentially this same story for later writers: these writers turn to the discourse on landscape to figure a rural social order—an apparently natural hierarchy—that with each passing decade had become increasingly contested, increasingly threatened, and so increasingly imaginary; moreover, freighted with the politics of land and landscape, the claims for universality and authority found in that discourse were suspect, forcing each writer to seek new grounds upon which to found his own claims to power. In the landscape poetry and picturesque theory of these writers, natural scenes, writes Fulford, "stand in conflict with the apparently unpolitical representation of natural power that occurs elsewhere in the text, leaving it divided as the readership detects the writer imposing a partisan political argument on the landscape as well as deriving a moral pattern from it. Explicitly political scenes threaten to undermine the hidden politics of apparently purely natural scenes by suggesting that landscape-description is not an observation of a natural order but an imposition of a party line" (6). Using landscape poetry to negotiate questions about independence and authority—political, literary and personal—Cowper, Johnson, Wordsworth, and Coleridge sought a more legitimate site, a less contested ground, upon which to recuperate apparently universal values.

Although Fulford cautions that his is not a tale of development, he does show that the illusion of landed authority that was shaken in Thomson's poetry steadily weakened its hold in Cowper, Johnson, and the picturesque theorists, and finally met its demise in Wordsworth and Coleridge whose "Romanticism brought about the destruction of the poetry of the prospect-view in so far as that poetry was aligned with the taste and power of the landed interest" (16). Indeed, these writers extended and deepened "the politicization of the landscape view as a mode of criticism" begun in Thomson (16), and so doing ultimately rendered landscape poetry impotent as a mode of naturalizing the political ideology of the gentry and nobility. In the process of these changes, the grounds for moral authority and liberty necessarily shifted from the landscape to other figural grounds. Cowper, for example, "unable to base a vision of shared moral or social order in the fields he surveyed, . . . refigured the landscape poet's authority as an anxious marginality and vulnerability" (38). On the other hand, Johnson, the subject of Chapter 2 "Johnson: the usurpations of virility," rested his claim to authority on his mastery of the English language. Although Johnson was a staunch proponent of political subordination to the landed aristocracy, his strong sense of independence and self-reliance and his keen awareness that he did not share in the ownership of property that conferred legitimate power compelled him to increase his purchase on words. This conflict between the penury of independence and the embarrassment of patronage led Johnson to legitimate his authority in the possession of language. If Johnson did not own property, Fulford argues, "he owned the history and properly derived lineage of words" (83). Thus, Johnson invokes the discourse on landscape to figure the works of others as natural scenes subject to his critical improvement. In a brilliant analysis of Johnson's rhetoric, Fulford shows that Johnson figured Shakespeare's unruliness, Milton's sublimity, and Scotland's wildness as natural landscapes to contain and purge excesses "by imposing a fixed, established and improved language" upon them (107). Johnson, thus, was able to affirm "his own power as master of order and right in language" (107), taming the wilderness of discourse and even his own tendencies toward excess by means of his Dictionary and his criticism.

Chapter 3, "Unreliable authorities? Squires, tourists and the picturesque," turns to the question of "taste for a cultivated order designed into and then read out of the owned landscape," the possession of which (both taste and the landscape itself) was construed as a sign of legitimacy for gentlemen landowners (116). Focusing upon Price, Knight, Repton, and Gilpin, Fulford notes an inherent conflict within picturesque theory between those who were both property owners and arbiters of taste in landscape, like Price and Knight, and those, like Repton and Gilpin, who were not landowners and who tended to uproot taste from ownership and make it available to unpropertied professionals and tourists. For Fulford, the debate between these two groups "reveals the gradually dying voice of eighteenth-century Country arguments about the constitution, as the landed gentry found other groups—middle-class town dwellers, professional men—claiming a greater reliability of disinterested judgment than that which a distant view of one's estate conferred on the squire" (119). The contradictions and tensions within picturesque theory registered the intensified contradictions and tensions within the countryside, which was threatened from above and below by a gentry abdicating its paternal responsibility, by arriviste landowners bent on "improvement," by a rural poor more openly defiant, and by middle-class tourists (in part a product of picturesque writings) keen to take a view of prospects hitherto reserved for the propertied few. Whereas many previous critics have reified the term "picturesque" under a set of aesthetic principles largely gleaned from Gilpin, Price, and Knight, Fulford draws out the crucial and complex political differences that motivate the discourse on the picturesque. As landowners themselves, Price and Knight, sought to amend the taste of a gentry gone astray; correcting the taste in landscape for property owners, they believed, would restore the "natural" order of rural society, characterized by "landed independence and personal patronage" (124) and still the rustle of protest among the rural poor. As such, "Price's picturesque was . . . an attempt to renew through aesthetics an ideology that was rapidly giving way in . . . late eighteenth-century England" (124). Knight, on the other hand, though the owner of an estate at Downton in Herefordshire, took a playful, even erotic, approach to the picturesque, for which Anna Seward, among others, accused him of a "Jacobinism of taste." Rather like William Morris a century later, "Knight's politics are essentially backward-looking," for to smooth over the political divisions that would otherwise compromise his landscape aesthetic, Knight "increasingly places liberty in a landscape of the past, a lost scenic idyll in which a disinterested observer . . . can view a society whose order reflects nature's own hierarchical liberty" (133). Repton and Gilpin, on the other hand, took taste on the road, as it were: Repton, as a professional landscape gardener with disappointed ambitions to occupy the places of his wealthy patrons; Gilpin, as an entrepreneur of taste who transformed landscape views into commodities for the consumption of middle-class tourists. Consequently, Repton and Gilpin led the way to "a bourgeois democratization of land and taste" (142), about which both were ambivalent since both writers were divided between sympathies for the traditional paternal order, the demise of which enabled their own writing and independence, and for the rural poor, who were victims of the changes wrought in the countryside. Fulford's superb treatment of the picturesque here convincingly shows how fully private and public concerns motivated each writer and how fully the discourse on the picturesque was fraught with contradictions stemming from political and social tensions. This chapter should be studied carefully by anyone interested in the picturesque or in the politics of landscape in the late eighteenth century, for Fulford's attention to local detail portrays the picturesque as a discourse much more contradictory, complex, and conflicted than most critics have suggested. It will be difficult after this book to think of the picturesque as a uniform aesthetic movement; Fulford shows that we must think of the picturesque in the plural, not in the singular.

The final chapters of Landscape, Liberty and Authority, "Wordsworth: the politics of landscape" and "Coleridge: fields of liberty," turn to the two poets with whom the tradition of landscape poetry—as a poetry of the landed gentry—comes to an end. Carrying further the radical critique that was begun, somewhat unintentionally in Knight, Repton, and Gilpin, Wordsworth and Coleridge, at least before 1815, reorient the political authority of the landscape from the gentry to the rural poor. As readers of David Simpson's Wordsworth's Historical Imagination: The Poetry of Displacment (New York: Methuen, 1987), Nicholas Roe's Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988) and if I may be so brazen, my own Wordsworth's Vagrant Muse: Poetry, Poverty and Power (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994) will recognize, Fulford's argument further corroborates a growing view that Wordsworth, in particular, and Coleridge did indeed participate in a fully politicized, critical discourse that challenged the taste, authority, and politics of the gentry: "When Country opposition to the corruption and commercialization of the gentry was also taken up by radicals, speaking for the urban middle classes and for the small farmers and labourers disadvantaged by the gentry's commercial improvements of their land, then the authority of taste and of its representation in disinterested views was challenged from below" (16). Linking Wordsworth and Coleridge to radical dissenting positions on language and biblical exegesis articulated in Bishop Robert Lowth, Horne Tooke, and Joseph Priestley and aligning them with a radical version of Commonwealth ideology going back to James Harrington, Fulford argues that Wordsworth and Coleridge found in the language and community of the rural poor (albeit somewhat idealized) a radical alternative to the politics of commercialization as well as the politics of benevolent paternalism. Both poets identified to varying degrees with the disenfranchised poor; both poets, like Johnson before them, valued independence even as they to varying degrees relied upon patronage; and both poets drew upon a discourse on landscape fitted to an aristocracy against which their work protested. Like Johnson and Cowper, both Wordsworth and Coleridge had to anchor their claims to poetic authority in a figural ground free from the tensions of landscape. Thus, Wordsworth sought and found his authority in the voice of nature, "on his privileged hearing and understanding of an inarticulate communication, an original and single voice apparently as primal and ungoverned as the wind" (173). Wordsworth claimed to hear the voice of nature itself—in the real language of rustic men and women, in the inscrutable utterance of the Highland girl—a language that would be "immune to the betrayals of meaning experienced in the discourses" of a community charged with political strife (174). Coleridge, on the other hand, found his new ground of personal, social, and political authority in a radical and critical understanding of biblical poetry, the language of which allowed him to "present the English landscape unmarked by social exclusion and political repression" (218). Sensitive to the pulse of contradiction in these writers, Fulford offers compelling readings of Wordsworth's Home at Grasmere, "Yew Trees," the Scotland poems, and Coleridge's "This Lime Tree Bower My Prison," "Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement," and "Fears in Solitude," among other poems. Fulford teases out the radical leanings of these poems, while showing in them a latent sympathy for benevolent paternalism that eventually won the day as both Wordsworth and Coleridge turned in their later works to a feudal model as a "reactionary, though deeply human ideal" against which to protest the forces of commercialization and the disintegration of community (242).

Fulford differentiates his work from New Historicism, which emphasizes the denial of history or the displacement of political conflict onto nature. In Wordsworth Fulford sees not a denial of history, but rather a "redirection of history" (212). Nonetheless, some of the conclusions Fulford reaches seem to corroborate rather than contradict the notion of displacement, especially as elaborated in Alan Liu's Wordsworth: The Sense of History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989) and in Simpson's Wordsworth's Historical Imagination. One of the major premises of Fulford's argument, for example, is that these writers eventually recognized their own inability to effect significant change in the political and social movements of their time or to survive without depending to some degree on the political authority challenged in their works. To compensate, each of them found ways to derive power from their powerlessness, a sense of independence from their dependence. Despite Cowper's recognition that the once heroic landscape is shot through with political turmoil, in The Task he takes up a prospect view that affords him "a brief and fragile vision" that the landscape upon which he gazes affirms "for a moment an order in nature that reassures him of the benevolence of God" (61, 60). Johnson's "rhetorical sleight of hands" allowed him "to argue what he did not fully believe" and to tame his desire to challenge established authorities, for example King George III, by "appropriat[ing] the basis of their power and thereby refashion[ing] his relationship to them" (85). Moreover, Price's picturesque, for Fulford, was "an attempt to renew through aesthetics an ideology that was rapidly giving way" to the commercial and technological transformation of the landscape (124). Wordsworth, who could not demonstrate how his ideal community of freeholders could effectively take root in actual social and political practice, "could, however, envisage a symbolic, if not an actual, redistribution [of property] through the medium of poetry" (164). And finally, despite his "Commonwealth radicalism," Coleridge achieves only an ideal vision of authority: in "Reflections on Leaving a Place of Retirement, for example, Coleridge transforms a picturesque scene into a sublime vision of God's infinite power, thereby developing "from retirement a language which allows him an authority which he is unable to attain in a world requiring political and social action" (227).

These substitutions of ideal authority and power and imagined independence for their equivalents in actual practice, however humane and however driven by political contingencies, suggest a romantic ideology at play in these demesnes. A more explicit and sustained engagement with New Historicism would perhaps clarify better Fulford's disagreement with it. Nonetheless, these conclusions neither detract from, nor do they necessarily contradict Fulford's argument, which does not set out to demonstrate the political or historical efficacy of the discourse on landscape but to show how extensively that discourse was interfused with the politics of its moment. Moreover, unlike some New Historicists, Fulford rightly affiliates these strategies of displacement—and I do believe they are strategies of displacement—with a dissenting and radical tradition that challenges the view that landscape poetry is necessarily complicit with reactionary and conservative agendas. As Fulford's book shows, these poems, these writers, and these political disputes were much too snarled in complexity and contradiction to unravel completely in one political direction.

Among the many virtues of Landscape, Liberty and Authority is that it invites us to revisit the relationship between Wordsworth and Coleridge and their eighteenth-century predecessors, whose work these two romantic poets extensively adapted to their own purposes and with whom they shared the desire to gain "authority over the British reading public by locating social and political order in the landscape" (15). Like Robert Griffin's Wordsworth's Pope: A Study in Literary Historiography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), Fulford's effort to reconnect Wordsworth and Coleridge with their eighteenth-century predecessors goes far to extend the study of romanticism into a longer century and convincingly shows that there is much to profit from extending our critical view back beyond the more familiar threshold dates of 1798 or 1789. Indeed, Fulford's book gives us reason to reconsider the history of the romantic landscape tradition; after Landscape, Liberty and Authority, readers of eighteenth and nineteenth century poetry will find the genealogy of the landscape tradition to be more engaged in political and historical processes, more nuanced, and more richly rewarding than before. Fulford's achievement here should be applauded, and his historically informed analysis should generate much further discussion about the relationship between landscape poetry, politics, and history in the near future.

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Brennan O'Donnell, The Passion of Meter: A Study of Wordsworth's Metrical Art

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Brennan O'Donnell, The Passion of Meter: A Study of Wordsworth's Metrical Art. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1995. xii + 290pp. $35.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-87338-510-1).

Reviewed by
Steven J. Willett
University of Shizuoka, Hamamatsu Campus

Despite the modest renaissance in the study of versification the past few years, romantic critics continue to write about poetry as if it were little more than a textual stream of rhetoric, imagery, metaphor, ideology and selfreferentiality whose only purpose is to provide matter for hermeneutic hunters. Nowhere has this tendency been more pronounced than in criticism of Wordsworth, a poet who combined unmatched passion for the sound and rhythmic texture of poetry with a Horatian dedication to craftsmanship. As Brennan O'Donnell notes in the introduction to this superb study of Wordsworth's metrical art, "Wordsworthians and commentators on the romantic period and on the history of English poetry and prosody have tended, with some notable exceptions, to depreciate, dismiss as irrelevant, or simply ignore the particularities and peculiarities of Wordsworth's verse considered as verse" (2). The neglect of the metrical, rhythmic and auditory in Wordsworth is symptomatic of a general postmodernist tendency to level all literary texts to one semantic Flatland where their oral, aural and temporal dimensions are lost. Against this background of neglect, The Passion of Meter: A Study of Wordsworth's Metrical Art stands out as the first and for some time probably the only sustained treatment of his metrical theory and practice. It rectifies a crucial omission in our understanding of Wordsworth, but does more than just that. Its close, dexterous analysis of the verse provides a virtual education in techniques of metrical scansion for the reader with little knowledge of prosody. The exposition of metrical theory is so lucid, and the examples so well chosen, that one can learn quite enough here to read many another poet with a fair degree of metrical competence.

Nearly half the Introduction (11–17) is given over to a detailed explanation of the scansion and terminology used throughout The Passion of Meter. This is necessary, since O'Donnell has chosen to employ the system of metrical analysis devised by Derek Attridge in The Rhythms of English Poetry (1982) as his chief tool for exploring the subtleties of Wordsworth's versification. In recent years Attridge has turned his attention to literary theory, Joyce and South African fiction, but his landmark book still remains one of the most important contributions to English metrical theory in the past 25 years. It is not, however, easy reading due to the sheer density of argument. These seven pages provide as concise, accurate and pragmatic a summary as one could hope to find in such short compass. Those who would like a more thorough summary of the principles underlying the 1982 work should consult his recent college textbook, Poetic Meter: An Introduction (1996).

The Passion of Meter falls into two parts of very unequal length. The first part consists of two chapters, one that traces out Wordsworth's own complex theory of meter from among other sources (a) his abstract public statements in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads and (b) his more practical views in letters to John Thelwall and William Rowan Hamilton (Chapter 1), and one that addresses the significant differences between himself and Coleridge on the function of meter (Chapter 2). The second part, of three chapters and a conclusion, treats the versification of the poems under the following categories: the early practice of "An Evening Walk" and "Descriptive Sketches" (Chapter 3), the varieties of stanzaic form in the Lyrical Ballads (Chapter 4), the characteristics of Wordsworthian blank verse (Chapter 5) and the poet's late apologia for his dedication to verse, "On the Power of Sound" (Conclusion).

Thelwall and a number of revisionary prosodists writing in the period 1770–1815 insisted that the true genius of English verse music lay in independence from abstract metrical patterns. They, like many modern poets, advocated the subordination of meter to the normal prose rhythms of English. Wordsworth's own theory of meter places him squarely in the main accentual-syllabic tradition running from Surrey to Pope and in opposition to the reformers who wanted to loosen constraints on the verse line. An understanding of his opposition to current ideas is, O'Donnell rightly insists, necessary if we are to read him metrically: "Appreciating Wordsworth's resistance to contemporary developments in prosodic theory and practice is of primary importance in reading Wordsworth metrically. Indeed, I think that many twentieth-century commentators have failed to hear the music of Wordsworth's verse in part because the attitude toward verse pronunciation and performance that Thelwall espouses more closely approximates our own than does Wordsworth's" (31). While essentially conservative in his metrical practice, Wordsworth held a novel theory of meter whose articulation, scattered oven many disparate sources, is often oblique.

O'Donnell untangles the involved braid of theory better than almost any other critic I know. In essence, Wordsworth conceived of the verse line as the locus for two different systems of organization, "the passion of meter" and "the passion of sense" as he calls them in an important letter to Thelwall. The predictable passion of meter, which suggests something inevitable as a natural force, must be fitted to the widely variable passion of sense. The fitting is not mechanical or fixed, but fluid and organic in the best sense of the words: sometimes the passion of meter fully supports and sometimes significantly resists the organizing dynamics of the passion of sense.

In either case meter is an independent aesthetic presence, neither subordinate nor dominant in relation to its partner. The two dance in a sort of concordia discours. Wordsworth places maximum emphasis on the importance both of artfully metered language and of spontaneous expression. The poet fits language to meter, but the language he fits is a selection of the "real." It is clear, O'Donnell concludes, "that a chief interest of the poems so described ought to be the continuous process of fitting, not so much the accomplishment of a single and determining fit" (43). He summarizes this conception of the poem as a ground of active tensions between the passion of meter and the passion of sense with a fine aphorism: "Wordsworth's poem is a Garden of Adonis, not a Bowre of Bliss" (48).

Given his belief that poetry ought to display a complementary balance and correspondence between the excitement produced by meter and that produced by diction, it was inevitable that Coleridge would find Wordsworth's view of meter irrational. Chapter 2 takes up their disagreement, which grew from the former's limited conception of meter and diction. Coleridge famously wrote in meter because he was "about to use a language different from that of prose." Wordsworth, on the contrary, considered the ability of meter to provide a contrast to diction—whether the language was passionate or flat—to be the only aesthetic requirement necessary to produce poetic pleasure. The power of meter alone frees the poet from the need to employ artificially heightened or stimulated language. Coleridge singled out "The Sailor's Mother" as one of a group of works that employ a diction so prosaic that they "would have been more delightful . . . in prose" (Biographia Literaria 2:69). O'Donnell spends the better part of the chapter (53–62) showing that so seemingly prosaic a poem as "The Sailor's Mother" applies an unexpectedly complex lyric stanza with Spenserian overtones to a humble narrative. That narrative in turn modulates its rhythms to point the sharpest possible contrast between the two speakers. He presents similar analyses, though more briefly, for "The Thorn" (62f.) and the much maligned "Goody Blake and Harry Gill" (63–66), a poem that has virtually the same stanza form as the mellifluous "Lines Written Near Richmond, upon the Thames, at Evening" but informs its stanza with "a diction and syntax radically unfit for conventional metrical presentation" (64). Clearly, neither would have been more delightful in prose. O'Donnell argues that we need to understand the truly experimental nature of Wordsworth's metrical practice not only to appreciate his success in using rhythmic contrasts to represent a wide variety of mental and emotional experience but to balance the largely Coleridgean tradition of metrical analysis that has dominated discussions of Romantic versification (66).

Chapter 3 opens with an account of Wordsworth's early youthful versification prior to "An Evening Walk" and "Descriptive Sketches." At an early and impressionable age he developed the habit of maintaining a fairly tight restriction on syllabic count and stress placement and became adept at the various techniques for governing the number of syllables. That account in turn provides a foil for an explanation of why these two early descriptive poems were felt by contemporaries to be so "harsh." The harshness certainly did not result from lack of skill. It was calculated, and stems from strong shifts in expressive rhythm designed to depict the speaker in the process of reacting to changing landscapes. Strong metrical variations were acceptable in blank verse, but traditionally excluded from descriptive couplet verse "in favor of those more subtle variations calculated to give evidence of a rationally composed mind engaged in a comprehensive overview of a fixed 'scene'" (98). Many of the characteristics of the versification, especially the violation of the normal midline break by a much wider distribution of pause together with the presence of two or even three additional pauses, "suggest that Wordsworth was in fact attempting to create a new kind of pentameter couplet, one that would allow presentation of a distinctive, even idiosyncratic, voice within the context of conventionalized habits of association" (100). Verse structure thus ceases to be a mere transparent medium for conveying and focusing emotion; it becomes an active participant in expressing the reaction of the poet's fluctuating response to nature, man and society. The core of the book lies in the two long chapters (4 and 5) on Wordsworth's stanzaic variety in Lyrical Ballads and his blank verse respectively. They distill a deep, exhaustive familiarity with the verse into astute and compelling observations about poetic craft.

Chapter 4 is based on O'Donnell's indispensable taxonomy of the poet's verse forms in Numerous Verse: A Guide to the Stanzas and Metrical Structures of Wordsworth's Poetry (Studies in Philology, Texts and Studies Series 86, no. 4 [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989]). More than just a classification, this is a careful investigation into how Wordsworth created and deployed over 90 different kinds of stanzas and 22 irregular verse forms in addition to blank verse and sonnets. Lyrical Ballads provides a good test case, because it is representative of Wordsworth's practice throughout his corpus in adapting and reformulating stanzaic patterns that are firmly embedded in over four centuries of literary tradition. Because Wordsworth was a conservator rather than a radical innovator, Saintsbury could blindly dismiss him as the greatest English poet that ever wrote prosodically negligible verse. He is, in fact, the equal of his near contemporary Goethe both in the refinement of conventional verse forms and in their structural enunciation of experience. At the start of the chapter, O'Donnell makes an important observation that ought to be carefully considered by all romanticists:

To approach the Lyrical Ballads with a sense of the subtleties made possible by strict adherence to the rules of accentual-syllabic verse . . . , and with an appreciation of Wordsworth's own pervasive sensitivity to expressive, associative, rhetorical, and emblematic possibilities of verse forms embedded in an historical and cultural context . . . is to enable oneself to perceive the considerable extent to which these poems, both individually and as a collection, are powerful and challenging not despite their prosodic features (as is frequently assumed) but because of them. (116; emphasis added)

My only criticism of this chapter is the absence of any sustained scansions of whole lyrics. In his attempt at breadth of coverage, O'Donnell has not chosen—or has lacked the space—to focus intensely on a few key poems. The closest we have are some scattered comments on the stanza structure of "The Thorn" (131–34) and a note explaining how the four-stress accentual-syllabic line as used in poems like "The Tables Turned" and "Expostulation and Reply" frees Wordsworth, by contrast with the four-stress accentual ballad line of Coleridge, from the limitation of a single predominant rhythmic tendency (139–43). In the latter case he singles out individual lines for scansion, but tends to scant their context. Nevertheless, the chapter as a whole should eliminate any doubts about Wordsworth's skill in fashioning stanzaic structures that exhibit, as Goethe put it, a "Geprägte Form, die lebend sich entwickelt." The metrical effects "make the experience of reading an active and constitutive part of what the Lyrical Ballads are, both individually and as a collection" (177).

When I first read an advance copy of The Passion of Meter at the 1995 NASSR conference, I thought Chapter 5 the most powerful in the book. That impression still stands. In a letter to Catharine Grace Godwin, Wordsworth calls blank verse "infinitely the most difficult metre to manage, as is clear from so few having succeeded in it." O'Donnell considers his blank verse to be "a consummate artistic accomplishment" (179), and I would add that the few who stand with him as masters are Shakespeare, Milton and Tennyson.

The chapter divides neatly into three sections. After reviewing Wordsworth's "rules" for accentual-syllabic verse, O'Donnell examines the general features of blank verse in the Lyrical Ballads (which he generalizes as a compromise between Milton and Cowper) and then shows how complexities of voice instill diversity into the blank verse. Here we have the detailed discussions lacking in Chapter 4, with the main concentration on "Tintern Abbey" (191–201) and "Animal Tranquility and Decay, A Sketch" (201–05). The second section delves into the minute particularities of prosodic and aural organization in "A Night-Piece" and "Yew-Trees" (206–25), which Wordsworth reportedly thought his best examples of blank verse. The examination of aural effects in ll. 28–33 of "Yew-Trees," aided by a visual diagram, is notably effective. The third section deals with the dangerous fact that blank verse is simultaneously the most malleable of meters and the most charged with a weight of associative power. Narrative blank verse is inevitably associated with Milton. Wordsworth had thoroughly internalized and naturalized the Miltonic rhythm, but did not suffer as some have maintained from an anxiety of influence. The Miltonic rhythm is more like a constant background presence, sometimes surfacing into and sometimes receding from Wordsworth's blank verse: it "may be channeled, but it cannot be ignored (or 'exorcised' of cast off). Its undersong is as persistent as the undersong of the Derwent" (229). In every case, however, Wordsworth directs this associative power toward his own very different ends.

The "Conclusion" is a detailed structural anatomy of "On the Power of Sound," the poet's apologia as O'Donnell calls it "of a life dedicated to 'fitting' the English language to the requirements of 'numerous verse.' It suggests in grandly comprehensive terms how persuasively important metrical art is in the corpus as a whole" (238). This is an ambitious and wholly unexpected ending to the book—one that can properly be called daring. I have major differences of interpretation with O'Donnell on the structure and prosody of the ode, which I have expressed elsewhere, but would like to close with an actual quotation to show that even the late Wordsworth could write with a controlled Pindaric sonority largely absent from his fellow romantics. I will let ll. 180–92 end this review of a gracefully-written book that no one who loves or teaches Wordsworth should fail to consult:

The heavens, whose aspect makes our minds as still
As they themselves appear to be,
Innumerable voices fill
With everlasting harmony;
The towering headlands, crowned with mist,
Their feet among the billows, know
That Ocean is a mighty harmonist;
Thy pinions, universal Air,
Ever waving to and fro,
Are delegates of harmony, and bear
Strains that support the Seasons in their round;
Stern Winter loves a dirge-like sound.

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Charles E. Robinson, Ed. The Frankenstein Notebooks: A Facsimile Edition of Mary Shelley's Novel, 1816-17 (Parts One and Two)

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Charles E. Robinson, Ed., The Frankenstein Notebooks: A Facsimile Edition of Mary Shelley's Novel, 1816-17 (Parts One and Two). The Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics, Volume IX, General Ed., Donald H. Reiman. Garland Publishing, 1996. cx + 827 pp. $340. (ISBN 0-8153-1608-9).

Reviewed by
Steven Jones
Loyola University Chicago

First, in the interest of full disclosure: I was lucky enough a few years back to do journeyman editor's work on the related Garland Publishing series, The Bodleian Shelley MSS, also under the general editorship of Donald H. Reiman. It was a remarkable education, one which left me thoroughly convinced of the larger importance of these monumental series. Their purpose is, first, to disseminate knowledge of archival primary sources, to make widely available, in photographic facsimiles accompanied by expert transcriptions and annotations, rare materials that were once only accessible to a handful of scholars conducting specialized research primarily in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. My own modest contributions to the series were like the proverbial individual stones laid in the wall of a larger collective edifice. The two volumes of The Frankenstein Notebooks here under review represent, by contrast, a whole archival wing of useful knowledge, a striking example of just what this kind of "diplomatic" edition--for that is what these two volumes are: an important scholarly edition--really can do. At the bicentennial of the author's birth, along with Nora Crook's Pickering edition and Stuart Curran's forthcoming Pennsylvania Hypertext edition, Charles Robinson's edition of Frankenstein manuscripts puts studies of the novel on a whole new footing for the coming century.

I am writing and filing the present review exactly 180 years after the publication of the first edition of what is arguably the most widely known literary work of the Romantic period. The correct date of its publication, 1 January 1818, is just one of the many facts clarified by the Garland edition. Everyone knows some version of the story of the Genevan summer of 1816, when the tale was first conceived (Robinson posits an 1816 version of the "Ur-text" narrative); Romanticists are aware that there are significant differences between the first printed edition of 1818 and the next major revised edition of 1831. Robinson steps back from the first edition and offers a detailed picture of how Mary Shelley got from the Ur-text "story" to the printed novel of 1818, the process of composition and revision by which Frankenstein came into the world.

The edition publishes for the first time the extant portions of the 1816-1817 Draft and the 1817 Fair Copy manuscripts, and prints both in a parallel format that allows the reader to study 400 pages of manuscript photofacsimiles in Mary Shelley's (MWS's) hand, with editorial and collaborative emendations by MWS and Percy Bysshe Shelley (PBS), and to compare these with the first printed text. The result is a fascinating representation of some of the material evidence of a creative process, through what Robinson refers to as a "de facto collation" of the manuscripts with the 1818 text. Though portions of these materials have been transcribed and discussed before, especially in treatments of PBS's role in the composition of the novel, this edition finally makes available a complete and accurate transcription-- along with the visual evidence of the photofacsimiles, so that when the book is opened the reader can (1) examine revisions to the manuscript in the hands of both MWS and PBS on the verso pages; (2) compare these with Robinson's "type facsimile" transcription immediately to the right (where PBS's hand is represented in an italic font and MWS's in a roman); (3) and compare all of that with a "diplomatic" transcription of the printed novel in the 1818 edition, along the right-hand margin of the recto pages. For example, we can follow MWS's addition of a passage in the left margin of the Draft ("as I had been united by no link . . . "), then see PBS adding a phrase ("in existence") that is also retained in the printed novel (transcribed at the far right, at the edge of the image below). But the traces of this process are presented not, as I have just done, as narrative, but physically, graphically.

Robinson's introduction builds on the work of previous editors but offers the most comprehensive description to date of the subtle differences between the handwriting of MWS and PBS, but in the end the reader is free to look at the photographs and judge the evidence for herself or himself. The transcription employs different typefaces to differentiate the different hands, and designates ambiguous cases with a question mark.

For teachers and students of Frankenstein (whose numbers seem to have increased exponentially in recent years), perhaps the most immediate benefit of this edition will be to set some material limits within which to discuss the question of the Shelleys' collaboration on the novel. Even to use that word, "collaboration," is to raise some vexed and provocative questions, but as Robinson reminds us, it does not mean to "co- author" in equal portions but merely to "work together." The cumulative result of this edition's evidence is to make it clear that "PBS's contributions to Frankenstein were no more than what most publishers' editors have provided new (or old) authors or, in fact, what colleagues have provided to each other after reading each other's works in progress" (I, lxvii). Anyone who has taught the novel to undergraduates knows how easily student exaggerations of claims about the manuscripts made by some critics can lead to caricatures of PBS as a Svengali who either co-authored or (more often) completely took over the revision of MWS's novel. While some may remain uncomfortable with Robinson's biological metaphor casting PBS as the "able midwife" who assists at the birth of the novel that MWS "conceived and developed" (lxvii), his general point, based on the physical evidence for the book's "maternity," as it were, provides a needed corrective. Though the editor rightly balks at any exact census-tally of PBS's contributed words (estimating them to be somewhere in the 4000 range), the edition makes it clear that the Author of Frankenstein was MWS and it also greatly clarifies the nature of PBS's "advisory role."

For example, James Rieger's assertion that PBS originally conceived of having Victor travel to England to create a female Monster subtly distorts what PBS actually wrote in the margin of the Draft: "I think the journey to England ought to be Victor's proposal . . . . He ought to lead his father to this in the conversations--". As Robinson explains, this notation was made well after MWS had already come up with the idea of having Victor make the journey to create the Creature's "bride"--it's just that she had originally attributed the idea for the trip to Victor's father. PBS was not responsible for the important and highly significant plot detail--the planned creation of a female Monster--he merely suggested a way to emphasize Victor's motives (and MWS apparently accepted the suggestion).

This edition will be extremely useful to teachers, students, and scholars in a number of ways, due in no small part to the remarkable bibliographic reconstructions begun by Dr. Bruce Barker-Benfield of the Bodleian Library and continued by Robinson in this edition. The placement of the now-disbound leaves of the manuscript notebooks has been meticulously reconstructed with the help of detailed quiring charts and beta radiograph analysis. Not only with its expert readings of the handwriting, then, but through these reconstructions the edition offers information on the manuscripts that only a handful or experienced experts could ever deduce from the "raw" physical evidence of the original documents themselves.

But the edition will also be an important reference for any future study of Frankenstein and for Mary Shelley studies in general--quite apart from its facsimiles and transcriptions. As the table of contents shows, its apparatus includes mini-essays of significance on, for example, MWS's changes to the names of characters in the successive drafts, or on marginal numbering and dates in the manuscripts. Even the purely functional list of short-title abbreviations contains scholarly insights, as does the highly impressive 30-page Frankenstein Chronology, where a single entry's annotation can provide a compressed cache of useful knowledge.

Appendices include a parallel texts of the 1816-17 Draft and (extant) 1817 Fair Copy and of a portion of PBS's Fair Copy and MWS's retranscription of that portion, as well as photofacsimiles of the two-leaf (four-page) Cyrus Fragment, which came to the Bodleian Library along with the Frankenstein manuscripts in 1974 and 1976.

Romanticists, Shelley scholars, and, for that matter, anyone interested in the archetypally resonant story of Mary Shelley's Modern Prometheus will in future have to consult this indispensable edition. It represents the best kind of Promethean scholarly obsession: the meticulous pursuit of useful and enlightening knowledge about the complex process of artistic production.

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