Wordsworth and touch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

William Wordsworth's poetry is strangely reluctant to record acts of touch between human beings, despite its commitment to sympathy. That reluctance is made more suggestive by the poet's self-consciousness about it. This essay considers the oddly visible absence of sympathy's gestures across Wordsworth's career, and proposes that, in fact, the absence points to a deeper and more consequential engagement with touch's relationship to language. Considering the variety of ways in which language moves towards, or longs for, tangibility, the essay analyses the poet's fascination with what it describes as a betweenness, a powerful and moving space in which words approach but do not actually become touchable. Related issues of the preciousness of words as words, and of the frailty of poetry envisaged as wholly solid are considered. But the central interest is Wordsworth's fleeting fantasy of language that can persuade, and achieve, by becoming, in a mysterious, hard-to-describe manner, almost touchable. © The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the English Association; all rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-23
Number of pages20
JournalEnglish: Journal of the English Association
Volume58
Issue number220
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009

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