THE GENETIC CODE OF POETRY IN WORDSWORTH’S PRELUDE
Pages: 45-63 Published: 7 Oct 2019
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Abstract: Wordsworth’s poetry, primarily in the Prelude, is an example of a cycle of development uniting the great poetries so as to form a progressive tradition, like a link in a long chain. Wordsworth explicitly criticizes Coleridge’s style by quoting words from “Frost at Midnight” in Book One when he presents his new way of writing poetry. Then, in Book Six, explicitly referring to the way he wrote poetry in Book One, he announces an improved style. Finally, in Book 13 (or 14 of one edition) Wordsworth refers to his style of writing in Book Six as inferior to his ultimate mastery achieved at the end of the Prelude. Shelley, in his poem Alastor, criticizes Wordsworth’s fully developed style when Shelley announces his new way of writing poetry. Within the ten-minute limit for the conference paper, I would like to point out these main interrelated passages proving a cycle of development. Furthermore, I would like to suggest the value of researching this developmental pattern in other literary works: it is repeated so as to unite the greatest works in literature, thus constituting an organizing principle analogous to the biological genetic code. The search for this recurring pattern could lead one eventually to the greatest literature of the present and to that threshold when critical reflection must become creative effort for one's literary development to continue.
Keywords: wordsworth, coleridge, shelley, genetic code, literary theory