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Wordsworth's poetry of allusion

Mead, Ruth Mary Judith; (1998) Wordsworth's poetry of allusion. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis shows that allusion is not a superficial ornament in Wordsworth's poetry (the 'great period'), but a fundamental poetic principle. It reassesses the critical definition of literary 'allusion', and considers its place in theories of literary relations, using it to interrogate those theories. Chapter one finds that 'allusion' has been too narrowly defined, and suggests ways of broadening the understanding of how allusion works. Chapters two and three show that Wordsworth uses allusion to explore two key issues in which allusion is itself implicated: the limitations of language, and poetic authority. A typological tradition of allusion challenges Harold Bloom's theory of the 'anxiety of influence'. Chapters four to six show that Wordsworth's relations to Shakespeare and to Milton cannot be considered in isolation from one another, but are in dialogue. Milton is more suggestive of influence, Shakespeare of intertextuality. In 'Nutting', submerged allusions to As You Like It balance the more common reading of this poem in its Miltonic mode. In Ruth, Shakespearean allusion enacts a move towards the shared, generic language of pastoral, the anonymous voices of the ballad realm. In Chapter seven, a reading of the Intimations Ode in the light of its many (claimed) sources tests both the distinction between traditionally-considered 'allusion' and generic convention, and also the validity of source-criticism. In considering two groups of poems, the last two chapters complicate the definition of 'allusion' in several ways. It is suggested that the most self-conscious kind of allusion frequently includes itself within the sphere of its own reference, but also that allusion may be made with unconscious intention, and that accidental linguistic duplication can have allusive effects. Wordsworth's motivations in using the whole range of allusion anticipate modem literary-relations theories. The thesis ends by demonstrating the way in which the allusive code highlights the poems' personal, moral, and political concerns, effecting a move away from Bloom's influence (which denies a world of reference beyond poetry), towards intertextuality's historicist understanding.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Wordsworth's poetry of allusion
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Wordsworth, William
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099963
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