Wordsworth as a transumptive presence in the poetry of Emily Dickinson
Robinson, Resina Jacoba
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This thesis looks at and speculates about the transumptive influence of William Wordsworth on the oeuvre of Emily Dickinson. It posits the theory that Dickinson could not possibly have escaped Wordsworth's influence in view of her own reading of Wordsworth, and her extensive reading of poets and authors whose work is not just permeated by Wordsworth's influence, but which is also comprehensively informed by the poetic tenets that he espoused. It identifies and discusses common themes, images and preoccupations as they manifest in the poetry of both poets. The Preface speculates about the difficulties entailed in 'pinning down' the influence of preceding artists on their successors, whilst taking cognizance of the inescapability of that influence. It looks at the palimpsest, intertextuality and allusion as literary tropes for the manifestation of influence and touches briefly on the agonistic denial by strong poets of their poetic indebtedness. Chapter 1 contains a fairly detailed look at the enormously pervasive and seminal influence that the intensely controversial Wordsworth exerted in not only what has become known as 'the age of Wordsworth', but also on succeeding generations. It pinpoints poets, writers and artists who were influenced by him, and also identifies the large number amongst these who in turn influenced Dickinson, thus serving as conduits for Wordsworth's influence to have entered her work. In Chapter 2 Dickinson and Wordsworth's views of poetry and poets are explored. It foregrounds the remarkably similar elevated status that both poets ascribe to the poet and to poetry. It asks the question whether Dickinson's emphatic rejection of the traditional female role of her age meant that she saw herself as the 'poetic son' of her male poetic predecessors. Chapter 3 identifies common themes that occur in the poetry of both Dickinson and Wordsworth. Amongst these it specifically discusses their engagement with solitude and the Solitary, looks at how they encapsulate the inner life of heart, mind and soul in their poetry, explores their preoccupation with states of consciousness, being and the imagination, speculates about the intriguing and pervading consciousness of loss that manifests in their poetry, deals with the preoccupation that both exhibit with the various states of perception, explores their mutual engagement with the 'unknowable' as well as the idea of immortality, and highlights some of the marvellous celebrations of morning in their 'light' poetry. Chapter 4 contains an exploration of the deeply significant, albeit often ambiguous relationship that these two devotees of Nature had with it. It also looks and how this complex, indeed haunted and ambivalent relationship, informs some of their greatest poetry. Chapter 5 deals with the mind, its power and its incredible capacities as featured in the poetry of Dickinson and Wordsworth. Both poets were not only in awe of the mind's power, but were also deeply aware that the mind's supremacy and dominance could be frightening, particularly in conjunction with the usurping power of the imagination. Chapter 6 takes an in-depth look at the extremely complex and deeply ambivalent relationship that Dickinson and Wordsworth had with language as they acknowledge not only its power, but also its limitations - even as they laud its power, they are aware of its frightening, destructive potential and the dangerous dominion that it exerts over thoughts. It also deals with the demands that their meta-lingual, often contradictory poetry, make on their readers. And finally, the Conclusion attempts to identify Dickinson definitively as a poetic heir of Wordsworth.
- Humanities