Robert Stagg, University of Southampton
Our speaker for this first Romantic Realignments of Hilary Term proper is Robert Stagg, who will respond to the characterisation of Wordsworth as 'a writer of "good Bad Verse" (Wyndham Lewis)' with a paper that aims to 'defend Wordsworth’s bathos':
This defence cleaves into two categories, even as those two categories ultimately cleave to each other – noticing 1) the ability of bathos to clear false wonder from verse, mocking and twitting it, before revealing a true wonder; and 2) the way in which bathos can hold a latent energy of wonder, so that Wordsworth can extract a “hyperclimax” (in Coleridge’s terminology) from an anti-climax. My paper will begin by considering the nature of bathos, with brief examples from Pope, Byron, Clough and others before turning to the specifically Wordsworthian bathos outlined in points 1) and 2) above. I will examine Wordsworth’s paratextual writings about bathos, in the ‘Preface’ to the Lyrical Ballads and the notes to some of the poems, while turning to the poems themselves. I will consider some of Wordsworth’s late poetry and the Alps episode in Book 6 of The Prelude as examples of bathos 1) before turning to ‘Simon Lee’ as an example of bathos 2). My paper will conclude by examining the role of bathos in the relationship between Wordsworth and Coleridge. I read ‘The Thorn’ as a bathetic collapsing of The Ancient Mariner. I then think about ‘The Idiot Boy’ as a sequel to ‘The Thorn’, for which there is much manuscript evidence, in which ‘The Idiot Boy’ becomes the wondrous poem sprung from its bathetic predecessor. “Exalted by an underpresence” (The 1805 Prelude, 13.71), Wordsworth’s poetry finds wonder in slumps, stumbles, shrinkages, even snails. It is a wonder emitted not through a Coleridgean (as Wordsworth sees it) solemnity but through the comic manoeuvres of bathos – something my paper will explore, chart and advocate.
As always, all are welcome at our usual time of 5.15!