Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: "Enough! or too much" : forms of textual excess in Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge and De Quincey
Author: Kellett, Lucy
ISNI:       0000 0004 5920 5393
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
My thesis explores the potential and the peril of Romantic literature's increasingly complex forms through a close comparative study of the works of William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas De Quincey. These writers exemplify the Romantic predicament of how to make vision manifest – how to communicate one's imaginative and intellectual expansiveness without diminishing it. They sought different strategies for increasing the capacity of literary form, ostensibly in the hope of communicating more: clarifying meaning, increasing accessibility and intensifying original experience. But textual expansion – materially, stylistically and intellectually – often threatens more opportunities for confused and partial meanings to proliferate, overwhelming the reader by dividing texts and undermining attempts at coherent thought. Expansion thus becomes excess, with all its worrying associations of superfluity. To further complicate matters, Burke's influential tenet of the Sublime makes a virtue out of excess and obscurity, raising the problematic spectre of deliberately confused/confusing texts that embody an aesthetic of incomprehension. I explore these paradoxes through four types of 'textual excess' demonstrated by the writers under discussion: firstly, the tension between poetry and prose adjuncts, such as prefaces and notes, in Wordsworth and Coleridge; secondly, De Quincey's indulgent verbosity and struggle to control the freeing shapelessness of prose; thirdly, Wordsworth's and De Quincey's parallel experiences of revision as both uncontrollably diffusive and statically concentrated; and lastly, Blake's more deliberate, systematic attempt to enact a literary Sublime in which the reader is forced out of passivity by the competing demands of verbal and visual media. All are motivated and thwarted in varying degrees by their anxious preoccupation with saying "Enough", and the difficulty of determining when this becomes “Too much”. These authorial dilemmas also incorporate larger concerns with man's (over)ambition at a time of rapid and unprecedented economic, social and intellectual acceleration from the Enlightenment to industrialism. The fear that the concept and process of 'progress', or 'improvement', marks deficiency rather than fulfilment haunts Romantic writers.
Supervisor: Perry, Seamus Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; Wordsworth ; Coleridge ; De Quincey ; Blake ; excess ; Malthus ; Burke ; French Revolution ; editing ; Prelude ; Sospiria de Profundis ; Confessions of an English Opium-Eater ; The Marriage of Heaven and Hell ; limits ; balance ; Laocoon ; labyrinth ; syntax ; fragmentation ; Kublai Khan ; Edinburgh ; London ; Piranesi ; prose and poetry ; cities ; illustration ; illuminated books ; population ; sublime ; flux and reflux ; Biographia Literaria