Wordsworth and death
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Wordsworth is known as the poet of joy and hope, and to associate his name with death may seem at first strange. Yet, according to his own estimation, he was the poet not simply of joy but of “the very heart of man," of "human kind, and what we are”, of "men as they are men within themselves." Any vision of human nature which does not take into account the facts of mortality and bereavement is blinkered and inevitably inadequate and Wordsworth was committed to clarity of perception and the fullest insights of the Imagination. He did not shy away from the implications of “our mortal Nature”; throughout his career, he sought to portray in poetry the place of death in human life. Two basic ways of understanding mortality are considered in this thesis: the first is death as disjunction, extinction, the end; the second is death as part of a larger continuity, a threshold, a stage. The conflict between these two visions was fundamental to Wordsworth's thought, and writing. Isolation and despair were the corollaries of the first vision, while the capacity for love and hope which was essential to the life of the human spirit was nurtured and made possible by the second. Wordsworth wrestled in his writings with the effects of these different visions of death on the complexities of human nature. The thesis has been divided into three main parts. Section I - Death in Wordsworth's Time - seeks to place the poet into a historical context. Section II - Death in Wordsworth' Life - is concerned with Wordsworth's personal experiences of loss and feelings about his own mortality, And in Section III - Death in Wordsworth's Poetry - what he had to say about death is considered in relation to some of the other major themes in his poetry.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy