The prophetic Wordsworth: anxiety and self-fashioning

Pei, Yun (2015) The prophetic Wordsworth: anxiety and self-fashioning. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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The thesis investigates the prophetic in Wordsworth’s ‘golden decade’ (1798-1808). It establishes the
following arguments: the prophetic in Wordsworth should not be treated of only incidental interest; it
is a mode of his self-fashioning, as well as a mode of his writing, channelling the poet’s anxieties about
his authorship, readership, reception and posterity.

The thesis contains an introduction and a short conclusion, with two main sections amounting to
7 chapters. Chapter 1 to 3 form Part I, focusing on the prophetic as a mode of self-fashioning. Chapter
1 re-examines The Prelude, arguing that self-doubts and struggle are inherent to Wordsworth’s
prophetic aspirations. Chapter 2 discusses three major reasons that make Wordsworth’s self-fashioning
as a poet of prophetic quality possible: personal aspirations, knowledge economy, and prophetic
discourse of his time. Chapter 3 investigates anxieties generated in self-fashioning: anxiety of
influence and anxiety about reception. Chapter 4 to 7 form Part II, exploring the prophetic as a mode
of writing. Chapter 4 studies the apocalyptic vision of the rupture in human history in Lyrical Ballads.
Chapter 5 looks into Wordsworth’s concern with the nation in ‘Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty’. Chapter
6 focuses on the dual prophetic quality of The White Doe of Rylstone and its links to discourse of duty
and Catholic Emancipation. Chapter 7 studies the prophet-like speaker and the prophetic nature of the
narrative in Peter Bell. It also considers the discrepancy between the poet’s ideal reader and his actual
reader as the reason why the poem fails to appeal.

The claim to innovation in the thesis is that it offers a corrective reading of the prophetic as a
mode of self-fashioning and a mode of writing in Wordsworth. It also sheds new light on the poet’s
acclaimed major works such as Lyrical Ballads, as well as widely criticised minor ones such as Peter

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR4000 19th century, 1770/1800-1890/1900
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2015 09:36
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:49

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