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Title: Re-reading The Excursion : a study of narrative, response and the Wordsworthian dramatic voice
Author: Bushell, S.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1999
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Twentieth-century criticism has treated The Excursion, Wordsworth's long poem of 1814, as representative of the poet's decline. My Ph.D. thesis opposes this view, arguing for a fresh understanding of the poem through close consideration of narrative and the role of the reader. I suggest that in this work Wordsworth is attempting to create a dramatic poetics in which the role of the poet is to balance different perspectives rather than to speak as a single authoritative voice. In Chapter One I look at the reception of The Excursion in1814-15 and the reasons for contemporary dissatisfaction with Wordsworth's dramatic voice. Charles Lamb's positive response provides the starting point for my own reading of the poem as "conversational". Chapter Two argues that the poem's philosophy is "performative", that is, concerned with the way in which moral ideas can best be communicated as much as with the ideas themselves. Chapter Three suggests that two kinds of affective response (the pathetic and the sublime) form the basis of Wordsworth's attempt to make the reader "active". Chapter Four returns to the question of "sublime" response suggesting that the poem develops an "aesthetics of indeterminacy" through which to empower the reader. The poem's narratives and presentation of character undermine dependence on any single authority within the text. The last two chapters show how such intentions in the poem are a direct product of Wordsworth's later poetics, in which he develops a very different model of the poetic voice from that of The Prelude. Chapter Five reconsiders the "epitaphic" books in the light of Wordsworth's writings on the epitaph and argues that the significance lies in their value as a poetic form in which the text itself is released from poetic authority. Finally, Chapter Six looks back at The Prelude from the perspective of The Excursion showing how the later poem attempts to value the ordinary rather than the poetic mind. I compare the handling of third person narratives in each poem and consider the workings of "narrative memory" in The Excursion as the essential means by which the individual experiences of an internalised sense of community. The aim of this chapter, as of the whole thesis, is to argue for a positive appreciation of Wordsworth's later poetics and, following this, a re-definition of the "Wordsworthian canon".
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available