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Wordsworth and The Recluse: The University of Imagination

Kenneth R. Johnston
PMLA
Vol. 97, No. 1 (Jan., 1982), pp. 60-82
DOI: 10.2307/462241
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462241
Page Count: 23
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Wordsworth and The Recluse: The University of Imagination
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Abstract

Wordsworth's unfinished masterwork, The Recluse, is often regarded as a nonexistent text. Though Wordsworth never completed the entire plan, its fragments constitute nearly twenty thousand lines of poetry that can be coherently interpreted. In their probable order of composition, the extant parts reveal a dialectical movement between Wordsworth's commitment to a public epic of secular redemption and his fascination with private poetry exploring his own genius. Three distinct episodes in this pattern can be identified in the active period of The Recluse's development (1797-1815). Each begins with Wordsworth's effort to write The Recluse, followed by a recoil into Prelude-type poetry, ending with the completion of some portion of The Recluse. In all three, Wordsworth's determination to give "Human Life" or society its due can be seen as at once the motivation and the stumbling block of his uneven progress toward The Recluse.

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