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Life in Death/Death in Life: Trauma, Testimony and the 1798 Lyrical Ballads

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PAGE 1

LIFE IN DEATH/DEATH IN LIFE: TRAUMA, TESTIMONY AND THE 1798 LYRICAL BALLADS By JAMES R. FLEMING A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2006

PAGE 2

Copyright 2006 by James R. Fleming

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To my mother, Ann Marie Fleming, a nd my wife, Colleen Marie Fleming.

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iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I have a number of people to thank for this thesis: my teachers, my mother, and my wife in particular. I would al so like to thank the English Depa rtment at the University of Florida for its gracious support and its high standard of academic competence. This thesis would not have been possible without my diligent and always patient committee members, Dr. Judith Page and Dr. Donald Ault. Both are brilliant and deeply insightful in their unique approaches to English Romantic literature and critical theory. It remains a pleasure to work with them both. Thanks go to my close friend Dr. Anthony Merzlak, Chair of English at Suffolk University, for first introducing me to critic al theory and the English Romantics and for continuing to remind me of the importance of literary study. Thanks go, also, to Dr. Peter Caputo and Dr. Frederick Marc hant, both also of the Engl ish Department at Suffolk University, for seeing me through some of th e early stages of the ideas that would eventually develop into this thesis. I would like to thank my mother, Ann Ma rie Fleming, who was my first teacher and remains my tireless advocate, for always supporting and encour aging my passions. Special thanks go to my wife, Colleen Ma rie Fleming, for her critical mind, staunch support, inspiration, and willingness to listen to my ideas, even when I wake her up at 4 oclock in the morning to share them with her.

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v TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv ABSTRACT.......................................................................................................................vi CHAPTER 1 TRAUMA, TESTIMONY AND THE E NGLISH ROMANTIC MOVEMENT.........1 2 THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER.........................................................13 3 WORDSWORTHS LYRICS....................................................................................21 LIST OF REFERENCES...................................................................................................32 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.............................................................................................35

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vi Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts LIFE AND DEATH/DEATH IN LIFE: TRAUMA, TESTIMONY AND THE 1798 LYRICAL BALLADS By James R. Fleming May 2006 Chair: Judith W. Page Major Department: English Presently, literary critics and theorists are beginning to approach both modern and contemporary literary texts, as well as a variet y of pre-modern literary texts, with an eye toward narrative representations of trauma and testimony. Drawing from the research and speculation into trauma and testimony by such critics and scholars as Dori Laub, Shoshana Felman, Jacques Derrida and Geoffrey Hillman, I examine representations of trauma and testimony in the 1798 edition of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridges Lyrical Ballads Due to the early English Romantic pred ilection for personal examination and the exploration of radical psychic states, the critical study of Lyrical Ballads must give close attention to textual representa tions of trauma and testimony to properly conceive of the psychic dimensions that both of these aut hors explore and repres ent. Through a close analysis of Coleridges The Rime of the Ancient Marine r, the opening poem of the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads Wordsworths Tintern Abbey, the closing poem of the

PAGE 7

vii volume, as well as Wordsworths The Comp laint of a Forsaken Indian Woman and The Thorn from Lyrical Ballads I attempt to discern the radically different methods through which each poet comprehend and represent post-traumatic reactions. I draw largely from Derridas concept of a traumatic occurrence being, for the survivor, a direct confrontation with the imminence of deat h to discuss the manners in which both Wordsworth and Coleridge attempt to reconc ile the fundamental c onnection between life and death that they recognize as well as the resulting maps of the mind that they produce in their texts. I argue, furthermore, that the Wordsworth-Coleridge controversy has its roots in the poets remarkably different conceptions of trauma and its effect on consciousness. I conclude by arguing that William Wordsworth was himself deeply traumatized by the stark and decidedly pessimistic map of th e traumatized mind that Coleridge presents in Rime of the Ancient Marine r. I argue that Wordsworth s Tintern Abbey, as well as his The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman and The Thorn, serve to radically reconstitute The Rime of the Ancient Mari ner and place Coleridges text under a form of practical erasure.

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1 CHAPTER 1 TRAUMA, TESTIMONY AND THE ENGLISH ROMANTIC MOVEMENT In his seminal essay The Internaliza tion of Quest-Romance, Harold Bloom argues that the deepest satisfactions of r eading Blake or Wordsworth comes from the realization of new ranges of tensions in the mi nd . what [they] do for their readers, or can do, is closely related to what Freud does or can do for his, which is to provide both a map of the mind and a profound faith that the map can be put to a saving use (3), a map, that is, that can allow for th e exploration of what Geoffrey Hartman refers to as antiself-consciousness in early English Romantic poetry. Acco rding to Hartman, anti-self consciousness served as a remedy for the co rrosive power of analysis and the fixated self-consciousness (48) for a number of the early English Romantic poets. Hartman suggests that the Romantic poe ts do not exalt consciousness per se. They have recognized it as a kind of death-in-life, as th e product of a division in the self. The mind which acknowledges the existence of immediat e life knows that its present strength is based on a separation from that life (50). As Hartman argues, the intention of th e early English Romantics was not to escape from or limit knowledge but to convert it into an energy finer than intellect (48), nor was it a simplistic or naive desire to retur n to nature or to some idealized form of primitive consciousness. Instead, the early Eng lish Romantics sought, at least in part, to present a vital, didactical moment of soul making (50), an attempt to construct what Yeats calls an anti-self, for the purpose of recovering deeply buried secrets (51), in consciousness in order, ultimately, to directly co nfront the fact of self-alienation (51)

PAGE 9

2 that haunts a wide variety of early Englis h Romantic texts. What the early English Romantics and, as I will argue in the following, Wordsworth and Coleridge in particular over the course of the 1798 edition of their Lyrical Ballads collection, attempted to develop through their ex plorations of consciousness is a remarkably different form of consciousness than what had been previously explored in English poetry. Instead, they attempt to present a form of consciousness that is not based around or grounded in a steadfast notion of truth or fa lsity, of simple memory and perception, but, rather, a form of consciousness that fully acknowledges the pe rils of consciousness as it confronts and attempts to reconcile itself to some form or another of psychological trauma. In Coleridges The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Wordsworths Tintern Abbey, the opening and closing poems, re spectively, of the 1798 edition of their Lyrical Ballads collection, the separation from immediate li fe that Hartman identifies as being central to English Romantic poetry is directly connected to past tr aumatic experiences for both the Ancient Mariner and Wordsworths poet in Tintern Abbey, experiences to which they both attempt to reconcile themse lves through direct testimony to third-party listeners. But while Wordsworths poet str ongly implies a faith that his testimony and the map of the mind that is developed over the c ourse of the poem can be put to something of a saving use, for his poet is indeed able to reconcile himself to the trauma he has undergone, Coleridges vision is quite different. In The Ri me of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge presents a deeply and seemingly irrecoverably traumatized psyche unable to reconcile itself to the fundame ntal separation from life that it has undergone, a separation that has left the Ancient Ma riner unable to draw any true intellectual or emotional strength from his experience or resulting te stimony and recognize that such has any form

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3 non-personal relevance. The Rime of the An cient Mariner, then, provides a radically different map of the traumatized mind than th e one presented by Wordsworth in Tintern Abbey. Both the Ancient Mariner and Wordswor ths poet issue testimonies to what amounts to their own deaths, or, more exactly, to the death of their former selves before their consciousness altering traumatic experience s, that which Jacques Derrida refers to as the imminence of death, from a state of relative disconnection from life that is quite akin to the death-in-life that Hartman identifi es as being at the core of the early English Romantic tradition. In the following, I argue that the fundame ntal difference between Coleridge and Wordsworths major contributions to the Lyrical Ballads and the very roots of what would eventually develop into the Wordsworth -Coleridge controversy, can be located in each poets decidedly different conception of the effects of trauma upon the psyche. While both Coleridge and Wordsworth reali ze that psychic trauma is intrinsically connected to death, in The Rime of the Anci ent Mariner, Coleridge presents a narrator who is ultimately unable to accept the imminen ce of his death and is left unable to escape from the vicious circle of perpetual traumati zation and recurr ent testimony that he is be caught within. I will speculate that Wordswor th was deeply traumatized by the decidedly dark and pessimistic conception of trauma a nd testimony that Coleridge posited in Rime of the Ancient Mariner and attempted to pl ace Coleridges text unde r practical erasure, drastically revisioning it over the course of The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman, The Thorn, and Tintern Abbey, before finally rejecting the poem outright

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4 and attacking it in his 1800 Note to The Ancient Mari ner and excluding it from subsequent editions of Lyrical Ballads Throughout a number of their poems in the first edition of their Lyrical Ballads both Wordsworth and Coleridge wrestle with matters of anti-self consciousness and death-in-life, though from radi cally different perspectives and to remarkably different ends. Stephen Maxfield Parish argues that in terms of the early stages of the Wordsworth-Coleridge controversy, what was clearly on the surface a disagreement about poetic diction may, underneath, have b een a disagreement about dramatic method (317) between the poets, with each positing a radically different conception of the proper form of psychological drama that should be explored throughout Lyrical Ballads. For Wordsworth, poetic diction was simply a matter dramatic propriety. Wordsworth felt that proper poetry should be in the language actua lly used by real people. Throughout his early poetry, Wordsworth sought to capture the psychologies of actual, common people. Coleridges primary poetic interest was in gr and philosophical representations, with the dramatic effects of a poem serving simp ly as a vehicle for the conveyance of philosophical ideas. In Demure: Fiction and Testimony Jacques Derrida argues th at to issue a testimony to a traumatic experience is to testify to the imminence of ones own death, for one testifies only when one has lived longer than what has come to pass . the witness is a survivor, the third party, the testir and testis . the one who survived . I am the only one who can testify to my deathon the conditio n that I survive it (45). Trauma serves to divide a survivors psyche, for, as Derrida writes, at the moment of my attestation I am no longer the same as the witness who lived and who remains irre placeable (65). In

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5 the wake of a catastrophic cultural or persona l traumatic event, one is psychically split divided between the self before a traumatic occurrence and after. There is, then, as Derrida posits, the I who experiences a trau ma and the particular, though now separate I who testifiesthat is, for the purposes of this study, the Marine r who experiences and the Ancient Mariner who testifies, and, in Tintern Abbe y, the poet who experiences and the poet who testifies. For Coleridges An cient Mariner, a fundamental division of identity and, moreover, consciousness has occurred, a marked separation from life that touches upon the very imminence of his own d eath. Considered from this perspective, it can be seen that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey both explore radically new range s of tensions in the mind and, in turn, suggest entirely new conceptions of the mind as well, concepti ons, quite remarkably, that pre-date Freud and, for that matter, Derridas conceptions of trauma and its effect upon and relation to consciousness by several generations. To properly locate the acts of testimony in Lyrical Ballads we must begin by discerning the differences between acts of literary confession and those of literary testimony. Arthur C. Cochrane argues that a literary confession always contains explicitly or implicitly a polemic, a condemn ation . moreover, the confession does not judge others . it confesses an error, a de nial, perhaps a blasphemy which has become a reality in its midst (76; 78). As Cochrane insists, when one issues a confession, one admits to guilt and identifies a past action (or ideology or belief) as being wrong (and, in turn, false) and a present course of action (that, usually, of issuing a confession) as being correct (and, in effect, true). A confession is always personal, and te nds, at least in terms of literary confessions, to concern (at least directly) ones own self and actions. Derrida

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6 views the act of confession as being ultimately self-centered, focused not on establishing and conveying self-knowledge and identity but, instead, on offering a pardon for ones past actions and presenting an autobiogra phy that displaces and erases ones own perceived guilt or responsibility. Unlike a confession, a testimony has no i nherent design on rendering a steadfast claim of truth or falsity in regard to one s past actions or experiences. A testimony unveils ones experience(s) and strives toward developing some form of self-knowledge in response to those experience(s), forging a link between the self before an event and the transformed self after the ev ent has transpired. Though I ag ree with Julian Wolfreyss assertion that testimony is irreducible to some concept or figure, some genre or species of narrative with historical na rrative or literature (192), that it is impossible to develop a rigorous and wholly developed theory of trau ma as it relates to narrative testimonies to trauma, I would qualify his argument by adding that there are indeed a few key, demonstrable elements that we can identify in terms of discerning what constitutes an act of testimony. In the most basic respect, an act of te stimony represents a pronounced need to tell, to certify and render a traumatic experiences in the psyche by the subject that has undergone such. There is, at least in the ps yche of the survivor driven to offer a testimony to his or her experi ence(s), an imperative need to come to know their story unimpeded by the ghosts of the past against which they have been forced to protect themselves, for one has to know ones burie d truth in order to properly and fully undertake the task of living. Unlike a confe ssion, a testimony serves to discover and

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7 discern an inherent truth, to get to the proverbial bottom of things, but not to design or invent such. Testimony represents an attempt to comprehend experience(2) and to reach a form or dimension of self-knowledge by virtue of th e establishment of a se lf-narrative through which one might begin to discern some semb lance of self-knowledge in respect to a traumatic occurrence. And self -knowledge in testimony is key, for, as Derrida insists, a testimony is always auto-biographical; it tell s, in the first-person, the shareable and unsharable secret of what I was in a position to live, see, hear, touch, sense, and feel (43). But it is not simply to outside listeners that the subject testifies to his or her trauma but to the self as well, for th e purpose of rendering and ordering a traumatic experience in consciousness. A testimony serves to place one s self on record and assert, as Derrida insists, that I am the only one to have seen this unique thing, the only one to have heard or to have been put in the presence of this or that, at a determinable, indivisible instant; and you must believe me because you must believe methis is the difference, essential to testimony between belief and proofyou must believe me because I am irreplaceable. (90) A testimony functions as to establish and en force ones individuality in relation to a traumatic psychic experience. Testimony of fers a claim of selfhood against the utter incomprehensibility and relative imminence of death that is closely connected to a traumatic psychological occurrence. In its most basic respect, trauma can be defined as a psychic wound, not merely a shock, but rather the result of a particular catastrophic psychi c event that has transpired and, in turn, seeped into a nd affected consciousness. Ca thy Caruth defines trauma

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8 as the response to an unexp ected and overwhelmingly vi olence or violent events that are not fully graspe d as they occur, but retu rn later in repeated flashbacks, nightmares, and other repetitive phenomena. Traumatic experience, beyond the psycho logical dimension of suffering it involves, suggests a certain paradox: th at the most direct seeing of a violent event may occur as an absolute inability to know it; that immediacy, paradoxically, may take the form of belatedness. (92) Dori Laub argues that massive trauma pr ecedes its registration (57). Whether the trauma be cultural or historical in natu re or highly and entirely personal, the observing and recovering mechanism of th e human mind are temporarily knocked out (57) and the occurrence of a consciousness-altering trauma evades full mental perception, reception and incorporation into the psyche Cathy Caruth defines a post-traumatic reaction, as being the result of an overwhelming experience of sudden or catast rophic events, in which the response to the event occurs in the often delaye d, and uncontrolled occurrence of hallucinations, flashbacks and other intrusive phenomena. As it is generally understood today, traumatic di sorders reflect the direct imposition on the mind of the unavoidable reality of horri fic events, the taking over . of the mind by an event it cannot control. (24) According to Freud, a traumatic event can be defined as a delayed and anxious recognition of the significance of a particular memory or previous event that was not considered threatening at the time of its oc currence but has since taken on a decidedly different meaning in consciousness. For Fre ud, the repetition compulsion is a response to a past occurrence that was psychologically cat astrophic to such an extent that it was prevented from being fully assimilated into consciousness. As a result, the enigmatic past haunts the subject, leaving him or he r, much like Coleridges Ancient Mariner, continuously repeat[ing] the . material as a contemporary experience instead . of remembering it as something belonging to the past (18).

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9 According to Juliet Mitchell, a trauma . must create a br each in a protective covering of such severity that it cannot be coped with by the usual mechanisms by which we deal with pain or loss . in trauma we are untimely ripped (121). She argues that Freud, Lacan, Green, and Herendez . speak a nd write of the hole (trou-ma), breach, or utter dependence . as the condition expres sion of trauma (124). Derrida notes that a testimony is always given in the first person (38), and that it can only be delivered by the survivor of a particular traumatic event. Derrida posits that testimony is first a present act ( Demure 38) for the martyr [when he te stifies] does not tell a story, he offers himself (38). We can see and exam ple of this in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The Ancient Mariner does not simply tell his story, but offers himself entirely to the Wedding Guest, both in body and in spir it. When subjects test ify to their trauma, they offer themselves and reveal themselves in a completely unbridled fashion. According to Jennifer Lackey, it is of ten assumed that neither memory nor testimony is, strictly speaking, a generative source of knowledge: while the latter transmits knowledge from one speaker to another, the form preserves belief from one time to another (471) instead, it is gene rally thought that knowledge can only be transferred or transmitted through testimony. Hartman argues that traumatic knowledge would seem to be a contradiction in terms for it is as close to nescience as to knowledge (On Traumatic Knowle dge 538) and contends that: Knowledge of trauma . is composed of two contradictory elements. One is the traumatic event, registered rather than experienced. It seems to have bypassed perception and consciousness, and falls directly into the psyche. The other is a kind of memory of the event, in the fo rm of a perpetual troping of it by the bypassed or severely split (dissociated) psyche. (538)

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10 It is through testimony, Hartman cont ends, that traumatic knowledge, the knowledge of the particular oc currence and resulting effect of a traumatic experience, becomes transmissible from one party to anot her. A testimony to a traumatic occurrence, in Derridas view, brings to knowledge, i t says something, it describes something, it makes known . it informs; one could almost say that it recounts, it gives account (38). Over the past decade a number of critic s have begun to recognize a fundamental connection between various forms of Roma ntic ideology and literary expression and traumatic experiences and reac tions, with numerous critics an d biographers of Romantics figures making generous use of theories of traumatic experience to explain various Romantic predilections, tropes and images Though, as Deborah Jenson notes, the Romantics did not employ a discourse of tr auma (16) per se in their respective ideologies and poetic approaches, Romantic ex pressions of consciousness, in their myriad of forms, are characterized by a lachrymose, often Christological crimson-tinged-if-not stomach-turning pathos (16). Furthermore, as she claims, Romantic texts on both sides of the English Channel tend to show a pr onounced concern with matters of Romantic wounding, which serves, on a basic level, as part of what Jenson refers to as the Romantic discourse of pain (17) with sy mbolic wounds (whether psychic or physical) serving to represent Romantic narcissism a nd melodrama (17). It must be noted that Jenson neglects to consider the traumatic el ements of the lyrics of Wordsworth, for example, whose pathos, as we can see in bot h Tintern Abbey and The Thorn, while often lachrymose in mood are hardly crims on-tinged or, for that matter, stomachturning. Rather, in Wordsworths lyrics tr aumatic reactions and testimonies tend to be meditative and subdued, as his testifying subjec ts struggle to order their experi ences and

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11 provide them with some measure of voice a nd render them transmissible and capable of being brought to knowledge. Melodrama and narcissism, which might be apparent in Coleridges The Rime of the Ancient Mari ner, are hardly evident in Wordsworths lyrics. Leon Waldoff connects the self-dramatiz ing moments of new awareness in the Romantic lyric (42) to traumatic experiences and psychological reac tions, and relates the lyric form, in Wordsworth in particular, closely to traumatic occurrences and reactions. Waldoff contends that traumatic reactions in Wordsworths poetry are also deferred reactions to an earlie r event or memory charged with traumatic potential. The poet represents them as moments of unexpected di scovery, but the dynamics of repetition . and of traumatic experience indi cate that they are always re visionary afterthoughts (43). Waldoff further contends that Moments of new awareness in Romantic poe try differ in a crucial way from those in traumatic experience: They typically do not result in flight, phobia, inhibition of thought, or paralysis of action, but rather result in a presentation of selfdramatization and wish-fulf illing variation on a traumatic theme . Moments of new awareness in Romantic poetry, theref ore, through deferred reactions, try to solve a crisis or present a consolation. Rather than register painful insights into the self, as in traumatic resolution. (45) In early English Romantic poetry, this new awareness can be associated with a new understanding and perception of the effects of traumatic psychol ogical experience, a perception that is not associated with the tr aumatic experience itself (which is, in its immediate form, beyond immediate comprehens ion or representation). In Wordsworth, this new awareness tends to be dedicated not simply to explicati on of trauma, but to providing something of a resolution to it, a manner in which the mind can directly confront trauma and begin to reconcile itself to the imminence of death through a process

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12 of individuation, to render it no longer merely traumatic, but as a moment of new psychological awareness. In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge does not position the Ancient Mariners te stimony as a point of creatio n for a new awareness that is beyond the realm of the traumatic. Rather Coleridge provides a form of traumatic resolution at best, one that is fundamentally incapable of so lving its crisis or preventing anything in the way of a sure-footed consolation.

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13 CHAPTER 2 THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge does not chronicle the initial occurrence of the Ancient Mariner's trauma directly, but, rather, positions the Ancient Mariner as the direct narrativ e source of our knowledge of what has happened to him, in turn positioning both the Wedding Guest and we as readers, though to a far lesser extent, as party to its creation. The Ancient Mariners trauma now exists for him entirely in memory, the only place in which it can exist. What we learn of the Ancient Mariner concerns only himself in direct relation to his traumatic experience, for he does not recognize himself as having any form of purpos e or existence apart from it. In this respect, we might consider the Ancient Ma riners testimony to be a flawed testimony, perhaps even an outright failure of testim ony at that. Coleridge provides no indication that the Ancient Mariners ritualistic testimoni es provide him with a nything in the way of liberation or peace. At the conclusion of his testimony to the Wedding Guest, it appears as if the Ancient Mariner is still locked in an endless cycle of obs essive recounting that serves only to perpetuate his trauma. Over the course of his testimony, the An cient Mariner formulates no sure-footed comprehension of his experience and seems to remain in the same static psychological position in which he considers himself to have been when he was pulled aboard the skiffboat, refusing to fully recognize and accept the actuality and utter in comprehensibility of his experience, the fact that he has, in essence, died, or, at the very least, undergone an experience that is quite analogous to death. The Ancient Mariner, as we realize, has

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14 entered into what constitutes a radically diffe rent ontology and returned, then, an entirely different man, one for whom, as Derrida woul d say, only chaos remains (Derrida 92). The Ancient Mariner refuses to recognize that a fundamental divide has occurred in his psyche and that his former self is now anot her, that he has lived longer than what has come to pass and has been witness to the death of his former self. During his testimony, the Ancient Mariner repeatedly attempts to affirm the actuality of his life to the Wedding Guest, resi sting even the slightest notion that he too might have been, or, in fact, might still be, among the dead. The many men so beautiful, And they all dead did lie! And a million million slimy things Liv'd one-and so did I. (lines 238-241) He states, furthermore, that Seven days seven nights I saw that curse,/ And yet I could not die, (263-264) insisting, in esse nce, that his death was not and is not imminent. Still, even despite his claims to the contrary, the Ancient Mariner touches upon the possibility of his own death and his intrinsic rela tion to it during his testimony to the Wedding Guest. I mov'd and could not feel my limbs, I was so light, almost I thought that I had died in sleep, And was a blessed Ghost. (307-310) He describes himself, in esse nce, as being dead at that point in his past experience and somewhere beyond his mortal coil. Yet he continues immediately after to attempt to affirm his status among the living, stating that But ere my living life return'd, (410), even though the skiff-boat crew found him, as he says, Like one that had been seven days drown'd My body lay afloat:

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15 But, swif t as dreams, myself I found Within the Pilot's boat. (509-602) With this in mind, the Ancient Mariner's en counter with the figur e of Life-in-Death (as Coleridge names her in the 1817 version of the poem), takes on a far deeper level significance than has previously been considered by critics of the poem. The Ancient Mariner recalls the specters of Life-in-Deat h and Death playing a game of dice for the lives he and his crew-mates, re sulting, after the victory of Life-in-Death over Death, in the deaths of everyone on board save for th e Ancient Mariner, wh ich, as Michael ONeil insists, makes . human existence as arbi trary as a throw of dice (82) for the Ancient Mariner, and leaves his entire conception of the world in virtua l chaos. Interestingly, the Ancient Mariner refers to the figure of Life -in-Death as a Night -Mair, suggesting her intrinsic relation to his psyche at the time of his testimony, fo r it is through nightmares, as Cathy Caruth argues, that the survivor is forced, continually, to confront [the threat of death in the past] over and over again (62). We might see the figure of Life-in-Death as the very symbolic personification of the An cient Mariners traumatic reaction to his confrontation with the immine nce of his own death. David S. Mial takes a decidedly different view of the origin of the Ancient Mariners initial point of trau matization, contending that his traumatization originates not with his encounter with Life -in-Death and Death, but, rath er, with his witnessing the death of his two hundred crewma tes, arguing, in essence that the Ancient Mariner suffers from an extreme form of survivors guilt. He contends that for the Ancient Mariner such an overwhelming encounter with death re sults in a psychic closing-off which is at the same times accompanied by a profound sense of guilt. To have been singled out for survival, by being stronger or luck ier than others, is itself to be guilty (646). What Mial

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16 does not recognize, though, is the integral connection between the figure of Life and Death and the Death of the Anci ent Mariners crewmates. It is, after all, Life and Death who is the ultimate catalyst for the death of the Ancient Mariners crewmates. The naked Hulk alongside came And the two were playing dice; The Game is done! Ive won, Ive won! Quoth she, and whistled thrice. . Four times fifty living men, With never a sigh or groan, With heavy thump, a lifeless lump They droppd down one by one. (191-194; 208-211) Mials critique assumes that the traumatic incidents which the Ancient Mariner testifies to actually occurre d in the manner in which he presents them to the Wedding Guest and that his testimony repres ents a readily discernable, lit eral truth. Mial does not consider the likely possibility that the Anci ent Mariner is not recollecting exactly what occurred out on the sea, but, instead, a deeply symbolic account of his own understanding of his now inexplicable experience. Furthe rmore, the Ancient Mariners account might represent what Michael D. McDonald refers to as the Ancient Marine rs refusal to face the brutal truths regarding human existence (543). MacDonald argues that the Ancient Mariners testimony can be inter preted as a mental adventure (546) for his tale clearly mingles conscious and subconscious experi ence (546). The origin of the Ancient Mariners initial traumatiziati on might be beyond his recoll ection and understanding. It deserves note that the Ancient Marine r does not issue his account directly to the reader (or, for that matter, to himself as an internal monologue) but, rather, to a listener placed directly within the reality or ontol ogy of the poem. ONe ill argues that this process of witnessing is an integral part of the experience of reading The Ancient

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17 Mariner (83). But that is true for not only the Wedding Gues t, but for the reader and the Ancient Mariner himself as well, all of whom are positioned as witnesses in the text, albeit at different on tological levels. The Ancient Mariner's choice of the Wedding Guest as his listener is clearly not a random or haphazard decision. He claims that, I have strange power of speech, The Moment that his face I see I know the man that must hear me; To him my tale I teach. (lines 634-637) Still, Coleridge does not identify what ex actly it is that the Ancient Mariner looks for in his listener, only that there is, indeed, something, a certain type of listener, that he seeks. Interestingly, the Wedding Guest is presented by Coleridge as being virtually anonymous (as is every human figure in the poem as Susan Eilenberg points outs, suggesting that anonymity is the common li nguistic condition of people and things in [Coleridges] tale ((289))) and without a pa st. Daniel MacDonald argues that the Wedding Guest is the archetype of one living a frivolous, surface existence, ignoring the deeper realities (550), of life and c onsciousness, much like the Ancient Mariner represents himself as having been before shoot ing the albatross. In this respect, the Wedding Guest appears to mirror the Ancien t Mariner, with hi s own experience of listening to the Ancient Mariners testimony serving as a reflection of the Ancient Mariners own traumatic experience. At the start of the Ancient Mariners account the Wedding Guest is not a willing listener to his tale. It is only through hypnotic means that the Wedding Guest listens to the Ancient Mariners tale, an account which he cannot chose but hear (22), just as the Ancient Mariner himself does not, as McDonald writes, choose to face the hard facts of

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18 reality. Invariably, reality is thrust upon him (352). Through his testimony to the Wedding Guest, it becomes apparent that the Ancient Mariner is recycling and reconstructing his own traumatic experience through his testimony. At the opening of the poem the Wedding Guest is presen ted as being much like the An cient Mariner at the start of his journey, seemingly innocen t and fancy-free, is reluctan tly seized by a supernatural power (in his case the Ancient Mariner and, in the Ancient Ma riners case, the specters and other supernatural elements that he enc ounters), and forced to witness virtually the same horror as the Ancient Mariner, and is le ft, as Coleridge writes, like one that hath been stunn'd/ And is of sense forlorn (664-665). One can easily imagine the Wedding Guest going about wandering and co nfronting others after his encounter with the Ancient Mariner, saying, It was an Ancient Mari ner,/ And he stoppeth me . . It seems possible, then, diagnose the Ancien t Mariner, then, with an acute case of post-traumatic stress disorder (and with a repetition complex to boot), resulting from the undoubtable horror of his experience and the re sulting intrusion of such upon his psyche. The Ancient Mariners obsessive need to testif y might be viewed as an attempt to keep his story fresh, for, as Dori Laub notes, for the subject of a traumatic occurrence, the events become more and more distorted in thei r silent retention and perversely invade the survivor's daily life (79). For the longer the story of a traumatic occurrence remains untold the more the survivor doubts the validity of what has occurred. As the sole survivor, it is his sole responsibility to tell for, as Shoshana Felman argues, to be a witness is take responsibility for truth . to take respons ibilityin speechfor history and for the truth of an occurrence, for something which, by definition goes beyond the personal, in having general (non-personal) va lidity and consequence (204). The Ancient

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19 Mariner's mind has clearly been hijacked by hi s trauma, a trauma he can neither reconcile himself to nor, for that matter, fully comprehend. The Ancient Mariner does not recognize that his testim ony has any form of non-personal vali dity or consequence, that it can reach beyond himself and his liste ner and be put to a saving use. Wordsworths ultimate rejection of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is well known. In his 1800 Note To The Ancient Mariner, Wordsworth claimed that the poem of my friend has indeed great def ects; first, that th e principles person has no distinct character, either in his pr ofession of mariner, or as a human being who having been long under the countrol of supernatural im pressions might be supposed himself to partake of something supernatural: secondly, that he does not act, but is continually acted upon: thirdl y, that the events having no necessary connection do not produce each other; and la stly, that the imagery is somewhat too laborously accumulated. (389-390) Wordsworths assertion that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner contains many delicate touches of passion (390) is especially notable, gi ven Derridas insistence that the concept of passion as it relates to a testifying subject implies not only finitude (26) but also liability . imputabilit y, culpability, responsibility (27) and an engagement that is assumed in pain and su ffering, experience without mastery and this without active subjectivity ( 27). A sense of passion, a passionate impulse, a passion to tell has become inseparable from the desi re to avow, for the confessional testimony and from truthfulness, from telling the other and identifying with everythi ng (26), as Derrida contends, implies an engagement that is assumed in pain and suffering, experience without mastery and this wit hout active subjectivity (27) A sense of passion or a passionate impulse is connecte d, intrinsically, to a testimoni al act. In essence, every testimony arises not out of a pa ssion, but is, in fact, a passion in itself, for, as Derrida insists, a passion always test ifies (27). The passion that Wordsworth identifies so

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20 many fines touches of throughout The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is that of testimony, a testimony the originates in a sens e of culpability and impunity, itself an engagement with pain and suffering, lacking equally both mastery and subjectivity. In his 1800 Note to The Thorn, Wordsworth furt her defines the role of passion in poetry, contending that poetry is passi on: it is the history or scie nce of feelings ; now every man must know that an attempt is rarely made to communicate impassioned feelings without something of an accompanying consciousness of the inadequateness of our own powers, or the deficiencies of language (389). In this respect, Wordsworths definition of poetic passion might also serve as an early definiti on of traumatic testimony and a realization of the crucial connection between traumatic representation and poetic narration.

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21 CHAPTER 3 WORDSWORTHS LYRICS In such Lyrical Ballads pieces as the The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman, The Thorn and particularly Tintern Abbe y, Wordsworth demons trates a particular interest in matters of test imony to psychological trauma. In The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman, Wordsworth positio ns his narrator as a testifying subject, though one without a present listene r or witness. Her testimony is very much an internal testimony delivered entirely to her self. Un like Coleridges Ancient Mariner, she calls out for death and renounces her seeming status among the living after falling ill and being left behind by her tribe. As she lays abandoned yet still alive, she stat es that An yet I am alive/Before I see another day,/Oh let my body die away (lines 8-10). Here Wordsworth offers a testifying subject who clearly rec ognizes the imminence of her own death yet remains, despite her resignation to her fate, unable to die. Unlike the Ancient Mariner, the Indian woman recognizes that she has, i ndeed, loved longer than what has come to pass for her. She contends that her soul, he r fire, is now dead, yet it is dead, and I remain (12). She feels nothing in the way of pleasure or pain now; she is but a ghost of her former self. All she wishes for is death. Forever left alone I am,/ Then wherefore should I fear to die? (59-60). By the e nd of the poem, the Indian woman, much like Coleridges Mariner, still has not died. In terms of the Indian womans attitude toward death, Wordsworths poem can be seen as a radical revisioning of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for it practic ally reverses the very natu re of the Ancient Mariners testimony. The Indian woman does not have the same benefit of a witness as the Mariner

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22 does. The fact that she cannot die, despite her wishes to th e contrary, might indicate the beginning of Wordsworths own understandi ng of the intrinsic connection between witnessing and the completion of a testimony that can allow one to fully confront and accept the imminence of their death. In The Thorn, Wordsworth attempts yet another reconfiguration of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, though in this case he focuses prim arily on revising the figure of the Ancient Mariner. Stephen Maxfield Parish contends that The Thorn is not a poem about an abandoned mother and her murdered infant . nor a poem about a maternal passion (99). Rather, as Pari sh insists, The Thorn is in many respect very much a poem about psychology, about the waking of the mind of the narrator who happens himself to be an old Mariner. The events that are recounted in the poem are unimportant and irrelevant except in terms of how they reflect the workings of the narrators own imagination. According to Parish, the poem s central event has no existence outside of the narrators imagination (100). It is not until the seventeenth lin e of the poem, when he begins to provide a first hand testimony to have witnessed the plight of Martha Ray. Parish contends that his testimony is highl y important because he has already suggested that no one else has seen her (102), with the Mariner claiming that I never heard of such who dare/Approach the spot when she is there (lines 98-99), and that his testimony, in turn, is uniquely a nd entirely his own. In The Thorn, Wordsworth experiments with a different form of poetic narrative, one rather akin to Coleridges in The Ancien t Mariner in its intros pecting and degree of philosophical awareness. J acobus notes that The Thorn is not just a poem about suffering, but about the difficulty of comprehending it (24). Over the course of the

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23 poem, the narrator (himself a mariner) tells of Martha Rays constant an unfailing misery and her inability to come to terms or any rigorous understandi ng of what has occurred as well as the Mariners inability to grant it any semblance of meaning or order, for there is a great deal of knowledge that he utterly lacks, as he insist s that I cannot tell how this may be (line 243). The Mari ner issues a testimony to wh at he has been, somehow, inexplicably, in a position to hear and to see. Wordsworth s Mariner, though, is clearly quite different from Coleridges Ancient Mariner. In his Note on the Thorn, Wordsworth describes his narrator as a Captain of a small trading vessel . w ho being past the middle age of life, had retired upon an annuity or small independent income to some village or country town of which he was note a native, or in which he had not been accustomed to live. Such men having little to do b ecome credulous and talkative from indolence; and from the same cause . th ey are prone to superstition. On which account it appeared to me prope r to select a character like this to exhibit some of the general laws by which superstition acts upon the mind. Supe rstitious men are almost always men of slow faculties and deep feelings; their minds are not loose but adhesive . (388) Again Wordsworth seems to be providing a reimagining of Coleridges The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, positioning his Mari ner as a version of Coleridges Ancient Mariner divorced from his traumatic reaction and fully capable of undertaking the task of living. For Wordsworth, the pur pose of The Thorn was not to represent supernatural occurrences, but, indeed, to dismiss them. In his 1800 Note to The Thorn, Wordsworth stated that it was my wish in this poem to shew the manner in which . men cleave to the same ideas; and to follow th e turns on passion, always different, yet not palpably different, by which their conversat ion is swayed (388). Wordsworth, then, recasts Coleridges Ancient Mariner as simp ly a superstitious man whos curiosity and imagination get the best of him and l ead him into practical hallucination.

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24 In Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth shifts pe rspectives and positions his narrator as the sole consciousness in the poem and the te stimony offered serves as a testimony to the poets own experience. The crucial diffe rence between Coleridge's Mariner and Wordsworths poet in Tintern Abbey is that while the Mariner is incapable of recognizing and reconciling the fundamental psychic split between himself before his trauma and afterwards, Wordsworth's poet is ab le to begin to do so over the course of his testimony. Wordsworths poet issues hi s testimony from an entirely different psychological disposition than that of the Mariner. His disposition is not one of obsession and borderline madness like that of th e Mariner, but, rather, one of quiet and reserved contemplation. Though absent long These forms of beauty have not been to me, As is a landscape to a blind man's eyes; But often, in lonely rooms, and mid the din Of towns and cities, I have owed to them, In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart. (lines 23-28) The time of rapture at th e sights before him has passed, though a new feeling has arisen within him, one of discontentment a nd doubt. A pronounced strand of melancholia runs throughout the poets narra tion, a sense of loss and pai n, though hardly as acute as the misery that the Indian woman and Martha Ray cry of. For I have learned To look on nature, not as in the hour Of thoughtle ss youth; but hear ing oftentimes The still, sad music of humanity. (89-92) This is the first clear indication that a se paration has occurred within the psyche of the poet. Harold Bloom argues that in T intern Abbey, Wordsworth comes to a full understanding of his poetic self. This revelation, though touches upon infinity, is

PAGE 32

25 extraordinarily simple. All that Wordsworth learns by it is a prin ciple of reciprocity between the eternal world and his own mind . . (140). Bloom reads the poem, then, as a sublime act of humanity, and prepares us fo r the Wordsworth who is the first poet ever to present our human condition in its natura listic truth, vulnerable and dignified, and irreducible, not to be explaine d away in any terms, theologi cal or analytical, but to be accepted as what it is (148). While Bloom does not recognize the pronounced element of trauma in the poem, he does recognize th e acceptance that rests at the core of the poets testimony. Jacobus argues that Tintern Abbey proffers a statement of belief; individual consciousness finds its fullest expression in th e consciousness of something beyond the self (104). What Jacobus does not explore are the consequences of the poets realization of his own divided nature, namely the power of the trauma he has endured and, mutually, the testimony he offers. Sometime over the course of the past five years, the poet seems to have undergone a significant psychic trauma, though clearly not one that is represented in as overt and explicit a manner as the Ancient Mari ners. The poet speaks of how, In darkness, and amid the many shapes Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir Unprofitable, and the form of the world, Have hung upon the beatings of my heart, How often, in spirit, have I turned to thee O sylvan Wye! Though wander through the woods, How often has my spirit turned to thee! (lines 52-58) The poet further asserts that many recogni tions [are] dim and flint somewhat of sad perplexity (60-61) that his memories ar e fading, that he feels disconnected, with his genial spirits . decay[ing] (114), hinti ng, quite possibly, that something dark and deeply disturbing has occurred in his past.

PAGE 33

26 Richard Onorato connects the poet s underlying traumatic reaction to Wordsworths unconscious attachment to his mother, who died when the poet was eight years-old. Waldoff contends that when the speaker is identified with the biographical Wordsworth, his defensive insistence that N ature never did betray and his anxiety over absence can be traced to Wordsworths trauma tic loss of his mother . or to possibly some earlier disturbance in their relationship (71). One can also easily read the poem through Wordsworths own biography and associate his traumatic reaction not only to the early death of his mother, but also to later the failings of the French Revolution and his broken love affair with Annette Vallon. But to examine Tintern Abbey in search of any direct statement or indication of what the poet s trauma might be se rves only to dismisses what Heidi Thomson considers to be one of the poems fundamental points, particularly The loss of script to articu late powerfully distur bing statements in a controlled manner. For Word sworth it is no longer possible to articulate painful experiences in the ultimat ely reassuring forms of sensibility . it . creates the lonely burden of finding a form for expression of the emotions which accompanying these painful experiences . Tintern Abbey is Wordsworth's experiment to c onsider how he himself copes with the loss of innocence and with the disappoi ntments of the insufficiency of recompense. (534-535) Like the Mariner, Wordsworths poet suffers from a lack of access to any external frame of reference, an acute ability to fo rmulate a psychic connection between himself before his mind-altering trauma and after. He is left disjointed and disconnected by his experiences, whatever exactly they might c onsist of, and struggles to cope with his divided consciousness and lost innocence. J acobus contends that in Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth is more concerned with what is apprehended rather than seen (110), what is felt more so than what is comprehended. The poem explores, as Jacobus argues, the

PAGE 34

27 area lying between experience and recall, past and present (123), a realm beyond that of ordinary consciousness. Throughout Tintern Abbey we find the poe t wrestling with not only the difficulty of comprehending his inexplicable experience, but, also, a sense of incomprehensibility in terms of his life before the trauma occurred. He states that he feels himself to be changed, no doubt, from what I was, when firs t/ I came among these hills (lines 67-68) as a younger man. He refers to the unremem bered pleasure[s] (32) of his previous (pre-traumatic) experience, as well as hi s unremembered acts/ Of kindness and love (35-36) and apparent new found sense of th e world being unintelligible (41). He makes further mention of his half-extingui shd thought,/ With many recognitions dim and faint (59-60), before concluding, finally, that I cannot paint/ What then I was (7677). The poet is fundamentally divided not only from any direct comprehension of his experience, but also any clear understanding of his past self. The trauma he has endured has greatly upset the very f oundations of his psyche, leavi ng him grasping, at the opening of his testimony, for meaning and some sembla nce of self-understanding in the wake of his traumatic experience. Heidi Thomson focuses, in particular, on th e role of the poets sister in the poem and argues that Tintern Abbey is ultimatel y about the necessity of a shared experience with a beloved person. Moreover, the poem argues that the certainty of a shared experience far outweighs a merely remembered or projected experience (535). Though Thomson acknowledges that the poet is engagi ng in memory work with his sister, she does not recognize the testimonial nature of the poets address. It is not simply an expression of the need for an extended vi sion within a circumscribed context (Thomson

PAGE 35

28 535) that the poet offers, as Thomson claims, but, more exactly, a testimony to trauma. Wordsworth's primary focus in his address is not at least directly, an attestation to the infinite superiority of shared experienced over the individual, isolating one (535), in fact it is anything but, at least fundamentally. The poet's address, like the Ancient Marine rs, represents a singl e, highly particular vision, for, as Derrida argues, A witness and a testimony . must first be singular, whence the necessity of the instant: I am the only one to have seen this unique thing, the only one to have heard or have been put in the presence of this or that at [an] . indivisible instant . when I testify, I am unique and irreplaceable (40). The primary purpose that the figure of the poet s sister serves in the poem is that of the listener. It is to her, perh aps, (and, at least in part, beca use of her) that the poet is able to pronounce his testimony and give it structure and form, for, as Dori Laub notes, during a testimony to a trauma occurrence the list ener . is a party to the creation of knowledge . the testimony to the trauma is, so to speak, the bla nk screen on which the event comes to be inscribed for the first tim e. (57) She is, quite clearly, physically present during the testimonial act ("For though art with me, here, upon the banks/ of this fair river; thou, my dearest friend" ((lines 115-116))), yet unlike the Wedding Guest, she offers the poet nothing in the way of doubt, assertion or protest, only the necessary silence in which he can testify. She is, in this respect, the ideal listener for the poets testimony. Dori Laub asserts that, in the midst of a te stimony, the task of the listener is to be unobtrusively present, through the testimony, fo r the listener to trauma . needs to know the lay of the landth e landmarks, the undercurrents, and the pitfalls of the

PAGE 36

29 witness and himself . that the speaker about trauma on some level prefers silence so as to protect themselves from the fear of being listened to (58). In Tintern Abbey, the poet connects Doro thy to his former self, stating that, And in thy voice I catch The language of my former heart, and read My former pleasures in the shooting light Of thy wild eyes. Oh! Yet a little while May I behold in them what I once was . (lines 117-121) In Tintern Abbey, the poets experiences as fragmented as they might be, are still entirely his own. Though he suggests that his sister might indeed suffer as he has in the future (If solitude, or f ear, or pain, or grief,/ S hould be thy portion, ((lines 144145))), he does not identify his trauma as be ing shared with her. The poet recognizes his trauma as being uniquely his own. But unlike Coleridge's Wedding Guest, w ho repeatedly interrupts the Ancient Mariners address with his own exclamations and comments and stands as a virtual doppelganger of the Ancient Mariner s younger self, in Tintern Abbey, Dorothy is a living, recogniza ble, present person, and not just a metonymic signified . Her identity canno t just be read in term s of the speaker's own self . the address to Doro thy is not only about the meaning she has for the speaker as a younger version of himself in response to the speaker's loss of time. (Thomson 539) What is remarkable is the fact that the poet connects this vision of Dorothy to his former self and not to his present self. She reveals to him what he is beginning to recognize himself to no longer be. Bloom argues that Dorothy is an incarnation of [the poets] earlier self . In he r wild eyes he sees the gleam that he can no longer see in nature, but that once he did see, so that he almost literally reads his former pleasure in the eyes of another (146; 147). Wordsworth s poet has begun to accept that a fundamental

PAGE 37

30 and irrevocable division has occurred in his consciousness (one that seems to be somewhat akin to Jungs notion of individuatio n) and does not attempt to resist or deny that separation like the An cient Mariner does. That time is past, And all its aching joys are now no more, And all its dizzy raptures. Not from this Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts Have followed, for such loss, I would believe, Abundant recompense, For I have learned To look on nature, not as in the hour Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes The still, sad music of humanity. (lines 84-92) By the conclusion of Tintern Abbey, Wo rdsworths poet is able, in however fragmented a fashion, to begin to issue a te stimony to the imminen ce of his own death. We haven't any indication that the poets te stimony will be endlessl y repetitive (or, for that matter, that we could fairly diagnose him with a Freudian repetition complex), at least in the static sense that the Mariners ap pears to be. Clearly the poet is able by the end of his testimony to distinguish between himself now and himself then as being wholly separate entities. A nd in that recognition lies the fundamental difference between The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Tinte rn Abbey, as well as that of Coleridges Mariner and Wordsworths poet. While the An cient Mariner appears to be locked in a static and vicious circle of seemingly e ndless testimony and re-traumatization, both for himself and for his listeners, in which he refuses to acknowledge the imminence of his own death. Wordsworths poet is able to at least begin to re cognize and move beyond such, to accept that time is past, to begi n a process of individuali zation in which he is able to realize that he has, in essence, lived longer than what has come to pass, and that the man he once was, the form of consciousne ss he once possessed, is no longer, and that

PAGE 38

31 there is life in death and that some form or another of present strength can indeed be drawn from such. Wordsworths attempted revision and ultimate rejection of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, suggests, perhaps, that he himself was traumatized by the text and the particular conception of trauma and testim ony that Coleridge suggested throughout it. Wordsworth attempted, throughout a number of his contributions to the 1798 Lyrical Ballads to counter and erase Coleridges visi on, to drain it of its force and ultimate weight. Wordsworths Note on The Ancien t Mariner and his refusal to incorporate the poem into the subsequent editions of Lyrical Ballads suggests the degree of his antipathy toward the poem and his desire to put it under erasure, to both remove it from publication and to radically rewrite it thr ough The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman, The Thorn, and Tintern Abbey. In that respect, the Wordsworth-Coleridge controversy might be considered to have ultimately been a controversy over the nature and propriety, for each of the poets, of trau matic and testimonial poetic representation, namely the method through which trauma and testimony should be presented in contemporary poetry.

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32 LIST OF REFERENCES Bloom, Harold. The Interna lization of Quest-Romance. Romanticism and Consciousness: Essays in Criticism. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York and London: W.W. Norton, 1970. 46-56. -. The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1963. Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. Cochrane, Arthur C. The Ac t of Confession-Confessing. The Sixteenth Century Journal 8.4 (1977): 61-83. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Ed. Paul H. Fry. Boston, MA: Bedf ord/St. Martins Press, 1999. 26-74. Derrida, Jacques. Demure: Fiction and Testimony Trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000. Eilenberg, Susan. Voice and Ventriloquy in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Ed. Paul Fry. Bost on and New York: Bedford/St. Marins, 1999. 282-314. Felman, Shoshana and Laub M.D., Dori. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychology, and History New York, NY: Routledge, 1992. Felman, Shoshana. Chapter Seven: The Return of the Voice: Claude Lanzmanns Shoa. Felman and Laub, 204-283. Hartman, Geoffrey. On Traumatic K nowledge and Literary Studies. New Literary History 26.3 (1995): 537-564. -. Romanticism and Anti-Self-Consciousness. Romanticism and Consciousness: Essays in Criticism. Ed. Harold Bloom. New Yo rk and London: W.W. Norton, 1970. 46-56. Jacobus, Mary. Tradition and Experiment in Wordsworths Lyrical Ballads (1798). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.

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33 Jenson, Deborah. Trauma and its Representations: The Soc ial Life of Mimesis in PostRevolutionary France. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. Lackey, Jennifer. Testimonial Knowledge and Transmission. The Philosophical Quarterly. 49.197 (1999): 471-490. Laub M.D., Dori. Chapter Two: Bearing W itness and Vicissitudes of Listening. Felman and Laub, 57-74. McDonald, David. Too Much Reality: A Di scussion of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Studies in English Literature 1500-1900. 4.4 (1964): 543-554. Mial, David S. Guilt and Death: The Predicament of The Ancient Mariner. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 24.4. (1984): 633-653. Mitchell, Juliet. Trauma, Recognition, and the Place of Language. diacritics. 28.4 (1998): 121-133. ONeill, Michael. Romanticism and the Self-Conscious Poem Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997. Parrish, Stephen Maxfield. The Art of the Lyrical Ballads Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973. -. The Wordsworth-C oleridge Controversy. PMLA 73.4 (1958): 367-374. Thomson, Heidi. We Are Two: The Address to Dorothy in Tintern Abbey. SiR 40 (2001): 531-546. Waldoff, Leon. Wordsworth and His Major Lyrics: The Art and Psychology of SelfRepresentation Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 2001. Wolfreys, Julian. Occasional Deconstructions Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004. Wordsworth, William. Note To The Ancient Mariner . Lyrical Ballads and Other Related Writings Eds. William Richey and Daniel Robinson. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 389-390. -. A Note To The Thorn. Lyrical Ballads and Other Related Writings Eds. William Richey and Daniel Robinson. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 387-389. -. The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman. Lyrical Ballads and Other Related Writings Eds. William Richey and Daniel Robinson. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 106-108.

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34 -. Tintern Abbey. Lyrical Ballads and Other Related Writings Eds. William Richey and Daniel Robinson. Boston a nd New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 110-115. The Thorn. Lyrical Ballads and Other Related Writings Eds. William Richey and Daniel Robinson. Boston and New Yo rk: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 7381.

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35 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH James R. Fleming was born in Hyannis, Ma ssachusetts. James received his B.A. in English from Bostons Suffolk University in 2002 and has studied at the University of Florida for the past two years. He will be c ontinuing into the Ph.D. program in English at the University of Florida as a Kirkland Fellow in the summer of 2006. James is particularly interested in studying Romantic English litera ture, visual narrative and critical theory. James currently lives in Tallahassee, Florid a, and Gainesville, Florida, with his wife, Colleen Marie Fleming.


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Title: Life in Death/Death in Life: Trauma, Testimony and the 1798 Lyrical Ballads
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

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Source Institution: University of Florida
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LIFE INT DEATH/DEATH INT LIFE:
TRAUMA, TESTIMONY AND THE 1798 LYRICAL BALLADS













By

JAMES R. FLEMING


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2006
































Copyright 2006

by

James R. Fleming



































To my mother, Ann Marie Fleming, and my wife, Colleen Marie Fleming.
















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I have a number of people to thank for this thesis: my teachers, my mother, and my

wife in particular. I would also like to thank the English Department at the University of

Florida for its gracious support and its high standard of academic competence. This

thesis would not have been possible without my diligent and always patient committee

members, Dr. Judith Page and Dr. Donald Ault. Both are brilliant and deeply insightful

in their unique approaches to English Romantic literature and critical theory. It remains a

pleasure to work with them both.

Thanks go to my close friend Dr. Anthony Merzlak, Chair of English at Suffolk

University, for first introducing me to critical theory and the English Romantics and for

continuing to remind me of the importance of literary study. Thanks go, also, to Dr. Peter

Caputo and Dr. Frederick Marchant, both also of the English Department at Suffolk

University, for seeing me through some of the early stages of the ideas that would

eventually develop into this thesis.

I would like to thank my mother, Ann Marie Fleming, who was my first teacher

and remains my tireless advocate, for always supporting and encouraging my passions.

Special thanks go to my wife, Colleen Marie Fleming, for her critical mind, staunch

support, inspiration, and willingness to listen to my ideas, even when I wake her up at 4

o'clock in the morning to share them with her.



















TABLE OF CONTENTS




ACKNOWLEDGMENT S .............. .................... iv

AB STRAC T ................ .............. vi

CHAPTER


1 TRAUMA, TESTIMONY AND THE ENGLISH ROMANTIC MOVEMENT..........1

2 "THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER" ............. ...............13.....

3 WORDSWORTH' S LYRIC S ................. ......... ...............21.....

LIST OF REFERENCES ................. ...............32........... ....

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ...............35....
















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

LIFE AND DEATH/DEATH IN LIFE:
TRAUMA, TESTIMONY AND THE 1798 LYRICAL BALLADS

By

James R. Fleming

May 2006

Chair: Judith W. Page
Major Department: English

Presently, literary critics and theorists are beginning to approach both modern and

contemporary literary texts, as well as a variety of pre-modern literary texts, with an eye

toward narrative representations of trauma and testimony. Drawing from the research

and speculation into trauma and testimony by such critics and scholars as Dori Laub,

Shoshana Felman, Jacques Derrida and Geoffrey Hillman, I examine representations of

trauma and testimony in the 1798 edition of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor

Colerid ge' s Lyrical Ballads.l~~~~1111~~~~111

Due to the early English Romantic predilection for personal examination and the

exploration of radical psychic states, the critical study of Lyrical Balladsllll~~~~~~111111 must give close

attention to textual representations of trauma and testimony to properly conceive of the

psychic dimensions that both of these authors explore and represent. Through a close

analysis of Coleridge' s "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the opening poem of the

1798 edition of Lyrical Balladsl~~~~1111~~~~111 Wordsworth' s "Tintern Abbey," the closing poem of the










volume, as well as Wordsworth's "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman" and

"The Thorn" from Lyrical Ballads, I attempt to discern the radically different methods

through which each poet comprehend and represent post-traumatic reactions. I draw

largely from Derrida' s concept of a traumatic occurrence being, for the survivor, a direct

confrontation with "the imminence of death" to discuss the manners in which both

Wordsworth and Coleridge attempt to reconcile the fundamental connection between life

and death that they recognize as well as the resulting maps of the mind that they produce

in their texts. I argue, furthermore, that the Wordsworth-Coleridge controversy has its

roots in the poets' remarkably different conceptions of trauma and its effect on

consciousness.

I conclude by arguing that William Wordsworth was himself deeply traumatized by

the stark and decidedly pessimistic map of the traumatized mind that Coleridge presents

in "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." I argue that Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," as well

as his "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman" and "The Thorn," serve to radically

reconstitute "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and place Coleridge' s text under a form

of practical erasure.















CHAPTER 1
TRAUMA, TESTIMONY AND THE ENGLISH ROMANTIC MOVEMENT

In his seminal essay "The Internalization of Quest-Romance," Harold Bloom

argues that "the deepest satisfactions of reading Blake or Wordsworth comes from the

realization of new ranges of tensions in the mind .. what [they] do for their readers, or

can do, is closely related to what Freud does or can do for his, which is to provide both a

map of the mind and a profound faith that the map can be put to a saving use" (3), a map,

that is, that can allow for the exploration of what Geoffrey Hartman refers to as "anti-

self-consciousness" in early English Romantic poetry. According to Hartman, anti-self

consciousness served as a remedy for "the corrosive power of analysis and the fixated

self-consciousness" (48) for a number of the early English Romantic poets. Hartman

suggests that "the Romantic poets do not exalt consciousness per se. They have

recognized it as a kind of death-in-life, as the product of a division in the self. The mind

which acknowledges the existence of immediate life knows that its present strength is

based on a separation from that life" (50).

As Hartman argues, the intention of the early English Romantics was not "to

escape from or limit knowledge but to convert it into an energy finer than intellect" (48),

nor was it a simplistic or naive desire to "return to nature" or to some idealized form of

primitive consciousness. Instead, the early English Romantics sought, at least in part, to

present "a vital, didactical moment of 'soul making'" (50), an attempt to construct "what

Yeats calls an anti-self, for the purpose of recovering deeply buried secrets" (5 1), in

consciousness in order, ultimately, to directly confront "the fact of self-alienation" (51)









that haunts a wide variety of early English Romantic texts. What the early English

Romantics and, as I will argue in the following, Wordsworth and Coleridge in particular

over the course of the 1798 edition of their Lyrical Balladsllll~~~~~~111111 collection, attempted to

develop through their explorations of consciousness is a remarkably different form of

consciousness than what had been previously explored in English poetry. Instead, they

attempt to present a form of consciousness that is not based around or grounded in a

steadfast notion of truth or falsity, of simple memory and perception, but, rather, a form

of consciousness that fully acknowledges the perils of consciousness as it confronts and

attempts to reconcile itself to some form or another of psychological trauma.

In Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and Wordsworth' s "Tintern

Abbey," the opening and closing poems, respectively, of the 1798 edition of their Lyrical

Ballads collection, the separation from immediate life that Hartman identifies as being

central to English Romantic poetry is directly connected to past traumatic experiences for

both the Ancient Mariner and Wordsworth's poet in "Tintern Abbey," experiences to

which they both attempt to reconcile themselves through direct testimony to third-party

listeners. But while Wordsworth's poet strongly implies a faith that his testimony and the

map of the mind that is developed over the course of the poem can be put to something of

a saving use, for his poet is indeed able to reconcile himself to the trauma he has

undergone, Coleridge' s vision is quite different. In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,"

Coleridge presents a deeply and seemingly irrecoverably traumatized psyche unable to

reconcile itself to the fundamental separation from life that it has undergone, a separation

that has left the Ancient Mariner unable to draw any true intellectual or emotional

strength from his experience or resulting testimony and recognize that such has any form










non-personal relevance. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," then, provides a radically

different map of the traumatized mind than the one presented by Wordsworth in "Tintern

Abbey."

Both the Ancient Mariner and Wordsworth's poet issue testimonies to what

amounts to their own deaths, or, more exactly, to the death of their former selves before

their consciousness altering traumatic experiences, that which Jacques Derrida refers to

as the "imminence of death," from a state of relative disconnection from life that is quite

akin to the death-in-life that Hartman identifies as being at the core of the early English

Romantic tradition.

In the following, I argue that the fundamental difference between Coleridge and

Wordsworth' s maj or contributions to the Lyrical Balladsll~~~~~11111~~~~ and the very roots of what

would eventually develop into the Wordsworth-Coleridge controversy, can be located in

each poet' s decidedly different conception of the effects of trauma upon the psyche.

While both Coleridge and Wordsworth realize that psychic trauma is intrinsically

connected to death, in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Coleridge presents a narrator

who is ultimately unable to accept the imminence of his death and is left unable to escape

from the vicious circle of perpetual traumatization and recurrent testimony that he is be

caught within. I will speculate that Wordsworth was deeply traumatized by the decidedly

dark and pessimistic conception of trauma and testimony that Coleridge posited in "Rime

of the Ancient Mariner" and attempted to place Coleridge' s text under practical erasure,

drastically revisioning it over the course of "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian

Woman," "The Thorn," and "Tintern Abbey," before finally rejecting the poem outright









and attacking it in his 1800 "Note to 'The Ancient Mariner'" and excluding it from

subsequent editions of Lyrical Ballads.l~~~~1111~~~~111

Throughout a number of their poems in the first edition of their Lyrical Balladsl~~~~1111~~~~111

both Wordsworth and Coleridge wrestle with matters of anti-self consciousness and

death-in-life, though from radically different perspectives and to remarkably different

ends. Stephen Maxfield Parish argues that in terms of the early stages of the

Wordsworth-Coleridge controversy, "what was clearly on the surface a disagreement

about poetic diction may, underneath, have been a disagreement about dramatic method"

(3 17) between the poets, with each positing a radically different conception of the proper

form of psychological drama that should be explored throughout Lyrical Ballads.ll~~~~~11111~~~~ For

Wordsworth, poetic diction was simply a matter dramatic propriety. Wordsworth felt that

proper poetry should be in the language actually used by real people. Throughout his

early poetry, Wordsworth sought to capture the psychologies of actual, common people.

Coleridge's primary poetic interest was in grand philosophical representations, with the

dramatic effects of a poem serving simply as a vehicle for the conveyance of

philosophical ideas.

In Demure: Fiction and' Testimony, Jacques Derrida argues that to issue a testimony

to a traumatic experience is to testify to the "imminence" of one' s own death, for "one

testifies only when one has lived longer than what has come to pass .. the witness is a

survivor, the third party, the testir and testis .. the one who survived .. I am the only

one who can testify to my death--on the condition that I survive it" (45). Trauma serves

to divide a survivor' s psyche, for, as Derrida writes, "at the moment of my attestation I

am no longer the same as the witness who lived and who remains irreplaceable" (65). In










the wake of a catastrophic cultural or personal traumatic event, one is psychically split-

divided between the self before a traumatic occurrence and after. There is, then, as

Derrida posits, the "I" who experiences a trauma and the particular, though now separate

"I" who testifies--that is, for the purposes of this study, the Mariner who experiences and

the Ancient Mariner who testifies, and, in "Tintern Abbey," the poet who experiences and

the poet who testifies. For Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, a fundamental division of

identity and, moreover, consciousness has occurred, a marked separation from life that

touches upon the very imminence of his own death. Considered from this perspective, it

can be seen that "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey"

both explore radically new ranges of tensions in the mind and, in turn, suggest entirely

new conceptions of the mind as well, conceptions, quite remarkably, that pre-date Freud

and, for that matter, Derrida' s conceptions of trauma and its effect upon and relation to

consciousness by several generations.

To properly locate the acts of testimony in Lyrical Ballads, we must begin by

discerning the differences between acts of literary confession and those of literary

testimony. Arthur C. Cochrane argues that a literary confession "always contains

explicitly or implicitly a polemic, a condemnation .. moreover, the confession does not

judge others .. it confesses an error, a denial, perhaps a blasphemy which has become a

reality in its midst" (76; 78). As Cochrane insists, when one issues a confession, one

admits to guilt and identifies a past action (or ideology or belief) as being wrong (and, in

turn, false) and a present course of action (that, usually, of issuing a confession) as being

correct (and, in effect, true). A confession is always personal, and tends, at least in terms

of literary confessions, to concern (at least directly) one's own self and actions. Derrida









views the act of confession as being ultimately self-centered, focused not on establishing

and conveying self-knowledge and identity but, instead, on offering a pardon for one's

past actions and presenting an autobiography that displaces and erases one's own

perceived guilt or responsibility.

Unlike a confession, a testimony has no inherent design on rendering a steadfast

claim of truth or falsity in regard to one' s past actions or experiences. A testimony

unveils one's experiences) and strives toward developing some form of self-knowledge

in response to those experiencess, forging a link between the self before an event and the

transformed self after the event has transpired. Though I agree with Julian Wolfreys's

assertion that "testimony is irreducible to some concept or figure, some genre or species

of narrative with historical narrative or literature" (192), that it is impossible to develop a

rigorous and wholly developed theory of trauma as it relates to narrative testimonies to

trauma, I would qualify his argument by adding that there are indeed a few key,

demonstrable elements that we can identify in terms of discerning what constitutes an act

of testimony.

In the most basic respect, an act of testimony represents a pronounced need to tell,

to certify and render a traumatic experiences in the psyche by the subj ect that has

undergone such. There is, at least in the psyche of the survivor driven to offer a

testimony to his or her experiencess, an imperative need to come to know their story

unimpeded by the ghosts of the past against which they have been forced to protect

themselves, for one has to know one's buried truth in order to properly and fully

undertake the task of living. Unlike a confession, a testimony serves to discover and










discern an inherent truth, to get to the proverbial bottom of things, but not to design or

invent such.

Testimony represents an attempt to comprehend experience(2) and to reach a form

or dimension of self-knowledge by virtue of the establishment of a self-narrative through

which one might begin to discern some semblance of self-knowledge in respect to a

traumatic occurrence. And self-knowledge in testimony is key, for, as Derrida insists, "a

testimony is always auto-biographical; it tells, in the first-person, the shareable and

unsharable secret of what I was in a position to live, see, hear, touch, sense, and feel"

(43). But it is not simply to outside listeners that the subj ect testifies to his or her trauma

but to the self as well, for the purpose of rendering and ordering a traumatic experience in

consciousness. A testimony serves to place one's self on record and assert, as Derrida

insists, that

I am the only one to have seen this unique thing, the only one to have
heard or to have been put in the presence of this or that, at a
determinable, indivisible instant; and you must believe me because
you must believe me--this is the difference, essential to testimony
between belief and proof--you must believe me because I am
irreplaceable. (90)

A testimony functions as to establish and enforce one's individuality in relation to a

traumatic psychic experience. Testimony offers a claim of selfhood against the utter

incomprehensibility and relative imminence of death that is closely connected to a

traumatic psychological occurrence.

In its most basic respect, trauma can be defined as a psychic wound, not merely a

shock, but rather the result of a particular catastrophic psychic event that has transpired

and, in turn, seeped into and affected consciousness. Cathy Caruth defines trauma









as the response to an unexpected and overwhelmingly violence or violent
events that are not fully grasped as they occur, but return later in repeated
flashbacks, nightmares, and other repetitive phenomena. Traumatic
experience, beyond the psychological dimension of suffering it involves,
suggests a certain paradox: that the most direct seeing of a violent event
may occur as an absolute inability to know it; that immediacy,
paradoxically, may take the form of belatedness. (92)

Dori Laub argues that "massive trauma precedes its registration" (57). Whether

the trauma be cultural or historical in nature or highly and entirely personal, "the

observing and recovering mechanism of the human mind are temporarily knocked out"

(57) and the occurrence of a consciousness-altering trauma evades full mental perception,

reception and incorporation into the psyche. Cathy Caruth defines a post-traumatic

reaction, as being

the result of an overwhelming experience of sudden or catastrophic events, in
which the response to the event occurs in the often delayed, and uncontrolled
occurrence of hallucinations, flashbacks and other intrusive phenomena. As it is
generally understood today, traumatic disorders reflect the direct imposition on
the mind of the unavoidable reality of horrific events, the taking over .. of the
mind by an event it cannot control. (24)

According to Freud, a traumatic event can be defined as a delayed and anxious

recognition of the significance of a particular memory or previous event that was not

considered threatening at the time of its occurrence but has since taken on a decidedly

different meaning in consciousness. For Freud, the repetition compulsion is a response to

a past occurrence that was psychologically catastrophic to such an extent that it was

prevented from being fully assimilated into consciousness. As a result, the enigmatic

past haunts the subj ect, leaving him or her, much like Coleridge' s Ancient Mariner,

continuously "repeat[ing] the .. material as a contemporary experience instead .. of

remembering it as something belonging to the past" (18).










According to Juliet Mitchell, "a trauma .. must create a breach in a protective

covering of such severity that it cannot be coped with by the usual mechanisms by which

we deal with pain or loss .. in trauma we are untimely ripped" (121). She argues that

"Freud, Lacan, Green, and Herendez .. speak and write of the hole (trou-ma), breach, or

utter dependence .. as the condition expression of trauma" (124). Derrida notes that "a

testimony is always given in the first person" (3 8), and that it can only be delivered by

the survivor of a particular traumatic event. Derrida posits that testimony "is first a

present act" (Demure 38) for "the martyr [when he testifies] does not tell a story, he

offers himself" (38). We can see and example of this in "The Rime of the Ancient

Mariner." The Ancient Mariner does not simply tell his story, but offers himself entirely

to the Wedding Guest, both in body and in spirit. When subj ects testify to their trauma,

they offer themselves and reveal themselves in a completely unbridled fashion.

According to Jennifer Lackey, "it is often assumed that neither memory nor

testimony is, strictly speaking, a generative source of knowledge: while the latter

transmits knowledge from one speaker to another, the form preserves belief from one

time to another" (471) instead, it is generally thought that knowledge can only be

transferred or transmitted through testimony. Hartman argues that "traumatic knowledge

would seem to be a contradiction in terms" for it "is as close to nescience as to

knowledge" ("On Traumatic Knowledge" 538) and contends that:

Knowledge of trauma .. is composed of two contradictory elements. One is the
traumatic event, registered rather than experienced. It seems to have bypassed
perception and consciousness, and falls directly into the psyche. The other is a
kind of memory of the event, in the form of a perpetual troping of it by the
bypassed or severely split (dissociated) psyche. (538)










It is through testimony, Hartman contends, that traumatic knowledge, the

knowledge of the particular occurrence and resulting effect of a traumatic experience,

becomes transmissible from one party to another. A testimony to a traumatic occurrence,

in Derrida' s view, "brings to knowledge," "it says something, it describes something, it

makes known .. it informs; one could almost say that it recounts, it gives account" (38).

Over the past decade a number of critics have begun to recognize a fundamental

connection between various forms of Romantic ideology and literary expression and

traumatic experiences and reactions, with numerous critics and biographers of Romantics

figures making generous use of theories of traumatic experience to explain various

Romantic predilections, tropes and images. Though, as Deborah Jenson notes, "the

Romantics did not employ a discourse of trauma" (16) per se in their respective

ideologies and poetic approaches, Romantic expressions of consciousness, in their myriad

of forms, are "characterized by a lachrymose, often Christological crimson-tinged-if-not

stomach-turning pathos" (16). Furthermore, as she claims, Romantic texts on both sides

of the English Channel tend to show a pronounced concern with matters of Romantic

wounding, which serves, on a basic level, as part of what Jenson refers to as the

Romantic "discourse of pain" (17) with symbolic wounds (whether psychic or physical)

serving to "represent Romantic narcissism and melodrama" (17). It must be noted that

Jenson neglects to consider the traumatic elements of the lyrics of Wordsworth, for

example, whose pathos, as we can see in both "Tintern Abbey" and "The Thorn," while

often lachrymose in mood are hardly "crimson-tinged" or, for that matter, "stomach-

turning." Rather, in Wordsworth's lyrics traumatic reactions and testimonies tend to be

meditative and subdued, as his testifying subj ects struggle to order their experiences and










provide them with some measure of voice and render them transmissible and capable of

being brought to knowledge. Melodrama and narcissism, which might be apparent in

Coleridge' s "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," are hardly evident in Wordsworth' s

lyrics.

Leon Waldoff connects "the self-dramatizing moments of new awareness in the

Romantic lyric" (42) to traumatic experiences and psychological reactions, and relates the

lyric form, in Wordsworth in particular, closely to traumatic occurrences and reactions.

Waldoff contends that traumatic reactions "in Wordsworth's poetry are also deferred

reactions to an earlier event or memory charged with traumatic potential. The poet

represents them as moments of unexpected discovery, but the dynamics of repetition ..

and of traumatic experience indicate that they are always revisionary afterthoughts" (43).

Waldoff further contends that

Moments of new awareness in Romantic poetry differ in a crucial way from those
in traumatic experience: They typically do not result in flight, phobia, inhibition
of thought, or paralysis of action, but rather result in a presentation of self-
dramatization and wish-fulfilling variation on a traumatic theme .. Moments of
new awareness in Romantic poetry, therefore, through deferred reactions, try to
solve a crisis or present a consolation. Rather than register painful insights into
the self, as in traumatic resolution. (45)

In early English Romantic poetry, this new awareness can be associated with a new

understanding and perception of the effects of traumatic psychological experience, a

perception that is not associated with the traumatic experience itself (which is, in its

immediate form, beyond immediate comprehension or representation). In Wordsworth,

this new awareness tends to be dedicated not simply to explication of trauma, but to

providing something of a resolution to it, a manner in which the mind can directly

confront trauma and begin to reconcile itself to the imminence of death through a process










of individuation, to render it no longer merely traumatic, but as a moment of new

psychological awareness. In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Coleridge does not

position the Ancient Mariner' s testimony as a point of creation for a new awareness that

is beyond the realm of the traumatic. Rather, Coleridge provides a form of traumatic

resolution at best, one that is fundamentally incapable of solving its crisis or preventing

anything in the way of a sure-footed consolation.















CHAPTER 2
"THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER"

In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Coleridge does not chronicle the initial

occurrence of the Ancient Mariner's trauma directly, but, rather, positions the Ancient

Mariner as the direct narrative source of our knowledge of what has happened to him, in

turn positioning both the Wedding Guest and we as readers, though to a far lesser extent,

as party to its creation. The Ancient Mariner' s trauma now exists for him entirely in

memory, the only place in which it can exist. What we learn of the Ancient Mariner

concerns only himself in direct relation to his traumatic experience, for he does not

recognize himself as having any form of purpose or existence apart from it. In this

respect, we might consider the Ancient Mariner' s testimony to be a flawed testimony,

perhaps even an outright failure of testimony at that. Coleridge provides no indication

that the Ancient Mariner' s ritualistic testimonies provide him with anything in the way of

liberation or peace. At the conclusion of his testimony to the Wedding Guest, it appears

as if the Ancient Mariner is still locked in an endless cycle of obsessive recounting that

serves only to perpetuate his trauma.

Over the course of his testimony, the Ancient Mariner formulates no sure-footed

comprehension of his experience and seems to remain in the same static psychological

position in which he considers himself to have been when he was pulled aboard the skiff-

boat, refusing to fully recognize and accept the actuality and utter incomprehensibility of

his experience, the fact that he has, in essence, died, or, at the very least, undergone an

experience that is quite analogous to death. The Ancient Mariner, as we realize, has









entered into what constitutes a radically different ontology and returned, then, an entirely

different man, one for whom, as Derrida would say, only "chaos remains" (Derrida 92).

The Ancient Mariner refuses to recognize that a fundamental divide has occurred in his

psyche and that his former self is now another, that he has lived longer than what has

come to pass and has been witness to the death of his former self.

During his testimony, the Ancient Mariner repeatedly attempts to affirm the

actuality of his life to the Wedding Guest, resisting even the slightest notion that he too

might have been, or, in fact, might still be, among the dead.

The many men so beautiful,
And they all dead did lie!
And a million million slimy things
Liv'd one-and so did I. (lines 23 8-241)

He states, furthermore, that "Seven days, seven nights I saw that curse,/ And yet I

could not die," (263-264) insisting, in essence, that his death was not and is not

imminent. Still, even despite his claims to the contrary, the Ancient Mariner touches

upon the possibility of his own death and his intrinsic relation to it during his testimony

to the Wedding Guest.

I mov'd and could not feel my limbs,
I was so light, almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed Ghost. (307-310)

He describes himself, in essence, as being dead at that point in his past experience

and somewhere beyond his mortal coil. Yet he continues immediately after to attempt to

affirm his status among the living, stating that, "But ere my living life returned," (410),

even though the skiff-boat crew found him, as he says,

Like one that had been seven days drown'd
My body lay afloat:










But, swift as dreams, myself I found
Within the Pilot's boat. (509-602)

With this in mind, the Ancient Mariner's encounter with the Eigure of Life-in-Death

(as Coleridge names her in the 1817 version of the poem), takes on a far deeper level

significance than has previously been considered by critics of the poem. The Ancient

Mariner recalls the specters of Life-in-Death and Death playing a game of dice for the

lives he and his crew-mates, resulting, after the victory of Life-in-Death over Death, in

the deaths of everyone on board save for the Ancient Mariner, which, as Michael O'Neil

insists, "makes .. human existence as arbitrary as a throw of dice" (82) for the Ancient

Mariner, and leaves his entire conception of the world in virtual chaos. Interestingly, the

Ancient Mariner refers to the figure of Life-in-Death as a "Night-Mair," suggesting her

intrinsic relation to his psyche at the time of his testimony, for it is through nightmares, as

Cathy Caruth argues, that "the survivor is forced, continually, to confront [the threat of

death in the past] over and over again" (62). We might see the Eigure of Life-in-Death as

the very symbolic personification of the Ancient Mariner' s traumatic reaction to his

confrontation with the imminence of his own death.

David S. Mial takes a decidedly different view of the origin of the Ancient

Mariner' s initial point of traumatization, contending that his traumatization originates not

with his encounter with Life-in-Death and Death, but, rather, with his witnessing the

death of his two hundred crewmates, arguing, in essence that the Ancient Mariner suffers

from an extreme form of survivor' s guilt. He contends that for the Ancient Mariner

"such an overwhelming encounter with death results in a psychic closing-off which is at

the same times accompanied by a profound sense of guilt. To have been singled out for

survival, by being stronger or luckier than others, is itself to be guilty" (646). What Mial









does not recognize, though, is the integral connection between the figure of Life and

Death and the Death of the Ancient Mariner' s crewmates. It is, after all, Life and Death

who is the ultimate catalyst for the death of the Ancient Mariner' s crewmates.

The naked Hulk alongside came
And the two were playing dice;
"The Game is done! I've won, I've won!"
Quoth she, and whistled thrice.

Four times fifty living men,
With never a sigh or groan,
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump
They dropped down one by one. (191-194; 208-211)

Mial's critique assumes that the traumatic incidents which the Ancient Mariner

testifies to actually occurred in the manner in which he presents them to the Wedding

Guest and that his testimony represents a readily discernable, literal trth. Mial does not

consider the likely possibility that the Ancient Mariner is not recollecting exactly what

occurred out on the sea, but, instead, a deeply symbolic account of his own understanding

of his now inexplicable experience. Furthermore, the Ancient Mariner' s account might

represent what Michael D. McDonald refers to as the Ancient Mariner' s refusal to face

the brutal truths "regarding human existence" (543). MacDonald argues that the Ancient

Mariner' s testimony can be "interpreted as a mental adventure" (546) for his tale clearly

"mingles conscious and subconscious experience" (546). The origin of the Ancient

Mariner' s initial traumatiziation might be beyond his recollection and understanding.

It deserves note that the Ancient Mariner does not issue his account directly to the

reader (or, for that matter, to himself as an internal monologue) but, rather, to a listener

placed directly within the reality or ontology of the poem. O'Neill argues that "this

process of witnessing is an integral part of the experience of reading The Ancient









Mariner" (83). But that is true for not only the Wedding Guest, but for the reader and the

Ancient Mariner himself as well, all of whom are positioned as witnesses in the text,

albeit at different ontological levels.

The Ancient Mariner's choice of the Wedding Guest as his listener is clearly not a

random or haphazard decision. He claims that,

I have strange power of speech,
The Moment that his face I see
I know the man that must hear me;
To him my tale I teach. (lines 634-637)

Still, Coleridge does not identify what exactly it is that the Ancient Mariner looks

for in his listener, only that there is, indeed, something, a certain type of listener, that he

seeks. Interestingly, the Wedding Guest is presented by Coleridge as being virtually

anonymous (as is every human figure in the poem as Susan Eilenberg points outs,

suggesting that "anonymity is the common linguistic condition of people and things in

[Coleridge's] tale" ((289))) and without a past. Daniel MacDonald argues that the

Wedding Guest "is the archetype of one living a frivolous, surface existence, ignoring the

deeper realities" (550), of life and consciousness, much like the Ancient Mariner

represents himself as having been before shooting the albatross. In this respect, the

Wedding Guest appears to mirror the Ancient Mariner, with his own experience of

listening to the Ancient Mariner' s testimony serving as a reflection of the Ancient

Mariner' s own traumatic experience.

At the start of the Ancient Mariner' s account the Wedding Guest is not a willing

listener to his tale. It is only through "hypnotic" means that the Wedding Guest listens to

the Ancient Mariner' s tale, an account which he "cannot chose but hear" (22), just as the

Ancient Mariner himself does not, as McDonald writes, "choose to face the hard facts of









reality. Invariably, reality is thrust upon him" (352). Through his testimony to the

Wedding Guest, it becomes apparent that the Ancient Mariner is recycling and

reconstructing his own traumatic experience through his testimony. At the opening of the

poem the Wedding Guest is presented as being much like the Ancient Mariner at the start

of his j ourney, seemingly innocent and fancy-free, is reluctantly seized by a supernatural

power (in his case the Ancient Mariner and, in the Ancient Mariner' s case, the specters

and other supernatural elements that he encounters), and forced to "witness" virtually the

same horror as the Ancient Mariner, and is left, as Coleridge writes, "like one that hath

been stunn'd/ And is of sense forlorn" (664-665). One can easily imagine the Wedding

Guest going about wandering and confronting others after his encounter with the Ancient

Mariner, saying, "It was an Ancient Mariner,/ And he stoppeth me ."

It seems possible, then, diagnose the Ancient Mariner, then, with an acute case of

post-traumatic stress disorder (and with a repetition complex to boot), resulting from the

undoubtable horror of his experience and the resulting intrusion of such upon his psyche.

The Ancient Mariner' s obsessive need to testify might be viewed as an attempt to keep

his story fresh, for, as Dori Laub notes, for the subj ect of a traumatic occurrence, "the

events become more and more distorted in their silent retention and perversely invade the

survivor's daily life" (79). For the longer the story of a traumatic occurrence remains

untold the more the survivor doubts the validity of what has occurred. As the sole

survivor, it is his sole responsibility to tell, for, as Shoshana Felman argues, "to be a

witness is take responsibility for truth .. to take responsibility--in speech--for history

and for the truth of an occurrence, for something which, by definition goes beyond the

personal, in having general (non-personal) validity and consequence" (204). The Ancient









Mariner's mind has clearly been hij acked by his trauma, a trauma he can neither reconcile

himself to nor, for that matter, fully comprehend. The Ancient Mariner does not

recognize that his testimony has any form of non-personal validity or consequence, that it

can reach beyond himself and his listener and be put to a saving use.

Wordsworth' s ultimate rejection of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is well

known. In his 1800 "Note To 'The Ancient Mariner,'" Wordsworth claimed that

the poem of my friend has indeed great defects; first, that the principles person
has no distinct character, either in his profession of mariner, or as a human being
who having been long under the control of supernatural impressions might be
supposed himself to partake of something supernatural: secondly, that he does not
act, but is continually acted upon: thirdly, that the events having no necessary
connection do not produce each other; and lastly, that the imagery is somewhat
too laborously accumulated. (389-390)

Wordsworth' s assertion that "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" "contains many

delicate touches of passion" (390) is especially notable, given Derrida's insistence that

the concept of "passion" as it relates to a testifying subj ect implies not only "finitude"

(26) but also "liability .. imputability, culpability, responsibility" (27) and "an

engagement that is assumed in pain and suffering, experience without mastery and this

without active subjectivity" (27). A sense of passion, a passionate impulse, a passion to

tell "has become inseparable from the desire to avow, for the confessional testimony and

from truthfulness, from telling the other and identifying with everything" (26), as Derrida

contends, "implies an engagement that is assumed in pain and suffering, experience

without mastery and this without active subj activity" (27). A sense of passion or a

passionate impulse is connected, intrinsically, to a testimonial act. In essence, every

testimony arises not out of a passion, but is, in fact, a passion in itself, for, as Derrida

insists, "a passion always testifies" (27). The passion that Wordsworth identifies so










many Eines touches of throughout "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is that of

testimony, a testimony the originates in a sense of culpability and impunity, itself an

engagement with pain and suffering, lacking equally both mastery and subjectivity. In

his 1800 "Note to 'The Thorn," Wordsworth further defines the role of passion in poetry,

contending that "poetry is passion: it is the history or science of feelings; now every man

must know that an attempt is rarely made to communicate impassioned feelings without

something of an accompanying consciousness of the inadequateness of our own powers,

or the deficiencies of language" (389). In this respect, Wordsworth' s definition of poetic

passion might also serve as an early definition of traumatic testimony and a realization of

the crucial connection between traumatic representation and poetic narration.















CHAPTER 3
WORDSWORTH' LYRICS

In such Lyrical Balladsllll~~~~~~111111 pieces as the "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman,"

"The Thorn" and particularly "Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth demonstrates a particular

interest in matters of testimony to psychological trauma. In "The Complaint of a

Forsaken Indian Woman," Wordsworth positions his narrator as a testifying subj ect,

though one without a present listener or witness. Her testimony is very much an internal

testimony delivered entirely to her self. Unlike Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, she calls

out for death and renounces her seeming status among the living after falling ill and being

left behind by her tribe. As she lays abandoned yet still alive, she states that "An yet I am

alive/Before I see another day,/Oh let my body die away" (lines 8-10). Here Wordsworth

offers a testifying subj ect who clearly recognizes the imminence of her own death yet

remains, despite her resignation to her fate, unable to die. Unlike the Ancient Mariner,

the Indian woman recognizes that she has, indeed, loved longer than what has come to

pass for her. She contends that her soul, her "fire," is now dead, "yet it is dead, and I

remain" (12). She feels nothing in the way of pleasure or pain now; she is but a ghost of

her former self. All she wishes for is death. "Forever left alone I am,/ Then wherefore

should I fear to die?" (59-60). By the end of the poem, the Indian woman, much like

Coleridge's Mariner, still has not died. In terms of the Indian woman's attitude toward

death, Wordsworth' s poem can be seen as a radical revisioning of "The Rime of the

Ancient Mariner," for it practically reverses the very nature of the Ancient Mariner' s

testimony. The Indian woman does not have the same benefit of a witness as the Mariner









does. The fact that she cannot die, despite her wishes to the contrary, might indicate the

beginning of Wordsworth' s own understanding of the intrinsic connection between

witnessing and the completion of a testimony that can allow one to fully confront and

accept the imminence of their death.

In "The Thorn," Wordsworth attempts yet another reconfiguration of "The Rime of

the Ancient Mariner," though in this case he focuses primarily on revising the figure of

the Ancient Mariner. Stephen Maxfield Parish contends that "'The Thorn' is not a poem

about an abandoned mother and her murdered infant .. nor a poem about a maternal

passion" (99). Rather, as Parish insists, "The Thorn" is in many respect very much a

poem about psychology, about the waking of the mind of the narrator who happens

himself to be an old Mariner. The events that are recounted in the poem are unimportant

and irrelevant except in terms of how they reflect the workings of the narrator' s own

imagination. According to Parish, the poem's "central 'event' has no existence outside of

the narrator' s imagination" (100). It is not until the seventeenth line of the poem, when

he begins to provide a first hand testimony to have witnessed the plight of Martha Ray.

Parish contends that "his testimony is highly important because he has already suggested

that no one else has seen her" (102), with the Mariner claiming that "I never heard of

such who dare/Approach the spot when she is there (lines 98-99), and that his testimony,

in turn, is uniquely and entirely his own.

In "The Thorn," Wordsworth experiments with a different form of poetic narrative,

one rather akin to Coleridge's in "The Ancient Mariner" in its introspecting and degree of

philosophical awareness. Jacobus notes that "'The Thorn' is not just a poem about

suffering, but about the difficulty of comprehending it" (24). Over the course of the










poem, the narrator (himself a mariner) tells of Martha Ray's constant an unfailing misery

and her inability to come to terms or any rigorous understanding of what has occurred as

well as the Mariner' s inability to grant it any semblance of meaning or order, for there is

a great deal of knowledge that he utterly lacks, as he insists that "I cannot tell how this

may be" (line 243). The Mariner issues a testimony to what he has been, somehow,

inexplicably, in a position to hear and to see. Wordsworth's Mariner, though, is clearly

quite different from Coleridge's Ancient Mariner. In his "Note on the Thorn,"

Wordsworth describes his narrator as

a Captain of a small trading vessel .. who being past the middle age of life, had
retired upon an annuity or small independent income to some village or country
town of which he was note a native, or in which he had not been accustomed to
live. Such men having little to do become credulous and talkative from
indolence; and from the same cause .. they are prone to superstition. On which
account it appeared to me proper to select a character like this to exhibit some of
the general laws by which superstition acts upon the mind. Superstitious men are
almost always men of slow faculties and deep feelings; their minds are not loose
but adhesive .. (388)

Again Wordsworth seems to be providing a reimagining of Coleridge' s "The Rime

of the Ancient Mariner," positioning his Mariner as a version of Coleridge' s Ancient

Mariner divorced from his traumatic reaction and fully capable of undertaking the task of

living. For Wordsworth, the purpose of "The Thorn" was not to represent supernatural

occurrences, but, indeed, to dismiss them. In his 1800 "Note to 'The Thorn',"

Wordsworth stated that "it was my wish in this poem to shew the manner in which ..

men cleave to the same ideas; and to follow the turns on passion, always different, yet not

palpably different, by which their conversation is swayed" (388). Wordsworth, then,

recasts Coleridge's Ancient Mariner as simply a superstitious man who's curiosity and

imagination get the best of him and lead him into practical hallucination.









In "Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth shifts perspectives and positions his narrator as

the sole consciousness in the poem and the testimony offered serves as a testimony to the

poet' s own experience. The crucial difference between Coleridge's Mariner and

Wordsworth's poet in "Tintern Abbey" is that while the Mariner is incapable of

recognizing and reconciling the fundamental psychic split between himself before his

trauma and afterwards, Wordsworth's poet is able to begin to do so over the course of his

testimony. Wordsworth's poet issues his testimony from an entirely different

psychological disposition than that of the Mariner. His disposition is not one of

obsession and borderline madness like that of the Mariner, but, rather, one of quiet and

reserved contemplation.

Though absent long
These forms of beauty have not been to me,
As is a landscape to a blind man's eyes;
But often, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart. (lines 23-28)

The time of "rapture" at the sights before him has passed, though a new feeling has

arisen within him, one of discontentment and doubt. A pronounced strand of melancholia

runs throughout the poet's narration, a sense of loss and pain, though hardly as acute as

the misery that the Indian woman and Martha Ray cry of.

For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity. (89-92)

This is the first clear indication that a separation has occurred within the psyche of

the poet. Harold Bloom argues that in "Tintern Abbey," "Wordsworth comes to a full

understanding of his poetic self. This revelation, though touches upon infinity, is









extraordinarily simple. All that Wordsworth learns by it is a principle of reciprocity

between the eternal world and his own mind ." (140). Bloom reads the poem, then, as

"a sublime act of humanity, and prepares us for the Wordsworth who is the first poet ever

to present our human condition in its naturalistic truth, vulnerable and dignified, and

irreducible, not to be explained away in any terms, theological or analytical, but to be

accepted as what it is" (148). While Bloom does not recognize the pronounced element

of trauma in the poem, he does recognize the acceptance that rests at the core of the

poet' s testimony. Jacobus argues that "'Tintern Abbey' proffers a statement of belief;

individual consciousness finds its fullest expression in the consciousness of something

beyond the self" (104). What Jacobus does not explore are the consequences of the

poet' s realization of his own divided nature, namely the power of the trauma he has

endured and, mutually, the testimony he offers.

Sometime over the course of the past five years, the poet seems to have undergone

a significant psychic trauma, though clearly not one that is represented in as overt and

explicit a manner as the Ancient Mariner' s. The poet speaks of how,

In darkness, and amid the many shapes
Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the form of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
How often, in spirit, have I turned to thee
O sylvan Wye! Though wander through the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!i (lines 52-58)

The poet further asserts that "many recognition [are] dim and flint somewhat of

sad perplexity" (60-61) that his memories are fading, that he feels disconnected, with his

"genial spirits .. decay[ing]" (114), hinting, quite possibly, that something dark and

deeply disturbing has occurred in his past.









Richard Onorato connects the poet' s underlying traumatic reaction to

Wordsworth's unconscious attachment to his mother, who died when the poet was eight

years-old. Waldoff contends that "when the speaker is identified with the biographical

Wordsworth, his defensive insistence that 'Nature never did betray' and his anxiety over

absence can be traced to Wordsworth's traumatic loss of his mother .. or to possibly

some earlier disturbance in their relationship" (71). One can also easily read the poem

through Wordsworth's own biography and associate his traumatic reaction not only to the

early death of his mother, but also to later the failings of the French Revolution and his

broken love affair with Annette Vallon. But to examine "Tintern Abbey" in search of any

direct statement or indication of what the poet' s trauma might be serves only to dismisses

what Heidi Thomson considers to be one of the poem' s fundamental points, particularly

The loss of script to articulate "powerfully disturbing statements" in a
controlled manner. For Wordsworth it is no longer possible to articulate
painful experiences in the ultimately reassuring forms of sensibility .. it ..
creates the lonely burden of finding a form for expression of the emotions
which accompanying these painful experiences .. "Tintern Abbey" is
Wordsworth's experiment to consider how he himself copes with the loss of
innocence and with the disappointments of the insufficiency of recompense.
(534-535)
Like the Mariner, Wordsworth's poet suffers from a lack of access to any external

frame of reference, an acute ability to formulate a psychic connection between himself

before his mind-altering trauma and after. He is left disj pointed and disconnected by his

experiences, whatever exactly they might consist of, and struggles to cope with his

divided consciousness and lost innocence. Jacobus contends that in "Tintern Abbey,"

Wordsworth is more concerned "with what is apprehended rather than seen" (110), what

is felt more so than what is comprehended. The poem explores, as Jacobus argues, "the









area lying between experience and recall, past and present" (123), a realm beyond that of

ordinary consciousness.

Throughout "Tintern Abbey" we find the poet wrestling with not only the difficulty

of comprehending his inexplicable experience, but, also, a sense of incomprehensibility

in terms of his life before the trauma occurred. He states that he feels himself to be

"changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first/ I came among these hills" (lines 67-68)

as a younger man. He refers to the unrememberedd pleasure[s]" (32) of his previous

(pre-traumatic) experience, as well as his unrememberedd acts/ Of kindness and love"

(35-36) and apparent new found sense of the world being "unintelligible" (41). He

makes further mention of his "half-extinguish'd thought,/ With many recognition dim

and faint" (59-60), before concluding, finally, that "I cannot paint/ What then I was" (76-

77). The poet is fundamentally divided not only from any direct comprehension of his

experience, but also any clear understanding of his past self. The trauma he has endured

has greatly upset the very foundations of his psyche, leaving him grasping, at the opening

of his testimony, for meaning and some semblance of self-understanding in the wake of

his traumatic experience.

Heidi Thomson focuses, in particular, on the role of the poet' s sister in the poem

and argues that "Tintern Abbey" is ultimately "about the necessity of a shared experience

with a beloved person. Moreover, the poem argues that the certainty of a shared

experience far outweighs a merely remembered or projected experience" (535). Though

Thomson acknowledges that the poet is engaging in memory work with his sister, she

does not recognize the testimonial nature of the poet' s address. It is not simply an

expression of "the need for an extended vision within a circumscribed context" (Thomson










535) that the poet offers, as Thomson claims, but, more exactly, a testimony to trauma.

Wordsworth's primary focus in his address is not, at least directly, an attestation to "the

infinite superiority of shared experienced over the individual, isolating one" (535), in fact

it is anything but, at least fundamentally.

The poet's address, like the Ancient Mariner' s, represents a single, highly particular

vision, for, as Derrida argues, "A witness and a testimony .. must first be singular,

whence the necessity of the instant: I am the only one to have seen this unique thing, the

only one to have heard or have been put in the presence of this or that at [an] ..

indivisible instant .. when I testify, I am unique and irreplaceable" (40).

The primary purpose that the figure of the poet' s sister serves in the poem is that of

the listener. It is to her, perhaps, (and, at least in part, because of her) that the poet is able

to pronounce his testimony and give it structure and form, for, as Dori Laub notes, during

a testimony to a trauma occurrence "the listener .. is a party to the creation of

knowledge .. the testimony to the trauma is, so to speak, the blank screen on which the

event comes to be inscribed for the first time." (57) She is, quite clearly, physically

present during the testimonial act ("For though art with me, here, upon the banks/ of this

fair river; thou, my dearest friend" ((lines 115-116))), yet unlike the Wedding Guest, she

offers the poet nothing in the way of doubt, assertion or protest, only the necessary

silence in which he can testify. She is, in this respect, the ideal listener for the poet's

testimony .

Dori Laub asserts that, in the midst of a testimony, "the task of the listener is to be

unobtrusively present, through the testimony," for "the listener to trauma .. needs to

know 'the lay of the land'--the landmarks, the undercurrents, and the pitfalls of the









witness and himself .. that the speaker about trauma on some level prefers silence so as

to protect themselves from the fear of being listened to" (58).

In "Tintern Abbey," the poet connects Dorothy to his former self, stating that,

And in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting light
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! Yet a little while
May I behold in them what I once was .. (lines 117-121)

In "Tintern Abbey," the poet' s experiences, as fragmented as they might be, are

still entirely his own. Though he suggests that his sister might indeed suffer as he has in

the future ("If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,"/ Should be thy portion," ((lines 144-

145))), he does not identify his trauma as being shared with her. The poet recognizes his

trauma as being uniquely his own.

But unlike Coleridge's Wedding Guest, who repeatedly interrupts the Ancient

Mariner' s address with his own exclamations and comments and stands as a virtual

doppelganger of the Ancient Mariner' s younger self, in "Tintern Abbey,"

Dorothy is a living, recognizable, present person, and not just a metonymic
signified .. Her identity cannot just be read in terms of the speaker's own
self .. the address to Dorothy is not only about the meaning she has for the
speaker as a younger version of himself in response to the speaker's loss of
time. (Thomson 539)

What is remarkable is the fact that the poet connects this vision of Dorothy to his

former self and not to his present self. She reveals to him what he is beginning to

recognize himself to no longer be. Bloom argues that Dorothy is "an incarnation of [the

poet' s] earlier self .. In her wild eyes he sees the gleam that he can no longer see in

nature, but that once he did see, so that he almost literally reads his former pleasure in the

eyes of another" (146; 147). Wordsworth's poet has begun to accept that a fundamental









and irrevocable division has occurred in his consciousness (one that seems to be

somewhat akin to Jung' s notion of individuation) and does not attempt to resist or deny

that separation like the Ancient Mariner does.

That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not from this
Faint I, nor moumn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed, for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense, For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity. (lines 84-92)

By the conclusion of "Tintem Abbey," Wordsworth' s poet is able, in however

fragmented a fashion, to begin to issue a testimony to the imminence of his own death.

We haven't any indication that the poet' s testimony will be endlessly repetitive (or, for

that matter, that we could fairly diagnose him with a Freudian repetition complex), at

least in the static sense that the Mariner' s appears to be. Clearly the poet is able by the

end of his testimony to distinguish between himself now and himself then as being

wholly separate entities. And in that recognition lies the fundamental difference between

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Tintem Abbey," as well as that of Coleridge' s

Mariner and Wordsworth's poet. While the Ancient Mariner appears to be locked in a

static and vicious circle of seemingly endless testimony and re-traumatization, both for

himself and for his listeners, in which he refuses to acknowledge the imminence of his

own death. Wordsworth's poet is able to at least begin to recognize and move beyond

such, to accept "that time is past," to begin a process of individualization in which he is

able to realize that he has, in essence, lived longer than what has come to pass, and that

the man he once was, the form of consciousness he once possessed, is no longer, and that










there is life in death and that some form or another of present strength can indeed be

drawn from such.

Wordsworth' s attempted revision and ultimate rej section of "The Rime of the

Ancient Mariner," suggests, perhaps, that he himself was traumatized by the text and the

particular conception of trauma and testimony that Coleridge suggested throughout it.

Wordsworth attempted, throughout a number of his contributions to the 1798 Lyrical

Balladsllll~~~~~~111111, to counter and erase Coleridge' s vision, to drain it of its force and ultimate

weight. Wordsworth's "Note on 'The Ancient Mariner'" and his refusal to incorporate

the poem into the subsequent editions of Lyrical Balladsllll~~~~~~111111 suggests the degree of his

antipathy toward the poem and his desire to put it under erasure, to both remove it from

publication and to radically rewrite it through "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian

Woman," The Thorn," and Tintern Abb ey." In that respect, the Wordsworth-C ol eri dge

controversy might be considered to have ultimately been a controversy over the nature

and propriety, for each of the poet' s, of traumatic and testimonial poetic representation,

namely the method through which trauma and testimony should be presented in

contemporary poetry.

















LIST OF REFERENCES

Bloom, Harold. "The Internalization of Quest-Romance." Ronzanticisn; and'
Consciousness: Essssssssssssssays in Criticism. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York and London:
W.W. Norton, 1970. 46-56.

- -. The Visionary Company: A Read'ing of English Romantic Poetry. Garden City, NY:
Anchor Books, 1963.

Caruth, Cathy. ThiclainedExperience: Trauma, Narrative, and'History. Baltimore, MD:
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Cochrane, Arthur C. "The Act of Confession-Confessing." The .Si\icemhrl Century
Journal. 8.4 (1977): 61-83.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." The Rinze of the Ancient
Mariner. Ed. Paul H. Fry. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins Press, 1999. 26-74.

Derrida, Jacques. Demure: Fiction and' Testimony. Trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.

Eilenberg, Susan. "Voice and Ventriloquy in 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'." The
Rinze of the Ancient Mariner. Ed. Paul Fry. Boston and New York: Bedford/St.
Marin's, 1999. 282-314.

Felman, Shoshana and Laub M.D., Dori. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature,
Psychology, and History. New York, NY: Routledge, 1992.

Felman, Shoshana. "Chapter Seven: The Return of the Voice: Claude Lanzmann's
Shoa. Felman and Laub, 204-283.

Hartman, Geoffrey. "On Traumatic Knowledge and Literary Studies." New Literary
History. 26.3 (1995): 537-564.

- -. "Romanticism and Anti-Self-Consciousness." Ronzanticisn; and' Consciousness:
Essssssssssssssays in Criticism. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York and London: W.W. Norton,
1970. 46-56.

Jacobus, Mary. Tradition and Experiment in Wolt\; Jo1 rl t's Lyrical Ballads (1798).
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.










Jenson, Deborah. Trauma and its Representations: The Social Life of2~inesis in Post-
Revohitionary France. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University
Press, 2001.

Lackey, Jennifer. "Testimonial Knowledge and Transmission." The Philosophical
Quarterly. 49.197 (1999): 471-490.

Laub M.D., Dori. "Chapter Two: Bearing Witness and Vicissitudes of Listening."
Felman and Laub, 57-74.

McDonald, David. "Too Much Reality: A Discussion of "The Rime of the Ancient
Mariner'." Studies in English Literature 1500-1900. 4.4 (1964): 543 -5 54.

Mial, David S. "Guilt and Death: The Predicament of The Ancient Mariner." Studies in
English Literature, 1500-1900. 24.4. (1984): 633-653.

Mitchell, Juliet. "Trauma, Recognition, and the Place of Language." diacritics. 28.4
(1998): 121-133.

O'Neill, Michael. Ronzanticisn; and the Self-Conscious Poem. Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1997.

Parrish, Stephen Maxfield. The Art of the Lyrical Ballads.l~~~~1111~~~~111 Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1973.

- -. "The Wordsworth-Coleridge Controversy." PM~LA. 73.4 (1958): 367-374.

Thomson, Heidi. "We Are Two: The Address to Dorothy in 'Tintern Abbey'." SiR. 40
(2001): 531-546.

Waldoff, Leon. Wol n Representation. Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 2001.

Wolfreys, Julian. Occasional Deconstructions. Albany, NY: State University of New
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Wordsworth, William. "Note To 'The Ancient Mariner. '" Lyrical Balladsllll~~~~~~111111 and Other
Related Writings. Eds. William Richey and Daniel Robinson. Boston and New
York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 389-390.

- -. "A Note To 'The Thorn.'" Lyrical Balladsllll~~~~~~111111 and Other Related Writings. Eds.
William Richey and Daniel Robinson. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin
Company, 2002. 387-389.

- -. "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman." Lyrical Balladsllll~~~~~~111111 and Other Related
Writings. Eds. William Richey and Daniel Robinson. Boston and New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 106-108.







34


- -. "Tintern Abbey." Lyrical Ballad's and' Other Related' Writings. Eds. William
Richey and Daniel Robinson. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company,
2002. 110-115.

- -. "The Thorn." Lyrical Balladslll~~~~~11111~~~~ and' Other Related' Writings. Eds. William Richey and
Daniel Robinson. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 73-
81.
















BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

James R. Fleming was born in Hyannis, Massachusetts. James received his B.A. in

English from Boston's Suffolk University in 2002 and has studied at the University of

Florida for the past two years. He will be continuing into the Ph.D. program in English at

the University of Florida as a Kirkland Fellow in the summer of 2006. James is

particularly interested in studying Romantic English literature, visual narrative and

critical theory. James currently lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and Gainesville, Florida,

with his wife, Colleen Marie Fleming.