Dorothy Wordsworth and Hartley Coleridge : the poetics of relationship
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My thesis studies Hartley Coleridge and Dorothy Wordsworth to redress the unjust neglect of Hartley’s work, and to reach a more positive understanding of Dorothy’s conflicted literary relationship with William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I provide a complete reassessment of the often narrowly read prose and poetry of these two critically marginalized figures, and also investigate the relationships that affected their lives, literary self-constructions, and reception; in this way, I restore a more accurate account of Hartley and Dorothy as independent and original writers, and also highlight both the inhibiting and cathartic affects of writing from within a familial literary context. My analysis of the writings of Hartley and Dorothy and the dialogues in which they engage with the works of STC and William, argues that both Hartley and Dorothy developed a strong relational poetics in their endeavour to demarcate their independent subjectivities. Furthermore, through a survey of the significance of the sibling bond – literal and figurative – in the texts and lives of all these writers, I demonstrate a theory of influence which recognizes lateral, rather than paternal, kinship as the most influential relationship. I thus conclude that authorial identity is not fundamentally predetermined by, and dependent on, gender or literary inheritance, but is more significantly governed by domestic environment, familial readership, and immediate kinship. My thesis challenges the long-standing misconceptions that Hartley was unable to achieve a strong poetic identity in STC’s shadow, and that Dorothy’s independent authorial endeavour was primarily thwarted by gender. To replace these misreadings, I foreground the successful literary independence of both writers: my approach reinstates Hartley Coleridge’s literary standing as a major poet who bridged Romanticism and Victorian literature, and promotes Dorothy Wordsworth as one of the finest descriptive writers of nature and relationship.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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