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Wordsworth's Philosophic Song


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 (ISBN-13: 9780511266997)

Wordsworth wrote that he longed to compose 'some philosophic Song/Of Truth that cherishes our daily life'. Yet he never finished The Recluse, his long philosophical poem. Simon Jarvis argues that Wordsworth's aspiration to 'philosophic song' is central to his greatness, and changed the way English poetry was written. Some critics see Wordworth as a systematic thinker, while for others he is a poet first, and a thinker only (if at all) second. Jarvis shows instead how essential both philosophy and the 'song' of poetry were to Wordsworth's achievement. Drawing on advanced work in continental philosophy and social theory to address the ideological attacks which have dominated much recent commentary, Jarvis reads Wordsworth's writing both critically and philosophically, to show how Wordsworth thinks through and in verse. This study rethinks the relation between poetry and society itself by analysing the tensions between thinking philosophically and writing poetry.

• Combines theoretical and literary perspectives on Wordsworth's work • Theoretical arguments are grounded in detailed and careful readings of the texts themselves • The first application of continental philosophy to Wordsworth studies


Introduction: Poetic thinking: the speculative element of Wordsworth's verse; Part I. Counter-spirits: 1. Old idolatry; 2. From idolatry to ideology; 3. Materialism of the beautiful; Part II. Common Day: 4. Happiness; 5. Infinity; 6. Life; 7. Light; Conclusion: Imagination.


Review of the hardback: 'Jarvis' Wordsworth's Philosophic Song is a rare example of a study that successfully moves beyond the historicist/formalist wars by carefully and self-consciously close reading not only Wordsworth's poems and prose, but also the numerous philosophical, social and political sources used here to illuminate such work.' Bars Bulletin & Review

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