Discussing the Variations of Poor Talent in Wordsworth's Preface

Discussing the Variations of Poor Talent in Wordsworth's Preface

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Harris Cavion Harris Literary Criticism: Costomiris Wordsworth 11.2.08 Discussing the Variations of Poor Talent in Wordsworth’s Preface The dilemmas of William Wordsworth’s poetry—in regards to the type of people who are to read and understand his poetry—are hard to disentangle because of the contradictions in his narrative style and moral purpose argued in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads . Who is to read Wordsworth’s poetry and what are we to gather from his criticism? Is poetry really meant to be read by those who live a “rustic” lifestyle—the lower classes in literate societies—or is poetry just a different language altogether, separating peasant prose from the literary tastes of the literate elite? (Wordsworth 650). Wordsworth was worried and considerate about the class structure of poetry and the class ideologies of poets. Through the language his contemporaries used—lofty expressions, “false refinement”, “poetic language” perhaps intended to make the poet feel he is indeed “poetic”—all culminate to separate the poet from the common reader and to give the poet an authority of artistic production, marked by the “heightened language” used to confirm his artistic status (Wordsworth 651). But Wordsworth’s criticisms are more than a reaction against the lofty language of the neoclassic. He questions the writer’s purpose for writing, criticizing “popular Poetry” and the “outrageous stimulation” of popular novels and melodramas (Wordsworth 652), but the core belief that Wordsworth considers seems to be: What type of writing for what type of reader? This literary antagonism calls into question the character of the writer and the purpose for writing. Since poets are by no means modest individuals who advocate an equal treatment of artistic production—lest there be uniformity of talent—Wordsworth’s protest of the tastes of his society seem confusing at first, since the works of artists, in his imagination, has warped the mind and has “[reduced] it to a state of almost savage torpor” (Wordsworth 652). If Wordsworth
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Harris 2 seems to be discussing the variations of poor talent that excite the reading public, he is also marking a distinction of literary taste when he venerates the already venerated: the works of Shakespeare and Milton—the craft of one lofty, word-creating artist; and the art of the educated, epic-writing epitome of canonized medieval literature. But poetry is not simply poetry (as an artificial substitution to prose) to the literary elite. There is a separation between the poet and the reader—they are not one and the same. And even though Wordsworth would like for the poet to be on the same literary level as the common reader, the poet is not there at all. Is the “language really spoken by men” really language that men can understand?
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This note was uploaded on 11/23/2008 for the course ENGL 4538 taught by Professor Costomiris during the Fall '08 term at Georgia Southern University .

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Discussing the Variations of Poor Talent in Wordsworth's Preface

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