Citation
Wordsworth's challenges to gender-based hierarchies

Material Information

Title:
Wordsworth's challenges to gender-based hierarchies a study of lyrical ballads
Creator:
Colledge, Elizabeth Lovett, 1952-
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
viii, 241 leaves : ; 29 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Ballads ( jstor )
Femininity ( jstor )
Homelessness ( jstor )
Literary criticism ( jstor )
Masculinity ( jstor )
Mothers ( jstor )
Nature ( jstor )
Poetry ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Womens studies ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
English thesis Ph. D
Feminist literary criticism ( lcsh )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1991.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 232-240).
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Elizabeth Lovett Colledge.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
026529297 ( ALEPH )
25248377 ( OCLC )
AJA6891 ( NOTIS )

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WORDSWORTH'S


CHALLENGES
A STUDY OF


TO GENDER-BASED
LYRICAL BALLADS


HIERARCHIES:


ELIZABETH


LOVETT


COLLEGE


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY


UNIVERSITY


OF FLORIDA




































Copyright


1991


Elizabeth


Lovett


College















This


dissertation


dedicated


children,


William


Lovett


Shepherd


College


Edward


Elizabeth


College,


Ross


College,


my mother,


husband,


zabeth


Ross


Lovett.


also


dedicate


memory


grandmother,


Sally


Chandler


Ross,


my father,


William


Dow


Lovett.















ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


First

supervised


and

this


foremost


thank


dissertation,


Richard


Brant ley,


perceptive


criticism


intellectual


moral


support.


Several


years


teaching


inspired


me to write


this


dissertation


Wordsworth.


Since


then


he has


guided


work


with


patience,


humor,


encouragement.


ideal


reader


and


editor.


would


also


like


to thank


several


members


supervisory


interest


committee

feminist


Elizabeth


criticism,


Langland,


serves


fostered


as a splendid


role


model


feminist


scholars


and


teachers


. Her


comments


criticism


have


been


invaluable.


New'


high


intellectual


standards


refusal


to accept


mediocrity


have


enriched


both


my writing


thinking.


always


incisive


remarks


acerbic


continue


to challenge


me.


thank


Beth


Schwartz


thoughtful


reading


work


at several


stages


insightful


remarks.


also


thank


Jame s


Twitchell


participation


Doug


Bonneville


early


stages


careful


this


examination


dissertation


completed


ssertation.


Fi nnllv


arknnwl edaeF


he steadfast


love


sUpport


uir.


.








William


late


Lovett


College


grandmother,


Elizabeth


Sally


Chandler


Ross


Ross,


College.


who


thank


believed


unconditionally,


late


father,


William


Dow


Lovett,


taught


me the


value


know


edge


and


achievement.


And


thank


earliest


most


significant


influence,


my mother,


Elizabeth


Ross


Lovett,


loved


and


read


me Wordsworth


"Daffodils.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS


Eaga


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS............. ........ ................ .


ABSTRACT. . . .

CHAPTERS


THE PREFACE TO LYRICAL BALLADS: WORDSWORTH'S
CHALLENGES TO TRADITIONAL MASCULINIST
IDEOLOGIES AND HIS STRUGGLES FOR POETIC
RECONCILIATION OF GENDER CONFLICTS............


Notes.........................................


THE FEMALE SPEAKER AND THE MASCULINE VOICE....


Notes...... ... ......... .... ................


"TINTERN ABBEY": THE SISTER AS SOURCE AND
SUBJECT..................... .. .. ...


Notes.................... ....................


SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION........................


Notes..................... ...................

APPENDIX FEMINIST CRITICISM...........................

Notes...... ...... .................... .......

WORKS CITED.............................................

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.....................................














Abstract


of Dissertation


Presented


to the


Graduate


School


:he University
Requirements J


WORDSWORTH'


of Florida


Degree


CHALLENGE S


A STUDY


Partial


Doctor


TO GENDER-BASED


LYRICAL


Fulfillment


Philosophy


HIERARCHIES:


BALLADS


Elizabeth


Lovett


College


August,


1991


Chairman:


Major


Richard


Department


Brant ley


: English


In both


Preface


to Lyrical


Ballads


ballads


themselves,


of gender.


power,


William


Despite


Wordsworth


Wordsworth


tendency


envisions


challenges


to favor


a fruitful


traditional


a gendered


tension,


notions


division


even


balance,


between


"masculine"


"feminine"


attributes.


Gender


roles


are


never


quite


merged


into


an androgynous


state


are


dynamic.


modified


result


exchanged


both


a fuller


through


appre


an interactive


ciation


fuller


development


each.


While


Preface


introduces


gender-specific


strategies


of writing,


poems


employ


them,


ballads


into


play


a nonhierarchical


interaction


of the


"masculine"


with








establishes


female


personae,


and


thereby


established


own


sympathy


for,


own


identification


with,


traditionally


"feminine"


attributes.


physical


status


of these


lost


abandoned


women


reflects


social


reality.


Although


Wordsworth


s own


poetic


identity


remains


more


or less


clearly


linked


to "masculine"


metaphors


power,


emotional


states


female


personae


project


sense


what


means


to speak


and


suffer


as a woman.


assuming


patriarchal


a female


structures


voice,


indeed,


endows


he challenges


"feminine"


with


least


a degree


authority.


Constrained


culturally


embedded


divisions


between


"masculine"


reason


and


"feminine"


emotion,


qualities


Wordsworth


such


cannot


as intuition,


overtly


take


empathy,


possession


or maternal


instinct.


does


simply


redefine


them


"masculine.


incorporates


mothers,


sisters,


wives


poetic


fictions


that


enable


him


to share,


or share


these


qualities.


crowning


achievement,


perhaps,


occurs


interaction


between


poet/speaker


a sororal/maternal


figure


"Tintern


Abbey.


Here


Wordsworth


abandons


fantasy


prelapsarian


androgyny


childhood.


rede fines


himself


an exchange


of "masculine"


and


"feminine,


" if


not,


indeed,


their


reconciliation.
















CHAPTER


PREFACE


TO LYRICAL


BALLADS


WORDSWORTH
IDEOLOGIES A


CHALLENGES


STRUGGLES


TO TRADITIONAL


FOR


POETIC


MASCULINIST


RECONCILIATION


OF GENDER


CONFLICTS


In the


Preface


to Lyrical


Ballads,


many


of the


ballads


notions


themselves,


of gender


William


poetic


Wordsworth


strategies.


challenges


Despite


traditional


some


tenden


toward


a gendered


divi


sion


power,


despite


occas


ional


rejection


of the


"feminine,


" Wordsworth


most


often


envisions


a radical


union


of "masculine"


"feminine"


attributes,


a union


which,


rather


than


ordering


reconciling


these


encultured


opposites


holds


them


in tension


balance.


"Masculine"


"feminine"


do not


so much


unite


an androgynous


ideal


as exchange


modify


traditional


gender


roles;


there


no merger


into


a third


state,


rather


a fuller


appreciation


of each


as necessary


richer


development


of the


other.


Preface


introduces


gender-specific


writing


strategies


poems


themselves,


which,


read


them,


reflect


Wordsworth


s attempts


to set


into


play


a nonhierarchical


interaction


of gendered


opposites.


-I-


?, -2--SI


-,. L- .


-, A-


n,,,,L


-------------


*


'I










Preface


certain


ballads.


As Alan


Richardson


explains


"Romanticism


Colonization


Feminine,


perceptions


women


Romantic


poetry


are


based


historically


socially


entrenched


concepts.l


When


including


women,


poetic


tradition


either


relegates


them


position


muse


or appropriates


"feminine"


qualities


extensions


of the


"masculine";


female


"difference"


serves


both


as a source


inspiration


a safe


extension


male


self,


visionary


goals


ideals.


Even


efforts


part


of male


writers


to absorb


more


positive


"feminine"


attributes


expense


of the


primarily


feminine;


enlarge


such


coloniz


masculine


sphere


gestures


reinforce


rather


than


break


down


traditional


gender


hierarchies.


Poetic


tradition


reflects


this


denial


of the


"feminine,


" with


accompanying


degradation,


notably


in the


separation


reason


emotion.


Wordsworth


s challenges


to the


priorities


reason


over


emotion


reveal


awareness


of the


traditional


subject/


object


dichotomies


of Western


culture


: culture/nature,


Logos/Pathos,


form/matter,


ultimately,


masculine/


feminine.


In reference


to these


paradigms,


feminist


critics


Gayle


Greene


Coppelia


Kahn


remark,


evident


that


nature


-culture


opposition


in a matrix


common


to other


value-laden


onnos it ions


(inc ludina


those


of tender










thought


make


sustain


"the


intellectual


framework


male


dominance


Thinking


inferiority


terms


one


binary


term,


opposition


always


subordination


implies


one


element


to the


effect


other.


upon


Reversing


basic


matrix


order


of the


of hierarchical


pairing


opposition,


simply


trapped


reinforces


within


system


a system


oppose


itions;


of philosophical


one


logic


remains


that


bases


truth


upon


difference


Deconstructionist


thought


requires


undermining


of such


opposition


accordingly


system


which


support


s them


only


means


of undoing


hierarchical


oppos


ition


between


men


women.


According


Elizabeth


Meese,


"The


deconst ruct ive


critic


claims


as a


goal


within


undoing


which


binary


the f

oppos


fundamental


itions


hierarchy


structure


of meaning


western


metaphysics


In addition


to questioning


hierarchical


traditions


within


which


Wordsworth


writes,


deconstructive


theory


can


also


used


to break


down


received,


oppressive


epistemologies,


uses


of language.


However,


western


feminist


criticism


frequently


demands


that


both


theory


practice


stand


upon


specific


socio-political


goals;


emphasis


in deconstructive


theory


upon


endless


deferral


of meaning


lessens


significance


of political


or material


I-1- -


nfl I~n i IC ,-an0C 't


Fam:n.4, es4


* C I


F: nr


-i


r


rha nhn


wvn -^ysT


n










specifically


grounded


psychological


socio-historical


theories.


Much


project


feminist


of exposing


criticism


analyzing


involved


patriarchal


ongoing


representations


women,


stereo


otyping


the

and


Preface,

misrepres


course


entation


must


women


take


a certain


as a literary


sociological


given.


In their


recent


study


titled


No Man


Land, S

other t

as T.S.


;andra

things ,

Eliot


Gilbert


that

and


and


men

Ezra


Susan


from

Pound


Gubar


Tennyson

to Ted


have


through


Hughes


demonstrated,


such


had


among


modernists


difficulty


accepting


feminine


: "Once


we reimagine


author


as a


gendered


human


being


whose


text


reflect


cultural


conditions,

narratives,


story


we can

so that


stories


conflate

they co


about


and


collate


institute


gender


one


strife


individual

possible


this


literary


metastory,


period.


they


are


correct,


then


Wordsworth


represents


a different


tradition,


found


a different


difficult,


"metastory.


impossible,


Naturally


Wordsworth


to separate


encultured


difference


from


sexual


difference;


nevertheless,


envisioned


a radical


exchange


and


balance


between


gendered


opposites.


Although


he frequently


conflated


socio-


historical


with


"intrinsic,


" he


continued


to hover


between


reason


emotion,


rather


than


falling


into


prrnr


nf fsn ril' nn"


nfl 0


nu0 r


nt-hr+ r


m~ ~~rll i n ~ ~t r


I










read


Godwin


s Political


Justice


in 1793,


Wordsworth


became


temporarily


emotions


enthusiastic


rational


regarding


control


restriction


intellectual


of the


activity.


Godwin


promoted


social


justice


through


exercise


pure


reason,


without


conventions


and


encumbrance


institutions,


either


whether


emotion


political,


or various


religious,


or social.


first


Wordsworth


fell


under


influence;


had


remained


ideal


stic


despite


shattered


revolutionary


hopes,


po5s


which


ibilities


However,


had


reflected


of the


1798,


worship


perfectibility


Wordsworth


modified


reason


of human


Godwin


nature.


s philosophy


own


rationalism,


he recognized


that


emotions


could


not--and


should


--be


totally


restricted


rational


control


intellectual


activity.


Wordsworthian


effective

rational


character


principles;


of Lyrical


environmentt

the poet


focuses


Ballads


emotions


upon


shaped


as by


Godwin


healing


effects


of nature,


working


conjunction


with


conscious


efforts


will


intellect


certain


reevaluation


poetic


appropriate ion


"feminine"


accompanies


Romantic


Age,


as poets


seek


to bring


traditionally


feminine


virtues


of emotion


sensitivity


into


circle


of masculine


power,


most


often


mn nr rniirranaa


nf nromrr nr


ol f-,-,vnr,-o i n ,


I1


nr an 1 l rrn n+










adult


sexuality,


turns


search


poetic


identity


into


more


than


a simple


quest


maturity:


quest


involves


sexual


identity.


recurring


ambivalence


toward


sympathy


"feminine"


undermine


overt


allegiance


masculine


hierarchy,


as I


shall


illustrate


through


examination


following


ballads


: "The


Female


Vagrant,


"The


Mad


Mother,


" "The


Complaint


of a Forsaken


Indian


Woman,


"Lines


Written


at a Small


Distance


from


House"


("To


Sister"),


"Tintern


Abbey


In "Romantic


Quest


Conquest,


" Marlon


Ross


notes:


possess


"Poetry


ion,


motivated


determined


shaped


poet


desire


s aggressive


self-


relation


fellows


world,


intrinsically


masculine,


socio-historically


masculine.


Quest


conquest,


too,


though


able


to be appropriated


women,


are


historically


means


through


which


men


have


appropriated


power


themselves


over


women


Ross


s distinction


applies


equally


to the


binary


opposition


reason


emotion


and


other


traditional


subject-object


dichotomies,


symptoms


of socialization


rather


than


anatomy.


Much


of the


Preface


uses


traditional


metaphors


conquest


achievement


to present


poet


as manly


or self-


possessed


He must


struggle


against


a multitude


of forces


i-h~l-


"h1 ii n-


I 1 I ,


rl crr'- m nsf- ncr


nnia rr q


nf t-hP


min cE


" unfit-










mind


s "powers,


" the


reduction


of the


mind


to a state


"almost


savage


torpor,


" reflect


linear


images


of battle


circular,


direct


diffused


achievement,


images


as opposed


of "feminine"


more


influence


sensibility.


Ironically,


this


masculine


force


Wordsworth'


acts


nPOIn


him.


continuous


use


metaphors


of control


throughout


Preface


reflects


poet


s need


to struggle


against


masculine


power,


a covert


acknowledgement


of his


recognition


of the


"feminine"


nature.


In his


commitment


"the


real


language


of men"9


in the


initial


paragraph


of the


Preface,


Wordsworth


ostensibly


excludes


female


likewise,


pleasure


which


ensues


from


metrical


arrangement


of this


language,


"that


sort


of pleasure


that


quantity


of pleasure


. which


Poet


may


rationally


endeavour


to impart,


implicitly


subordinates


subordination


understanding


"feminine"


becomes


to the


clearer


of pleasure


"masculine


we examine


relation


to the


This


Wordsworth


poetic


tradition.


Stephen


Parrish


explores


Poet


s concept


: "At


once


a psychological,


esthetic,


almost


an epistemological


term,


measure


was


'grand


elementary


principle


' of


man


4Z nr'Ca4-


Ii r4 e +-1 4i nn4- 4 aar


"masculine"


a nk: ntrnmnnC


n3Crirn


Irr n~


t- nf_


n"










Dictionary


(1971),


range


from


strictly


physical


concept


of sensual


gratification


to "the


condition


consciousness


sens


action


induced


enjoyment


or antic


ipation


of what


felt


or viewed


as good


or desirable;


enjoyment,


delight,


gratification.


In anti


cipating


readers'


reactions,


Wordsworth


hopes


"more


than


common


pleasure,


" which


implies


more


than


ordinary,


that


sensual,


gratification.


quotes


Bishop


Berkeley,


1732


: "you


admit,


therefore,


three


sorts


of pleasure:--pl


measure


reason,


pleasure


imagination,


pleasure


sense,


a definition


which


places


reason,


imagination,


sense,


and,


given


age,


"masculine"


"feminine,


" in


descending


itions


important


Although


Wordsworth


might


well


have


been


familiar


with


Berkeley's


work


on the


subject,


he does


explicitly


expound

creates


upon

his


these


own


specific


unique


varieties


understanding


of pleasure


of the


concept,


instead

arriving


at much


same


hierarchical


conclusion.


sort


quantity


to impart,


read


pleasure


" would


Wordsworth


sympathy


towards


"which


certainly


aright.

the Be


a Poet

extend


Clearly,


!rkeleyan


rationally


beyond


Preface

of the


triad


endeavour


sensual,

reflects

pleasures


reason,


imagination,


and


sense;


elevation


trmc~tinn1 lx,


mncmi1 inn


r'nrn rant


I1I


ra~ Crnn


ntrar man


fnmi ni no










On the


other


hand,


in acknowledging


failure


provide


a systematic


defense


of his


theory,


Wordsworth


questions


efficacy


of "masculine"


reason.


an implicit


reference


to the


gendered


split


between


reason


emotion,


poet


refers


to "the


selfish


foolish


hope


of reasoning


him


[the


reader]


into


an approbation


these


particular


Poems


Insofar


as the


patriarchal


value


system


is based


upon


a system


of binary


opposition,


a hierarchy


with


underlying


masculine/feminine


paradigm


a corresponding


positive/negative


"masculine"


half


implication,


reason


male/female


associated


paradigm,


with


lack


strength


here


unsettles


gendered


ass


umptions


about


power


over


emotion.


Wordsworth


s use


of the


ostensibly


generic


"he"


and


equivalents


once


includes


subordinates


women.


proposes


to create


a new


class


of Poetry


sufficient


interest


mankind


permanently,


" and


significant


"the


quality


moral


relations


association


superior


moral


relations


with


best


interests


of mankind,


continued


emphasis


on "man"


"mankind"


throughout


Preface


, appears


to ignore


half


human


race,


despite


ostensibly


generic


use


of "man"


"mankind


eagerness


to include


lower


classes


speak


*C *


nnln.. fin


nnlnnn


F~n ~C(~ Ylh


nrr Ann nC n rr


an


tr "










Although


Wordsworth


insists


upon


poet


as a


representative


of humanity,


definition


of this


humanity


seems


to break


with


tradition.


Despite


acknowledgement


of societal


influence,


Wordsworth


insists


upon


existence


"natural"


man,


outs


Soc


cultural


constraints,


and,


as well,


on the


existence


a natural


language:


"such


language


sing


of repeated


experience


regular


feelings


a more


permanent


a far


more


philosophical


language


than


that


which


frequently


substituted


Poets


And


obviously,


he considers


himself


qualified


bridge


between


Poet


natural


man.


focusing

social r


upon


upon


natural


restraints


writing.


discourse,


he hopes


influences


Nevertheless,


to avoid


of cultural


concept


artificial


contexts


"natural


man,


" however


much


appears


an embracing


of the


marginalized,


still


exc


ludes


or subordinates


woman


completely


older


concept


of humanity,


that


of the


man


of culture


soc


iety.


Despite


attempts


to create


this


natural


man,


then,


outside


constraints


of culture


Soc


ety,


Wordsworth


cannot


gendered


deny


effect


expectations


Soc


that


io-historical


accompany


them.


factors,


He admits


with


that


complete


defense


of his


theory


would


require


a full


account


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revolutions


of literature


alone


likewise


of society


itself


"15


He thus


openly


acknowledges


weight


tradition,


despite


vision


man


free


from


historical


cultural


influences


Wordsworth


created


well


act


recognizes


of writing


traditional


verse,


expectations


expectations


exclusion


as well


inclusion


. The


Poet


"will


gratify


certain


known


habits


of association";


"not


only


thus


apprizes


Reader


that


certain


classes


ideas


expressions


will


found


book,


that


others


will


be carefully


excluded


Poet


always


considered


male,


this


concept


"voluntarily


contracted"


agreement


between


Poet


reader


suggest s


a long


patriarchal


tradition


between


despite


writers


different


readers,


expectations


extended


through


generated


ages,


different


ages.


equal


emphasis


upon


exclus


well


inclu


sion


refl


ects


which,


hierarchical


turn,


we know


origins


to have


literary


denied


tradition,


significant


literary


powe r


to the


lower


classes


feminine


gender.


Female


writers


readers


have


no place


here.


using


excuse


traditional


developing


brevity


present


of a Preface


import


as his


of writing


verse


(again


made


an Author


"his


" Reader,


whom


poet


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endeavouring


to ascertain


what


is his


duty,


when


duty


ascertained,


prevents


him


from


performing


In thi


one


sentence


he emphasizes


concepts


of honor


duty,


historically


associated


with


masculine,


as opposed


to the


"indolence,


" associated,


default,


with


feminine.


verbs


uses,


endeavouringg,


" "ascertaining,


" and


"performing,


" suggest


ostensibly


masculine


action


as well.


In Women


Writers


Poetic


Identity,


Margaret


Homans


notes


that


although


feminine,


their


nothing


"Static


place


in literature


definitions


culture


simply


symbols


so long


or inherently


of femininity


that


have


sometimes


difficult


to separate


them


from


actual


sexual


difference


The

with


Preface

the "f


reflects


feminine"


these


standard


activity


ass


with


ociations


of passivity


"masculine,


oppressive


confederations


which


Wordsworth


found


difficult,


impossible,


escape.


Modern


gender


theories


enable


feminist


critic


to attempt


to avoid


essentializing


terms


masculine


Wordsworth


states


nature


feminine


s most


intention


respect


radical


to trace


to the


to ground


proposition


primary


association


them


occurs


laws


of ideas


culturally


when


of human


a state


excitement.


juxtaposing


world


of ideas,


with


associations


with


reason,


clarity,


culture,


with


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feminine


attribut


es.


such


a union


cannot


occur


within


confines


traditional


SOC


iety;


must


found


"low


rustic


life"


where


"the


essential


passions


of the


heart


find


a better


soil


which


they


can


attain


their


maturity,


are


less


under


restraint,


speak


a plainer


more


emphatic


language


Here,


traditionally


feminine


metaphors


of natural


growth


fruition


combine


with


masculine


metaphors


of freedom


communication.


passions


feelings


are


"essential"


"elementary";


they


more


"forcibly


communicated"


a state


of simplicity


durability.


Most


signifi


cantly,


"the


passions


men


are


incorporated


with


beautiful


permanent


forms


nature,


" further


suggesting


a merger


of the


masculine


feminine.


particularly


notes


use


"are


incorporated


with"


rather


than


"incorporate,


" suggesting


more


equitable


exchange,


male


gives


active


passive

female,


voice.


Wordsworth


suggesting

strengthens


the

its


permanence

position


of nature/


interchange


with


masculine.


feminine


influence


retains


position


object,


never


subject;


language


remains


masculine,


"men


Nature


hourly


serves


to purify


communicate


this


with


language


best


objects


"because


from


such


which


men


best


!,.. -.


- A .-. ~ 4- t%


1


*I J










their


proportion


as they


separate


themselves


from


sympathies


men,


indulge


arbitrary


capricious


habits


expression


order


to furnish


food


fickle


tastes


disparaging


fickle


those


appetites


align


their


their


own


with


creation.


weakness


frivolity,


traditionally


"feminine"


characteristics,


Wordsworth

feminine,


appears

although


to disparage

he certainly


certain

values


aspects


"the


sympathies


men


Images


of growth


and


nurturing


remain


subservient


images


of masculine


action,


reflecting


poet


s continued


ambivalence


toward


"feminine


see


Wordsworth


as struggling


between


attachment


to and


rejection


"feminine,


" symbolized


in Lvrical


Ballads


a mother/nature


figure


"The


Female


Vagrant,


" "The


Mother,


" and


"The


Complaint


of a Forsaken


Indian


Woman,


" the


self


overcomes


angry,


self-destructive


rejection


mot he r


same


time


acknowledges


wholen


ess,


nobility,


separate


reality;


Preface


reflects


Wordsworth


s initial


conflict


and


partial


resolution


of this


relationship.


We might


view


celebration


of motherhood


an insidious


reinscription


of the


notion


"separate


spheres"


men


women;


however,


hovering


between


acceptance


rejection


maternal


figure,


Wordsworth


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in subsequent


chapters,


result


an androgynous


ideal,


a complicated


interchange.


standards


which


Wordsworth


defines


poetic


personal


entrenched


achievement


ideals;


continue


repeated


to depend


emphasis


upon


culturally


on the


importance


"purose "


aligns


poetry


with


"masculine"


goals.


Every


basic

good


text

poetry


on Romanticism


"the


quotes


spontaneous


Wordswor

overflow


s definition


of powerful


feelings";


elaborate


upon


qualifying


sentence


which


follows


: "Poems


to which


value


can


be attached


were


never


produced


on any


variety


of subjects


a man


being


possessed


more


than


usual


organic


sensibility


also


thought


long


deeply


Value,


a quality


determined


masculinist


critical


hierarchy,


occurs


poems


produced


a man


possesses


critical


skill


long


fost


ered


this


male


hierarchy,


preserve,


analytic


continues


thought.


to dominate


Thought,


feeling,


a traditionally


despite


emphasis


"organic


sensibility,


" although


Wordsworth


goes


on to suggest


that


relationship


again


one


symbiosis


: "For


our


continued


influxes


of feeling


are


modified


directed


our


thoughts,


which


are


indeed


representatives


of all


our


past


feelings;


as by


contemplating


relation


of these


general


representatives


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image.

English


Remarking

Augustan


upon


period,


devaluation


Alan


Richardson


women

notes


(with


considerable


overstatement,


to be


sure)


that


"women,


cons


idered


sensible


reasonable,


were


denied


status


as human,


that


rational


beings


Romantic


Age,


long


after,


retains


this


gendered


divi


sion


reason


emotion,


despite


a reevaluation


feminine


resulting


from


upon


developments


reason,


moral


originating


philosophy


early


and


in the


empirical


eighteenth


attacks


century.


tracing


roots


of this


opposition


from


Freud


through


Hegel


back


to Plato,


critic


Luce


Irigaray


argues


"that


men


s intellectual


systems


are


based


on opposition


which


second


term


understood


as a devalued


opposite


first;


within


such


definitions,


whether


overt


or covert,


woman


gets


assimilated


to the


negative


pole--other,


irrational,


material


: that


to being


thought


as the


matter


whose


masculine


mirroring


Reason


existence


Within


reevaluations


such


feminine <


makes


possible


a deeply

e" are r


embedded


evolut ional


light


system,

:y indeed;


even


Irigaray


must


use


an oppos


itional


vocabulary


that


reinforces


gender


distinctions


she attempts


to transcend.


Wordsworth


s references


to the


blind


and


mechanical


impulses


of the


mind


create


gendered


implications,


,,,~S


- U ____ S


- ~ -- -- a A. -


I .


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11


* _










impulse


extensive


effects


: "the


understanding


being


to whom


we address


ourselves,


he be in


a healthful


state


ass


ociation,


must


necessarily


in some


degree


enlightened,


taste


exalted,


affections


ameliorated"29


Hugh


Sykes


Davies


clarifies


Wordsworth


understanding


of "impulse"


: "For


him,


it meant


inexplicable


eddy


within


human


spirit,


a movement


stirred


from


without,


an influence


upon


individual


some


force


in the


outer


universe


A comprehensive


understanding


"impulse"


suggests


a more


equitable


interchange


between


thought


feeling,


contrast


to the


act s


of masculine


' uit s


" Wordsworth


earlier


proposes.


Wordsworth,


however,


reiterates


significance


purpose,


as a useful


strategy


in balancing


masculine


feminine


attributes.


purpose


of each


poem


generally


illustrate


manner


in which


our


feelings


and


ideas


are


ass


ociated


in a state


of excitement"


and


specifically


follow


fluxes


refluxes


of the


mind


when


agitated


great


simple


affections


our


nature


"A state


excitement"


suggests


a metaphor


aroused


senses,


almost


sexual,


certainly


sensual,


encounter


between


feelings


ideas.


Likewise


mind


"agitated,


" while


"fluxes


refluxes"


suggests


sensual


movement.


Wordsworth


- U ..-. '- ., ~~~ _- -- *-1.- I


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stimulants;


must


have


a very


faint


perception


of its


beauty


and


dignity


does


know


this,


does


further


know


that


one


being


elevated


above


another


proportion


as he


possesses


capability.


A certain


irony


exists


here


: appropriating


culturally


based


traditionally


inferior


"feminine"


attributes


permits


poet


to rise


above


other


members


of the


human


race.


Such


a statement


suggests


Wordsworth


s admiration


envy


of these


socio-


historical


attributes,


wish


incorporate


them


within


work


self.


In enumerating


means


which


he attains


this


object,


Wordsworth


refers


to a number


poems


begins,


significantly,


tracing


maternal


passion


through


many


more


subtle


windings,


in the


poems


of the


'Idiot


Boy'


'Mad


Mother


I II


primary


circumstance


distinguishes


these


poems


from


popular


poetry


of the


day:


"that


feeling


therein


developed


gives


importance


to the


action


and


situation


action


situation


to the


feeling.


Rather


than


develop


this


radical


claim,


Wordsworth


subsequently


refers


readers


discuss


two


to his


poems


poetry,


mentioned


shall


in relation


this


claim.


Nevertheless,


significance


of valorizing


superiority


of feelings


over


action


and


situation


far-


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opposition,


simply


reversing


terms.


However,


affirming


feeling


over


action


situation,


Wordsworth


prepares


reader


subsequent


challenges


patriarchal


authority.


ability


to produce


or enlarge


human


capability


excitement,


through


contribution


of ostensibly


feminine


attributes,


becomes


essential


to Wordsworth


particular


period


of the


1790s,


order


to offset


effect


of socio-political


changes.


Acting


to "blunt


discriminating


powers


of the


mind"


"reduce


to a state


of almost


savage


torpor"


(the


converse


of activity)


are


"the


great


national


events


which


are


daily


taking


place,


increasing

uniformity


extraordinary


intelligence


accumulation

of their occ


incident,


hourly


men


upations


which


gratifies


cities,


produces


rapid


Here,


where


a craving


communication


briefly,


Wordsworth


s most


specific


reference


to the


political


economic


climate


which


was


significantly


altering


agrarian


economy


of rural


England


creating


contingents


of dis


located


rural


poor


served


as subjects


a number


lyrical


ballads.


emphasis


swiftly


turns


to the


effect


"the


degrading


thirst


after


outrageous


stimulation" 35


upon


literature


and


theater


of the


day.


- a a a a j~, aL. .aa-a -, -1 A. .1.


,,,, ?,,


,,,~










into


sharp


contrast


with


more


feminine


"state


exc


itement,


" which


elevates


one


man


over


others;


Wordsworth


implies


an interaction


between


reason


emotion,


a sense


exchange


which


each


tempers


other.


He also


affirms


faith


possibility


SOC


io-historical


change


: "The


time


approaching


when


evil


will


be systematically


opposed


men


of greater


powers


with


more


distinguished


success


Although


power


remains


with


"men,


our


understanding


tempered


poet


s empha


upon


beauty


dignity


of the


human


mind


under


influence


less


violent


stimulants,


an emphasis


which


values


more


"feminine"


virtues.


In his


discussion


style,


Wordsworth


challenges


patriarchal


poetic


tradition.


rejection


"personifications


abstract


ideas"


avoidance


of "what


usually


called


poetic


diction"36


as contrary


to "the


very


language


of men"


suggests


a less


gender-specific


understanding


"men,


one


which


will


keep


Reader


company


of flesh


blood.


Likewise


proposes


look


steadily


my subject"


rather


than


through


filter


of traditional


style


.He


further


distances


himself


from


own


perception


of the


poetic


tradition


with


concentration


upon


one


particular


property


of poetry,


good


sense


: "It


lnaraooa, 1 T.


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,,,c! ,,


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^"n ^ T


e~rr










In rejecting


common


inheritance


between


poetic


fathers


sons,


Wordsworth


deliberately


breaks


chain


influence,


avoiding,


he believes,


"falsehood


description"


determination


posits


patriarchal


to look steadily

tradition as th


at his

enemy


subject.

to good


Thus

sense;


choice


of "the


language


of men"


sets


an opposition


between


these


"men"


"poetic


fathers


and


sons"


that


implies


inclusion


feminine


attributes


and


a more


truly


ungendered


"man.


He also


decries


"numerous


class


critics"


Reader


who


will


"would


conclude


establi


he must


a canon


utterly


criticism


reject


which


if he wishes


be pleased


with


these


volumes


In addition


to challenging


traditional


canon


of lit


erature,


Wordsworth


challenges


canon


of critic


as well;


although


he does


not


specify


his objections


to established


criticism,


implies


rejection


of patriarchal/masculine


critical


modes.


According


to Harold

(although


Bloom,39


this


a strong


denunciation


poet

does


must

not


reject

derive


his

from


father

a feminized


impulse);


Wordsworth


s version


of eighteenth-century


poetry


represents


Bloom'


s "Poetic


Misprision"


as he


"kills"


"father"


he creates.


Although


Bloom


does


here


construe


this


rejection


as a feminized


gesture,


read


Wordsworth


going


beyond


Bloom'


paradigm


see


king


a poetic


rarr hnni I 4t zn ,n


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II F ani n n a 1


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t 113t










As a paradigm


relationship


between


metrical


verse


prose,


Wordsworth


uses


traditional


metaphor


poetry


painting


humanity


of feminine


sisters.


force,


While


this


asserting


culturally


power


bound


comparison


based


upon


a classical


and


hence


patriarchal


reference:


are


fond


of tracing


resemblance


between


Poetry


Painting,


and


accordingly,


we call


them


Sisters


where


shall


we find


bonds


of connection


sufficiently


strict


to typify


affinity


betwixt


metrical


and


prose


composition?"40


Although


concept


of the


arts


as sisters


long


precedes


physical

version.


Preface,41


sensuous


Metrical


and


Wordsworth


"feminine"


prose


images


composition


uses


particularly


to develop


"both


speak


own

and


to the


are


same


clothed


organs,

may be


" while


said


"the


to be of


bodies

the s


in which


ame


both


substance


of them


Prose


metrical


composition


seem


twins


as much


sisters


"their


affections


are


kindred


almost


identical,


necessarily


differing


even


degree;


Poetry


shed


tears


'such


as Angels


weep,


' but


natural


human


tears;


can


boast


no celestial


Ichor


that


distinguishes


vital


juices


from


those


prose;


same


human


blood


circulates


through


veins


them


both


very


physicality


these


lines


is striking:


"Ichor,


" that


blood


of gods


that


one


m










stronger


physical


union.


Indeed


lines


suggest


a sexual


bond


through


comingling


physical,


a bond


that


affirms


feminine


sexuality.


While


he recognizes


threat


to the


existing


socio-


political


order


of the


"outrageous


stimulation"


(masculine)


"degrading


thirst"


female


sexuality,


Wordsworth


poetic


sees


effect.


a poss


ibility


In defense


harnessing


of his


writing


this


verse


threat


, he


acknowledges


"the


most


valuable


object


of all


writing


whether


prose


and


or verse,


reaffirms


great


vision


universal


of opposites


passions


tension


men,


balance


"the


with


of Poetry


an overbalance


to produce


excitement


of pleasure


in coexistence


treating


excitement


unusual


irregular


state


of mind,


" with


ideas


and


feelings


no longer


succeeding


one


another


accustomed


order,


he suggests


ential


danger


or disruption


establi


shed


order.


This


danger


of excitement


carried


of bounds


to be tempered,


"co-presence


something


accustomed


regular,


when


something


an unexcited


to which


or a less


mind


excited


been


state


Here


Wordsworth


suggests


a check


upon


feminine


emotion


masculine


reason,


a sense


of exchange


mutual


control.


further


reference


to "continual


regular


impulses


, a a


"46


I ~__ '1


1 i r


I F


aa


1 ^










insufficient


to create


necessary


excitement,


feelings


of pleasure


Reader


associates


with


meter


create


an almost


patterned,


associational


interaction


response


of "feminine"


to a recognized


excitement


or emotion


stimulus.


with


"masculine"


areas on


control


produces


complex


end


poet


proposes.


In order


to reinforce


connections


between


sexual


creative


tension,


Wordsworth


recalls


a traditional


philosophical


language.


defense


Through


of the


reference


pleasure

to the


received


ancient


from


Roman


metrical


principles


Concordia


scores


cordia


cors,


"the


pleasure


which


mind


derives


from


perception


similitude


dissimilitude,


he affirms


critical


commitment


to the


parallels


between


sexual


union


union


imagination


art.


From


these


principles


only


"the


activity


our


minds"


"the


direction


sexual


appetite,


passions


sexual


connected


opposites


with


with


arise.


life


linking


mind,


union


Wordsworth


validates


provocative


interaction


of opposites


general,


both


physical


mental


A particularly


significant


interaction


occurs


"the


complex


feeling


delight"


tempers


"the


painful


feeling


which


will


always


found


intermingled


with


powerful


descriptions


of the


deeper


. --A- .e a ra-


'a


i I


r I III 1


r 'I










tastes


moral


feelings


similarly


depend


upon


our


accuracy


perceiving


these


paradoxical


unions.


concern


with


conflict


between


reader'


predetermined


ass


ociations


author


intentions


also


reflects


recognition


of the


power


patriarchal


poetic


tradition.


In acknowledging


arbitrary


association


of certain


feelings


ideas


with


particular


words


mind


reader,


he notes


"the


various


stages


meaning


through


which


words


have


passed,


" and


"the


fickleness


or stability


of the


relations


particular


ideas


to each


lead


other.


Such


to exhort


concerns


Reader


with


that


vagaries


judging


these


of meaning


Poems


would


decide


own


feelings


genuinely,


reflection


upon


what


will


probably


judgment


others


challenging


Reader


to "abide


independently


own


regarding


feelings,


literary


" he


defies


value


patriarchal


reaffirms


assumptions


power


of emotions;


moreover,


he explicitly


jettisons


masculinistt"


judgment.


However,


traditional


good


Wordsworth


forms


eighteenth-century


does


not


literature


thinker,


entirely


critical


values.


equivocates,


reiterating


that


an accurate


taste


Poetry


an acquired


talent,


which


can


only


be produced


thought


a long


continued


*1~~~ a- -


Wo rd swo rt h


I


II A


r 1


I 1


I r r










Poetry


a subject


on which


much


time


been


bestowed,


judgment


may


erroneous


He acknowledges


comfortable


lure


easiness


tradition


: "all


men


feel


habitual


gratitude,


and


something


an honorable


bigotry


objects


which


have


long


continued


to please


them:


we not


only


wish


to be pleased,


to be pleased


that


particular


in which


we have


been


accustomed


to be pleased.


want


emotional


satisfaction


of the


familiar


rather


than


uncertainty


of the


unknown;


a patriarchal


society


tends


to identify


that


familiarity


with


itself,


closing


ranks


against


unfamiliar,


which


identified


with


"feminine"


poetry


art.


Wordsworth


s use


of the


word


"bigotry"


an especially


strong


indication


that


concerned,


patriarchy


itself


suspect.


Ultimately


Wordsworth


recognizes


valuable


impact


"feminine,


" the


unfamiliar,


upon


stultifying


tradition.


Refusing


to be


satisfied


with


programmed


responses


literature,

enjoyments,


nature


insists

a purer,


Were


"that

more


objects


poetry


may


lasting,


give


mor


to be attained,


other

e exquisite


a "genuine"


poetry


would


result,


nature


well


adapted


interest


mankind


permanently,


likewise


important


in the


multiplicity


quality


of its


moral


relations


choice


"mankind"


- A- A- -- -


a,


. -


- ..r


r


II










multiplicity


before


quality


reflect s


an openness


to the


other,


including,


presumably,


"feminine.


Numerous


critics,


from


Wordsworth's


contemporaries


Mary


Jacobus,


John


Jordan,


.J.B.


Owen,


have


argued


against


originality


of the


"experiments"


Wordsworth


refers


to in


Prefa


Mary


Jacobus,


analyzing


relationship


between


tradition


experiment,


notes


that


Wordsworth


uses


ideas


poetic


theory


that


had


been


generally


available


forty


years.


In particular,


echoes


theories


of Hugh


Blair,


defined


poetry


"the


language

origins.


of passion,


John


" emphasizing


Jordan,


primitive,


challenging


nonliterary


originality


Wordsworth


choice


of subjects


style,


argues


that


poet


was


attempting


to avert


a potentially


poor


critical


reception


presenting


poems


"experiments


Nevertheless


poems


resemble


periodical


verse


of the


both


contemporary


form


poets


matter;


were


moreover,


frequent


claims


small


of novelty


magazines


journals


of the


period


reveal


a number


of ballad


or ballad-


like


forms


as well


frequent


use


of the


subject


matter


vagrants,


poor,


introduction


1798


abandoned.


edition


.J.B


of Lyrical


Owen


Ballads


in his


mentions


several


examples


from


contemporary


issues


of Gentleman'


1Lt~ ~ -A- -a 1~ -- ~ 1*n- -I _-


- -


-- t


~1


C __I -I


LL


_ I


A


~ LL










understanding


in the


verse


of Wordsworth,


contrast


to the


sentimentality


of magazine


verse.


Owen,


Wordsworth


concerns


wished


normal


are


pity


to affirm,


human


under


or even


spirit


standing,


to celebrate,


circumstances


Wordsworth


dominance


which


of the


breakdown


might


perhaps


be expected.


Nevertheless,


find


that


Wordsworth


s attempts


to trace


grasp


survival


human


spirit


amidst


circumstances


of mental


physical


stress


carry


a number


implications


status


women,


in so doing,


open


way

work


for

was


a major

indeed


revolutionary


new.


impulse;


Of particular


in this


respect


importance


poet


s inclusion


particularly


even


maternal


state


emphasis


of mind,


upon,


that


"feminine"


passion


and


which


prevails


despite


a child


s state


of idiocy


or a mother


state


of madness.


In Wordsworth


s account


of the


workings


human


mind,


he first


proposes


to trace


"the


maternal


passion


through


many


of its


more


subtle


windings,


as in


poems


'The


Idiot


Boy'


and


'The


Mother'"58;


other,


presumably


nonmaternal 1


characters,


"under


influence


less


impa


ssioned


feelings,


" will


subsequently


treated.


suggest


that


elevating


maternal


passion


as one


of the


more


"impassioned"


feelings,


poet
i- -L- -


demonstrates


more


IfC A naI-nA j a- at a .. ?


r.!


LL


11


I










construct


even


theoretically


values


Wordsworth


averts


this


danger


through


ultimate


emphasis


upon


human


spirit


full


complexity.


Advertisement


to Lyrical


Ballads


presents


, in


abbreviated


form,


a number


ndered


conflicts


the


poet


develops


Preface.


initial


sentence


Wordsworth


claims


that


materials


Poetry


exist


every


subject


interesting


to the


human


mind.


While


admitting


that


word


"Poetry"


"a word


very


disputed


meaning,


" he


demands


that


natural


readers


themselves


delineation


of human


whether


passions,


poetry


human


"cont ains


characters,


human


incidents


"59


emphasis


upon


"human"


Advertisement,


contrast


to the


greater


emphasis


"man"


"the


language


men,


" for


example)


Preface,


specifically i

Significantly,


.nclusive


Wordsworth


of both


halves


asks


of the


reader


human


race


to be pleased


spite


of that


most


dreadful


enemy


our


pleasure,


our


own


pre-established


codes


of deci


sion,


" which


can


be extended


pre-established


hierarchies


of gender


as well


literary


codes


of deci


sion.


Gender-based


values


influence


critical


traditions,

of criticism


Wordsworth


among


recognizes


readers.


the

the


ideological

Preface, d


bases


despite


reference


to Poetry


s "natural"


delineation


of the


nR PQ nnq _


Wnrri~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Qnnr- U r~ -, -r nf :ff ran C 4 nn nP Da


.e.


Wn r~ e on rt h


nF DnaC rrt


" rmlap


^^ r~\


a_










To a certain


extent


Preface


reflects


gender-


specific


attitudes


both


of the


society


and


literary


tradition


ground


which


challenges


Wordsworth


to these


wrote;


nevertheless,


attitudes. 60


While


breaks


Preface


reflects


difficulty


of challenging


tradition,


a number


poems


Lyrical


Ballads


have


a greater


success,


reflecting


strong


rebellion


of Wordsworth


s feminized


self.


Despite


ition


as a member


of a masculine


poetic


hierarchy,


values


beyond


Wordsworth


traditionally


Bloom'


anxiety


both qu

feminine


estions


poetic


attributes;


influence.


tradition


struggle


Through


and

goes


attempts


balance


values


reason


emotion,


unsettles


authority


of the


"masculine"


over


"feminine"


affirms


interaction


balance


over


separation.


Notes


Alan


of the
Mellor


Feminine,


(Bloomington


Richardson,


" Romanti


and


"Romanti


cism


cism


Feminism,


Indianapolis:


Colonization


ed. Anne


Indiana


1988)


. Richardson


influence


upon


male


also provides


gendered


Romantic


conventionally


writers


feminine


domain


an exce


ent


opposition


discussion


reason


and


their appropriation
of sensibility.


of the


emotion
of the


Gayle


Difference


Methuen,


Green


: Feminist


1985)


Coppelia


Siter


Kahn,


Criticism


eds.,
(Lond


Making a
on and N'


ew


York


10-11


a concise


binary


theory,


Introduction


see


summary


Terry


Minneapolis


of Derridean


Eagleton,
: U of Mi


Literary
.nnesota P


understanding
Theory: An


, 1983)
#1 oni <


132-134.


r.* I 7h~~hth c a Q artrr.T ttna fy %W nn 3 4


rl;3hPth


Ma a (2 a


crnar: F: h


rOr nn


nC Ckh


Mh rb


u.


r ^E










Practice (London and New
Norris does not develop
feminist criticism.


York: Methuen,
the implications


1982), although
of this theory


. Meese


as t
crit
and
the
itse
self
conc
who
addr
hete
most
inte
coll


he 1
icis
femi
apor
if,
-cen
erns
have
ess
rose
Fre
rest


imit
m: "
nismr
ia.


the
xua
nch
in


eagues


Meese


s of
There
rein
the p
icula
Sadness
not
, on
power
, rac
and A
women


deconst
is ano
force o
oint at
rly the
and it
necessa
the who
relati
ial, an
merican
's text


other


theory
ruction
their se
ne anot
which
ways i
s polit
rily sh
le, pro
onships
d class
male d
s than


critical


zes
ist
nse
her
phal


n wh
ics
ared
duce
exp
opp
econ
thei


persua


upon


ory
which
the
entr
it
excl
dec
.any
sive
sion
ucto
rede
ns "


benefits


for f
h dec
methc
ism i
conce
usion
onstr
readi
of s
s. In
rs ev
cessc
(83).


mi
ns
Io
b
ls
B
ct
gs
xu
th
de
S


as well


nist
tructi
f expo
lind t
its o
ut fern
ive cr
that
al,
is res
nce no
or


n
ing

n
nist
tics


pect
more


Sandra


Place of the
and London:


Woman
Yale UP


Gilbert


Writer
, 1988)


Susan


in the
xiv.


Gubar,


Twentieth


No Man's
Century


Lanch


New


Haven


6. For
philosophy,
Context (New


a concise discussion of Godwin's political
see Marilyn Gaull, English Romanticism: The Human
York and London: Norton, 1988) 131-135.


7. Marlon B. Ross, "Romantic C
Romanticism and Feminism, ed. Anne
Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1988) 49.


st and
Mellor


Conquest,"
(Bloomington


8.
Wordswo
Owen (0
to the
under O


Samuel T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth,
rth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads 1798, ed. W.J.B.
xford: Oxford UP, 1969) 160. All subsequent references
Preface of 1800 will be documented in the endnotes
wen.


. Owen


Owen


153.


153.


11. Stephen Parrish,
(Cambridge, Massachusetts


The Art
: Harvard


of the Lyrical
UP, 1973) 20.


Ballads


Owen

Arw n


154.

1 ciA


.
<


sio










Owen

Owen


155.

155-156.


18. Margaret Homans, Wome
Dorothy Wordsworth. Emily Bron
(Princeton, New Jersey: Prince


n Writers and Poetic Identity:
te. and Emily Dickinson
ton UP, 1980) 3-4.


19. In
of "excitem
titillation
excite (a f
latter defi
De Quincey,
feeling and


The Oxford English
nt" range from the
(of the senses)" t4
eling); a motive o:
ition, supported b]
suggests the inter4
(masculine) action


Dictionary (1971)
purely physical "
"Something that
incentive to act
quotations from
action between (fe
which Wordsworth


definite
imulati
nds to
n." The
leridge
nine)
nursui


ions
on,


and

ng.


Owen

Owen

Owen


156.

156.

157.


23
relatio.
object
particu
an alte


Reproduc
nf Gende


P, 1
prod
and
moth
boys
iden
and
base
Chod
oppo
well


78)
ces
ymp
r;
rej
ifi
onn
on
row
iti
as


Appendi


. An


snip
s the
ar th
native
tion
r (Be
, rev
the
athy.


how
ect
cat
ect
de.
's
on
phy


important


between
influen
e mascul
e to a F
of Mothe
rkeley,
eals how
convent
All pre
er, in t
heir mot
n, thus
n. In tu


r
r

1
r


Feminist


factor


the
ce
ine
reu
rin
Los
th
ona
-Oe
he ]
her
def
rn,
eje
adi
and
emn
iti'


ining
boys
action
cal i
emot
bedme
cism.


in understanding


:uline
6e moth
tifica
approa
vchoan
sles, a
edition
ociati
exper
d of 0O
rls re
thems
devel
of wo
mplica
ion, s


nt


subje


er-s
tion
ch,
alys
nd L
al f
ons
ienc
edip
tain
elve
op r
men
tion
ugge


O


t an
rel
ith
ncy
and
don:
ily
wom
foc
tra
his
in t
atio


western


complex


d the feminine
ationship, in
the mother. A
Chodorow, The


the
U of
truce
n wi
s up
siti'
rima
rms


a


iologav
lifornia
e
emotion
the
while


relation


1 capacities
"feminine."
e gendered
s cultured a


society.


. Although


H.
and
and
nr


Hagstr
relat
rogyny
r'rl n fl,


umr
iv
O
"0 d


press
ely u
often
"*FainT


criti


ent t
ncomp
occlu


such
ncept


*r2 r r. r


as Carolyn


Heilbrun


rogyny a
e Utopia
of male
rnrrr r q^ -


n-' it-- *i nn


a
vi
'oet


and
ala
ion
to
n^ 4-


Jean
nced
of
absorb
T.%-%


e
1
I

I


r


1










Jehlen
enabli,
female
Critic
ed. El
of Chi
metanhl


defines


men to
ide." "A
m," The
abeth Ab
go P, 19
ically f


the conventional
retained.


androgyny


act from
rchimede
Signs Re
el and E
83) 90.
emale, w
notions


in
the
an
Older
,ily
f t
ile


novel


ir male
d the Pa
: Women.
K. Abel
he inter
the ext


of feminine


"a male


feel
Femi
nd S
and
is


trait


from their
nist
scholarship,
London: U


remains


mas


culine


S


male,


are


Owen

Owen


157.

157-158


. Richardson


Locke.
inesvi
sentat
cedure
darves


taki
his
chal
read
the
Mary
rega
Chri
equa


pr
le
y
ph
G
rd
st
Is


future
taken


ogra
ngin
to e
ilos
ranv
for
and
," a
int


on or
Exte:
signi
inte
m to
g sub
stable
ophic
ille
women
henc
nd hi
ellec


together


n re
e as
s re
tual
"are


. On


t or
ease
of
with
the
.arve
press
fel
lati
rel


other


he Method
ida P, 19
idgement
Limits of
n "the ev
a woman
women's
philosophy
all wome
logical
s and his
ents "the
low human
onship wi
ationship


nothing


short


hand,


f Ena
) fin
Pete
humann
lence
rious
arnin
al th
the i
latio
other
ove o
>eings
* Mary
with


Richard


Brantley


sh Romanticism


Wes
Brow

giv
ind
Wes
logy
elle
hips
(116
women
nd i
et a
thod


's The
ndina to Mary
of one man's
d" (105). In
y chose the
"Wesley was
ual and indeed
e enioved with


). H
n as
ntell
patt


women


or
that


historic.


28.
Experien
Pandora,


Jan Montefiore,
ce. Identity in
1987) 140.


Feminism and Poetry: Language.
Women's Writina (London and New


York:


Owen


158.


30. Hugh Sykes
Philosophers," The
Moralists Presented
George Watson (Camb
Clarke further exam
Wordsworth's poetry
Poetry of Wordswort


SDavies,
English
to Basi
ridge: C
ines the
in Roma
h (New Y


"Wordsworth


Mind
1 Wi
:ambr
par
ntic
ork:


Studies
ey, ed.
dge UP,
doxes of
Paradox:
Barnes.


and
in-
Hugh
1964
sen
An
1962


the Empirical
the English
Sykes Davies
) 155. Colin
se perception
Essay on the
).


fh. .n n


'Co










Owen

Owen

Owen

Owen

Owen


160.

160.

161.

161-162.

162.


39
Oxford,


. Harold
and New


Bloom,
York:


The Anxiety of
Oxford UP, 1973)


Influence


(London,


Owen


163.


Art s


Tradition


of Literary


Pictorial
U of Chic
deve 1 opme
the two a
"In Plato
feminine
indeed, a


ago P,
nt of
rts th
's Gar
forms
ready


195
the
at h
den
that
est


Essen'
would e
lished


t


ry from
. Hagst
ip betw
commonly
s abstr
ily est
hemselv


Drvden


rum
een
be
act
abl
es


- as


to Gr
ces th
noting
called
appea
these


(Chicago:
historical
poetry,
sters":


- had,


visual


personifications


of art


literature"(5).


Owen

Owen

Owen

Owen


163.

164.

170.

171.


Owen


47.
concepts
Discors o
ed. John
Wisconsin


Owen 173
see Jean
f Human
J. Burke
P, 1983


. Fo
Hag
Rela
, Jr
). 3


r a more developed discussion of these
strum, "Johnson and the Concordia
tionships," The Unknown Samuel Johnson,
., and Donald Kay (Madison: U of
9-53


48.
viewpoint
noting th
sexually
merely po
th-t Cnle


Jean


I I I JLJ *-


Hagst
rding
a li
renti
but
renn


rum


Wo
ter
ate
men
rcie


present
dsworth


L JI


rnaJnI I


a strongly


comfo
he p
the
y. H
nrr rpc


rt
rai
gre
ags
S ;1


affirmative


with
sed
at s
trum
Sth


sexuality,


the
ourc
als
P un


nion of
of not
reminds u
nn nf


eSister


r The


r










Coleri
to den
metaph
Sexual
Tennes


also
the
cal.
in K1
P, 1


coined
fusion
Jean Ha
eats. W
985) 54


a specific
of opposite
gstrum, The
ordsworth,


expression, "coadunation,
s, both sexual and
Romantic Body: Love and
and Blake (Knoxville: U of


Owen

Owen

Owen

Owen

Owen

Owen


174.

176.

177.

177-178.

178.

179.


55. Mary Jacobus, Tradition and
Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads (1798)
188.


56.
Ballads,wort
Wordswort


Experiment in
(Oxford: Clarendon,


John E. Jordan, "The Novelty of t
Bicentenary Wordsworth Studies,
h (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP,


57. W.J.B. Owen,
Lyrical Ballads 1798,
1969) xxxi.


1976)


:he Lyrical
ed. Jonathan
1970) 340-358.


introduction, Wordsworth
ed. W.J.B. Owen (Oxford:


and Coleridge:
Oxford UP,


Owen


158.


Owen


6
to dea


that
crit
hist
Inve
McGa
poet
univ
cult
expr
hist
ZTf Tr


Jerome


wit
are
tudy
ana

o ex
tran
and


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CHAPTER


FEMALE


SPEAKER


AND


THE


MASCULINE


VOICE


In three


of the


Lyrical


Ballads,


"The


Female


Vagrant,


"The


Mad


Mother,


" and


"The


Complaint


of a Forsaken


Indian


Woman,


" Wordsworth


expresses


sympathy


identification


with


traditionally


"feminine"


attributes


through


use


of a female


speaker.


physical


status


these


lost


or abandoned


women


refl


ects


social


reality;


their


emotional


means


identity


state


to speak


remains


reflects


suffer


linked


Wordsworth


as a woman,


"masculine"


s projection


although


metaphors


of what


poetic


power.


In his


attempts


to enter


mind


woman


through


assuming


female


voice,


he reveals


latent


awareness


"feminine"


aspects


of his


own


character--both


his desire


fear


of such


characteristics.


of assuming


a female


voice


represents


challenge


to patriarchal


strictures


endows


"feminine"


with


a certain


authority


despite


oste


nsible


presence


masculine


narrator;


this


a coloni


zing


gesture


Wordsworth


s part.


Both


"The


Female


Vagrant"


"The


Mad


h1Ad n fl (


A 0 n1a


S nan


S
-J --- ---


,.L.1..


- -- A -. 1 --- -- -A- -


1


-L










Wordsworth


ambivalence


towards


"feminine"


aspects


personality


fears


conflicts


about


own


masculinity


as well


utter


as his


isolation


need


to reemphasize


of the


narrator


patriarchal


of "The


values.


Complaint


Forsaken


female


Indian


voice


Woman"


a world


reflects


which


hopelessness


power


of the


defined


culturally


entrenched


gender


distinctions.


"The


Female


Vagrant"


begins


with


Wordsworth


s attempt


distinguish


authorial


voice


from


female


voice.


second


artless


contrast


line


story


he parenthetically


told)


to written,


injects,


Defining


gives


a more


"(The


story


living,


Woman


"told,


physical


thus


" in


quality


that


recalls


women


s connections


with


oral


tradition


implies


an interaction


between


speaker


poet.


"Artless"


impli


city


refers


to the


culturally


inscribed


"feminine"


attributes


emotion


feeling


as opposed


"masculine"


reason


art.


concluding


four


lines


also


change


from


female


speaking


voice


omniscient


hence

turned


clearly


away.


masculine


This


narrator:


provides


"She


a safe


eased,


framework


and


weeping


within


which


poet


can


freely


express


concerns


while


ostensibly


separating


In its


voice


initial


from


lines,


that


"The


of the


Female


Female


Vagrant"


Vagrant.


acknowledges


1~ n a nt'vr~ra r 'jr m~nenii1 4 no ,thar4 I- o4hoealar2rhr


~I
m 3 a flr r I r n n


~a thn


ann3lnr


;r nlrhnra


t-hn r\nwn


h


r~r n r


r









neighboring


flood


to him,


thus


early


on enforcing


dependence


upon


masculine


protection


support.


This


acknowledgment


further


reinforced


capitalization


"Father"


Female


Vagrant


"Woman"


masculine


narrator;


thus


Wordsworth


depersonalizes


Female


Vagrant


reinforces


her


father


s spiritual


authority.


In contrast


to masculine


an image


responsibility,


care free


freedom


"days


transport


undifferentiated


roll'd,


flow


experience.


Even


laboring


works


"with


thoughtless


Joy,


another


reminder


paradigm


of "masculine"


reason


and


thought


as opposed


to "feminine"


emotion


and


feeling.


Wordsworth


uses


natural


elements


to heighten


contrast


leads


flocks


"high


o'er the


cliffs"


while


father


works


boat


"a diz


zy depth


below.


placing


upon


cliffs,


Wordsworth


suggests


closeness


to the


open


heavens,


more


ethereal


aspects


of nature.


father


s earthbound


connections


to nature


are


devalued;


poet


swerves


from


traditional


association


a natural


female


relationship


with


which


nature


heightens


permits


Edenic


father


atmosphere


Vagrant


towards


s youth.


reconciliation


It also


of the


represents


"masculine"


a yearning


and


"feminine.


" Western


culture


traditionally


ces


women


nr1 orsr


rPl ati nnsh in


tn natiirs


than


man:


a s Marl on


Rnoss


notes










social


role


asserting


intimacy


between


femininity


nature


Ross


also


suggests


that


although


superficially


Wordsworth


appears


to promote


a natural


upbringing,


actually


reinfor


ces


Soc


ietal


emphasis


upon


a proper


"feminine"


education,


nature


invested


with


traditional


male


values.


feel


that


Wordsworth


s interest


in the


relationship


between


men


and


nature


adds


significance


rather


than


devalues


"feminine


an extent,


father


represents


a species


"natural


man"


of the


Preface,


outside


constraints


of culture


society;


patriarchy


that


excludes


and


subordinates


daughter


marginalizes


him


as well.


Wordsworth


s exploration


of the


continuity


between


nature


"feminine"


permeated


influence


empirical


philosophy.


emphasis


upon


Qna~


field,


a flock,


neighboring


field


supplied


reflects


interest


significance


of singular


moments,


objects,


experiences;


throughout


poem


we recognize


their


impact


upon


female


experience,


contrast


continuous


flow


sensation


that


comprises


prelapsarian


existence


of the


Female


Vagrant.


Hugh


Sykes


Davies


remarks


English


NinA:


discovery


that


human


experience


was


evenly


continuous


homogeneous,


that


amidst


normal


flow


* horn T~TO r 0 I n4 Aanl- -' a.. 4- a A Cnrn wn- fl%144.


what


t ha ra


~ant a


nC rrt r: Cn


IY.. ~1!C


Irta Pd


rA










specially


sensitive


to the


isolated,


time


or in


space.


Much


of "The


Female


Vagrant"


reflects


this


sensitivity


isolated


sights


or sensations--from


"miserable


hour"


when


father


ocean


gives


that


hope


separates


to the


from


"heavenly


horrors


silence"


war


upon


and


death--which


contrast


with


normal


experience


or the


normal


flow


of events.


isolated


sights


emphasize


only


radical


disjointure


of events


economic


depression


wartime


also


isolation


of the


female


a masculine


world,


feelings


of aloneness


uniqueness


as the


"other"


in a hostile


world.


Female


Vagrant


continually


defers


to her


father,


and


respect


admiration


reinforce


value


of his


paternal


authority,


despite


economic


failure;


feminine


solace


assuages


masculine


guilt.


Throughout


poem,


channels


concerns


feelings


through


masculine


with


other,


which


whether


repeatedly


father


or husband.


describes


father,


adjectives


"good,


"pious,


" "honest,


" emphasize


unimpeachable


character


also create


world


a strong


must


contrast


encounter.


with


As Laura


sinister


Claridge


masculine


Elizabeth


Langland


note


Out


of Bounds


: Male


Writ


ers


Gender (ed)


Criticism,


"there


least


possibility


that


maleness


a trt~ 4 i, n -A 1a1'-..I4. -. --.. ~ L4... .C


nC A


CA h~C~: CIH A ~


c '1,?


AE I*ACLElhV


C A YM










specific


individuals,


Female


Vagrant


father


does


keep


"natural"


place


includes


her


world


of books.


From


learns


both


prayer


and


reading,


every


latter


neighboring


creates


house


a sense


sought


community:


Moreover,


"books


books


actively


bring


pleasure


to her:


"nothing


mind


a greater


pleasure


early


brought


This


interaction


with


significant


nature,


interaction


while


parallels


unsettling


association


opposed


of the


to culture.


"feminine"


this


primarily


point


with


we begin


nature


to recognize


presence


of the


poet


within


speaker,


as Wordsworth


projects


Vagrant,


himself


while


values


simultaneously


into


attempting


mind


Female


to understand


hers.


In changing


Eden-like


Vagrant,


emphasis


garden


Wordsworth


from


idyllic


conveys


"masculine"


childhood


understanding


learning


Female


of "feminine"


nature.


In this


small


paradise


there


little


specific


mention


of humankind,


save


"the


gambols


wild


freaks


shearing


time.


injection


"sabbath


morn"


"sabbath


bells"


casts


a Christian


(and


hence


patriarchal)


light


upon


sensuous


imagery,


"hen


rich


nest,


s dewy


prime,


" the


swans


"spreading


their


snowy


pride";


as Jean


Hagstrum


argues


Romantic


Body:


Love


and


Sexuality


Keats.


Wordsworth.


R1 ki


n rn ni i r


ISi iii i ir


t 1-r 1


INay


n .i .


S I E


(I i 1


I


-










Christian/sexual


metaphor


ravishment


followed


wholeness,


that


greatness


rather


mythologize


fructifying


As noted


energies


Chapter


of nature,


Preface


including

to Lyrical


sexual.


Ballads


uses


numerous


metaphors


aroused


senses


: the


principal


purpose


of poetry


illustrate


manner


in which


our


feelings


ideas


are


associated


a state


of excitement,


while


poet


himself


a man


more


than


usual


organic


sensibility.


Hagstrum


suggests


that


Preface,


Wordsworth


actual


human


sexuality


as well


as empirical


sense-data


mind.


find


nature


imagery


"The


Female


Vagrant"


primarily


sensuous


as opposed


to sexual,


containing


a definite


sexual


undercurrent.


Wordsworth


suggests


that


speaker


both


identifies


interacts


with


nature;


only


does


Female


Vagrant


seek


swans,


they


come


forth


to greet


as well,


almost


books


sought


brought


pleasure


This


interaction


recalls


Colin


Clarke's


discussion


paradoxes


moments


sense


sensory


perception


experience


Wordsworth


which


s poetry,


visible


those


scene


observer


s mind


meet


interpenetrate,


Wordsworth


"resolves


apparent


contradiction


that


natural


world


extrinsic


to the


self and


a modification


of it


C. 1 a 1. a


----~~~~~~~~~~, --t -


r! ,, L?


,,,I


*


-^. -J










interpenetration


of the


visible


scene


and


mind


Female


the s

swans


Vagrant,


cents

that


Wordsworth


herbs


glide


to greet


uses


flowers,


her,


imagery


sight


physical


senses;


nests


activity


of work


play,


whether r


shearing


sheep


or gathering


cowslips--all


glorify


feminine


interaction


with


nature.


contrast,


father


presents


a more


passive,


even


though


active


masculine,


sire"


figure.


Despite


authority


of his


reference


staff,


to "my


"bending


body "


seat


chair


suggest


a sedentary,


fixed


figure;


reality


contrast s


with


symbol.


seat


"beneath


honeyed


sycamore/


When


bees


hummed"


suggests


comfortable


place


nature;


Wordsworth


wishes


to bring


both


woman


man


into


natural


world.


As Kate


Millett


argues


Sexual


Politics,


one


most


effective


ways


subverting


women


s demands


equality


during


nineteenth


century


each


was


other


men


then


to point


grant


to the


distinct


sexes


value


complement


of each.


Nevertheless


western


Wordsworth,


culture


rather


ideological


than


placing


strictly


conforming


women


natural


world,


places


man


within


this


world


as well.


Female


Vagrant


s frame


of reference


changes


from


nature


to home


hearth;


homely


comforts


"market


S


II ha.-


*ttna4 r.1,F,, 1


,lnn


nn


II~ ra il


h arrn o


lr n -wn t


I I r










dresses


herself


neat


attire


"though


bent


on haste";


often


checks


breast


watch


does


dog


sing


"starts


"pecks,


furious


" perhaps


ire.


reflecting


discontent


underlying


Female


Vagrant


s culturally


stereotyped


role.


Female


Vagrant,


youth


a perpetual


summer


whose


suns


"danced


along,


" "rolled


away";


flow


of time


parallels


what


certain


feminist


critics


define


as the


undifferentiated


flow


of feminine


experience.


Breaking


into


this


moving


scene,


like


a malevolent,


encroaching


plant


amidst


an Edenic


garden


"Then


rose


a mansion


proud


our


woods


along


In parasitic


fashion


master


s "greedy


wish"


absorbs


neighboring


cottages


land,


a metaphorical


rape


of the


woods


which


one


finds


echoed


later


actual


rape


Female


Vagrant.


we read


poem


politically,


we find

that su


poet


offered


protesting


eviction


the pi

poverty


ight


of the


despite


working


war


classes


profits


from


arms


manufacturing


landed


classes.


Female


Vagrant


becomes


a victim


of both


class


sex.


punishment


father


receives


challenging


master


s authority


Female


Vagrant,


slow


totally


starvation


dependent


of all


upon


resources;


father


authority


benevolence


own


economic


survival,


aiif forQ


I~~r~lr I t1r O % 4 h l


4-rht


t n hk C:


1 .a


Cka: r


rinTnnr


r i i**









with


father


s suffering


and


feelings


than


with


own,


reflects


grief


description


"that


through


miserable


prism


hour"


of his


focuses


experiences.


upon


loss


her


father


connection


made


upon


marriage


broken--he


will


beside


buried


wife.


although


he retains


spiritual


connection,


the


Female


Vagrant


loses


hers


: "Bidding


me trust


God,


he stood


prayed,


comprise

showers,/


could


a unit


pray,


as before:


Glimmer'd


our


" Nor


will


"through


dear-loved


her


tears

home,


that


alas


father


fell


no longer


ours!"


Home


no longer


"ours"


Female


Vagrant


father


cease


to be


a significant


pair


as she


transfers


need


toward


another


patriarchal


figure.


only


outside


another


feasible


patriarchal


masculine


alternative


home


subject,


feminine


marriage,


survival


transference


alternatives


within


economic


cultural


system


come


through


men.


Love


does


precede


union


female


vagrant


and


"youth,


" who


remains


nameless


relatively


abstract.


Initially


they


shared


a child


-like


nature:


had


sung,


like


little


birds


May.


This


reflects


Wordsworth'


yearning


that


semi androgynous,


prelapsarian


world


vagrant


s childhood,


or what


USC.


Knoepflmacher


terms


"the


Wordsworthian


myth


of a childhood


naradi~n


I I










"And


truth


did


love


him


like


a brother.


Here


Wordsworth


seems


to prefer


fraternal,


or even


fraternal/


sororal,


to conjugal


love.


Those


interested


psychobiography


Wordsworth

of critics


Vagrant


might


s dependence


have


variously


s affirmation,


examine


these


upon


explore

r never


lines


sister

'd this

could


relation


Dorothy,

subject


hope


to meet


a number


Female

with


such


another,


suggests


that


genetic


similarity


brother


gives


value


and


signifi


cancer


to her


femaleness,


that


brother,

provide


than


century


beloved


sharing

a more


a husband.


England


g


utterly


similar


literal

On the

(not to


unlike


qualities


mirror

other


mention


conventional


men.


characteristics,


justify


hand,

n the


a female


brothers

twentieth


might


s existence


in nineteenth-

century)


certainly


received


economic


preference


a higher


position


family


hierarchy;


at most


a sister


might


find


vicarious


satisfaction


through


significance.


Wordsworth


recognizes


bondage


patriarchy


places


upon


own


members.


Like


Father,


Female


Vagrant


s loved


one


constricted


patriarchal


authority,


both


paternal


societal


: "His


father


said,


that


to a di


stant


town,/


must


repair,


to ply


artist


s trade


In contrast


their


earlier


unity,


their


marriage


contracted


from


economic c


neEs!S t1-v


r7at hsr


-han


fl70 n rvr ml


Wams 1 a


"FO:


1 n~rp


~I~ rr r~ n t









duty


obligation


loved


joy,/


as well


said


as free


He well


will


could


: "And


her


love


whom


grief


: his


faith


kept


Thus


through


figures


both


father


husband,


Wordsworth


quietly


unsettles


gendered


binary


opposition


underlying


patriarchy,


suggesting


that


both


men


women


are


constrained


strictures


of patriarchy.


Nevertheless,


reactions


of the


Female


Vagrant


continue


to be


reflected


through


a masculine


other


rather


than


relief,


directly.


through


expresses


a patriarchal


own


figure


feelings,


: "And


this


a quiet


time


home


once


more


father


slept


Just


as in


Preface


Wordsworth


masculinist


could


separate


metaphors


power


poetic


control,


identity


so he


from


continues


Lyrical


Ballads


to define


identity


through


distinctions


gender.


Even


as he


attempts


to inhabit


Female


Vagrant


voice,


he maintains


authority


of "masculine"


subjectivity.


continuous


downward


spiral


Female


Vagrant


fortunes


patriarchal


suggest


inefficacy


Christian


values


of her


adherence


a culturally


entrenched


"feminine"


role.


Although


"each


with


daily


bread


was


blest,


" this


"con stant


blessing


prayer"


of the


offset


following


"constant


years.


Tears


toil"

flow,


and

"for


ills


which


Patience


could


heal.


LI.-- tl .-" II I.


Prt rnf


SI L -


. .


I I










number


three


which


usurps


Trinitarian


metonymies.


births


three


children


presage


new


difficulties.,


Death


makes


Father


"thrice


happy,


as his


grave


hides


him


from


three


symbols


a shattered


home


: "The


empty


loom,


cold


hearth


silent


wheel.


Their


means


employment


fail


and


hearth,


Wordsworth


center


s choice


symbol


of home,


of a specific


number


cold.


reflects


Again,


impact


of singular


moments


and


objects


upon


more


flowing


diffused


nature


"feminine"


experience


influence


empirical


philosophy.


using


symbols


description


of "masculine"


conditions


conquest


war


ravages,


particularly


upon


dispossessed,


Wordsworth


implies


antipatriarchal


political


agenda


that


encompasses


both


sexes.


"proud


parade


noisy


drum"


ironically


"sweep


streets


of want


pain"


gathering


country


men


social


Wordsworth


individual


expresses


suffering.


concern


realism


both


strong;


does


romanticize


either


war


or the


plight


of its


victims.


Female


Vagrant


becomes


one


a great


crowd


sufferers


"There


foul


neglect


months


months


we bore.


Claridge


and


Langland


note,


"patriarchy,


as a term


power,


encompasses


issues


of class


race


as well


as gender.


senarat' inn


wnfml


I f~lmtiira


Srnr~l t -Ana in


" seal


I lie


I ll


A










exclusively


"feminine


Departure


from


her


homeland


accompanies


Female


Vagrant


separation


from


nature,


Wordsworth


effectively


portrays


a nature


gone


wild


that


parallels


an unnatural


general


harvest,


human


turmoil.


Wordsworth


expre


Through


sses


metaphor


futility


hope


irony


of nature


s mercy:


"Our


hopes


such


harvest


of affliction


reap, /


That


we the


mercy


of the


waves


should


rue.


According


to Margaret


Homans,


"masculine"


separation


from


nature


corresponds


with


Freudian


rejection


of the


maternal


figure,


necessary


growth


encouraged


nature


itself;


contrast


"feminine"


separation


represents


loss


of origins


Such


liberation


anguish


Female


Vagrant,


through


bitter


voice,

irony c


Wordsworth


)f existence


expresses


: "Oh


own


dreadful


perception


price


of being


to resign/


that


dear


being!"


Survival


within


patriarchal


qualities


other


culture


demands


silencing


stence


abjuration


female


impossible.


"feminine"


voice;


In contrast


nevertheless,


to the


Vagrant


s earlier


celebration


of the


senses


within


nature,


which


suffers

connect


reflected


a separation

on. Even is


union


from


olatio


of nature


nature

n with


female,


bereft


nature


now


sensory


would


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experience;


of loss,


however,


as the


this


Vagrant


instance,


unwatched


experience


star.


one


In either


case,


interaction


with


nature


ceased.


fact


that


woman


nature


are


disjointed


represents


sjointed


state


of generic


man


world.


Wordsworth


creates


increasingly


hopelessness


war,


severe


images


reminding


of the


us that


"Th


horrors

e Female


and

Vagrant"


more


than


a tale


of individual


suffering.


hallucinatory


images


personifications


of Fire,


Hell,


Murder,


Rape


reach


their


height


with


sexual


violation:


"And


joint


Murder,


prey,


ghastly


mother


gleam,


child!"


Rape/


"Mother


Seized


and


their


child"


both


symbolize


society


s helpless


victims


and


represent


specific


individuals,


Female


Vagrant


her


infant.


Escape


from


madness


"these


crazing


thoughts"


lies


upon


ocean,


"balmy


air";


only


reuniting


with


nature


can


Female


Vagrant


return


to sanity.


Similarly,


determines


shun


spot


where


man


might


come


read


an ungendered


sense,


line


suggests


a total


withdrawal


from


society,


a retreat


into


nature.


On the


other


hand,


Vagrant


seek


to avoid


actual


meLn,


reaction


to her


rape


violation.


Only


through


death


can


Vagrant


protest,


however


S nn*r S r nn-c


nf her


cvi ci-cnt a -


1 nnhi 4 t-tv


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"man"


fll+ i 1 Fs~ V ~


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streets


walks


where


proud


men


are,


" to a servile,


-like


existence


heel


war


ironi


references


"proud


men"


brood


"that


their


brothers


' blood"


condemn


both


leaders


war


and


parasitic


stragglers


that


survive


on its


refuse.


Wordsworth


awareness


of the


devastating


political


economic


climate


affecting


lives


of the


common


people


gives


weight


significance


to events


as well


as character,


as all


height


perished,


of natural


"all,


deva


one


station,


remorseless


Female


year


Vagrant


At the


wakes


from


a trance


unnatural,


restored";


forced


state


use


of "trance"


experience,


one


suggests


imposed


Female


despair,


Vagrant


"every


Ironi


tear


cally,


dried


as s


experiences


despairing,


utmost


desolate,


" nature


returns


peace


calm;


"Peaceful 1


as some


immeasurable


plain/


. the


envi


glittering


ocean


main"


s "hour


recall


rest,/


fields


That


comes


home.


to the


human


mourner


s breast


ocean


maintains


interconnectedness


with


God


that


lost


: "Remote


from


man,


waves


storms


invest.


of mortal


Here


care, /


Wordsworth


A heavenly


s use


'Ian


silence


again


did


reflects


masculine


narrator


behind


feminine


speaker.


Only


once


within


poem


does Wordsworth


directly


imply


n3re csn s


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of dramatic


form


both


grounds


poem


reality


and


reinforces


patriarchal


framework.


In The


of the


Lyrical


Ballads,


Stephen


Parrish,


finds


poetic


novelty


Wordsworth


s experiments


dramatic


form


and


characterization


within


format


of the


ballad,


defines


dramatic


related


monologue


are


"loosely,


meaningful


a poem


which


themselves


they


events


reveal


character


person


relates


them.


sixteen


poems


in Lyrical


Ballads


(excluding


three


works


blank


verse)


defines


twelve


as dramatic


or semidramatic


form.


According


to Parrish,


Wordsworth


s original


use


dramatic


form


best


expressed


poems


which


use


real


language


men


to reflect


language


mind.


Unlike


narrator


"The


Thorn,


a central


figure


unconsciously


reveals


much


of his


own


character,


shadowy


narrator


"The


Female


Vagrant"


merely


serves


as a foil


Vagrant


Vagrant


s ow


s story;

n voice.


Wordsworth


Nevertheless


s focus


remains


we often


hear


upon

his


the

voice


through


figure.


hers,


as he attempts


As Robert


Langbaum


to sound


remarks


marginalized


of the


female


dramatic


monologue,


"there


at work


it a consciousness,


whether


intellectual


claim


or historical,


This


beyond


consciousness


what


mark


speaker


of the


can


poet


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Vagrant


consciousness


dependent


into


upon


poem


Wordsworth'


as much


projection


as his


own


dramatization


"feminine"


In his


consciousness


attempts


of the


to voice


Vagrant


"feminine,


herself.


" Wordsworth


emphasizes


mental


as much


as the


physical


violation


rape,


Rather


forcing


than


our


present


involvement


a stereotyped


Vagrant


situation


s predicament.


of female


violation,


perfect


Wordsworth


mind,


emphasizes


an intensely


Vagrant


personal,


"robbed


particularly


Wordsworthian


conception.


Her


alienation


from


humanity


appears


total,


every


human


friend


disowned.


Like


Ancient


Mariner,


surrounded


water


he cannot


drink,


stands

thousand


bereft

d homes


midst


stood,/


of plenty:


And


near


"And


a thousand


homeless

d tables


near a

pined,


wanted


food.


These


lines


reinforce


lack


connectedness


with


humanity,


such


a state


of mind


lacks

cannot


the w

lift


ill


to survive.


morsel


to mouth,


inertia


cannot


such


knock


that s

door,


he

"Nor


to the


beggar


language


could


frame


tongue.


language


man,


even


lowlie


lies


beyond


her,


and


such


dumbness


reflect s


general


silence


of the


"feminine"


voice


within


a "masculine"


world.


Only


total


physical


collapse


rescue


save


life:


despair


left


her


totally


unable


sri-...










tenants";


such


people,


women


men


outside


laws


patriarchy,


share


isolation


from


mankind


and


earlier


bonds

from


with

the e


nature.


economic


She

system


expresses


"were


surprise


first


that


relief,


these

" for


outlaws


spite


homelessness


rape,


stills


finds


difficulty


rejecting


conventional


patriarchal


society,


with


social


moral


hierarchies.


However,


gypsies


provide


her


with


a feeling


of community,


significant


that


Wordsworth


choo


ses


this


group,


a group


outside


patriarchal


authority,


initial


rescuers.


aligning


these


gypsy


vagrant s


with


earth,


Wordsworth


celebrates


their


connectedness


with


nature.


This,


however,


a connectednes


Female


Vagrant,


share.


still


first


ied

she


to the


patriarchal


celebrates


"their


value

long


system,

holiday


cannot

that


feared


grief,/


belonged


to all,


each


was


chief


although


they


recognize


no hierarchies


of rank


or possessions


, they


must,


order


to survive,


both


emulate


members


of the


system


deceive


"Semblance,


with


straw


panniered


ass


, they


made/


Of potters


wandering


on from


door


to door.


patriarchal


Even


Likewise,


value


as the


system


Female


women


even


Vagrant


must


as they


paints


conform


attempt


to the


to undermine


an inviting


picture


life,


eAr~i iPr


she,


~ri hisP


"brought


qusd-tpm


nothing


Wn r. crr T+ h


ill,


P14; ri-cl


" cannot


woii-h


escape


I
Aoz


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Female


Vagrant


can


only


protest


condition


reinforcing


status


as a victim.


The

without


Female


Vagrant


support


remains


of father,


incapable

husband,


acting


or husband


alone,

s kindred,


superfic


spiritual


benediction


which


reward


fidelity


unaided


and


fields,

cruelty


to the p

unblest?"


again

sky a


patriarchal

Living o


loses


touch


accused.


system:


n the


with


"What


arbitrary


reality,


greatest


pain


could


mercy


"and


seems


much


loss


of family


and


home,


or physical


violence,


"that


have


upon


inner


Female


self abused";


Vagrant,


thus


Wordsworth


projecting


empha


concerns


izes


significance


inner


soul


to the


female


as much


as the


male.


regrets


that


I' reon


home


delight


constant


truth, /


And


clear


and


open


soul,


so prized


fearless


youth"


again


reflect


Wordsworth


ideals


superimposed


upon


Female


Vagrant


s and


belief


continuity


one


between "m

considers


asculine"


traditional


"feminine"


values


association


female


with


body


earth,


cruelty


nature


and


willfulness


might


suggest


willfulness


and


danger


female


this


poem,


however,


nature


s willfulness


towards


female


creates


a more


complex


situation.


If the


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ior I-


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I-- A


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reality


to the


poet.


Even


nature


"feminine"


are


ultimately


reconciled,


a reconciliation


with


reservations


a bleak


future.


Although


Female


Vagrant


loses


much


her


humanity


through


albeit


female


stence


obstacles.


such


losing


almost


character,


as one


those


total


love


passivity.


Wordsworth


maintained


However,


circumstances.


figures,


Vagrant


first


both


appears


sheer


we question


following


father,


revealed


second


defi


nevertheless


Through


to value


strength


worth


fortunes


the

the


husband,


ciencies


survives,


use


"feminine"


despite


survival

of male


Female


of patriarchy


failed


to acquire


self-sufficiency.


Ultimately


alone,


surrendered


to despair


only


survived


through


mercy


other


outcasts


more


arbitrary


mercy


nature, "

passivity


for


no earthly


remains


friend


have


unchanged,


Her


tearful


initial

reference


that


country


"Where


poor


heart


lost


fortitude"


reflects


her


understanding


of the


hopelessness


situation.


we might


feelings


we take


consider


a narrow


poem


regarding


early


psychobiographical


as reflecting


loss


approach,


Wordsworth


mother


subsequent


fears


of abandonment;


powerlessness


rhbi 1 rhnnri


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rI*ImmIIf


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English


society


social


economic


effects


war,


as well


as a strong


concern


individuals,


accompanies


personal


feelings


of passivity


and


impotence


face


societal


change.


identification


with


Female


Vagrant


permits


him


to put


own


words


mouth,


"that


inner


self


have


abused.


can


enunciate


own


feelings


of despair


hopelessness,


betrayal


of his


values


ideals,


through


medium


a totally


powerless


figure--


significantly,


a woman.


"The


Female


Vagrant"


raises


questions


regarding


extent


to which


a poet


can


convey


an experience


without


sharing

framing

speaker.


or interjecting


devices,


Wordsworth's


Superficially,


"The


own concerns.

voice permeates

Female Vagrant"


Despite


that


conclude


various

his

s with


return


to a masculine


narrator


frame


of reference:


"She


wept;--because


had


no more


to say/


Of that


perpetual


weight


which


on her


spirit


lay.


" This


overlay


of a masculine


narrator


masculine


ostensibly


voice,


separates


proves


feminine


thin


speaker


a barrier.


from


same


complication


occurs


"The


Mad


Mother.


In "The


Mad


Mother,


" Wordsworth


uses


entire


first


verse


to establish


presence


an omniscient


narrator;


creates


a much


stronger


visual


image


of the


female


figure


.1---


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although


contrast


between


Mad


Mother


words


and


our


understanding


of them


creates


a sense


of dramatic


perspective,


verging


upon


form


of a dramatic


monologue


What


Robert


Langbaum


terms


"the


effect


created


tension


between


sympathy


ambivalence


ambivalence


moral


towards


towards


judgment"16


Mother,


child.


reinforces


which


Despite


echoes


our


our


own


sympathy,


sense


a danger


in her


madness


that


threatens


both


herself


child.


lack of formal


closing


permits


us to maintain


our


complex


identification


with


speaker,


rather


than


neatly


return


to a patriarchal


framework.


setting


tale


in quotations,


Wordsworth


strengthens


monologue,


sense


of personal


of a specifically


female


narration


voice,


dramatic


a retelling


a masculine


narrator.


does


tell


tale


masculine


or even


adult


other,


to a nonspeaking,


uncomprehending


child.


Indeed


tale


spoken


as much


herself


as to the


child,


which


reinforces


sense


isolated


voice;


female


voice,


even


enunciated,


lacks


real


audience.


concept


of a listener


negated


from


beginning,


child


hardly


a presence


: "She


baby


on her


arm, /


Or else


were


alone


This


sense


aloneness


reinforces


vulnerability,


dependence


upon


4-h40 01 flfll a 9 a1 a n n4nk,


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inherent


risks


of reinforcing


female


status


"other


However,


precarious


mental


state


of the


Mad


Mother


suggests


motherhood


a threatening,


dangerous


entity,


one


perilou


to both


mother


child.


If motherhood


saves


Mad


Mother


from


utter


madness,


also


brought


her


to the


edge.


We also


sense


an ambivalence


maternal


passion,


adoring


ambivalence


desperate


brings


"tracing


feeling


to madness


maternal


toward


and


passion


child;


protects


through


many


this


from


of its


more


subtle


windings,


Wordsworth


expresses


mixed


feelings


toward


motherhood


female


sexuality.


In creating


character


of the


Mad


Mother,


Wordsworth


emphasizes


both


strangeness


familiarity;


while


announced


arrangement


intention


a selection


in the


of the


Preface


real


to fit


language


to metrical


men


state


of vivid


sensation,


" the


choice


of a mother,


particularly


mother,


provides


a challenge


to both


poet


reader.


initial


line


"The


Mad


Mother,


" "her


eyes


are


wild,


" recalls


reference


to Dorothy


s "wild


eyes"


"Tintern


Abbey.


However,


we have


no clues


to the


identity


of the


Mad


Mother,


despite


physical


similarity


Wordsworth


s sister;


she is


a symbol


as well


as an


individual.


Wordsworth


careful


to distance


Mad


nfl- -


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sense


of vulnerability


exposure,


isolation


female,


and


specifically


maternal,


figure.


Mad


Mother


initial


word


up a paradoxical


state


of mad


gaiety


melancholy


that


denie


reality


defies


husband


an unknown


"they,


society.


" presumably


istence


combined


that


forces


am happy


when


sing/


Full


many


a sad


doleful


thing,


" reflects


ironic


distortion


of despair


sorrow


into


reverse;


survival


depends


upon


dilemma


denial


of the


of reality,


female


a masculine


as such


world.


represents


Twice


Mad


Mother


begs


child


to fear


her,


which


suggests


that


indeed


he does;


twice


terms


child


"lovely


baby,


" suggesting


both


youth


innocence


and


possibility


of its


redeeming


thee


know


much


owe; /


cannot


work


thee


woe"


reflects


unconscious


desire


perhaps


to harm


child,


a desire


restrained


sense


of obligation.


positioning


Mad


Mother


close


to Nature,


Wordsworth


initially


transforms


women


s culturally


subordinate


position


into


an essential


place.


As Marlon


Ross


notes,


"the


male


naturalizes


female


SOC


role


asserting


intimacy


between


femininity


and


nature.


woods


child


will


"safe


in a cradle,


mnrt- antt 4 ir


in 4 ar~a ,- a..1,4 lI -n-,r%~ -a --a -a 4----


A


: M~ r*h


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suggest


a comforting,


nonhostile


nature,


which


neither


threatens


nor


rejects


her;


these


images


reflect


traditional


image


of nature


as a nurturing,


maternal


figure,


contrast


to the


more


threatening


nature


of "The


Female


Vagrant.


Although


Nature


serves


as the


most


powerful


female


figure


Romantic


poetry,


role


from


wholly


positive.


Harold


Bloom,


Nature


plays


mother


family


past;


romance,


while


emphasis


father


upon


struggle


powerful


between


poet


poets


of the


their


literary


fathers


reflects


patriarchal


nature


of western


literary


tradition.


Margaret


Homans,


focusing


upon


association


women


with


nature


and


their


exclusion


from


position


of speaking


subject


(traditionally


identified


male),


remarks


of Nature


: "she


prolifi


biologically,


linguistically,


as destructive


as she


creative


power


of this


maternal


nature


no impact


upon


power


of real


women;


moreover,


Mother


Nature


consciousness,


only


materiality


an elusive


presence;


center,


into


only


nature


diffuseness


male


Between


narrator


woman


s self-conscious


s absorption


distance


subject-object


distinctions


which


infiltrate


Wordsworth


attempts


to voice


"feminine


hi ~ a -


aI _


a 1 1 -.


_. _r_.. ~_


*


'IT--










"dull, dull

physical and


pain"

menta


further


enmesh


anguish.


boundaries


"sight


joy"


between

represented


her


baby


specific


cally


"flesh


blood"


as opposed


fantasy;


wakes


from


a terrible


dream.


"For


was


here


only


suggests


relief,


although


terrible


significance


this


one


relation


hip


reinforces


isolation.


In contrast


to her


section


of the


"fiendish


faces,


one,


two,


three,


" that


pulled


at her


breasts,


urges


pain


child


fever;


"suck


as she


suck


finds


again,


temporary


" sucking


redemption


nursing


nurturing,


child,


ironically,


nurtures


as much


nurtures


him.


psychological


literary


critics,


a work


reflects


emotional


dynamics


conflicts


artist


internal


world;


also


expresses


struggles


of the


artist


of a wor

achieve


s ego


of art


autonomy


relationship


depends


detachment


with


upon


from


reality.


artist


original


success


ability


conflicts.


While


critic


Richard


Onorato


emphasizes


Wordsworth


search


Barbara


lost


Schapiro


idealized


finds


mother


poetry


projected


"less


into


journey


Nature,


a lost,


ideal


mother


than


a struggle


to accept


an unideal,


human,


and


imperfect


mother,


one


s own


guilty


feelings


toward


her.


o td, n r


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Images


nursing


Romantic


literature


often


serve


objective


correlatives


masculine


absorption


feminine


qualities.


episode


In the


Prelude,


suppressed


Vaudracour


finds


Julia-Vaudracour


spiritual


nourishment


one


of Julia


s breasts


while


their


infant


finds


physical


nourishment


other;


"The


Mad


Mother,


nursing


redeems


mother


as much


as the


child.


affirming


self-sacrifice


goodness


of such


women,


Wordsworth


can


resolve


guilt


reaffirm


belief


both


mankind,


mother,


himself.


Wordsworth's


skillful


presentation


of the


hallucinatory


joys


horrors


motherhood


suggest


that


sympathy


Mad


Mother


amounts


to genuine


understanding.


While


gives


her.


child


image


sustenance,


of a "tight


he likewise


deadly


cools


band"


fire


about


within


chest


suggests


suffocation


of her


existence;


pressing


child


s hand


relieves


this


pressure


in a beneficial


interchange


between


mother


child.


Clarity


and


coolness


redeem


feeling:


"the


breeze


see


tree;/


comes


to cool


babe


me.


several


images


of coolness


as opposed


to heat


reflect


Western


paradigms


reason


and


emotion,


traditionally


associated


as contrasting


"masculine"


and


"fomi ni flflf"


ci oimont- a


frnlnn na?


*1 I fllna 1 an*


rd a E Cn


1










dangerous


threatening


feelings


with


coolness


and


rationality.


Wordsworth


s portrayal


this


conflict


reflects


interest


reconciliation


reason


emotion,


recognition


that,


contrary


to the


philosophy


of William


Godwin,


feelings


and


emotions


neither


could


nor


should


totally


controlled


reason


and


intellect.


As he


remarked


Preface,


"our


continuous


influxes


feeling


are


modified


directed


our


thoughts,


which


are


indeed


representatives


of all


our


past


feelings


traditional


ass


ociation


of emotion


with


"feminine"


invests


choice


of a female


figure


to illustrate


passionate


struggle


between


reason


emotion


with


significance


supports


statement


Preface


"that


feeling


therein


developed


gives


importance


to the


action


situation


not


action


situation


feeling.


intensity


of the


Mother


s feelings


are


conveyed


urgent


pleas


love.


Just


upon


waking


saw


"only"


him,


now


child


"only


This


emphasis


upon


singularity


uniqueness


reinforced


dangerous


climb


upon


sea


rocks,


above


waves;


baby


serves


as protection,


almost


a token


or emblem


of safety.


"leaping


torrents


when


they


howl"


recall


"fiendish


a a II -


- 5 .


- -h-i- -


L


m


,,


i


I










Female


Vagrant,


" the


unsettled


relationship


between


nature


"feminine"


symbol


zes


general


malai


of society


danger


to the


Mad


Mother


as much


spiritual


physical,


invests


emotional


survival


her


child.


Emphasis


lies


upon


their


mutual


dependence


: while


saves


me my


precious


soul,


" yet


"Without


me my


sweet


babe


would


mutuality


strained,


despite


protests;


child


s needs


are


more


physical,


hers


more


psychological


fears


desertion;


a sense


her


child


like


another


lover,


although


one


ess


likely


to leave


immediately.


In urging


child


to fear,


Mad


Mother


seems


to be reassuring


herself


as well,


as she


proposes


maternal/natural


alternative


to societal


or purely


masculine


guidance


"bold

always


Creating


as a lion,


image


" both


guide"


leadership.


of natural


maternal


suggests


knowledge


security,


masculine


"feminine"


of "the


leaves


strength


that


will


"I will

h and


make


softest


bed"


reinforces


kinship


with


nature


promi


ses


that


abides


with


until


death,


will


achieve


harmony


with


nature


: "then


thou


shalt


sing,/


merry


as the


birds


spring


Just


as spring


follows


snow,


happiness


will


follow


guidan


here


Wordsworth


naturali


zes


" her


maternal


role.


a-


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prelapsarian


paradise.


In resting


upon


Mad


Mother


breast,


baby


redeems


father


s rejection


of it,


despite


changing


of its


hue;


love


men


seems


linked


women


s physical


attributes.


brownness


her


cheek


hides


paleness,


as her


gaiety


hides


her


madness.


child


"dove";


her


beauty


"flown


away,


foreshadowing


a time


when


child


will


depart.


urges


child


to ignore


taunts


humanity


and


attacks


society


that


rejected


her,


despite


sanction


marriage


vow.


If she


cannot


live


a pair


with


husband


society,


then


her


baby


will


become


a pair


natural


live


society,


honesty"


society.


anger


"under


nature,


against


spreading


contrast


desertion


tree.


to the


turns


will


hypocrisy


to a posture


pity:


"But


poor


man!


wretched


made,/


And


every


we two


will


pray/


him


that


s gone


away.


turning


her


sion


towards


a fantasy


world


nature,


can


avoid


reality


of desertion


turn


her


rage


into,


forgiveness,


a form


pity.


stresses


role


as teacher,


traditional


patriarchal


terms,


as one


inculcates


her


child


mysteries


nature


of nature,


naturalizess"


"the


her


sweetest


cultural


things";


role.


intimacy


when


with


child


Ca'O2 00 1r


t- ni TIr11I r


1 non


C'an a


rvF hin


r.m 11


~~3Q~E


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r r


7


a










defense,


casts


idea


of madness


upon


child.


Initially,


child


s gaiety


permitted


her


to channel


own


grief


into


madness;


infant


itself


mad,


"Then


must


be for


ever


Her


mad


gaiety


turns


to fear


and


both


denial,


of her


which


reinforces


situation


and


sense


mother-child


precariousness


relationship.


Eagerly


begs


child


response,


again


reiterating


trials


suffers


sake,


attempts


to seek


paternal


figure.


concludes


with


an ambiguous


picture


future


which


nature


no longer


an entirely


benevolent


figure.


Knowing


both


"the


sons


of the


hade"


"the


earth-nut


food,


" she


will


both


"find


father


wood"


"there,


babe;


we'll


live


aye.


Although


Mad


Mother


seems


to suggest


possibility


reconciliation


with


father


and


a new


existence


outs


patriarchal


society,


reader


clearly


perceives


self-


deception.


reconciliation


"masculine"


and


"feminine"


elements


to be


achieved


this


mother-child


bond;


here,


need


draining


as well


as strengthening.


Just


as the


danger


of excitement


carried


of bounds


must


tempered


co-presence


of something


regular,


something


to which


mind


excited


been


state,


accustomed


"feminine"


when


an unexcited


emotion


excitement


or a less


requires


S~c,, rL


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breast


her


child


"wicked


looks"


convey


a certain


sexual


ambivalence


toward


own


child;


perhaps


he has


destroyed


possible


physical


harmony


possessed


with


husband.


might


also


consider


her


marriage


as part


hallucinatory


fantasy,


view


these


lines


as suggestive


sexual


guilt


this


respect.


Even


though


images


child


s sucking


as cooling


redeeming


suggest


a form


of erotic


substitution,


they


are


only


temporary;


as soon


child


ceases


nurse


suffers


malevolent


visions


again.


Motherhood


thus


appears


an enemy


to female


sexuality


as well


subjectivity.


one


of the


poems


Lyrical


Ballads


which


deals


with


sexual


tensions,


"The


Mad


Mother"


demonstrates


Wordsworth


s keen


interest


metaphors


aroused


senses,


accompanying


intent


illustrate


manner


which


our


feelings


ideas


are


associated


a state


of excitement.


sense


of dramatic


perspective


develops


as the


reader


recognizes


dangerous


distortions


of the


Mad


Mother


perceptions


both


to herself


to her


infant.


As Charles


Ryskamp


notes,


'The


Thorn


' and


'The


Mother'


we are


brought,


through


internal


or external


dialogue


and


through


sharp


contrasts


between


conflicting


emotions


observations,


to dramatic


perception.


"26


We pity


arnna4-~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ H 1.4 .. C,~4.~ n ..1.4 i~- -r ,4 --n Ay


I


nn


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both


mad


visions


mutual


need.


Ambivalence


towards


child


interwoven


with


her


sense


of duty


maternal


love,


as motherhood


both


empowers


weakens


her.


choosing


to conclude


poem


with


form


narrative


closure


us to maintain


our


or textual


distancing,


identification


with


Wordsworth


and


permits


sympathy


Mad


Mother.


While


poet


does


value


maternal


passion,


he clearly


portrays


destructive


as well


as redemptive


role.


never


learn


complete


part


that


motherhood


played


father'


desertion;


nevertheless,


we are


aware


intense


complications


created


situation,


complications


which


turned


speaker


into


a mad


mother


opposed


to a mad


wife,


or simply


a deserted,


perhaps


unwed,


woman.


Motherhood


damnation


as well


as salvation;


surely


Wordsworth,


painfully


aware


loss


of his


own


mother,


felt


clearly


a sense


dangers


empathizes


with


of the


mothers


maternal


that


state,


reason.


cannot


accuse


Wordsworth,


then,


simply


reifying


motherhood.


In his


determination


follow


fluxes


refluxes


mind


when


agitated


great


simple


affections


our


nature,


he reveals


torturous


complications


of the


female


situation.


Rather


than


simply


celebrating


maternal


passion,


with


ensuing


risk


,,,,?, rI


-4-n~ -. -n a A a aa- I a -- -- ...1


,,,,.. 1


,,


1


*k 4-


Lir










reality.


Among


poems


Lyrical


Ballads


which


deal


with


mother/nature


figure,


"The


Mad


Mother"


creates


a most


complicated


portrait


which


unsettles


gendered


assumptions


about


maternal


passion


powers


redemption.


A different


treatment


of the


deserted


woman,


one


without


either


child


or spouse,


occurs


"The


Complaint


Forsaken


Indian


Woman.


Like


"The


Mad


Mother,


" it


suggests


dramatic


between


situation.


connection


monologue


speaker


As Robert


between


involving


reader


s statements


Langbaum


dramatic


our


notes,


lyric


through


contrast


understanding


"Wordsworth


and


her


shows


dramatic


monologue,


when


he turns


visionary


stare


upon


a solitary


figure


upon


with


a natural


same


transforming


object.


While


effect


"The


as when


Mother"


he turns


provided


ostensibly


"The


"female"


Complaint


insight


a Forsaken


into


maternality


Indian


Woman"


madness,


provides


particularly


"female"


ultimately


universal


insight


into


death.


dying


alternates


between


resignation


death


passionate


yearning


absent


child,


although


makes


no mention


any


husband


or father.


According


to Barbara


Schapiro,


experience


of loss


lies


at the


core


of the


mother-child


relationship,


and


many


of the


lyrics


written


between


1798


1805


focus


upon


inn 4- hno


~1k41


-r ,-a-


L- -I -


r


A- 1%.- -r. t


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,,,


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previously


discussed


poems,


Wordsworth


treats


maternal


needs


concerns


as deserving


attention


respect.


As such,


these


encultured


"female"


concerns


become


human


thus


universal.


In contrast


to "The


Female


Vagrant"


"The


Mad


Mother,


" "The


Complaint


a Forsaken


Indian


Woman"


lacks


formal


framework


or narrative


distancing


plunges


immediately


into


voice


of the


speaker


with


a poignant


release.


Dreams


blend


with


reality,


a song


-like


verse


that


ends


as it


begins,


"Before


see


another


day,/


body


away!"


Here,


meter


clearly


regulates


emotion,


reflecting


purpose


"tempering


painful


feeling


which


will


always


be found


intermingled


with


powerful


descriptions


deeper


passion.


focus


upon


emotional


state


of the


Indian


Woman


also


supports


Wordsworth


s contention


Preface


that


"the


feeling


therein


developed


gives


importance


to the


action


situation,


action


and


situation


to the


feeling


dreams


of the


Indian


Woman


rival


lights


sounds


night


their


forboding


physical


intensity;


their


very


vitality


stands


in contrast


with


encroaching


death


female


stasis


In the


Preface,


Wordsworth


defended


choice


-- -a- ~ -!r... --1- -I.'--.--A- a-


E -


1


,1


1 -


--


I


_ --. --


II


r










communicated"31;


existence


of the


Indian


Woman


obviously


pared


down


to the


essence


life


versus


death,


with


"the


essential


pass


ions


heart"


thus


unrestrained.


In contrast


to the


initial


highly


dramatic


mood,


repetitive


references


to the


dying


fire


convey


her


stoic


resignation


preparation


end.


If clothes,


warmth,


food,


fire


give


neither


pleasure


nor


joy,


manifestly


no need


gives


to live.


reason


More


importantly,


to continue


: "Alone


no one


s dependence


cannot


ear


die,


" suggesting


importance


of relationship


in justifying


human


existence.


In discussing


"Lucy"


poems,


Margaret


Homans


remarks,


"the


feminine


figure


becomes


an object


merging


with


nature,


dying


as a result,


represents


masculine


appropriation


of femininity


find


a certain


correspondence


Woman


this


does


poem:


as a result


although


of merging


Forsaken


with


Indian


nature,


death


will


one


inL


nature,


and


as such


appears


particularly


"feminine


To the


extent


that


lacks


voice


or subjectivity,


remains


an object,


dependent


upon


decree


of both


Whereas


"masculine"


focus


society


of grief


natural


"Lucy"


poems


forces.


lies


loss


to the


poet/


speaker,


hisa


needs


memories


rather


than


I-~ -a -


r


m m'I


r I


.r t


1~ I 1


I










despite


apparent


stoicism,


Forsaken


Indian


Woman


deplores


her


acquiescence


with


societal


decree,


ready


descent


into


despair


and


hopelessness.


Grief


and


regret


pierce


her


attempts


acceptance:


"Alas


might


have


dragged


me on/


Another


day,


a single


one!"


does not


accuse


companions;


twice


terms


them


"friends,


" in


obvious


acceptance


traditional


fate


of aged


females.


Like


Female


Vagrant,


only


protest


against


position


of victim


passive


acceptance


reinforcement


this


role.


does


suggest


that


indeed


had


possessed


strength


to follow,


somehow


failed


to do


This


sense


of inertia,


from


one


perspective


ostensibly


"feminine,


also


reflects


poet


s own


sense


futility


protest.


fatalism


most


strongly


challenged


feelings


toward


child,


again


a boy;


poet


s choi


of a male


child


significantly


complicates


mother-child


bond.


reflecting


upon


difference


choice


of a female


child


might


have


made


both


"The


Complaint


a Forsaken


Indian


Woman"


"The


Mad


Mother,


recognize


significance


gender.


Wordsworth


an extent


would


"deserted "


naturally


concerned


own

with


mother'

the mc


death,


,ther-son


relationship.


A mother-daughter


bond


would


place


themes


- -,,E, J I-i-- -


~~2 -


nr....... I -


.m


II .-, LI


ux A


L


~I










implicitly


part


this


world,


enmeshes


mother


even


further


within


patriarchal


society


increases


difficulties


active


rebellion


against


or rejection


this


world.


Indian


Woman


protests


child


s delivery


another


woman,


"who


was


mother,


a phrase


which


ostensibly


biological


promotes


mother,


role


as paramount


motherhood,


to a child


particular


s well-being,


although


society


implicitly


denies


significance.


projects


a strong


physical


emotional


reaction


from


infant:


"Through


whole


body


something


ran.


simultaneously


strives


to be


man


child,


both


rescuer


one


need


society


which


rescue.


cast


As a "man,


out,


" and


might


full


member


ironically


pull


sledge


save


her;


poem


reflects


paradox


futility


of such


a rescue


as his


arms


reach


out,


aid,


need:


"And


then


stretched


arms,


how


wild


mercy


like


a little


child.


sense


powerlessness


reinforced


powerlessness


Tormented


need


child.


relationship


unfairness


her


fate,


oscillates


between


anger


fatalism,


hope


and


resignation.


Although


yearns


child,


wishes


that


he neither


nor


grieve,


as her


hnriv ;n


mi n


fal -


;man a~l


Tni r no a


T*T ^ +-


ra~l 4*,,.


11 7 Ch CI ~n


I I









upon


isolation


wilderness


many


: "Too


things


loneliness


soon,


say.


friends,


imagined


of the


female


went


contact


voice


away;/


reinforces


sense


isolation;


also


reflects


weakness


of the


"feminine"


enabled


Margaret


voice


to speak,


Homans


a patriarchal


lacks


notes,


IV ci tio


world.


an audience


with


Even


to hear


nature


woman


her.


exclusion


from


placing


speaking


the


subjectivity


woman


amount


dualistic


to two


culture


different


on the


ways


side


other


object


We might


extend


this


to a comparison


with


Wordsworth


own


poeti


voice,


need


inability


voice


own


powerlessness.


significant


choice


here,


"feminine"


suggests


speaker


identification


becomes


with


situation.


Susan


Wolfson


suggests


that


Wordsworth


uneasy


with


position


in the


hierarchical


order


of masculinist


poetics


which


demands


that


mind


either


assert


itself


lord


master


or recognize


engulfment


and


bewilderment


"he


sure,


secure


figure


of logocentric


performance


egocentric


confidence


ascribed


to him


some


feminist


(and


older


masculinist


readings


of Romanticism)


insistence


Preface


that


poetry


must


take


significant


human


experience


province


enables


him


to voice


own,


i~~n~qns~kh


Snr-t stu-w


nniasrl PQ~n0Q


I-h rnimrth


QnP~t~ ne t










conflicts


between


body


and


spirit


rise


Indian


Woman


pain";


s determination


Wordsworth


to


subtly


follow "In

undermines


spite

her i


of all


intentions


weary

through


imagery


dead


fire,


snowy


water,


wolf


which


steals


food.


Physical


comfort


sustenance


have


disappeared;


acknowledges


isolation


again


attempts


resignation.


As phy


ical


decline


comes


swiftly


upon


her,


split


between


body


and


mind


grows


: "I cannot


lift


limbs


to know/


If they


have


life


or no.


This


lack


integration


between


body


soul


reflects


greater


jointedness


between


deserted


woman


soc


iety


which


cast


her


out.


final


thoughts


return


to the


child,


primary


attachment.


Unlike


"The


Female


Vagrant"


or "The


Mad


Mother,


" "The


Complaint


of a Forsaken


Indian


Woman"


makes


no mention


of husband


or father.


Toward


ambiguous


"friends"


have


deserted


expresses


overt


anger.


concluding


lines,


feel


my body


dies


away,/


opening


shall


lines,


see


"Before


another


see


day,


another


" fatalistically


day,/


echo


body


away


create


a strong


sense


of closure.


Neither


family


nor


society


provides


security


women,


neither


enables


expression


"feminine"


voice.


Wordsworth


s focus


upon


abandonment


women


r n cr c C rn n 4-n 4- trr.l


Lt


I


LL


ckn: r


n k


,nFln nC


nC ?C nn


-- A


nmn


*_ n r


nf^t-










poetically;


even


strongest


bonds


between


mother


child


have


little


impact


upon


strictures


society.


We might


focus


on the


fact


that


these


women


are


deserted


remain


, and


question


Wordsworth


s failure


"save"


them;


inability


"save"


own


mother


from


death


leave


him


power


ess


face


of tragedy


Regardless


psychobiographical


speculation,


we recognize


that


their


endurance


amidst


hardship,


madness,


perils


nature


suggests


fortifying


nature


both


of the


female


human


spirit.


And


as the


Indian


woman


expre


sses


thoughts


one


approaching


death,


speaks


powerless


humanity.


We again


recognize


Wordsworth


s underlying


concerns


with


social


injustice,


criticism


effects


changing


English


society


upon


poor


dispossessed,


although


eschewed


extreme


political


change


and


rebellion.


twentieth


century


readers,


we use


our


critical


understanding


"force"


connection


between


survival


poet


spirit


following


disillusionment


the


French


Revolution


survival


those


common


souls


lacked


understanding


of the


mighty


events


that


shaped


their


lives


continued


to struggle


survive


amidst


hopelessness


even


madne


failure


Revolution


forced


rh nrr e 9- 4 nn rChr


n3 rt ( a 3 n


Wn r~ awn rt h


frnm


tn th3~


nnnt


nr ^










personal


concerns.


Correspondingly,


argued


validity


of lowly


subjects


human


feelings.


As do


many


Romantic


poems,


Lyrical


Ballads


involve


displacement,


with


poet


absorbing


quieter,


more


shifting


political


circumscribed


world


from


SOC


world


upheavals,


of 1797-1798


of 1793-1794,


to the


Racedown


Alfoxden.


Likewise


Wordsworth


converts


anger


rage


at the


betrayal


of the


Revolution


lofty


ideals


into


sorrow,


sympathy,


love


those


suffered


economically


and


socially;


Lyrical


Ballads,


many


of these


figures


are


mother


Rather


than


simply


glorifying


mother-child


relationship


running


risk


of reductively


reinforcing


women


maternal


role,


Wordsworth


reveals


dangers


complexity


such


bonds,


mutual


interdependence,


destructive


as well


as the


positive


elements.


concept


of "female"


powerlessness


must


have


struck


sympathetic


several


political


chord


times


Wordsworth,


varying


subtext


these


as he


situations.


poems


would


chooses


Again,


to portray


a natural


a stringent


criticism


social


injustice


forms.


singling


one


from


many,


reflects


own


personal


sense


powerlessness


controlling


own


fate,


death


nf hi c


1-% tn


irn V a *


4-4 nfl -- Li -


4- .1


--A -- -


rr nl ~n


L1










Notes


1. Marlo
in Wordsworth

2. Hugh
Philosophers,
Moralists Pre
George Watson
163.


fl
's


B. Ross, "Naturalizing
Ideological Landscape,


Gender: Woman's Place
" ELH 53.2 (1986): 399.


Sykes Davies, "Wordsworth and the Empirica
" The English Mind: Studies in the English
sented to Basil Wiley, ed. Hugh Sykes Davi
(Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 1964)


1

es a
162-


. Laura
Bounds:


automat
appropr
collect


masculine


often


sustained


Claridge


Mal


re and El
P, 1990
.e terms
mine pat
so must
ith man.
imply a
of the
es in av
sus femi


ELizabeth


writ
iza
) 1


of
ria
we
" N
fe
fem
oid


-U


ers
beth
.Th
patr
rchy
be
or d
mini
ining
ing 1


nine


through


Sd Gen
,angl a
editor
Srchy
o exp
gilan
s ant
agen
"The
e eas
lite


concept


Langland,


der(ed) Criti
nd (Amherst:


y DI
rary
of


cuss the
e mascul
s spurio
nst the
iarchal
t possib
enge of
ry oppos
criticism


patriarchy"


introduction,


.sm, ea.
of
dangers of
ne: "Even
.s claims to
arror of
activityy
y a further
his
tion of
has too
(3).


4. Jean
Sexuality in
Tennessee P


H. Hagstrum, The
Keats. Wordsworth
1985) 106.


Romantic Body: Love and
Sand Blake (Knoxville:


U of


. Owen

. Owen


158.

157.


7
Poetry


. Colin C. Clarke,
of Wordsworth (New


Romantic Paradox: An
York: Barnes, 1962)


Essay
12.


on the


8
1969).


. Kate
In her


remarks: "He
difference, j
dissimilarity
social circumr
with regard t
temperamental
also discuss
sexual sphere
era, when aen


Millett,


[
u


S
S


discu
the p
stify
- 'Ei
tance
pers
diffe
Rusk
. U.C


der


S.t. C


Sexual


on o
ce]
cul
tr se
if co
lity
fces
s th<
noep
ntvn


I


Politics


: Te
sets
:ura
: al
idit
bu
esil
.ory
Imal
nrr


'son
) a
.isp
is
ing
enn:
in
sel


(New

eory


York:


|inces
comp
ough
elf.'
even
eves
10). 2
t corm


he
M1


uW f


. ,
-
,


*allantine,
s, Millett
elementary
genital


Given
the ca


the
se


Millett


elementary
Victorian
San C!e vniir.


I


,a


~JI;I 1


W


(


,(


:


B


[
U







80

Gender: From Wordsworth to George Eliot to Virginia Woolf,"
Victorian Literature and Society: Essays Presented to Richard
D. Altick, ed. James R. Kincaid and Albert J. Kuhn (Ohio


State


1983)


French


bifur
indeb
expert
arran
envel
to th


London, 192
U.C. Knoepf
"masculine"
"feminine"


feminist


netwee
Virgin
"Life
ife is
rroundi
" "Mode
5) 189.
Imacher
time a
time (K


n
ia
is
a
ng
rn
Il
a
nd


critics,
culine"
if's Loc
a series
nous hal


noepflmacher


notorious


and
kean
s of
o, a
beg
he C
the
o th'
athe
00-1


"femi
desc
gig
semi
innin
common
Inte


this


nine"
ripti
lamps
-tran
g of
Read
grati


contrast


r than
01).


time,
on of
symmet
parent
conscio
er (Har
on of G
between


are

rically

usness
court:
ender,"
n linear


sequential,


Knoepflmacher


11.
Dorothy a
Studies o
and Marti
Meier, 19
Identity:
Dickinson
Dorothy W
Rutgers U


See
nd
f W
ne
84)


'I


'homas


Willial
writers
Watson
. Also
rothyvl
rincet
worth
1987).


Vogler,


i Wordswort
and Their
Brownley (
Margaret
iordsworth.
n: Princet
& Romantic


"'A Spirit,


thering
Partne
rk and


omen
onte
80)


" Mo
lent
w Yo
mans
mily
UP,


New


a Woman


rs.,
Lon
Wr
a]
and


n: H
ers
Emi
usan


Brunswick


Twelve
.th Perry
timess &
nd Poetic

M. Levin,
London:


Claridge


Langland


13. Margaret Homans,
Dorothy Wordsworth. Emily
(Princeton: Princeton UP,


Women Writers and
Bronte. and Emily
1980) 14-17.


Poetic Identity:
Dickinson


14.
Ballads


15.
Dramatic
Norton,


Stephen Maxfield Parrish,
(Cambridge, Massachusetts:


Robert Langbaum, The Poetry
Monologue in Modern Literary
1957) 94.


The Art
Harvard


the Lyrical
1973) 99.


of Experience:
Tradition (New


The
York:


Langbaum


Owen

Dht^


158.

3QQ


!










. The


Wordsworth


Prelude


stresses


empathe
equival
Wordswo
serves
close a
behavior
import a
poetry.
relation
express
Melanie
dynamic
one's e
theory
format
objects
develop
drives
mother
Romant i


signifi
" Richa
in The
model
ence to


Kl1
s o
nti
emp
on
as
men
and
is
c M


(Baltimore


s em
f th
ara
s an
the
n, a


t, in
impul
intern
other:


pr
e
A.
d


I


chance of
rd Onorat
Prelude (
of psycho
Freudian
asis on i
absent mo
Schapiro
identity


writi
nd D.W
mother
erienc
s rela
indiv
ajor f
opposi


ses.
aliz
Nar


London:


ngs
. Wi
-chi
e of
tion
idua
acto
tion
Our
and
ssis


Johns


nursing
o's The
Princet
analyti
models
nfantil
their as
, drawi
format
f Heinz
nicott,
d relat
the wor
hips wi
identi
s in ea
to Freu
central
retain
ic Patt


and it
Charac


on
ca
o
e
a
ng
on
K
p
io
Id
th
ty
rl
di
re
d
er


: Pri
1 cri
f rep
sexual
key
on t
, par
ohut,
laces
nship
. Obj
obje
thro


y
an
la
th
ns


Hopkins


s "
ter
nce
tic
res
lit
to
heo
tics
Ot
he
as
ect
cts
ugh


ps
-0
to
is
si
y
un
ri
ul


C
e Poet:
, 1971)
'ith its
nd
the
standing
f object
as


to Kernbe
r emphasis
the basi
relation
and the
separate


rg,
s on
s of
ship


from


psychological
emphases on sexual
tionship with the
roughout adulthood. The
in Romantic Literature
, 1983) 94.


Owen

Owen

Owen

Owen


157-158.

159.

172.

158.


26. Charles Ryskamp, "W
Their Time" From Sensibility
To Frederick A. Pottle, ed.
Bloom (New York: Oxford UP,


rordsworth's
to Romantic
Frederick W.
1965) 363.


Lyrical
ism: Es
Hilles


Ballads in
says Presented
and Harold


Owen


158.


Langbaum

Schapiro


Owen

Owen

U Ifnli


71.

101.


174.

156.
o 991


l


h


Il










Feminismana
Indiana T


Anne


Mellor


(Bloomington


Indianapolis:


1988)
















CHAPTER


"TINTERN


ABBEY"


SISTER


AS SOURCE


SUBJECT


Constrained


culturally


embedded


divisions


between


"masculine"


reason


and


"feminine"


emotion,


Wordsworth


cannot


overtly

maternal


take


possession


instinct


of attributes


or redefine


them


such


intuition


"masculine


Rather,


frequently


incorporates


mothers,


sisters,


wives


poetic


fictions


that


enable


him


to share


these


qualities.


memories


descriptions


of infancy,


interfused


boundaries


experiences


between


with


mother


child,


sister,


and


allow


later


him


childhood


to absorb


a more


"feminine"


empathy


"feminine,


collapsing


sensibility


.latednes

" then,


certain


express


Rather


Wordsworth


stinctions


than


qualities


simply


suggests


between


appropriating

possibility


traditionally


"masculine"


"feminine"


qualities,


this


possibility


comes


poet/


closest


speaker


to realization


a sororal/maternal


interaction


figure


between


"Tintern


Abbey


refusing


to define


Nature


as exclusively


female


poetic


imagination


as exclusively


male,


Wordsworth


a *


- -


r I 1










Despite


Wordsworth'


claim


"Preface"


to represent


humanity,


"Tintern


Abbey"


initially


appears


to favor


masculine


through


a "natural"


assimilation


of the


feminine.


However,


female


here


does


suffer


radical


an absorption


nature


say,


figure


"Lucy"


poems,


fails


to achieve


Romantic


transcendence


reached


poet


himself.


Remarking


on the


"Lucy"


poems,


Sarah


McKim


Webster


notes


: "It


becomes


difficult


distinguish


among


Lucy


dead,


Lucy


alive,


and


Nature.


question


critical


ass


umption


that


traditional


association


of nature


with


"feminine"


effectively


prevents


possibility


of female


transcendence,


even


within


boundaries


of male


verse.


If Wordsworth


must


grow


beyond


nature


search


self,


cannot


a female


figure


achieve


a similar


"feminine"


growth?


doom


transcendence


Does


female


possible


association


figure


without


of nature


to immanence,


rejecting


nature?


with


or is


Regarding


"Tintern


Abbey,


find


Wordsworth


seeking


just


such


transcendence


Dorothy


without


rejecting


association


with


nature.


Must


"feminine"


transcendence


necessity y


take


same


route


"masculine"


transcendence,


or does


Wordsworth


suggest


an alternate


path?


would


argue


latter.


,~-I fl- -* n- .a I,~- A a- .%


c S


-


t


n,,,LL..


rr C~A


nn rrn n


r *


n Fl









version


of Wordsworth'


absent


mother.


Wordsworth,


fusion


with


sister


serves


as a displaced


manifestation


fusion


with


mother,


result


androgynous


ideal


or a more


complicated


creation


Does


myth


innocent,


ungendered


childhood


paradise


correspond


with


this


also


mythical,


less


balanced,


union


between


brother


sister/mother


selves


In later


works


such


as The


Excursion,


Wordsworth


turns


away


from


"feminine"


sensitivity


mythic


memory


express


sed in


lyrics


ballads


toward


"masculine"


history


reality.


even


though


later


poetry


clearly


separates


male


female


self-consciousness,


nevertheless


reflects


a longing


to return


to the


undifferentiated


world


childhood.


Rather


presented


than

such


an androgynous


critics


soul,


as Carolyn


balanced


Heilbrun


I ideal

Jean


Hagstrum,


Wordsworth


of Lyrical


Ballads


yearns


a more


complex


creation,


one


interaction


rather


than


fusion.


traditional


concept


androgyny


suggests


wholeness,


both


physical


and


spiritual


utopia;


one


can


often


view


Romantic


emphasis


on androgyny


as yet


another


aspect


of the


"masculine"


appropriation


"feminine"


characteristics.


Quoting


Coleridge,


"The


truth


a great


mind


must


androgynous,"


Carolyn

T. dh tAT


Heilbrun


nf r CI Otatu 1i I S


suggests


c nfnl: a .


a rather
t,. 4-r 4-a r 4


awkward

4-t-,4-










position


of the


female


this


form


androgyny;


poet


remains


center


of focus,


receiving


rom


female.


Heilbrun


does,


however,


remark


upon


Coleridge


s definition


androgyny


less


to make


prejudicial


distinctions


between


traditionally


"masculine"


"feminine.


Although


Heilbrun


attempts


to define


androgyny


terms


reconciliation


between


sexes,


admits


essentially


indefinable


nature,


as well


threats


men


s and


women'


sexual


social


roles.


Heilbrun,


nineteenth


twentieth


centuries


"superseded


other


finding


some


confusion


nameless


creative


and


between


horrible


civilizing


sexes


threat


force


terrifying


However,


of androgyny


or indicative


declares


essential


survival


of human


soci


ety.


Virginia


Woolf


provides


standard


feminist


understanding


of androgyny,


decrying


likeness


from


between


a fruitful


sexes


interchange


in favor


an enrichment


of attributes;


rising


most


part,


allusions


recently,


Dian


to sexuality

e Hoeveler w


function


arns


metaphorically


More


us of confusing


androgynous


reunion


of masculine


feminine


principles


psyche


with


literal


sexual


union


of male


and


female


: "The


latter


union


produces


a sort


of physical


monstrosity


that


merely


accentuates


differences


between


-- ,- ...
rnt~ -- --.


1 1 3


,,


1 i.


*










Wordsworth


s attempts


to reconcile


"masculine"


"feminine"


aspects


of the


psyche


in several


of the


Lyrical


Ballads


suggest


a wish


complementarity


and


gender


fusion,


upon


ser


examination,


these


poems


go beyond


androgyny


into


a complicated


search


his lost


interaction


mother,


that


reflects


or a maternal


poet


surrogate.


In his


discussion


of The


Prelude,


James


Heffernan


remarks,


"Since


separation


from


Dorothy


directly


resulted


from


death


of their


mother,


one


separation


metonymically


signifies


other


In communicating


Wordsworth


can


with


transference


Dorothy,


communicate


Heffernan


with


suggests,


lost


mother,


and


essentially,


repeat


correct


past


"Separation


does


preclude


possibility


of return


creative


re-enactment


of the


past,


which


is essential


growth


of the


poet


s mind.


Heffernan


cautions


us that


returning


to the


past


memory


re-enacting


words


same


regressing

spectacles


to infancy

of inhumani


or returning


both


to the


England


womb.


and


Having


France


seen


toward


abandoned


women,


prostitutes,


homeless,


Wordsworth


views


pain


of separation


on a more


widespread,


human


basis.


initial


intensified


experience


adult


of "primordial


experience


soc


separation"


ietal


,!a4 n -- 4.!a


-I-- I I I .





I, L1


rl


r










physical,


on an imaginary


plane,


as memory


and


imagination


together


compensate


losses


both


personal


political.


While


maternal


a number


influence


critics


upon


have


poet


carefully


examined


Preludes,


only


superficial


attention


been


paid


"tracing


maternal


passion


through


many


of its


more


subtle


windings"9


Lyrical


Ballads,


despite


Wordsworth


s remarks


"Preface


Although


Wordsworth


s major


characterizations


nature


as maternal


are


found


Prelude,


several


of the


poems


Lvrical


Ballads


portray


nature


"feminine"


maternal;


most


of the


female


figures


are


like


nature


interact


with


nature,


whether


positively,


like


Dorothy


"Tintern


Abbey,


or in


an ambivalent


or negative


fashion


Through


"Mad

the


Mother,"

contrast


"The


Thorn,


between


or "The


women


Female


s absorption


Vagrant


into


nature


poet/


speaker


s conscious


distance,


poems


reflect


difficult


distinctions


between


subject


object, "n

wrestling.


Lasculine"

Merging


and

with


"feminine,


nature


" with

both


which the

desired and


poet


feared;


Wordsworth


association


paradigms


does


of the


of activity


simply


accept


"feminine"


versus


with


traditional


nature


passivity,


patriarchal


resulting


reason


versus


--- A- I -----


C


._ __ _^










positive


and


negative


feelings


toward


"feminine,


striving

masculinen


to break through

e" subject and "


traditional


feminine"


object.


relationship


concluding


Lyrical


Ballads


with


"Tintern


Abbey,


" Wordsworth


reempha


izes


complicated


"feminine"


role


played


throughout


nature


volume.


relation


Nature


to the


s separation


from


"feminine"


represented


height


of unnaturalness,


"the


"The


Female


Forsaken


Vagrant


Indian


It has


Woman,


played


or a healing,


a fatal


role,


maternal


role,


"The


Idiot


Boy.


Unlike


"The


Female


Vagrant,


" "The


Mad


Mother"


or "The


Thorn,


" in


which


nature


represented


both


threatening


and


redeeming,


"Tintern


Abbey"


presents


nature


uniting


with


female


male


figure


a primarily


positive


fashion.


figure


natural


Nevertheless,


elements


absorption


serves


of the


empowers


female


her


brother


as much


as herself;


a number


of critics


find


"Tintern


Abbey"


a rather


calcifying


experience


sister,


"feminine"


as nature/mother


figure


appears


to absorb


female


whether


figure


Dorothy'


sets


failure


male


to break


figure


with


free.


nature,


wonder


i.e.,


maternal


figure,


prevents


full


growth;


will


argue


that


Wordsworth'


intentions


are


otherwi


se.


psychological


literary


critic


might


read


into


nhnnf C 1 r.+-


N-in aC Vmn n


rnh


a. n fr' rna n


rn-.n4 4hC n


~iaE~


~h: a


r


n


-- r-


--#-


I.%"I.










finds


conclusion


of "Tintern


Abbey"


integration


a realized


self


with


landscape,


an ego


achievement


resulting


from


loss


one


relationship


with


Nature


or the


mother


(and


"all


aching


joys")


development


another;


Wordsworth


effectively


achieved


resolution


pre-Oedipal


Wordsworth


Lyrical


ambivalence.


s preoccupation


Ballads


Schapiro


with


reflects


also


abandoned


own


suggests


women


feeling


that


several


abandonment,


coupled


with


desire


to punish


mother.


affirming


self-sacrifice


goodness


of such


women,


can


resolve


guilt


reaffirm


belief


mankind,


mother,


himself.


Thomas


Vogler


(1984)


also


examines


Dorothy


as a


maternal


surrogate,


spiritualized


presence


serving


as the


living


embodiment


of Wordsworth


idealized


lost


mother.


Taking


a strongly


Freudian


turn,


Vogler


describes


Wordsworth


S use


Dorothy


as a form


psychoanalytical


transference,


enabling


recover


work


through


repressed


experience


order


to achieve


an integrated


self


"The


Wordsworthian


activity


of writing


during


this


period


combines


textual


goals


a completion


form


with


psychological


goal


of achieving


a coherent


identity.


As psychoanalytic


theory


continues


argue


favor


- ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ s% 4., a. L 3 ---1


S- 1 ^ -


S IY1


,,,LU,1


CkA


L L*










both


psychological


understanding


literature


of current


literary


trends


criticism.


developmental


theory


enables


us to apply


theories


of maternal


influence


or neglect


more


carefully


our


criticism


of the


Literary


Ballads.


Since


early


1970


s a number


critics


have


illuminated


manner


which


we idealize


"good


mother"


castigate


other.


Janna


Malamud


Smith


emphasizes


general


neglect


of "the


social


context


mothering"11


concurs


with


Jean


Baker


Miller


that


easier


to blame


mothers


than


to comprehend


entire


system


that


restricted

questions


paternal


women


regarding


influence,


Smith


points


relative


and


a number


importance


reluctance


of unresolved


of maternal


of psychiatric


literature


to acknowledge


In Feminism


influence


Psychoanalytic


of societal


Theory


(1990),


contexts.

Nancy


Chodorow


both


warns


of the


tendency


dangers


toward


of psychoanalytic


a universalism


which


feminism,


disregards


class,


racial,


ethnic


differences


among


women


and,


historically,


failure


of psychological


critics


to apply


method


and


theory


a socially


or culturally


specific


manner


Chodorow


herself


argues


that


mothering


generates


defense


masculine


identity


men


and


a compensatory


psychology


ideology


of masculine


superiority


also


a- a


-*


.


1 .





1










psychological,

identities, be


cultural


tliefs,


which


relations,


would


dynamics,

privilege


practices,

neither


society,


psyche,


nor


culture,


comes


to constitute


gender


as a


social,


cultural,


and


psychological


phenomenon.


While


Tha~


Reoroductionn


of Motherina


(1978)


implied


that


mothering


was


cause


or prime


mover


of male


dominance,


Feminism


Psychoanalytic


Theory


(while


denying


social


cultural


significance


of her


former


argument)


examines


other


axes


power


dimensions


of gender,


particular


father


s soc


ial,


cultural,


political


power.


Examining


this


"multiplex


web"


of sexual


inequality,


Chodorow


continues


to privilege


psychoanalytic


object-relationship


theories


that


emphasize


mother-dominated


pre-Oedipal


period


over


father-dominated


Oedipal


period.


Chodorow


also


reveals


how


fantasy


perfect


mother


permeated


literary


critic


as well


psychoanalytical


literature,


citing


some


most


virulent


extreme


examples,


such


as Nancy


Friday


s My Mother/My


(1977)15


Dorothy


Dinnerstein


s The


Mermaid


Minotaur


(1976)16,


as well


as more


objective


accounts


such


Adrienne


Rich


s Of Woman


Born


(1976)17


which


examine


difficulties


of being


a mother


a male-dominated


society


empha


size


identification


with


mother.


Much


recent


-~~i S S -


Self


r I 1


I


-- I


1




Full Text
WORDSWORTH'S CHALLENGES TO GENDER-BASED HIERARCHIES
A STUDY OF LYRICAL BALLADS
By
ELIZABETH LOVETT COLLEDGE
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1991

Copyright 1991
by
Elizabeth Lovett Colledge

This dissertation is dedicated to my children, William
Lovett Colledge and Elizabeth Ross Colledge, my husband,
Shepherd Edward Colledge, and my mother, Elizabeth Ross
Lovett. I also dedicate it in memory of my grandmother,
Sally Chandler Ross, and my father, William Dow Lovett.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
First and foremost I thank Richard E. Brantley, who
supervised this dissertation, for his perceptive criticism
and his intellectual and moral support. Several years ago
his teaching inspired me to write this dissertation on
Wordsworth. Since then he has guided my work with patience,
humor, and encouragement. He is the ideal reader and editor.
I would also like to thank the several members of my
supervisory committee. Elizabeth Langland, who fostered my
interest in feminist criticism, serves as a splendid role
model for feminist scholars and teachers. Her comments and
criticism have been invaluable. Mel New's high intellectual
standards and refusal to accept mediocrity have enriched both
my writing and my thinking. His always incisive remarks and
acerbic wit continue to challenge me. I thank Beth Schwartz
for her thoughtful reading of my work at several stages and
her insightful remarks. I also thank James Twitchell for his
participation in the early stages of this dissertation and
Doug Bonneville for his careful examination of the completed
dissertation.
Finally I acknowledge the steadfast love and support of
my husband, Shepherd Edward Colledge, and my children,
iv

William Lovett Colledge and Elizabeth Ross Colledge. I thank
my late grandmother, Sally Chandler Ross, who believed in me
unconditionally, and my late father, William Dow Lovett, who
taught me the value of knowledge and achievement. And I
thank my earliest and most significant influence, my mother,
Elizabeth Ross Lovett, who loved and read to me Wordsworth's
"Daffodils."
v

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iv
ABSTRACT vii
CHAPTERS
1 THE PREFACE TO LYRICAL BALLADS: WORDSWORTH'S
CHALLENGES TO TRADITIONAL MASCULINIST
IDEOLOGIES AND HIS STRUGGLES FOR POETIC
RECONCILIATION OF GENDER CONFLICTS 1
Notes 30
2 THE FEMALE SPEAKER AND THE MASCULINE VOICE.... 36
Notes 7 9
3 "TINTERN ABBEY": THE SISTER AS SOURCE AND
SUBJECT 83
Notes 141
4 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION 147
Notes 157
APPENDIX FEMINIST CRITICISM 159
Notes 225
WORKS CITED 232
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 241
vi

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
WORDSWORTH'S CHALLENGES TO GENDER-BASED HIERARCHIES:
A STUDY OF LYRICAL BALLADS
By
Elizabeth Lovett Colledge
August, 1991
Chairman: Dr. Richard E. Brantley
Major Department: English
In both the Preface to Lyrical Ballads and the ballads
themselves, William Wordsworth challenges traditional notions
of gender. Despite his tendency to favor a gendered division
of power, Wordsworth envisions a fruitful tension, and even a
balance, between "masculine" and "feminine" attributes.
Gender roles are never quite merged into an androgynous
state but are modified and exchanged through an interactive
dynamic. The result is both a fuller appreciation and a
fuller development of each.
While the Preface introduces gender-specific strategies
of writing, the poems employ them, for the ballads set into
play a nonhierarchical interaction of the "masculine" with
the "feminine." In "The Female Vagrant," "The Mad Mother,"
and "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman," Wordsworth

establishes female personae, and he thereby establishes his
own sympathy for, his own identification with, traditionally
"feminine" attributes. The physical status of these lost or
abandoned women reflects social reality. Although
Wordsworth's own poetic identity remains more or less clearly
linked to "masculine" metaphors of power, the emotional
states of his female personae project his sense of what it
means to speak and suffer as a woman.
By assuming a female voice, indeed, he challenges
patriarchal structures and endows the "feminine" with at
least a degree of authority. Constrained by the culturally
embedded divisions between "masculine" reason and "feminine"
emotion, Wordsworth cannot overtly take possession of
qualities such as intuition, empathy, or maternal instinct.
Nor does he simply redefine them as "masculine." But he
incorporates mothers, sisters, and wives in poetic fictions
that enable him to share, or share in, these qualities.
His crowning achievement, perhaps, occurs in the
interaction between the poet/speaker and a sororal/maternal
figure in "Tintern Abbey." Here Wordsworth abandons his
fantasy of the prelapsarian androgyny of childhood. He
redefines himself in an exchange of "masculine" and
"feminine," if not, indeed, in their reconciliation.
viii

CHAPTER 1
THE PREFACE TO LYRICAL BALLADS:
WORDSWORTH'S CHALLENGES TO TRADITIONAL MASCULINIST
IDEOLOGIES AND HIS STRUGGLES FOR POETIC RECONCILIATION
OF GENDER CONFLICTS
In the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, and in many of the
ballads themselves, William Wordsworth challenges traditional
notions of gender and poetic strategies. Despite some
tendency toward a gendered division of power, and despite his
occasional rejection of the "feminine," Wordsworth most often
envisions a radical union of "masculine" and "feminine"
attributes, a union which, rather than ordering or
reconciling these encultured opposites, holds them in tension
and balance. "Masculine" and "feminine" do not so much unite
in an androgynous ideal as exchange and modify traditional
gender roles; there is no merger into a third state, but
rather a fuller appreciation of each as necessary for the
richer development of the other. The Preface introduces the
gender-specific writing strategies of the poems themselves,
which, as I read them, reflect Wordsworth's attempts to set
into play a nonhierarchical interaction of gendered
opposites.
An awareness of the ideology inherent in both Romantic
poetry and feminist critical theory informs my examination of
1

2
the Preface and certain ballads. As Alan Richardson explains
in "Romanticism and the Colonization of the Feminine,"
perceptions of women in Romantic poetry are based on
historically and socially entrenched concepts.1 When
including women, poetic tradition either relegates them to
the position of muse or appropriates "feminine" qualities as
extensions of the "masculine"; female "difference" serves
both as a source of inspiration and a safe extension of the
male self, its visionary goals and ideals. Even efforts on
the part of male writers to absorb the more positive
"feminine" attributes primarily enlarge the masculine sphere
at the expense of the feminine; such colonizing gestures
reinforce rather than break down traditional gender
hierarchies. Poetic tradition reflects this denial of the
"feminine," with its accompanying degradation, notably in the
separation of reason and emotion.
Wordsworth's challenges to the priorities of reason over
emotion reveal his awareness of the traditional subject/
object dichotomies of Western culture: culture/nature,
Logos/Pathos, form/matter, and ultimately, masculine/
feminine. In reference to these paradigms, the feminist
critics Gayle Greene and Coppelia Kahn remark, "It is evident
that the nature-culture opposition exists in a matrix common
to other value-laden oppositions (including those of gender
ideology) by which western culture organizes itself, and that
it must be understood in relation to them."2 Such patterns of

3
thought make up and sustain "the intellectual framework of
male dominance."
Thinking in terms of binary opposition always implies
the inferiority of one term, the subordination of one element
to the other. Reversing the order of the pairing has no
effect upon the basic matrix of hierarchical oppositions, but
simply reinforces the system of oppositions; one remains
trapped within a system of philosophical logic that bases
truth upon difference.3 Deconstructionist thought requires
the undermining of such oppositions and accordingly the
system which supports them as the only means of undoing the
hierarchical opposition between men and women. According to
Elizabeth A. Meese, "The deconstructive critic claims as a
goal the undoing of the fundamental hierarchy of meaning
within which binary oppositions structure western
metaphysics."4 In addition to questioning the hierarchical
traditions within which Wordsworth writes, deconstructive
theory can also be used to break down received, oppressive
epistemologies, and uses of language. However, western
feminist criticism frequently demands that both theory and
practice stand upon specific socio-political goals; the
emphasis in deconstructive theory upon the endless deferral
of meaning lessens the significance of political or material
goals. For this reason, many feminist critics find
deconstructive theory more effective when united with more

4
specifically grounded psychological and socio-historical
theories.
Much of feminist criticism has involved the ongoing
project of exposing and analyzing patriarchal representations
of women, and the Preface, of course, must take a certain
stereotyping and misrepresentation of women as a literary and
sociological given. In their recent study titled No Man1s
Land. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar have demonstrated, among
other things, that men from Tennyson through such modernists
as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound to Ted Hughes had difficulty
accepting the feminine: "Once we reimagine the author as a
gendered human being whose text reflects key cultural
conditions, we can conflate and collate individual literary
narratives, so that they constitute one possible metastory, a
story of stories about gender strife in this period."5 If
they are correct, then Wordsworth represents a different
tradition, a different "metastory." Naturally Wordsworth
found it difficult, if not impossible, to separate encultured
difference from sexual difference; nevertheless, he
envisioned a radical exchange and balance between gendered
opposites. Although he frequently conflated the socio-
historical with the "intrinsic," he continued to hover
between reason and emotion, rather than falling into the
masculinist error of favoring one over the other.
William Godwin served as one source for Wordsworth's
interest in the reconciliation of reason and emotion. Having

5
read Godwin's Political Justice in 1793, Wordsworth became
temporarily enthusiastic regarding the restriction of the
emotions by rational control and intellectual activity.
Godwin promoted social justice through the exercise of pure
reason, without the encumbrance either of emotion or various
conventions and institutions, whether political, religious,
or social. At first Wordsworth fell under his influence; he
had remained idealistic despite his shattered revolutionary
hopes, which had reflected his worship of reason and the
possibilities of the perfectibility of human nature.
However, by 1798, Wordsworth modified Godwin's philosophy and
his own rationalism, for he recognized that the emotions
could not--and should not—be totally restricted by
rational control and intellectual activity. The
Wordsworthian character of Lyrical Ballads is shaped as
effectively by his environment and emotions as by Godwin's
rational principles; the poet focuses upon the healing
effects of nature, working in conjunction with the conscious
efforts of will or intellect.6
A certain reevaluation and poetic appropriation of
the "feminine" accompanies the Romantic Age, as poets seek
to bring the traditionally feminine virtues of emotion and
sensitivity into the circle of masculine power, most often
for purposes of greater self-expression or enlargement.
Wordsworth's particular appropriation of encultured feminine
attributes, as well as his distinction between maternal and

6
adult sexuality, turns his search for poetic identity into
more than a simple quest for maturity: the quest involves
sexual identity. His recurring ambivalence toward and
sympathy for the "feminine" undermine his overt allegiance to
the masculine hierarchy, as I shall illustrate through my
examination of the following ballads: "The Female Vagrant,"
"The Mad Mother," "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman,"
"Lines Written at a Small Distance from my House" ("To My
Sister"), and "Tintern Abbey."
In "Romantic Quest and Conquest," Marlon B. Ross
notes: "Poetry motivated and shaped by the desire for self-
possession, determined by the poet's aggressive relation to
his fellows and the world, is not intrinsically masculine,
but it is socio-historically masculine. Quest and conquest,
too, though able to be appropriated by women, are
historically the means through which men have appropriated
power for themselves and over women."7 Ross's distinction
applies equally to the binary opposition of reason and
emotion and other traditional subject-object dichotomies,
symptoms of socialization rather than anatomy.
Much of the Preface uses traditional metaphors of
conquest and achievement to present the poet as manly or self-
possessed. He must struggle against a multitude of forces
that "blunt the discriminating powers of the mind," unfit it
for "all voluntary exertion," and "reduce it to a state of
almost savage torpor."8 The use of "force" to "blunt" the

7
mind's "powers," the reduction of the mind to a state of
"almost savage torpor," reflect the linear "masculine" images
of battle and direct achievement, as opposed to more
circular, diffused images of "feminine" influence and
sensibility.
Ironically, this masculine force is not
Wordsworth's: it acts upon him. The continuous use of
metaphors of control throughout the Preface reflects the
poet's need to struggle against masculine power, a covert
acknowledgement of his recognition of the "feminine” in his
nature.
In his commitment to "the real language of men"° in the
initial paragraph of the Preface, Wordsworth ostensibly
excludes the female voice; likewise, the pleasure which
ensues from the metrical arrangement of this language, "that
sort of pleasure and that quantity of pleasure . . . which a
Poet may rationally endeavour to impart,"10 implicitly
subordinates the "feminine" to the "masculine." This
subordination becomes clearer as we examine Wordsworth's
understanding of pleasure in relation to the poetic
tradition. Stephen Parrish explores the Poet's concept: "At
once a psychological, esthetic, almost an epistemological
term, pleasure was the 'grand elementary principle' of man's
nature, the distinctive achievement of poetic art, and
something like an instrument of truth."11 Contemporary
definitions of pleasure, according to The Oxford English

8
Dictionary (1971), range from the strictly physical concept
of sensual gratification to "the condition of consciousness
of sensation induced by the enjoyment or anticipation of what
is felt or viewed as good or desirable; enjoyment, delight,
gratification." In anticipating his readers' reactions,
Wordsworth hopes for "more than common pleasure," which
implies more than ordinary, that is, sensual, gratification.
The OED quotes Bishop Berkeley, 1732: "you admit, therefore,
three sorts of pleasure:—pleasure of reason, pleasure of
imagination, and pleasure of sense," a definition which
places reason, imagination, and sense, and, given the age,
"masculine" and "feminine," in descending positions of
importance.
Although Wordsworth might well have been familiar with
Berkeley's work on the subject, he does not explicitly
expound upon these specific varieties of pleasure but instead
creates his own unique understanding of the concept, arriving
at much the same hierarchical conclusion. The sort and
quantity of pleasure "which a Poet may rationally endeavour
to impart," would certainly extend beyond the sensual, if we
read Wordsworth aright. Clearly, the Preface reflects a
sympathy towards the Berkeleyan triad of the pleasures of
reason, imagination, and sense; and the elevation of the
traditionally masculine concept of reason over the feminine
concepts of emotion or sense reflects the descending order of
Berkeley's triad.

9
On the other hand, in acknowledging his failure to
provide a systematic defense of his theory, Wordsworth
questions the efficacy of "masculine" reason. In an implicit
reference to the gendered split between reason and emotion,
the poet refers to "the selfish and foolish hope of reasoning
him [the reader] into an approbation of these particular
Poems."12 Insofar as the patriarchal value system is based
upon a system of binary oppositions, a hierarchy with an
underlying masculine/feminine paradigm and a corresponding
positive/negative implication, reason is associated with the
"masculine" half of the male/female paradigm, but its lack of
strength here unsettles gendered assumptions about its power
over emotion.
Wordsworth's use of the ostensibly generic "he" and its
equivalents at once includes and subordinates women. He
proposes to create a new class of Poetry sufficient "to
interest mankind permanently," and significant in "the
quality of its moral relations."13 Yet the association of
superior moral relations with the best interests of mankind,
and his continued emphasis on "man" and "mankind" throughout
the Preface, appears to ignore half the human race, despite
his ostensibly generic use of "man" and "mankind." His
eagerness to include the lower classes and speak for the
voiceless suggests a colonizing, imperialistic gesture as
well, one symptomatic of the "masculine" appropriation of the
"feminine"; gender issues permeate issues of class and race.

10
Although Wordsworth insists upon the poet as a
representative of humanity, his definition of this humanity
seems to break with tradition. Despite his acknowledgement
of societal influence, Wordsworth insists upon the existence
of "natural" man, outside social and cultural constraints,
and, as well, on the existence of a natural language: "such a
language arising out of repeated experience and regular
feelings is a more permanent and a far more philosophical
language than that which is frequently substituted by
Poets.”14 And obviously, he considers himself qualified to
bridge the gap between the Poet and the natural man. By
focusing upon natural discourse, he hopes to avoid artificial
social restraints and the influences of cultural contexts
upon his writing. Nevertheless, the concept of "natural
man," however much it appears an embracing of the
marginalized, still excludes or subordinates woman as
completely as the older concept of humanity, that of the man
of culture and society.
Despite his attempts to create this natural man, then,
outside the constraints of culture and society, Wordsworth
cannot deny the effect of socio-historical factors, with the
gendered expectations that accompany them. He admits that a
complete defense of his theory would require a full account
of the current state of public taste, impossible "without
pointing out, in what manner language and the human mind act
and react on each other, and without retracing the

11
revolutions not of literature alone but likewise of society
itself."15 He thus openly acknowledges the weight of
tradition, despite his vision of man free from historical and
cultural influences.
Wordsworth well recognizes the traditional expectations
created by the act of writing in verse, expectations of
exclusion as well as inclusion. The Poet "will gratify
certain known habits of association"; he "not only thus
apprizes the Reader that certain classes of ideas and
expressions will be found in his book, but that others will
be carefully excluded."16 As the Poet is always considered
male, this concept of a "voluntarily contracted" agreement
between Poet and reader suggests a long patriarchal tradition
between writers and readers, extended through the ages,
despite different expectations generated in different ages.
The equal emphasis upon exclusion as well as inclusion
reflects the hierarchical origins of literary tradition,
which, in turn, we know to have denied any significant
literary power to the lower classes and the feminine gender.
Female writers and readers have no place here.
By using the traditional brevity of a Preface as his
excuse for not developing the present import of writing in
verse (again made by an Author to "his" Reader, whom the poet
terms "he"), Wordsworth hopes to defend himself against "the
most dishonorable accusation which can be brought against an
Author, namely, that of an indolence which prevents him from

12
endeavouring to ascertain what is his duty, or, when his duty
is ascertained, prevents him from performing it."*7 In this
one sentence he emphasizes the concepts of honor and duty,
historically associated with the masculine, as opposed to the
"indolence," associated, by default, with the feminine. The
verbs he uses, "endeavouring," "ascertaining," and
"performing," suggest ostensibly masculine action as well.
In Women Writers and Poetic Identity. Margaret Homans notes
that although nothing in literature is simply or inherently
feminine, "Static definitions and symbols of femininity have
had their place in culture for so long that it is sometimes
difficult to separate them from actual sexual difference."18
The Preface reflects these standard associations of passivity
with the "feminine" and activity with the "masculine,"
oppressive confederations which Wordsworth found difficult,
if not impossible, to escape. Modern gender theories enable
the feminist critic to attempt to avoid essentializing the
terms masculine and feminine and to ground them culturally.
Wordsworth's most radical proposition occurs when he
states his intention to trace the primary laws of human
nature in respect to the association of ideas in a state of
excitement. By juxtaposing the world of ideas, with its
associations with reason, clarity, and culture, with the
concept of excitement, which suggests emotion, feeling,
disorder, and stimulation of the senses,19 he proposes,
perhaps unawares, a radical union of traditionally masculine

13
and feminine attributes. Yet such a union cannot occur
within the confines of traditional society; it must be found
in "low and rustic life" where "the essential passions of the
heart find a better soil in which they can attain their
maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and
more emphatic language."20 Here, traditionally feminine
metaphors of natural growth and fruition combine with
masculine metaphors of freedom and communication. Our
passions and feelings are "essential" and "elementary"; they
may be more "forcibly communicated" in a state of simplicity
and durability. Most significantly, "the passions of men are
incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of
nature," further suggesting a merger of the masculine and
feminine. One particularly notes the use of "are
incorporated with" rather than "incorporate," suggesting a
more equitable exchange, as the male gives up the active for
the passive voice. By suggesting the permanence of nature/
the female, Wordsworth strengthens its position in the
interchange with the masculine.
Yet the feminine influence retains its position as
object, never subject; language remains masculine, of "men."
Nature serves to purify this language "because such men
hourly communicate with the best objects from which the best
part of language is originally derived."21 Wordsworth
distances masculine language from the language of Poets, "who
think that they are conferring honor upon themselves and

14
their art in proportion as they separate themselves from the
sympathies of men, and indulge in arbitrary and capricious
habits of expression in order to furnish food for fickle
tastes and fickle appetites of their own creation."22 By
disparaging those who align their art with weakness and
frivolity, traditionally "feminine" characteristics,
Wordsworth appears to disparage certain aspects of the
feminine, although he certainly values "the sympathies of
men." Images of growth and nurturing remain subservient to
images of masculine action, reflecting the poet's continued
ambivalence toward the "feminine."
I see Wordsworth as struggling between attachment to and
rejection of the "feminine," symbolized in Lyrical Ballads as
a mother/nature figure.23 In "The Female Vagrant," "The Mad
Mother," and "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman," the
self overcomes its angry, self-destructive rejection of the
mother and at the same time acknowledges her wholeness, her
nobility, and her separate reality; the Preface reflects
Wordsworth's initial conflict and partial resolution of this
relationship. We might view his celebration of motherhood as
an insidious reinscription of the notion of "separate
spheres" for men and women; however, in hovering between
acceptance and rejection of the maternal figure, Wordsworth
struggles to reconcile what he perceives as the male and
female aspects of his own psyche. As I will argue more fully

15
in subsequent chapters, the result is not an androgynous
ideal, but a complicated interchange.24
The standards by which Wordsworth defines poetic and
personal achievement continue to depend upon culturally
entrenched ideals; his repeated emphasis on the importance of
"purpose" aligns his poetry with "masculine" goals. Every
basic text on Romanticism quotes Wordsworth's definition of
good poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful
feelings"; few elaborate upon the qualifying sentence which
follows: "Poems to which any value can be attached were never
produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who being
possessed of more than usual organic sensibility had also
thought long and deeply."25 Value, a quality determined by
the masculinist critical hierarchy, occurs in poems produced
by a man who possesses the critical skill long fostered by
this hierarchy, analytic thought. Thought, a traditionally
male preserve, continues to dominate feeling, despite the
emphasis on "organic sensibility," although Wordsworth goes
on to suggest that the relationship is again one of
symbiosis: "For our continued influxes of feeling are
modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the
representatives of all our past feelings; and as by
contemplating the relation of these general representatives
to each other, we discover what is really important to men."26
Thoughts direct and modify feelings; feelings are
subsequently "nourished," again a traditionally feminine

16
image. Remarking upon the devaluation of women in the
English Augustan period, Alan Richardson notes (with
considerable overstatement, to be sure) that "women,
considered sensible but not reasonable, were all but denied
status as human, that is, as rational beings."27 The Romantic
Age, and long after, retains this gendered division of reason
and emotion, despite a reevaluation of the feminine resulting
from developments in moral philosophy and empirical attacks
upon reason, all originating early in the eighteenth century.
In tracing the roots of this opposition from Freud through
Hegel back to Plato, the critic Luce Irigaray argues "that
these men's intellectual systems are based on oppositions in
which the second term is understood as a devalued opposite to
the first; within such definitions, whether overt or covert,
woman gets assimilated to the negative pole—other,
irrational, material: that is, to being thought of as the
matter whose mirroring existence makes possible the light of
masculine Reason."28 Within such a deeply embedded system,
any reevaluations of the "feminine" are revolutionary indeed;
even Irigaray must use an oppositional vocabulary that
reinforces the gender distinctions she attempts to transcend.
Wordsworth's references to the blind and mechanical
impulses of the mind create gendered implications,
particularly in light of the active and reactive nature of
impulses. In elaborating upon the influxes of thought and
feeling, he suggests that habitual obedience to mental

17
impulse has extensive effects: "the understanding of the
being to whom we address ourselves, if he be in a healthful
state of association, must necessarily be in some degree
enlightened, his taste exalted, and his affections
ameliorated"29 Hugh Sykes Davies clarifies Wordsworth's
understanding of "impulse": "For him, it meant not an
inexplicable eddy within the human spirit, but a movement
stirred in it from without. an influence upon the individual
of some force in the outer universe."30 A comprehensive
understanding of "impulse" suggests a more eguitable
interchange between thought and feeling, in contrast to the
acts of masculine "purpose" Wordsworth earlier proposes.
Wordsworth, however, reiterates the significance of
purpose, as a useful strategy in balancing masculine and
feminine attributes. The purpose of each poem is generally
"to illustrate the manner in which our feelings and ideas are
associated in a state of excitement" and specifically "to
follow the fluxes and refluxes of the mind when agitated by
the great and simple affections of our nature."31 "A state of
excitement" suggests a metaphor of the aroused senses, an
almost sexual, certainly sensual, encounter between feelings
and ideas. Likewise the mind is "agitated," while "fluxes
and refluxes" suggests sensual movement. Wordsworth
valorizes this state of excitement, particularly in reference
to one's ranking in humanity: "For the human mind is capable
of excitement without the application of gross and violent

18
stimulants; and he must have a very faint perception of its
beauty and dignity who does not know this, and who does not
further know that one being is elevated above another in
proportion as he possesses the capability."32 A certain irony
exists here: appropriating culturally based and traditionally
inferior "feminine" attributes permits the poet to rise above
other members of the human race. Such a statement suggests
Wordsworth's admiration for and envy of these socio-
historical attributes, his wish to incorporate them within
his work and his self.
In enumerating the means by which he attains this
object, Wordsworth refers to a number of poems and begins,
significantly, "by tracing the maternal passion through many
of its more subtle windings, as in the poems of the 'Idiot
Boy' and the 'Mad Mother.'" One primary circumstance
distinguishes these poems from the popular poetry of the day:
"that the feeling therein developed gives importance to the
action and situation and not the action and situation to the
feeling."33 Rather than develop this radical claim,
Wordsworth refers the readers to his poetry, and I shall
subsequently discuss the two poems mentioned in relation to
this claim. Nevertheless, the significance of valorizing the
superiority of feelings over action and situation is far-
reaching, as it implicitly challenges the gendered hierarchy
of reason and emotion. In accordance with Wordsworth's
historically-bound epistemology, he maintains the concept of

19
opposition, simply reversing the terms. However, by
affirming feeling over action and situation, Wordsworth
prepares the reader for his subsequent challenges to
patriarchal authority.
The ability to produce or enlarge the human capability
for excitement, through the contribution of ostensibly
feminine attributes, becomes essential to Wordsworth in the
particular period of the 1790s, in order to offset the effect
of socio-political changes. Acting to "blunt the
discriminating powers of the mind" and "reduce it to a state
of almost savage torpor" (the converse of activity) are "the
great national events which are daily taking place, and the
increasing accumulation of men in cities, where the
uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for
extraordinary incident, which the rapid communication of
intelligence hourly gratifies."34 Here, briefly, is
Wordsworth's most specific reference to the political and
economic climate which was significantly altering the
agrarian economy of rural England and creating the
contingents of dislocated rural poor who served as subjects
in a number of the lyrical ballads. Yet his emphasis swiftly
turns to the effect of "the degrading thirst after outrageous
stimulation"35 upon the literature and theater of the day. As
a good eighteenth-century thinker, Wordsworth remains
cautious about too much emotion, too great an indulgence in
feeling and craving for the extraordinary. Such stimulation

20
is put into sharp contrast with the more feminine "state of
excitement," which elevates one man over others; Wordsworth
implies an interaction between reason and emotion, a sense of
exchange in which each tempers the other. He also affirms
his faith in the possibility of socio-historical change: "The
time is approaching when the evil will be systematically
opposed by men of greater powers and with far more
distinguished success." Although power remains with "men,"
our understanding is tempered by the poet's emphasis upon the
beauty and dignity of the human mind under the influence of
less violent stimulants, an emphasis which values more
"feminine" virtues.
In his discussion of style, Wordsworth challenges
patriarchal poetic tradition. His rejection of
"personifications of abstract ideas" and avoidance of "what
is usually called poetic diction"3^ as contrary to "the very
language of men" suggests a less gender-specific
understanding of "men," one which will keep the Reader "in
the company of flesh and blood." Likewise he proposes "to
look steadily at my subject" rather than through the filter
of traditional style. He further distances himself from his
own perception of the poetic tradition with his concentration
upon one particular property of poetry, good sense: "It has
necessarily cut me off from a large portion of phrases and
figures of speech which from father to son have long been
regarded as the common inheritance of Poets."37

21
In rejecting the common inheritance between poetic
fathers and sons, Wordsworth deliberately breaks the chain of
influence, avoiding, he believes, "falsehood of description"
in his determination to look steadily at his subject. Thus
he posits patriarchal tradition as the enemy to good sense;
his choice of "the language of men" sets up an opposition
between these "men" and "poetic fathers and sons" that
implies the inclusion of feminine attributes and a more truly
ungendered "man." He also decries the "numerous class of
critics" who "would establish a canon of criticism which the
Reader will conclude he must utterly reject if he wishes to
be pleased with these volumes."38 In addition to challenging
the traditional canon of literature, Wordsworth challenges
the canon of criticism as well; although he does not specify
his objections to established criticism, he implies a
rejection of patriarchal/masculine critical modes. According
to Harold Bloom,39 a strong poet must reject his father
(although this denunciation does not derive from a feminized
impulse); Wordsworth's version of eighteenth-century poetry
represents Bloom's "Poetic Misprision" as he "kills" the
"father" he creates. Although Bloom does not here construe
this rejection as a feminized gesture, I read Wordsworth as
going beyond Bloom's paradigm and seeking a poetic
reconciliation of "masculine" and "feminine" attributes that
values both.

22
As a paradigm for the relationship between metrical
verse and prose, Wordsworth uses the traditional metaphor of
poetry and painting as sisters. While asserting the power
and humanity of feminine force, this culturally bound
comparison is based upon a classical and hence patriarchal
reference: "We are fond of tracing the resemblance between
Poetry and Painting, and accordingly, we call them Sisters:
but where shall we find bonds of connection sufficiently
strict to typify the affinity betwixt metrical and prose
composition?"40 Although the concept of the arts as sisters
long precedes the Preface,41 Wordsworth uses particularly
physical and sensuous "feminine" images to develop his own
version. Metrical and prose composition "both speak by and
to the same organs," while "the bodies in which both of them
are clothed may be said to be of the same substance."42 Prose
and metrical composition seem twins as much as sisters:
"their affections are kindred and almost identical, not
necessarily differing even in degree; Poetry shed not tears
'such as Angels weep,' but natural and human tears; she can
boast of no celestial Ichor that distinguishes her vital
juices from those of prose; the same human blood circulates
through the veins of them both."43 The very physicality of
these lines is striking: "Ichor," that blood of gods that one
might traditionally associate with a heavenly muse, is
rejected in favor of human blood. The "vital juices" of
Poetry and prose are the same; few expressions could indicate

23
stronger physical union. Indeed the lines suggest a sexual
bond through the comingling of the physical, a bond that
affirms feminine sexuality.
While he recognizes the threat to the existing socio¬
political order of the "outrageous stimulation" and the
(masculine) "degrading thirst" for female sexuality,
Wordsworth sees a possibility of harnessing this threat to
poetic effect. In defense of his writing in verse, he
acknowledges "the most valuable object of all writing whether
in prose or verse, the great and universal passions of men,"44
and reaffirms his vision of opposites in tension and balance:
"the end of Poetry is to produce excitement in coexistence
with an overbalance of pleasure."45 By treating excitement as
"an unusual and irregular state of mind," with ideas and
feelings no longer succeeding one another in accustomed
order, he suggests its potential for danger or disruption to
the established order. This danger of excitement carried out
of bounds is to be tempered, then, by the "co-presence of
something regular, something to which the mind has been
accustomed when in an unexcited or a less excited state."46
Here Wordsworth suggests a check upon feminine emotion by
masculine reason, a sense of exchange and mutual control.
His further reference to "continual and regular impulses of
pleasurable surprise from the metrical arrangement" conveys a
harmonious interaction of the two; emotion is controlled even
as it is aroused. On the other hand, if the Poet's words are

24
insufficient to create the necessary excitement, the feelings
of pleasure the Reader associates with meter create an almost
patterned, associational response to a recognized stimulus.
The interaction of "feminine" excitement or emotion with
"masculine" reason and control produces the complex end the
poet proposes.
In order to reinforce the connections between sexual and
creative tension, Wordsworth recalls a traditional
philosophical defense of the pleasure received from metrical
language. Through reference to the ancient Roman principles
of Concordia Discors and Discordia Concors, "the pleasure
which the mind derives from the perception of similitude in
dissimilitude,"47 he affirms his critical commitment to the
parallels between sexual union and the union of imagination
and art. From these principles not only "the activity of our
minds" but "the direction of the sexual appetite, and all the
passions connected with it" arise. By linking the union of
sexual opposites with the life of the mind, Wordsworth
validates the provocative interaction of opposites in
general, both physical and mental.48 A particularly
significant interaction occurs as "the complex feeling of
delight" tempers "the painful feeling which will always be
found intermingled with powerful descriptions of the deeper
passions."49 And by defining the perception of similitude in
dissimilitude as "the life of our ordinary conversation,"
Wordsworth aligns it with the natural language of men. Our

25
tastes and moral feelings similarly depend upon our accuracy
in perceiving these paradoxical unions.
Wordsworth's concern with the conflict between the
reader's predetermined associations and the author's
intentions also reflects his recognition of the power of a
patriarchal poetic tradition. In acknowledging the arbitrary
association of certain feelings and ideas with particular
words in the mind of the reader, he notes "the various stages
of meaning through which words have passed," and "the
fickleness or stability of the relations of particular ideas
to each other."50 Such concerns with the vagaries of meaning
lead him to exhort the Reader that "in judging these Poems he
would decide by his own feelings genuinely, and not by
reflection upon what will probably be the judgment of
others."51 By challenging the Reader to "abide independently
by his own feelings," he defies patriarchal assumptions
regarding literary value and reaffirms the power of emotions;
moreover, he explicitly jettisons "masculinist" judgment.
However, Wordsworth does not entirely reject the
traditional forms of literature and critical values. As a
good eighteenth-century thinker, he equivocates, reiterating
that an accurate taste in Poetry "is an acquired talent,
which can only be produced by thought and a long continued
intercourse with the best models of composition." Careful
study and thought preceding our judgments are necessary to
"temper the rashness of decision, and to suggest that if

26
Poetry be a subject on which much time has not been bestowed,
the judgment may be erroneous."52 He acknowledges the
comfortable lure and easiness of tradition: "all men feel an
habitual gratitude, and something of an honorable bigotry for
the objects which have long continued to please them: we not
only wish to be pleased, but to be pleased in that particular
way in which we have been accustomed to be pleased."53 We
want the emotional satisfaction of the familiar rather than
the uncertainty of the unknown; a patriarchal society tends
to identify that familiarity with itself, closing ranks
against the unfamiliar, which is identified with the
"feminine" in poetry and art. Wordsworth's use of the word
"bigotry" is an especially strong indication that as far as
he is concerned, the patriarchy is itself suspect.
Ultimately Wordsworth recognizes the valuable impact of
the "feminine," the unfamiliar, upon stultifying tradition.
Refusing to be satisfied with programmed responses to
literature, he insists "that poetry may give other
enjoyments, of a purer, more lasting, and more exquisite
nature." Were his objects to be attained, a "genuine" poetry
would result, "in its nature well adapted to interest mankind
permanently, and likewise important in the multiplicity and
quality of its moral relations."54 His choice of "mankind"
rather than "man" at the conclusion of the Preface suggests a
more universal application, while his emphasis on

27
multiplicity before quality reflects an openness to the
other, including, presumably, the "feminine."
Numerous critics, from Wordsworth's contemporaries to
Mary Jacobus, John E. Jordan, and W.J.B. Owen, have argued
against the originality of the "experiments" Wordsworth
refers to in the Preface. Mary Jacobus, analyzing the
relationship between tradition and experiment, notes that
Wordsworth uses ideas for his poetic theory that had been
generally available for forty years. In particular, he
echoes the theories of Hugh Blair, who defined poetry as "the
language of passion," emphasizing its primitive, nonliterary
origins.55 John E. Jordan, challenging the originality of
Wordsworth's choice of subjects and style, argues that the
poet was attempting to avert a potentially poor critical
reception by presenting his poems as "experiments."
Nevertheless, the poems resemble the periodical verse of the
day in both form and matter; moreover, claims of novelty by
contemporary poets were frequent.56 The small magazines and
journals of the period reveal a number of ballad or ballad¬
like forms as well as frequent use of the subject matter of
vagrants, the poor, and the abandoned. W.J.B. Owen in his
introduction to the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads mentions
several examples from contemporary issues of Gentleman's
Magazine, the European, and the Annual Register, all of which
present themes and treatments comparable to Lyrical Ballads.
Of course, Owen notes the superiority in insight and

28
understanding in the verse of Wordsworth, in contrast to the
sentimentality of magazine verse. For Owen, Wordsworth's
concerns are not pity but understanding, "as if Wordsworth
wished to affirm, or even to celebrate, the dominance of the
normal human spirit in circumstances in which its breakdown
might perhaps be expected."57
Nevertheless, I find that Wordsworth's attempts to trace
and grasp the survival of the human spirit amidst
circumstances of mental and physical stress carry a number of
implications for the status of women, and in so doing, open
the way for a major revolutionary impulse; in this respect
his work was indeed new. Of particular importance is the
poet's inclusion of, even emphasis upon, a "feminine" and
particularly maternal state of mind, that passion which
prevails despite a child's state of idiocy or a mother's
state of madness. In Wordsworth's account of the workings of
the human mind, he first proposes to trace "the maternal
passion through many of its more subtle windings, as in the
poems of 'The Idiot Boy' and 'The Mad Mother'"58; other,
presumably nonmaternal characters, "under the influence of
less impassioned feelings," will subsequently be treated. I
suggest that by elevating the maternal passion as one of the
more "impassioned" feelings, the poet demonstrates more
"novelty" in his subject matter than in his so-called
experiments with dramatic form, despite the risks of
reinscribing the "feminine" in a traditional cultural

29
construct even as it theoretically values it. Wordsworth
averts this danger through his ultimate emphasis upon the
human spirit in its full complexity.
The Advertisement to Lyrical Ballads presents, in
abbreviated form, a number of the gendered conflicts the poet
develops in the Preface. In the initial sentence Wordsworth
claims that the materials of Poetry exist in every subject
interesting to the human mind. While admitting that the word
"Poetry" is "a word of very disputed meaning," he demands
that readers ask themselves whether poetry "contains a
natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and
human incidents."59 The emphasis upon "human" in the
Advertisement, in contrast to the greater emphasis on "man"
(i.e., "the language of men," for example) in the Preface, is
specifically inclusive of both halves of the human race.
Significantly, Wordsworth asks the reader to be pleased "in
spite of that most dreadful enemy to our pleasure, our own
pre-established codes of decision," which can be extended to
pre-established hierarchies of gender as well as literary
codes of decision. Gender-based values influence critical
traditions, and Wordsworth recognizes the ideological bases
of criticism among his readers. As in the Preface, despite
the reference to Poetry's "natural" delineation of the
passions, Wordsworth argues for an appreciation of Poetry as
an acguired, as much as innate, skill, as he struggles with
traditional critical values.

30
To a certain extent the Preface reflects the gender-
specific attitudes both of the society and of the literary
tradition in which Wordsworth wrote; nevertheless, it breaks
ground for challenges to these attitudes.60 While the Preface
reflects the difficulty of challenging tradition, a number of
the poems in Lyrical Ballads have a greater success,
reflecting the strong rebellion of Wordsworth's feminized
self. Despite his position as a member of a masculine poetic
hierarchy, Wordsworth both questions poetic tradition and
values traditionally feminine attributes; his struggle goes
beyond Bloom's anxiety of influence. Through his attempts to
balance the values of reason and emotion, he unsettles the
authority of the "masculine" over the "feminine" and affirms
interaction and balance over separation.
Notes
1. Alan Richardson, "Romanticism and the Colonization
of the Feminine," Romanticism and Feminism, ed. Anne K.
Mellor (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1988) 13-
23. Richardson also provides an excellent discussion of the
influence of the gendered opposition of reason and emotion
upon male Romantic writers and their appropriation of the
conventionally feminine domain of sensibility.
2. Gayle Green and Coppelia Kahn, eds., Making a
Difference: Feminist Literary Criticism (London and New York:
Methuen, 1985) 10-11.
3. For a concise summary of Derridean understanding of
binary theory, see Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An
Introduction (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983) 132-134.
Elizabeth A. Meese provides a more specific discussion of the
relationship between feminist criticism and deconstructionist
theory in Crossing the Double-Cross: The Practice of Feminist
Criticism (Chapel Hill and London: U of North Carolina P,
1986) 71-87. A useful general introduction to Derridean
theory is Christopher Norris, Deconstruction: Theory and

31
Practice (London and New York: Methuen, 1982), although
Norris does not develop the implications of this theory for
feminist criticism.
4. Meese 79. Meese theorizes upon the benefits as well
as the limits of deconstructionist theory for feminist
criticism: "There is another sense in which deconstruction
and feminism reinforce one another in the method of exposing
the aporia, the point at which phallocentrism is blind to
itself, particularly the ways in which it conceals its own
self-centeredness and its politics of exclusion. But feminist
concerns are not necessarily shared by deconstructive critics
who have not, on the whole, produced many readings that
address the power relationships expressive of sexual,
heterosexual, racial, and class oppressions. In this respect
most French and American male deconstructors evidence no more
interest in women's texts than their predecessors or
colleagues of other critical persuasions" (83).
5. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, No Man's Land: The
Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century (New Haven
and London: Yale UP, 1988) xiv.
6. For a concise discussion of Godwin's political
philosophy, see Marilyn Gaull, English Romanticism: The Human
Context (New York and London: Norton, 1988) 131-135.
7. Marlon B. Ross, "Romantic Quest and Conquest,"
Romanticism and Feminism, ed. Anne K. Mellor (Bloomington and
Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1988) 49.
8. Samuel T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth,
Wordsworth and Coleridge; Lyrical Ballads 1798. ed. W.J.B.
Owen (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1969) 160. All subsequent references
to the Preface of 1800 will be documented in the endnotes
under Owen.
9. Owen 153.
10. Owen 153.
11. Stephen Parrish, The Art of the Lyrical Ballads
(Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard UP, 1973) 20.
12. Owen 154.
13. Owen 154.
14. Owen 157.
15.Owen 154-155.

32
16. Owen 155.
17. Owen 155-156.
18. Margaret Homans, Women Writers and Poetic Identity;
Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Bronte, and Emily Dickinson
(Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton UP, 1980) 3-4.
19. In The Oxford English Dictionary (1971), definitions
of "excitement" range from the purely physical "stimulation,
titillation (of the senses)" to "Something that tends to
excite (a feeling); a motive or incentive to action." The
latter definition, supported by quotations from Coleridge and
De Quincey, suggests the interaction between (feminine)
feeling and (masculine) action which Wordsworth is pursuing.
20. Owen 156.
21. Owen 156.
22. Owen 157.
23. An important factor in understanding the complex
relationship between the masculine subject and the feminine
object is the influence of the mother-son relationship, in
particular the masculine identification with the mother. As
an alternative to a Freudian approach, Nancy Chodorow, The
Reproduction of Mothering; Psychoanalysis and the Sociology
of Gender (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: U of California
P, 1978), reveals how the traditional family structure
produces the conventional associations of women with emotion
and sympathy. All pre-Oedipal experiences focus upon the
mother; however, in the period of Oedipal transition, while
boys reject their mothers, girls retain this primary
identification, thus defining themselves in terms of relation
and connection. In turn, boys develop relational capacities
based on denial and rejection of women and the "feminine."
Chodorow's work has radical implications for the gendered
opposition of reason and emotion, suggesting its cultured as
well as physiological embedment in western society. See
Appendix: Feminist Criticism.
24. Although critics such as Carolyn Heilbrun and Jean
H. Hagstrum present the concept of androgyny as a balanced
and relatively uncomplicated ideal, the Utopian vision of
androgyny often occludes the attempts of male poets to absorb
or colonize "feminine" characteristics, resulting in the
obliteration of the female counterpart. Even Heilbrun quotes
Coleridge, "a great mind must be androgynous," merely to
illustrate "what Wordsworth implied when he said his sister
Dorothy had given him eyes and ears." Toward a Recognition of
Androgyny (New York and London: Norton, 1964) xx. Myra

33
Jehlen defines androgyny in the novel as "a male trait
enabling men to act from their male side and feel from their
female side." "Archimedes and the Paradox of Feminist
Criticism," The Signs Reader; Women. Gender and Scholarship,
ed. Elizabeth Abel and Emily K. Abel (Chicago and London: U
of Chicago P, 1983) 90. If the interior life is
metaphorically female, while the exterior life remains male,
the conventional notions of feminine and masculine are
retained.
25. Owen 157.
26. Owen 157-158.
27. Richardson 14. On the other hand, Richard Brantley
in Locke. Weslev, and the Method of English Romanticism
(Gainesville: U of Florida P, 1984) finds Wesley's
presentation of his abridgement of Peter Browne's The
Procedure. Extent, and Limits of Human Understanding to Mary
Pendarves significant in "the evidence it gives of one man's
taking the intellect of a woman seriously indeed" (105) . In
his program to increase women's learning, Wesley chose the
challenging subject of philosophical theology: "Wesley was
ready to establish with all women the intellectual and indeed
the philosophically theological relationships he enjoyed with
Mary Granville Pendarves and his mother" (116). His high
regard for women represents "the love of women as sisters in
Christ and hence as fellow human beings and intellectual
equals," and his relationship with Mary set a pattern for
future intellectual relationships with Methodist women that
taken together "are nothing short of historic."
28. Jan Montefiore, Feminism and Poetry: Language.
Experience. Identity in Women's Writing (London and New York:
Pandora, 1987) 140.
29. Owen 158.
30. Hugh Sykes Davies, "Wordsworth and the Empirical
Philosophers," The English Mind; Studies in the English
Moralists Presented to Basil Wiley, ed. Hugh Sykes Davies and
George Watson (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1964) 155. Colin
Clarke further examines the paradoxes of sense perception in
Wordsworth’s poetry in Romantic Paradox: An Essay on the
Poetry of Wordsworth (New York: Barnes, 1962).
31. Owen 158.
32. Owen 159.
33.Owen 159.

34
34.
Owen
160.
35.
Owen
160.
36.
Owen
161.
37.
Owen
161-162.
38.
Owen
162.
39.
Harold Bloom,
Oxford, and New York: Oxford UP, 1973).
40. Owen 163.
41. In The Sister Arts: The Tradition of Literary
Pictorialism and English Poetry from Drvden to Gray (Chicago:
U of Chicago P, 1958), Jean H. Hagstrum traces the historical
development of the relationship between painting and poetry,
the two arts that have most commonly been called "sisters":
"In Plato's Garden of Essences abstractions appear as
feminine forms that could easily establish themselves - had,
indeed, already established themselves - as the visual
personifications of art and literature"(5).
42.
Owen
163.
43.
Owen
164.
44.
Owen
170.
45.
Owen
171.
46.
Owen
172.
47.
concepts
Owen 173.
see Jean
Discors of Human Relationships," The Unknown Samuel Johnson,
ed. John J. Burke, Jr., and Donald Kay (Madison: U of
Wisconsin P, 1983). 39-53
48. Jean Hagstrum presents a strongly affirmative
viewpoint regarding Wordsworth's comfort with sexuality,
noting that in a literary context he praised the union of
sexually differentiated bodies as the great source of not
merely poetic, but mental activity. Hagstrum also reminds us
that Coleridge regarded sexual congress as the union of
opposites, the blending of "the similar with the dissimilar,"
in accordance with the Latin formulas Wordsworth uses. Even
in contemplating a landscape, Coleridge emphasized the
parallels between vision and appetite, demonstrating that for
him, intellectual effort corresponded to a sexual yearning.

35
Coleridge also coined a specific expression, "coadunation,"
to denote the fusion of opposites, both sexual and
metaphorical. Jean Hagstrum, The Romantic Body; Love and
Sexuality in Keats. Wordsworth, and Blake (Knoxville: U of
Tennessee P, 1985) 54.
49.
Owen
174.
50.
Owen
176.
51.
Owen
177.
52.
Owen
177-178.
53.
Owen
178.
54.
Owen
179.
55.
Mary
Jacobus,
Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads (1798) (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976)
188.
56. John E. Jordan, "The Novelty of the Lyrical
Ballads." Bicentenary Wordsworth Studies, ed. Jonathan
Wordsworth (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1970) 340-358.
57. W.J.B. Owen, introduction, Wordsworth and Coleridge:
Lyrical Ballads 1798. ed. W.J.B. Owen (Oxford: Oxford UP,
1969) xxxi.
58. Owen 158.
5 9. Owen 3.
60. Jerome McGann states one effective present approach
to dealing with past and present ideology: "This work assumes
that poems are social and historical products and that the
critical study of such products must be grounded in a socio-
historical analytic." The Romantic Ideology: A Critical
Investigation (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1983) 3.
McGann also exposes the fundamental Romantic illusion that
poetry is trans-historical: "The idea that poetry deals with
universal and transcendent human themes and subjects is a
culturally specific one, and it assumes different forms of
expression in different epochs, depending upon the different
historical circumstances that prevail." Thus a double
awareness, of the ideology inherent in Romantic poetry and
the ideology which informs my own critique, as well as the
differentials between the two, permeates my examination of
Lyrical Ballads.

CHAPTER 2
THE FEMALE SPEAKER AND THE MASCULINE VOICE
In three of the Lyrical Ballads, "The Female Vagrant,"
"The Mad Mother," and "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian
Woman," Wordsworth expresses his sympathy for and
identification with traditionally "feminine" attributes
through the use of a female speaker. The physical status of
these lost or abandoned women reflects social reality; their
emotional state reflects Wordsworth's projection of what it
means to speak and suffer as a woman, although his poetic
identity remains linked to "masculine" metaphors of power.
In his attempts to enter the mind of woman through assuming a
female voice, he reveals his latent awareness of the
"feminine" aspects of his own character—both his desire for
and his fear of such characteristics.
The act of assuming a female voice represents a
challenge to patriarchal strictures and endows the "feminine"
with a certain authority despite the ostensible presence of a
masculine narrator; this is not a colonizing gesture on
Wordsworth's part. Both "The Female Vagrant" and "The Mad
Mother" employ framing devices which suggest a male narrator
or audience; the effect of a dramatic monologue reflects
36

37
Wordsworth's ambivalence towards "feminine" aspects of his
personality and fears and conflicts about his own masculinity
as well as his need to reemphasize patriarchal values. The
utter isolation of the narrator of "The Complaint of a
Forsaken Indian Woman" reflects the hopelessness of the
female voice in a world in which power is defined by
culturally entrenched gender distinctions.
"The Female Vagrant" begins with Wordsworth's attempt to
distinguish the authorial voice from the female voice. In
the second line he parenthetically injects, "(The Woman thus
her artless story told)." Defining her story as "told," in
contrast to written, gives it a more living, physical quality
that recalls women's connections with the oral tradition and
implies an interaction between the speaker and the poet.
"Artless" implicitly refers to the culturally inscribed
"feminine" attributes of emotion and feeling as opposed to
"masculine" reason and art. The concluding four lines also
change from the female speaking voice to the omniscient and
hence clearly masculine narrator: "She eased, and weeping
turned away." This provides a safe framework within which
the poet can freely express his concerns while ostensibly
separating his voice from that of the Female Vagrant.
In its initial lines, "The Female Vagrant" acknowledges
the power of masculine authority, as the speaker anchors her
story in the location not of her home but of "my Father's
cottage," and emphasizes the significance of field, flock,

38
and neighboring flood to him, thus early on enforcing her
dependence upon masculine protection and support. This
acknowledgment is further reinforced by the capitalization of
"Father" by the Female Vagrant and "Woman" by the masculine
narrator; thus Wordsworth depersonalizes the Female Vagrant
and reinforces her father's spiritual authority. In contrast
to masculine responsibility, her "days in transport roll'd,"
an image of carefree freedom and the undifferentiated flow of
experience. Even laboring she works "with thoughtless Joy,"
another reminder of the paradigm of "masculine" reason and
thought as opposed to "feminine" emotion and feeling.
Wordsworth uses natural elements to heighten the contrast:
she leads her flocks "high o'er the cliffs" while her father
works his boat "a dizzy depth below." By placing her upon
the cliffs, Wordsworth suggests her closeness to the open sky
and the heavens, the more ethereal aspects of nature.
Yet the father's earthbound connections to nature are
not devalued; the poet swerves from the traditional
association of the female with nature and permits her father
a natural relationship which heightens the Edenic atmosphere
of the Vagrant's youth. It also represents a yearning
towards the reconciliation of the "masculine" and the
"feminine." Western culture traditionally places women in a
closer relationship to nature than man; as Marlon Ross notes
in "Naturalizing Gender: Women's Place in Wordsworth's
Ideological Landscape," "the male naturalizes the female's

39
social role by asserting the intimacy between femininity and
nature."1 Ross also suggests that although superficially
Wordsworth appears to promote a natural upbringing, he
actually reinforces societal emphasis upon a proper
"feminine" education, and nature is invested with traditional
male values. I feel that Wordsworth's interest in the
relationship between men and nature adds significance to
rather than devalues the "feminine." To an extent, the
father represents a species of the "natural man" of the
Preface, outside the constraints of culture and society; the
patriarchy that excludes and subordinates his daughter
marginalizes him as well.
Wordsworth's exploration of the continuity between
nature and the "feminine" is permeated by the influence of
empirical philosophy. His emphasis upon one field, 3. flock,
and what the neighboring field supplied reflects his interest
in the significance of singular moments, objects, and
experiences; throughout the poem we recognize their impact
upon female experience, in contrast to the continuous flow of
sensation that comprises the prelapsarian existence of the
Female Vagrant. Hugh Sykes Davies remarks in The English
Mind: "In his discovery that human experience was not evenly
continuous and homogeneous, and that amidst its normal flow
there were incidents of quite different quality in
determining the growth of the mind, he was perhaps helped by
the fact that his own mode of experiencing things was

40
specially sensitive to the isolated, in time or in space."2
Much of "The Female Vagrant" reflects this sensitivity to
isolated sights or sensations—from the "miserable hour" when
her father gives up all hope to the "heavenly silence" upon
the ocean that separates her from the horrors of war and
death—which contrast with normal experience or the normal
flow of events. The isolated sights emphasize not only the
radical disjointure of events in economic depression or
wartime but also the isolation of the female in a masculine
world, her feelings of aloneness and uniqueness as the
"other" in a hostile world.
The Female Vagrant continually defers to her father, and
her respect and admiration reinforce the value of his
paternal authority, despite his economic failure; her
feminine solace assuages his masculine guilt. Throughout the
poem, she channels her concerns and feelings through a
masculine other, whether father or husband. The adjectives
with which she repeatedly describes the father, "good,"
"pious," "honest," emphasize his unimpeachable character but
also create a strong contrast with the sinister masculine
world she must encounter. As Laura Claridge and Elizabeth
Langland note in Out of Bounds; Male Writers and Gender(ed)
Criticism, "there is at least the possibility that maleness
exists in a relation to patriarchy as a third term of gender
discourse, whose terms are woman, man, and patriarchy."3
Wordsworth clearly differentiates between patriarchal society

41
and specific individuals, and the Female Vagrant's father
does not keep her in her "natural" place but includes her in
the world of books. From him she learns both prayer and
reading, and the latter creates a sense of community: "books
in every neighboring house I sought." Moreover, the books
actively bring pleasure to her: "nothing to my mind a greater
pleasure brought." This significant interaction parallels
her early interaction with nature, while unsettling the
association of the "feminine" primarily with nature as
opposed to culture. At this point we begin to recognize the
presence of the poet within the speaker, as Wordsworth
projects himself and his values into the mind of the Female
Vagrant, while simultaneously attempting to understand hers.
In changing his emphasis from "masculine" learning to
the Eden-like garden and idyllic childhood of the Female
Vagrant, Wordsworth conveys his understanding of "feminine"
nature. In this small paradise there is little specific
mention of humankind, save "the gambols and wild freaks at
shearing time." The injection of "sabbath morn" and "sabbath
bells" casts a Christian (and hence patriarchal) light upon
the sensuous imagery, the "hen's rich nest," "May's dewy
prime," the swans "spreading their snowy pride"; as Jean
Hagstrum argues in The Romantic Body; Love and Sexuality in
Keats. Wordsworth, and Blake, the organic vitality of nature
is interfused with the Christian paradigm of the Word made
flesh. However, Hagstrum argues that Wordsworth rarely uses

42
the Christian/sexual metaphor of ravishment followed by
wholeness, but that his greatness is rather "to mythologize
the fructifying energies of nature, including the sexual."4
As noted in Chapter 1, the Preface to Lyrical Ballads uses
numerous metaphors of the aroused senses: the principal
purpose of poetry is "to illustrate the manner in which our
feelings and ideas are associated in a state of excitement,"5
while the poet himself is a man "of more than usual organic
sensibility."6 Hagstrum suggests that in the Preface,
Wordsworth had actual human sexuality as well as empirical
sense-data in mind. I find the nature imagery of "The Female
Vagrant" primarily sensuous as opposed to sexual, but
containing a definite sexual undercurrent.
Wordsworth suggests that the speaker both identifies and
interacts with nature; not only does the Female Vagrant seek
the swans, but they come forth to greet her as well, almost
as the books she sought brought her pleasure. This
interaction recalls Colin Clarke's discussion of the
paradoxes of sense perception in Wordsworth's poetry, those
moments of sensory experience in which the visible scene and
the observer's mind meet and interpenetrate, and Wordsworth
"resolves the apparent contradiction that the natural world
is extrinsic to the self and yet a modification of it.''7
Clarke's concept of exchange and modification might serve as
a paradigm for the interaction between nature and the
"feminine" in a number of the Lyrical Ballads. To strengthen

43
the interpenetration of the visible scene and the mind of the
Female Vagrant, Wordsworth uses imagery of all the senses;
the scents of herbs and flowers, the sight of nests, the
swans that glide to greet her, the physical activity of work
and play, whether shearing sheep or gathering cowslips—all
glorify feminine interaction with nature.
By contrast, her father presents a more passive, even
though masculine, figure. Despite her reference to "my
active sire" and the authority of his staff, his "bending
body" and his seat and chair all suggest a sedentary, fixed
figure; reality contrasts with symbol. His seat "beneath the
honeyed sycamore/ When the bees hummed" suggests a
comfortable place in nature; Wordsworth wishes to bring both
woman and man into the natural world. As Kate Millett argues
in Sexual Politics, one of the most effective ways of
subverting women's demands for equality during the nineteenth
century was for men to point to the way the sexes complement
each other and then grant the distinct value of each.8
Nevertheless Wordsworth, rather than strictly conforming to
western culture's ideological placing of women in the natural
world, places man within this world as well.
The Female Vagrant's frame of reference changes from
nature to home and hearth; the homely comforts of "market
morning," her "watchful dog," and "the red breast known for
years" convey feelings of security and familiarity. Yet one
senses a certain tension within, a repressed surging; she

44
dresses herself in neat attire "though bent on haste"; often
she checks her watch dog's "starts of furious ire." The red
breast does not sing but "pecks," perhaps reflecting the
discontent underlying the Female Vagrant's culturally
stereotyped role.
For the Female Vagrant, youth is a perpetual summer
whose suns "danced along," "rolled away"; the flow of time
parallels what certain feminist critics define as the
undifferentiated flow of feminine experience.9 Breaking into
this moving scene, like a malevolent, encroaching plant
amidst an Edenic garden, "Then rose a mansion proud our woods
along." In parasitic fashion the master's "greedy wish"
absorbs all the neighboring cottages and land, a metaphorical
rape of the woods which one finds echoed later in the actual
rape of the Female Vagrant. If we read the poem politically,
we find the poet protesting the plight of the working classes
that suffered eviction and poverty despite the war profits
from arms manufacturing by the landed classes. The Female
Vagrant becomes a victim of both class and sex.
The punishment the father receives for challenging the
master's authority is slow starvation of all his resources;
the Female Vagrant, totally dependent upon her father's
authority and benevolence for her own economic survival,
suffers his reversals too. Emphasis lies upon their
interaction and community: "and weeping, side by side,/ We
sought a home where we uninjured might abide."
More in tune

45
with her father's suffering and feelings than with her own,
she reflects her grief through the prism of his experiences.
Her description of "that miserable hour" focuses not upon her
loss but her father's. The connection made upon his marriage
day is broken—he will not lie beside his buried wife. Yet
although he retains his spiritual connection, the Female
Vagrant loses hers: "Bidding me trust in God, he stood and
prayed,-/I could not pray," Nor will she and her father
comprise a unit as before: "through tears that fell in
showers,/ Glimmer'd our dear-loved home, alas! no longer
ours!" Home is no longer "ours" and the Female Vagrant and
her father cease to be a significant pair as she transfers
her need toward another patriarchal figure.
The only feasible alternative for feminine survival
outside the patriarchal home is marriage, transference to
another masculine subject, as all alternatives within the
economic and cultural system come through men. Love does
precede the union of the female vagrant and her "youth," who
remains nameless and relatively abstract. Initially they
shared a child-like joy in nature: "We two had sung, like
little birds in May." This joy reflects Wordsworth's
yearning for that semiandrogynous, prelapsarian world of the
vagrant's childhood, or what U.C. Knoepflmacher terms "the
Wordsworthian myth of a childhood paradise of
undifferentiated gender."10 Even when thoughts of marriage
enter Eden, their relationship maintains its earlier status:

46
"And I in truth did love him like a brother." Here
Wordsworth seems to prefer fraternal, or even fraternal/
sororal, to conjugal love. Those interested in
psychobiography might examine these lines in relation to
Wordsworth's dependence upon his sister Dorothy, and a number
of critics have variously explored this subject.11 The Female
Vagrant's affirmation, "For never could I hope to meet with
such another," suggests that the genetic similarity of a
brother gives value and significance to her femaleness, and
that her beloved is utterly unlike conventional men. A
brother, sharing similar qualities and characteristics, might
provide a more literal mirror to justify a female's existence
than a husband. On the other hand, brothers in nineteenth-
century England (not to mention the twentieth century)
certainly received economic preference and a higher position
in the family hierarchy; at most a sister might find
vicarious satisfaction through his significance.
Wordsworth recognizes the bondage patriarchy places upon
its own members. Like the Father, the Female Vagrant's loved
one is constricted by patriarchal authority, both paternal
and societal: "His father said, that to a distant town,/ He
must repair, to ply the artist's trade." In contrast to
their earlier unity, their marriage is contracted from
economic necessity rather than love, and the Female Vagrant
depends upon rather than parallels him: "Like one revived
upon his neck I wept." The husband demonstrates a sense of

47
duty and obligation as well as free will: "And her whom he
had loved in joy,/ he said He well could love in grief: his
faith he kept." Thus through the figures of both father and
husband, Wordsworth quietly unsettles the gendered binary
oppositions underlying patriarchy, suggesting that both men
and women are constrained by the strictures of patriarchy.
Nevertheless, the reactions of the Female Vagrant
continue to be reflected through a masculine other rather
than directly. She expresses her own feelings, this time her
relief, through a patriarchal figure: "And in a quiet home
once more my father slept." Just as in the Preface
Wordsworth could not separate his poetic identity from
masculinist metaphors of power and control, so he continues
in Lyrical Ballads to define identity through distinctions of
gender. Even as he attempts to inhabit the Female Vagrant's
voice, he maintains the authority of "masculine"
subjectivity.
The continuous downward spiral of the Female Vagrant's
fortunes suggest the inefficacy of her adherence to
patriarchal Christian values and a culturally entrenched
"feminine" role. Although "each day with daily bread was
blest," this blessing is offset by the "constant toil" and
"constant prayer" of the following years. Tears flow, "for
ills which patience could not heal," a further rejection of
that Christian virtue so often assigned by patriarchy to
women. Wordsworth attaches an ominous significance to the

48
number three which usurps its Trinitarian metonymies. The
births of three children presage new difficulties. Death
makes the Father "thrice happy," as his grave hides him from
three symbols of a shattered home: "The empty loom, cold
hearth and silent wheel." Their means of employment fail and
the hearth, center and symbol of home, is cold. Again,
Wordsworth's choice of a specific number reflects the impact
of singular moments and objects upon the more flowing and
diffused nature of "feminine" experience and the influence of
empirical philosophy.
By using symbols of "masculine" conquest in his
description of the conditions of war and its ravages,
particularly upon the dispossessed, Wordsworth implies an
antipatriarchal political agenda that encompasses both sexes.
The "proud parade and noisy drum" ironically "sweep the
streets of want and pain" by gathering the country's
"miserable men." Wordsworth expresses his concern for both
social and individual suffering. His realism is strong; he
does not romanticize either war or the plight of its victims.
The Female Vagrant becomes one of a great crowd of sufferers:
"There foul neglect for months and months we bore." As
Claridge and Langland note, "patriarchy, as a term of power,
encompasses issues of class and race as well as gender."12
The separation of woman and nature, traditionally
associated, represents both the height of "unnaturalness" and
a frightening liberation of the Female Vagrant from the

49
exclusively "feminine." Departure from her homeland
accompanies the Female Vagrant's separation from nature, and
Wordsworth effectively portrays a nature gone wild that
parallels the general human turmoil. Through the metaphor of
an unnatural harvest, Wordsworth expresses the futility of
hope and the irony of nature's mercy: "Our hopes such harvest
of affliction reap,/ That we the mercy of the waves should
rue." According to Margaret Homans, "masculine" separation
from nature corresponds with the Freudian rejection of the
maternal figure, necessary for growth and encouraged by
nature itself; by contrast "feminine" separation represents
loss of origins and identity. 13
Such liberation is anguish for the Female Vagrant, and
through her voice, Wordsworth expresses his own perception of
the bitter irony of existence: "Oh! dreadful price of being
to resign/ All that is dear ¿n being!" Survival within the
patriarchal culture demands abjuration of "feminine"
qualities and silencing of any female voice; nevertheless,
any other existence is impossible. In contrast to the
Vagrant's earlier celebration of the senses within nature,
which reflected the union of nature and the female, she now
suffers a separation from nature bereft of sensory
connection. Even isolation within nature would be
preferable: "better far in Want's most lonely cave till death
to pine,/ Unseen, unheard, unwatched by any star."
Wordsworth again emphasizes the significance of the singular

50
experience; however, in this instance, the experience is one
of loss, as the Vagrant is unwatched by any star. In either
case, all interaction with nature has ceased.
The fact that woman and nature are disjointed represents
the disjointed state of generic man in the world. Wordsworth
creates increasingly severe images of the horrors and
hopelessness of war, reminding us that "The Female Vagrant"
is more than a tale of individual suffering. The
hallucinatory images and personifications of Fire, Hell,
Murder, and Rape reach their height with sexual violation:
"And Murder, by the ghastly gleam, and Rape/ Seized their
joint prey, the mother and the child!" "Mother and child"
both symbolize society's helpless victims and represent
specific individuals, the Female Vagrant and her infant.
Escape from the madness of "these crazing thoughts" lies upon
the ocean, in the "balmy air"; only by reuniting with nature
can the Female Vagrant return to sanity. Similarly, she
determines "to shun the spot where man might come." If we
read "man" in an ungendered sense, the line suggests a total
withdrawal from society, a retreat into nature. On the other
hand, the Vagrant may seek to avoid actual men, in reaction
to her rape and violation.
Only through death can the Vagrant protest, however
futilely, the conditions of her existence; her inability to
act reflects the powerlessness of her sex and class. Doomed
to passivity, she prefers a death that thrusts her dying body

51
"in the streets and walks where proud men are," to a servile,
dog-like existence "at the heels of war." Her ironic
references to "proud men" and the brood "that lap their
brothers' blood" condemn both the leaders of war and the
parasitic stragglers that survive on its refuse.
Wordsworth's awareness of the devastating political and
economic climate affecting the lives of the common people
gives weight and significance to events as well as character,
as all perished, "all, in one remorseless year." At the
height of natural devastation, the Female Vagrant wakes "as
from a trance restored"; the use of "trance" suggests the
unnatural, forced state of experience, one imposed upon the
Female Vagrant. Ironically, as she experiences utmost
despair, "every tear dried up, despairing, desolate," nature
returns to peace and calm; "Peaceful as some immeasurable
plain/ . . . the glittering main" recalls the fields of home.
She envies the ocean's "hour of rest,/ That comes not to the
human mourner's breast." The ocean maintains the
interconnectedness with God that she has lost: "Remote from
man, and storms of mortal care,/ A heavenly silence did the
waves invest." Here Wordsworth's use of "man" again reflects
the masculine narrator behind the feminine speaker.
Only once within the poem does Wordsworth directly imply
the presence of a listener, ostensibly the masculine narrator
who briefly frames the poem. The Female Vagrant remarks, "It
would thy brain unsettle even to hear," and this subtle use

52
of dramatic form both grounds the poem in reality and
reinforces the patriarchal framework. In The Art of the
Lyrical Ballads. Stephen Parrish, who finds poetic novelty in
Wordsworth's experiments in dramatic form and
characterization within the format of the ballad, defines a
dramatic monologue as "loosely, a poem in which the events
related are meaningful not in themselves but as they reveal
the character of the person who relates them."1^ Out of
sixteen poems in Lyrical Ballads (excluding three works of
blank verse) he defines twelve as dramatic or semidramatic in
form. According to Parrish, Wordsworth's original use of
dramatic form is best expressed in poems which use the real
language of men to reflect the language of the mind. Unlike
the narrator of "The Thorn," a central figure who
unconsciously reveals much of his own character, the shadowy
narrator of "The Female Vagrant" merely serves as a foil to
the Vagrant's story; Wordsworth's focus remains upon the
Vagrant's own voice. Nevertheless we often hear his voice
through hers, as he attempts to sound the marginalized female
figure. As Robert Langbaum remarks of the dramatic
monologue, "there is at work in it a consciousness, whether
intellectual or historical, beyond what the speaker can lay
claim to. This consciousness is the mark of the poet's
projection into the poem; and it is also the pole which
attracts our projection, since we find in it the counterpart
of our own consciousness."15 Our involvement in The Female

53
Vagrant is dependent upon Wordsworth's projection of his own
consciousness into the poem as much as his dramatization of
the "feminine" consciousness of the Vagrant herself.
In his attempts to voice the "feminine," Wordsworth
emphasizes the mental as much as the physical violation of
rape, forcing our involvement in the Vagrant's predicament.
Rather than present a stereotyped situation of female
violation, Wordsworth emphasizes the Vagrant as "robbed of my
perfect mind," an intensely personal, particularly
Wordsworthian conception. Her alienation from humanity
appears total, "of every human friend disowned." Like the
Ancient Mariner, surrounded by water he cannot drink, she
stands bereft in the midst of plenty: "And homeless near a
thousand homes I stood,/ And near a thousand tables pined,
and wanted food." These lines reinforce the lack of
connectedness with humanity, and in such a state of mind she
lacks the will to survive. Her inertia is such that she
cannot lift morsel to mouth, cannot knock at any door, "Nor
to the beggar's language could I frame my tongue." The
language of man, even the lowliest, lies beyond her, and such
dumbness reflects the general silence of the "feminine" voice
within a "masculine" world. Only total physical collapse and
rescue save her life: despair has left her totally unable to
act.
In an attempt to reenter humanity, the Female Vagrant
aligns herself with social outlaws, "the rude earth's

54
tenants"; such people, women and men outside the laws of
patriarchy, share her isolation from mankind and earlier
bonds with nature. She expresses surprise that these outlaws
from the economic system "were my first relief," for in spite
of homelessness and rape, she stills finds difficulty in
rejecting conventional patriarchal society, with its social
and moral hierarchies. However, the gypsies provide her with
a feeling of community, and it is significant that Wordsworth
chooses this group, a group outside patriarchal authority, as
her initial rescuers. By aligning these gypsy vagrants with
the earth, Wordsworth celebrates their connectedness with
nature. This, however, is a connectedness the Female
Vagrant, still tied to the patriarchal value system, cannot
share. At first she celebrates "their long holiday that
feared not grief,/ For all belonged to all, and each was
chief." Yet although they recognize no hierarchies of rank
or possessions, they must, in order to survive, both emulate
members of the system and deceive it: "Semblance, with straw
and panniered ass, they made/ Of potters wandering on from
door to door." Likewise, women must conform to the
patriarchal value system even as they attempt to undermine
it. Even as the Female Vagrant paints an inviting picture of
gypsy life, she, "brought up in nothing ill," cannot escape
her earlier value system. Wordsworth flirts with the idea of
a freer society, one as close to nature as the feminine in
its traditionally ideal state, but must ultimately reject it.

55
The Female Vagrant can only protest her condition by
reinforcing her status as a victim.
The Female Vagrant remains incapable of acting alone,
without the support of father, husband, or husband's kindred,
and the superficial spiritual benediction which is the reward
for fidelity to the patriarchal system: "What could I do,
unaided and unblest?" Living on the arbitrary mercy of the
fields, she again loses touch with reality, "and oft of
cruelty the sky accused." Her greatest pain seems not so
much loss of family and home, or physical violence, but "that
I have my inner self abused"; in thus projecting his concerns
upon the Female Vagrant, Wordsworth emphasizes the
significance of the inner soul to the female as much as the
male. Her regrets that she has "Foregone the home delight of
constant truth,/ And clear and open soul, so prized in
fearless youth" again reflect Wordsworth's ideals
superimposed upon the Female Vagrant's and his belief in the
continuity between "masculine" and "feminine" values.
If one considers the traditional association of the
female with the body and the earth, the cruelty of nature and
its willfulness might suggest the willfulness and danger of
the female; in this poem, however, nature's willfulness
towards the female creates a more complex situation. If the
female is out of touch with nature, then man is indeed out of
touch with his world. The Female Vagrant's separation from
both nature and the human community represents a frightening

56
reality to the poet. Even if nature and the "feminine" are
ultimately reconciled, it is a reconciliation with
reservations and a bleak future.
Although the Female Vagrant loses much of her humanity
through losing those she loves, she nevertheless survives,
albeit in almost total passivity. Through the use of a
female character, Wordsworth appears to value "feminine"
existence as one maintained by sheer strength despite all
obstacles. However, we question the worth of survival in
such circumstances. By following the fortunes of male
figures, first her father, second her husband, the Female
Vagrant has both revealed the deficiencies of patriarchy and
failed to acquire self-sufficiency. Ultimately alone, she
has surrendered to despair and only survived through the
mercy of other outcasts and the more arbitrary mercy of
nature, "for no earthly friend have I." Her initial
passivity remains unchanged, and her tearful reference to
that country "Where my poor heart lost all its fortitude"
reflects her understanding of the hopelessness of her
situation. If we take a narrow psychobiographical approach,
we might consider the poem as reflecting Wordsworth's
feelings regarding the early loss of his mother and his
subsequent fears of abandonment; the powerlessness of
childhood has much in common with the powerlessness of the
"feminine." However, the poet's concerns are more far-
reaching. Throughout the Lyrical Ballads, a criticism of

57
English society and the social and economic effects of war,
as well as a strong concern for individuals, accompanies his
personal feelings of passivity and impotence in the face of
societal change. His identification with the Female Vagrant
permits him to put his own words in her mouth, "that I my
inner self have abused." He can enunciate his own feelings
of despair and hopelessness, of the betrayal of his values
and ideals, through the medium of a totally powerless figure—
significantly, a woman.
"The Female Vagrant" raises questions regarding the
extent to which a poet can convey an experience without
sharing it or interjecting his own concerns. Despite various
framing devices, Wordsworth's voice permeates that of his
speaker. Superficially, "The Female Vagrant" concludes with
the return to a masculine narrator and frame of reference:
"She wept;—because she had no more to say/ Of that perpetual
weight which on her spirit lay." This overlay of a masculine
narrator ostensibly separates the feminine speaker from the
masculine voice, but proves too thin a barrier. The same
complication occurs in "The Mad Mother."
In "The Mad Mother," Wordsworth uses the entire first
verse to establish the presence of an omniscient narrator; he
creates a much stronger visual image of the female figure
than in "The Female Vagrant," an image which corresponds to
the Mad Mother's emotional state. Aside from this
introduction, the narrator does not intrude upon the poem,

58
although the contrast between the Mad Mother's words and our
understanding of them creates a sense of dramatic
perspective, verging upon the form of a dramatic monologue.
What Robert Langbaum terms "the effect created by the tension
between sympathy and moral judgment"16 reinforces our
ambivalence towards the Mad Mother, which echoes her own
ambivalence towards her child. Despite our sympathy, we
sense a danger in her madness that threatens both herself and
her child. The lack of formal closing permits us to maintain
our complex identification with the speaker, rather than
neatly return to a patriarchal framework.
By setting off her tale in guotations, Wordsworth
strengthens the sense of personal narration and dramatic
monologue, of a specifically female voice, not a retelling by
a masculine narrator. Nor does she tell her tale to a
masculine or even adult other, but to a nonspeaking,
uncomprehending child. Indeed her tale is spoken as much to
herself as to the child, which reinforces the sense of
isolated voice; the female voice, even if enunciated, lacks a
real audience. The concept of a listener is negated from the
beginning, for the child is hardly a presence: "She had a
baby on her arm,/ Or else she were alone." This sense of
aloneness reinforces her vulnerability, her dependence upon
this single relationship to sustain her.
This poem sets up a number of problematic stances. On
the one hand, the poet appears to glorify motherhood, with

59
the inherent risks of reinforcing female status as "other."
However, the precarious mental state of the Mad Mother
suggests motherhood is a threatening, dangerous entity, one
perilous to both mother and child. If motherhood saves the
Mad Mother from utter madness, it has also brought her to the
edge. We also sense an ambivalence in the maternal passion,
in her adoring yet desperate feelings toward the child; this
ambivalence brings her to madness and yet protects her from
it. By "tracing the maternal passion through many of its
more subtle windings,”17 Wordsworth expresses his mixed
feelings toward motherhood and female sexuality.
In creating the character of the Mad Mother, Wordsworth
emphasizes both her strangeness and her familiarity; while he
announced his intention in the Preface to fit to metrical
arrangement "a selection of the real language of men in a
state of vivid sensation," the choice of a mother,
particularly a mad mother, provides a challenge to both poet
and reader. The initial line of "The Mad Mother," "her eyes
are wild," recalls the reference to Dorothy's "wild eyes" in
"Tintern Abbey." However, we have no clues to the identity
of the Mad Mother, despite her physical similarity to
Wordsworth's sister; she is a symbol as well as an
individual. Wordsworth is careful to distance the Mad
Mother: "she came far from over the main." He uses the
notion of foreignness to increase her isolation, even as she
speaks "in the English tongue"; "her head is bare" reinforces

60
the sense of vulnerability and exposure, the isolation of the
female, and specifically maternal, figure.
The Mad Mother's initial words set up a paradoxical
state of mad gaiety and melancholy that denies reality and
defies an unknown "they,” presumably the combined forces of
husband and society. Her insistence that "I am happy when I
sing/ Full many a sad and doleful thing," reflects her ironic
distortion of despair and sorrow into its reverse; survival
depends upon the denial of reality, and as such represents
the dilemma of the female in a masculine world. Twice the
Mad Mother begs her child not to fear her, which suggests
that indeed he does; twice she terms the child a "lovely
baby," suggesting both its youth and innocence and the
possibility of its redeeming her. "To thee I know too much I
owe;/ I cannot work thee any woe" reflects her unconscious
desire perhaps to harm the child, a desire restrained by a
sense of obligation.
By positioning the Mad Mother close to Nature,
Wordsworth initially transforms women's culturally
subordinate position into an essential place. As Marlon Ross
notes, "the male naturalizes the female's social role by
asserting the intimacy between femininity and nature."18 In
the woods the child will be "safe as in a cradle," a
protective maternal image, which reinforces the picture of
nature as a maternal haven against the world. The images of
"underneath the hay-stack warm" and the "green-wood stone"

61
suggest a comforting, nonhostile nature, which neither
threatens nor rejects her; these images reflect the
traditional image of nature as a nurturing, maternal figure,
in contrast to the more threatening nature of "The Female
Vagrant."
Although Nature serves as the most powerful female
figure in all of Romantic poetry, her role is far from wholly
positive. For Harold Bloom, Nature plays mother in the
family romance, while the father is the powerful poet of the
past; his emphasis upon the struggle between poets and their
literary fathers reflects the patriarchal nature of western
literary tradition. Margaret Homans, focusing upon the
association of women with nature and their exclusion from the
position of speaking subject (traditionally identified as
male), remarks of Nature: "she is prolific biologically, not
linguistically, and she is as destructive as she is
creative."19 The power of this maternal nature has no impact
upon the power of real women; moreover, Mother Nature has "no
consciousness, only materiality and an elusive presence; no
center, only diffuseness."20 Between the woman's absorption
into nature and the male narrator's self-conscious distance
lie subject-object distinctions which infiltrate Wordsworth's
attempts to voice the "feminine."
Through hallucinatory imagery, Wordsworth suggests that
physically and emotionally, motherhood can be a horrifying,
self-draining experience. The fire within her brain and the

62
"dull, dull pain" further enmesh the boundaries between
physical and mental anguish. The "sight of joy" represented
by her baby is specifically "flesh and blood" as opposed to
fantasy; she wakes as if from a terrible dream. "For he was
here and only he" suggests her relief, although the terrible
significance of this one relationship reinforces her
isolation. In contrast to her rejection of the "fiendish
faces, one, two, three," that pulled at her breasts, she
urges her child to "suck and suck again," sucking out the
pain and fever; as she finds temporary redemption in the act
of nursing and nurturing, the child, ironically, nurtures her
as much as she nurtures him.
For psychological literary critics, a work of art
reflects the emotional dynamics and conflicts of the artist's
internal world; it also expresses the struggles of the
artist's ego in its relationship with reality. The success
of a work of art thus depends upon the artist's ability to
achieve autonomy and detachment from his original conflicts.
While the critic Richard Onorato emphasizes Wordsworth's
search for the lost idealized mother projected into Nature,
Barbara Schapiro finds the poetry "less a journey for a lost,
ideal mother than a struggle to accept an unideal, human, and
imperfect mother, and one's own guilty feelings toward her."21
Schapiro also suggests that Wordsworth's preoccupation with
abandoned women reflects his own feelings of abandonment
coupled with the desire to punish his mother.

63
Images of nursing in Romantic literature often serve as
objective correlatives for the masculine absorption of
feminine qualities. In the suppressed Julia-Vaudracour
episode in The Prelude. Vaudracour finds spiritual
nourishment at one of Julia's breasts while their infant
finds physical nourishment at the other; in "The Mad Mother, "
nursing redeems the mother as much as the child. By
affirming the self-sacrifice and goodness of such women,
Wordsworth can resolve his guilt and reaffirm his belief in
both mankind, his mother, and himself.
Wordsworth's skillful presentation of the hallucinatory
joys and horrors of motherhood suggest that his sympathy for
the Mad Mother amounts to genuine understanding. While she
gives her child sustenance, he likewise cools the fire within
her. The image of a "tight and deadly band" about her chest
suggests the suffocation of her existence; the pressing of
the child's hand relieves this pressure in a beneficial
interchange between mother and child. Clarity and coolness
redeem feeling; "the breeze I see is in the tree;/ It comes
to cool my babe and me."
The several images of coolness as opposed to heat
reflect the Western paradigms of reason and emotion,
traditionally associated as contrasting "masculine" and
"feminine" elements. Coolness is reason, intellect,
"masculine" control; by contrast heat is passion, danger,
"feminine" irresponsibility. The Mad Mother must temper her

64
dangerous and threatening feelings with coolness and
rationality. Wordsworth's portrayal of this conflict
reflects his interest in the reconciliation of reason and
emotion, and his recognition that, contrary to the philosophy
of William Godwin, feelings and emotions neither could nor
should be totally controlled by reason and intellect. As he
remarked in the Preface, "our continuous influxes of feeling
are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed
the representatives of all our past feelings."22 The
traditional association of emotion with the "feminine"
invests his choice of a female figure to illustrate a
passionate struggle between reason and emotion with
significance and supports his statement in the Preface "that
the feeling therein developed gives importance to the action
and situation and not the action and situation to the
feeling. "23
The intensity of the Mad Mother's feelings are conveyed
by her urgent pleas for love. Just as upon waking she saw
"only" him, now the child is her "only joy." This emphasis
upon singularity and uniqueness is reinforced by the
dangerous climb upon the sea rocks, above the waves; the baby
serves as protection, almost a token or emblem of safety.
The "leaping torrents when they howl" recall the "fiendish
faces"; nature becomes a threat, not a solace, here, and
loses its traditional function as nurturer. As in "The

65
Female Vagrant," the unsettled relationship between nature
and the "feminine" symbolizes the general malaise of society.
The danger to the Mad Mother is as much spiritual as
physical, for she invests her emotional survival in her
child. Emphasis lies upon their mutual dependence: while "He
saves for me my precious soul," yet "Without me my sweet babe
would die." This mutuality is strained, despite her
protests; the child's needs are more physical, hers more
psychological. She fears his desertion; in a sense her child
is like another lover, although one less likely to leave her
immediately. In urging her child not to fear, the Mad Mother
seems to be reassuring herself as well, as she proposes a
maternal/natural alternative to societal or purely masculine
guidance. Creating images of natural security, she will be
"bold as a lion," both maternal and masculine. "I will
always be thy guide" suggests "feminine" strength and
leadership. Her knowledge of "the leaves that make the
softest bed" reinforces her kinship with nature. She
promises that if he abides with her until death, he too will
achieve harmony with nature: "then thou shalt sing,/ As merry
as the birds in spring." Just as spring follows the snow,
his happiness will follow her guidance; here Wordsworth
"naturalizes" her maternal role.
The Mad Mother creates a fantasy of mother-child
symbiosis, one doomed to failure as "masculine" and
"feminine" elements cannot be reconciled by a return to a

66
prelapsarian paradise. In resting upon the Mad Mother's
breast, the baby redeems his father's rejection of it,
despite the changing of its hue; the love of men seems linked
to women's physical attributes. The brownness of her cheek
hides its paleness, as her gaiety hides her madness. Her
child is her "dove"; her beauty has "flown away,"
foreshadowing a time when the child too will depart. She
urges her child to ignore the taunts of humanity and attacks
the society that has rejected her, despite the sanction of
the marriage vow. If she cannot live as a pair with her
husband in society, then she and her baby will become a pair
in natural society, "under the spreading tree." "We two will
live in honesty" in nature, in contrast to the hypocrisy of
society. Her anger against her desertion turns to a posture
of pity: "But he, poor man! is wretched made,/ And every day
we two will pray/ For him that's gone and far away." By
turning her vision towards a fantasy world in nature, she can
avoid the reality of desertion and turn her rage into, if not
forgiveness, a form of pity.
She stresses her role as teacher, not in traditional
patriarchal terms, but as one who inculcates her child in the
mysteries of nature, "the sweetest things"; her intimacy with
nature "naturalizes" her cultural role. Yet when the child
ceases to nurse, she seems to lose her sense of him, as well
as the fragile sense of reality remaining to her. The
"wicked looks" and "that look so wild" appear to terrify her,

67
and in defense, she casts the idea of madness upon the child.
Initially, the child's gaiety permitted her to channel her
own grief into gay madness; if the infant itself is mad,
"Then I must be for ever sad." Her mad gaiety turns to fear
and denial, which reinforces the sense of the precariousness
both of her situation and the mother-child relationship.
Eagerly she begs for the child's response, again reiterating
the trials she suffers for his sake, her attempts to seek the
paternal figure. She concludes with an ambiguous picture of
the future in which nature is no longer an entirely
benevolent figure. Knowing both "the poisons of the shade"
and "the earth-nuts fit for food," she will both "find thy
father in the wood" and "there, my babe; we'll live for aye."
Although the Mad Mother seems to suggest the possibility
of reconciliation with the father and a new existence outside
patriarchal society, the reader clearly perceives her self-
deception. The reconciliation of "masculine" and "feminine"
elements is not to be achieved in this mother-child bond;
here, need is draining as well as strengthening. Just as the
danger of excitement carried out of bounds must be tempered
"by the co-presence of something regular, something to which
the mind has been accustomed when in an unexcited or a less
excited state,"24 "feminine" emotion and excitement requires
interaction and exchange with "masculine" reason and control.
The poem suggests that motherhood redeems the sins of
sexuality, yet surely the Mad Mother's visions of demons at

68
her breast and her child's "wicked looks" convey a certain
sexual ambivalence toward her own child; perhaps he has
destroyed any possible physical harmony she possessed with
her husband. One might also consider her marriage as part of
her hallucinatory fantasy, and view these lines as suggestive
of sexual guilt in this respect. Even though the images of
the child's sucking as cooling and redeeming suggest a form
of erotic substitution, they are only temporary; as soon as
the child ceases to nurse she suffers her malevolent visions
again. Motherhood thus appears an enemy to female sexuality
as well as subjectivity. As one of the few poems in the
Lyrical Ballads which deals with sexual tensions, "The Mad
Mother" demonstrates Wordsworth's keen interest in metaphors
of the aroused senses, accompanying his intent "to illustrate
the manner in which our feelings and ideas are associated in
a state of excitement."25
The sense of dramatic perspective develops as the reader
recognizes the dangerous distortions of the Mad Mother's
perceptions both to herself and to her infant. As Charles
Ryskamp notes, "In 'The Thorn' and 'The Mad Mother' we are
brought, through internal or external dialogue and through
sharp contrasts between conflicting emotions and
observations, to dramatic perception."26 We pity and
empathize with her situation while recognizing the tragedy of
her madness, as the oscillation between the child's
dependence upon her and her dependence upon her child creates

69
both mad visions and mutual need. Ambivalence towards her
child is interwoven with her sense of duty and maternal love,
as motherhood both empowers and weakens her.
By choosing not to conclude the poem with any form of
narrative closure or textual distancing, Wordsworth permits
us to maintain our identification with and sympathy for the
Mad Mother. While the poet does value the maternal passion,
he clearly portrays its destructive as well as redemptive
role. We never learn the complete part that motherhood
played in the father's desertion; nevertheless, we are aware
of the intense complications created by the situation,
complications which turned the speaker into a mad mother as
opposed to a mad wife, or simply a deserted, perhaps unwed,
woman. Motherhood is damnation as well as salvation; surely
Wordsworth, painfully aware of the loss of his own mother,
felt a sense of the dangers of the maternal state, and
clearly empathizes with mothers for that reason.
One cannot accuse Wordsworth, then, of simply reifying
motherhood. In his determination "to follow the fluxes and
refluxes of the mind when agitated by the great and simple
affections of our nature,"27 he reveals the torturous
complications of the female situation. Rather than simply
celebrating the maternal passion, with the ensuing risk of
reinscribing its separateness from the masculine world,
Wordsworth continues to struggle with acceptance and
rejection of the maternal figure, acknowledging her separate

70
reality. Among the poems in Lyrical Ballads which deal with
the mother/nature figure, "The Mad Mother" creates a most
complicated portrait which unsettles gendered assumptions
about the maternal passion and its powers of redemption.
A different treatment of the deserted woman, one without
either child or spouse, occurs in "The Complaint of a
Forsaken Indian Woman." Like "The Mad Mother," it suggests a
dramatic monologue involving the reader through the contrast
between the speaker's statements and our understanding of her
situation. As Robert Langbaum notes, "Wordsworth shows the
connection between the dramatic lyric and the dramatic
monologue, when he turns his visionary stare upon a solitary
figure with the same transforming effect as when he turns it
upon a natural object."28 While "The Mad Mother" provided an
ostensibly "female" insight into maternality and madness,
"The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman" provides a
particularly "female" yet ultimately universal insight into
death. She is dying and alternates between resignation to
death and passionate yearning for her absent child, although
she makes no mention of any husband or father.
According to Barbara Schapiro, the experience of loss
lies at the core of the mother-child relationship, and many
of the lyrics written between 1798 and 1805 focus upon a
mother and a child and the loss or absence of one of them
("Lucy Gray," "The Idiot Boy," "The Emigrant Mother," among
others).29 By choosing to focus upon a mother's voice, here

71
and in the previously discussed poems, Wordsworth treats
maternal needs and concerns as deserving of attention and
respect. As such, these encultured "female" concerns become
human and thus universal.
In contrast to "The Female Vagrant" and "The Mad
Mother," "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman" lacks any
formal framework or narrative distancing but plunges
immediately into the voice of the speaker with a poignant cry
for release. Dreams blend with reality, in a song-like verse
that ends as it begins, "Before I see another day,/ Oh let my
body die away!" Here, meter clearly regulates emotion,
reflecting its purpose in "tempering the painful feeling
which will always be found intermingled with powerful
descriptions of the deeper passion. "3° The focus upon the
emotional state of the Indian Woman also supports
Wordsworth's contention in the Preface that "the feeling
therein developed gives importance to the action and
situation, and not the action and situation to the feeling."
The dreams of the Indian Woman rival the lights and sounds of
the night sky in their forboding physical intensity; their
very vitality stands in contrast with encroaching death and
female stasis.
In the Preface, Wordsworth defended his choice of low
and rustic life on the grounds that "our elementary feelings
exist in a state of greater simplicity and consequently may
be more accurately contemplated and more forcibly

72
communicated"31; the existence of the Indian Woman is
obviously pared down to the essence of life versus death,
with "the essential passions of her heart" thus unrestrained.
In contrast to the initial highly dramatic mood, her
repetitive references to the dying fire convey her stoic
resignation and preparation for her end. If clothes, warmth,
food, and fire give neither pleasure nor joy, she manifestly
has no need to live. More importantly, no one's dependence
gives her any reason to continue: "Alone I cannot fear to
die," suggesting the importance of relationship in justifying
human existence.
In discussing the "Lucy" poems, Margaret Homans remarks,
"the feminine figure who becomes an object by merging with
nature, dying as a result, represents the masculine
appropriation of femininity."32 I find a certain
correspondence in this poem: although the Forsaken Indian
Woman does not die as a result of merging with nature, her
death will be one into nature, and as such appears
particularly "feminine." To the extent that she lacks voice
or subjectivity, she remains an object, dependent upon the
decree of both "masculine" society and natural forces.
Whereas the focus of grief in the "Lucy" poems lies in the
loss to the poet/speaker, his needs and memories, rather than
the actual loss of Lucy herself, the focus in "The Complaint
of a Forsaken Indian Woman" remains upon the woman herself.

73
Yet despite her apparent stoicism, the Forsaken Indian
Woman deplores her acquiescence with societal decree, her too
ready descent into despair and hopelessness. Grief and
regret pierce her attempts at acceptance: "Alas! you might
have dragged me on/ Another day, a single one!" She does not
accuse her companions; twice she terms them "friends," in
obvious acceptance of the traditional fate of aged females.
Like the Female Vagrant, her only protest against her
position of victim is passive acceptance and reinforcement of
this role. She does suggest that indeed she had possessed
the strength to follow, but somehow failed to do so. This
sense of inertia, from one perspective ostensibly "feminine,"
also reflects the poet's own sense of the futility of
protest.
Her fatalism is most strongly challenged by her feelings
toward her child, again a boy; the poet's choice of a male
child significantly complicates the mother-child bond. In
reflecting upon the difference the choice of a female child
might have made in both "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian
Woman" and "The Mad Mother, " I recognize the significance of
gender. To an extent "deserted" by his own mother's death,
Wordsworth would naturally be concerned with the mother-son
relationship. A mother-daughter bond would place his themes
more directly in the realm of specifically "female," rather
than universal, concerns; the two females would unite against
the "masculine" world. As it stands, the male child, being

74
implicitly part of this world, enmeshes his mother even
further within patriarchal society and increases the
difficulties of her active rebellion against or rejection of
this world.
The Indian Woman protests her child's delivery to
another woman, "who was not thy mother," a phrase in which
she ostensibly promotes the role of motherhood, in particular
the biological mother, as paramount to a child's well-being,
although society implicitly denies its significance. She
projects a strong physical and emotional reaction from her
infant: "Through his whole body something ran." He
simultaneously strives to be man and child, both rescuer and
one in need of rescue. As a "man," and full member of the
society which cast her out, he might ironically pull the
sledge and save her; the poem reflects the paradox and
futility of such a rescue as his arms reach out, not in aid,
but in need: "And then he stretched his arms, how wild!/ Oh
mercy! like a little child." Her sense of powerlessness is
reinforced by the powerlessness of the child.
Tormented by her need for relationship and the
unfairness of her fate, she oscillates between anger and
fatalism, hope and resignation. Although she yearns for her
child, she wishes that he neither cry nor grieve, and as her
body and mind fail, imagination merges with reality: "I fear
I must have died with thee." As she implores the wind that
follows her friends to carry her message, her regrets focus

75
upon the isolation and loneliness of the female voice in the
wilderness: "Too soon, my friends, you went away;/ For I had
many things to say." This imagined contact reinforces the
sense of her isolation; it also reflects the weakness of the
"feminine" voice in a patriarchal world. Even if woman is
enabled to speak, she lacks an audience to hear her. As
Margaret Homans notes, "Association with nature and exclusion
from speaking subjectivity amount to two different ways of
placing the woman in dualistic culture on the side of the
other and the object."33
We might extend this to a comparison with Wordsworth's
own poetic voice, his need and inability to voice his own
powerlessness. His choice of a "feminine" speaker becomes
significant here, as it suggests his identification with her
situation. Susan Wolfson suggests that Wordsworth is uneasy
with his position in the hierarchical order of masculinist
poetics which demands that the mind either assert itself as
lord and master or recognize engulfment and bewilderment: "he
is not the sure, secure figure of logocentric performance and
egocentric confidence ascribed to him in some feminist (and
older masculinist readings of Romanticism)."34 His insistence
in the Preface that poetry must take all significant human
experience for its province enables him to voice his own,
unspeakable anxiety and powerlessness through speaking for
others.

76
The conflicts between body and spirit rise in the Indian
Woman's determination to follow "In spite of all my weary
pain"; Wordsworth subtly undermines her intentions through
the imagery of her dead fire, the snowy water, and the wolf
which steals her food. Physical comfort and sustenance have
disappeared; she acknowledges her isolation and again
attempts resignation. As physical decline comes swiftly upon
her, the split between body and mind grows: "I cannot lift my
limbs to know/ If they have any life or no." This lack of
integration between body and soul reflects the greater
disjointedness between the deserted woman and the society
which has cast her out. Her final thoughts return to the
child, her primary attachment. Unlike "The Female Vagrant"
or "The Mad Mother," "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian
Woman" makes no mention of husband or father. Toward the
ambiguous "friends" who have deserted her she expresses no
overt anger. The concluding lines, "I feel my body dies
away,/ I shall not see another day," fatalistically echo the
opening lines, "Before I see another day,/ Oh let my body die
away!" and create a strong sense of closure.
Neither family nor society provides any security for
women, and neither enables the expression of any "feminine"
voice. Wordsworth's focus upon the abandonment of women in
these three poems, and their varying states of mind, reflect
both his feelings regarding his mother's death and his
identification with "feminine" powerlessness, both personally

77
and poetically; even the strongest bonds between mother and
child have little impact upon the strictures of society.
We might focus on the fact that all these women are
deserted and remain so, and question Wordsworth's failure to
"save" them; did his inability to "save" his own mother from
death leave him powerless in the face of tragedy? Regardless
of any psychobiographical speculation, we recognize that
their endurance amidst hardship, madness, and the perils of
nature and age suggests the fortifying nature both of the
female and the human spirit. And as the Indian woman
expresses the thoughts of one approaching death, she speaks
for all powerless humanity.
We again recognize Wordsworth's underlying concerns with
social injustice, his criticism of the effects of changing
English society upon the poor and the dispossessed, although
he eschewed extreme political change and rebellion. As
twentieth century readers, we use our critical understanding
to "force" the connection between the survival of the poet's
spirit following the disillusionment of the French Revolution
and the survival of those low and common souls who lacked any
understanding of the mighty events that shaped their lives
but continued to struggle and survive amidst hopelessness and
even madness. The failure of the Revolution forced
Wordsworth from the position of partisan to that of poet, as
he converted his sympathies from political to poetical and

78
personal concerns. Correspondingly, he argued the validity
of lowly subjects and human feelings.
As do many Romantic poems, the Lyrical Ballads involve
displacement, the poet shifting from the world of 1793-1794,
with its absorbing political and social upheavals, to the
quieter, more circumscribed world of 1797-1798 in Racedown
and Alfoxden. Likewise Wordsworth converts his anger and
rage at the betrayal of the Revolution's lofty ideals into
sorrow, sympathy, and love for those who suffered
economically and socially; in Lyrical Ballads, many of these
figures are mothers. Rather than simply glorifying the
mother-child relationship and running the risk of reductively
reinforcing women in the maternal role, Wordsworth reveals
the dangers and complexity of such bonds, the mutual
interdependence, the destructive as well as the positive
elements.
The concept of "female" powerlessness must have struck a
sympathetic chord in Wordsworth, as he chooses to portray it
several times in varying situations. Again, a natural
political subtext of these poems would be a stringent
criticism of social injustice in all its forms. By singling
out the one from the many, he reflects his own personal sense
of powerlessness in controlling his own fate, be it the death
of his own mother, the politics of his time, or his poetic
powers.

79
Notes
1. Marlon B. Ross, "Naturalizing Gender: Woman's Place
in Wordsworth's Ideological Landscape," ELH 53.2 (1986): 399.
2. Hugh Sykes Davies, "Wordsworth and the Empirical
Philosophers," The English Mind; Studies in the English
Moralists Presented to Basil Wiley, ed. Hugh Sykes Davies and
George Watson (Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 1964) 162-
163.
3. Laura Claridge and ELizabeth Langland, introduction,
Out of Bounds: Male Writers and Gender(ed) Criticism, ed.
Laura Claridge and Elizabeth Langland (Amherst: U of
Massachusetts P, 1990) 1. The editors discuss the dangers of
conflating the terms of patriarchy and the masculine: "Even
as we (under)mine patriarchy to expose its spurious claims to
universality, so must we be vigilant against the error of
equating it with man." Nor does anti-patriarchal activity
automatically imply a feminist agenda, but possibly a further
appropriation of the feminine: "The challenge of this
collection lies in avoiding the easy binary opposition of
masculine versus feminine that literary criticism has too
often sustained through its concept of patriarchy"(3).
4. Jean H. Hagstrum, The Romantic Body: Love and
Sexuality in Keats. Wordsworth, and Blake (Knoxville: U of
Tennessee P 1985) 106.
5. Owen 158.
6. Owen 157.
7. Colin C. Clarke, Romantic Paradox: An Essay on the
Poetry of Wordsworth (New York: Barnes, 1962) 12.
8. Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (New York: Ballantine,
1969). In her discussion of Tennyson's The Princess. Millett
remarks: "He [the prince] sets up a theory of complementary
difference, justifying cultural disparity through genital
dissimilarity - 'Either sex alone is half itself.' Given the
social circumstances of conditioning this is even the case
with regard to personality; but Tennyson believes
temperamental differences reside in nature" (110) . Millett
also discusses Ruskin's theory of separate but complementary
sexual spheres. U.C. Knoepflmacher notes, "In the Victorian
era, when gender stereotyping was at its height, men as much
as women vacillated between tendencies too rigidly labeled as
'feminine' or 'masculine.' This vacillation produced rich but
one-sided myths." Tennyson found the fusion of brother and
sister selves "a desirable but sadly unattainable psychic
ideal." U.C. Knoepflmacher, "Genre and the Integration of

80
Gender: From Wordsworth to George Eliot to Virginia Woolf,"
Victorian Literature and Society; Essays Presented to Richard
D. Altick. ed. James R. Kincaid and Albert J. Kuhn (Ohio
State UP, 1983) 94.
9. French feminist critics, notorious for this
bifurcation between "masculine" and "feminine" time, are
indebted to Virginia Woolf's Lockean description of
experience: "Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically
arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent
envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness
to the end." "Modern Fiction," The Common Reader (Harcourt:
London, 1925) 189. In "Genre and the Integration of Gender,"
U.C. Knoepflmacher also refers to the contrast between linear
"masculine" time and cyclical, rather than sequential,
"feminine" time (Knoepflmacher 100-101).
10. Knoepflmacher 95.
11. See Thomas Vogler, "'A Spirit, Yet a Woman Too'
Dorothy and William Wordsworth," Mothering the Mind: Twelve
Studies of Writers and Their Silent Partners, ed. Ruth Perry
and Martine Watson Brownley (New York and London: Holmes &
Meier, 1984). Also, Margaret Homans, Women Writers and Poetic
Identity; Dorothy Wordsworth. Emily Bronte, and Emily
Dickinson (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980) and Susan M. Levin,
Dorothy Wordsworth & Romanticism (New Brunswick and London:
Rutgers UP, 1987).
12. Claridge and Langland 16.
13. Margaret Homans, Women Writers and Poetic Identity:
Dorothy Wordsworth. Emily Bronte, and Emily Dickinson
(Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980) 14-17.
14. Stephen Maxfield Parrish, The Art of the Lyrical
Ballads (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard UP, 1973) 99.
15. Robert Langbaum, The Poetry of Experience: The
Dramatic Monologue in Modern Literary Tradition (New York:
Norton, 1957) 94.
16. Langbaum 85.
17. Owen 158.
18. Ross 399.
19. Homans 13.
20.Homans 17.

81
21. The Wordsworth of The Prelude stresses the
empathetic significance of nursing and its "psychic
equivalent." Richard Onorato's The Character of the Poet:
Wordsworth in The Prelude (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1971)
serves as a model of psychoanalytical criticism, with its
close adherence to Freudian models of repression and
behavior, its emphasis on infantile sexuality and the
importance of the absent mother as a key to understanding the
poetry. Barbara A. Schapiro, drawing on theories of object
relationships and identity formation, particularly as
expressed in the writings of Heinz Kohut, Otto Kernberg,
Melanie Klein, and D.W. Winnicott, places her emphasis on the
dynamics of the mother-child relationship as the basis of
one's entire experience of the world. Object relationship
theory emphasizes relationships with objects and the
formation of the individual identity through separation from
objects as the major factors in early psychological
development, in opposition to Freudian emphases on sexual
drives and impulses. Our central relationship with the
mother is internalized and retained throughout adulthood. The
Romantic Mother: Narcissistic Patterns in Romantic Literature
(Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins P, 1983) 94.
22. Owen 157-158.
23. Owen 159.
24. Owen 172.
25. Owen 158.
26. Charles Ryskamp, "Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads in
Their Time" From Sensibility to Romanticism; Essays Presented
To Frederick A. Pottle, ed. Frederick W. Hilles and Harold
Bloom (New York: Oxford UP, 1965) 363.
27. Owen 158.
28. Langbaum 71.
29. Schapiro 101.
30. Owen 174.
31. Owen 156.
32. Homans 221.
33. Homans 215.
34. Susan J. Wolfson, "Individual in Community: Dorothy
Wordsworth in Conversation with William," Romanticism and

Feminism, ed. Anne K. Mellor (Bloomington and Indianapolis
Indiana UP, 1988) 146.

CHAPTER 3
"TINTERN ABBEY”:
THE SISTER AS SOURCE AND SUBJECT
Constrained by the culturally embedded divisions between
"masculine" reason and "feminine" emotion, Wordsworth cannot
overtly take possession of attributes such as intuition or
maternal instinct or redefine them as "masculine." Rather,
he frequently incorporates mothers, sisters, and wives in
poetic fictions that enable him to share these qualities. His
memories and descriptions of infancy, the interfused
boundaries between mother and child, and later childhood
experiences with his sister, all allow him to absorb a more
"feminine" sensibility and to express the qualities of
empathy and relatedness. Rather than simply appropriating
the "feminine," then, Wordsworth suggests the possibility of
collapsing certain distinctions between traditionally
"masculine" and "feminine" qualities, and this possibility
comes closest to realization in the interaction between the
poet/speaker and a sororal/maternal figure in "Tintern
Abbey." By refusing to define Nature as exclusively female
and the poetic imagination as exclusively male, Wordsworth
further undermines gender distinctions.
83

84
Despite Wordsworth's claim in the "Preface" to represent
all of humanity, "Tintern Abbey" initially appears to favor
the masculine through a "natural" assimilation of the
feminine. However, the female here does not suffer as
radical an absorption by nature as, say, the figure of the
"Lucy" poems, who fails to achieve the Romantic transcendence
reached by the poet himself. Remarking on the "Lucy" poems,
Sarah McKim Webster notes: "It becomes difficult to
distinguish among Lucy dead, Lucy alive, and Nature."1 I
question the critical assumption that the traditional
association of nature with the "feminine" effectively
prevents the possibility of female transcendence, even within
the boundaries of male verse. If Wordsworth must grow beyond
nature in his search for self, cannot a female figure achieve
a similar growth? Does the association of nature with the
"feminine" doom the female figure to immanence, or is
transcendence possible without rejecting nature? Regarding
"Tintern Abbey," I find Wordsworth seeking just such
transcendence for Dorothy without rejecting her association
with nature. Must "feminine" transcendence by necessity take
the same route as "masculine" transcendence, or does
Wordsworth suggest an alternate path? I would argue the
latter.
As many critics have well noted, Dorothy serves as the
source of the poet's sensibility in much of his poetry; in
particular, psychological critics see her as a displaced

85
version of Wordsworth's absent mother. If, for Wordsworth,
fusion with the sister serves as a displaced manifestation of
fusion with the mother, is the result the androgynous ideal
or a more complicated creation? Does the myth of an
innocent, ungendered childhood paradise correspond with this
also mythical, but less balanced, union between brother and
sister/mother selves? In later works such as The Excursion.
Wordsworth turns away from the "feminine" sensitivity and
mythic memory expressed in his lyrics and ballads toward
"masculine" history and reality. Yet even though his later
poetry clearly separates male and female self-consciousness,
it nevertheless reflects a longing to return to the
undifferentiated world of childhood.
Rather than an androgynous soul, the balanced ideal
presented by such critics as Carolyn Heilbrun and Jean
Hagstrum, the Wordsworth of Lyrical Ballads yearns for a more
complex creation, one of interaction rather than fusion. The
traditional concept of androgyny suggests wholeness, both a
physical and spiritual utopia; but one can often view the
Romantic emphasis on androgyny as yet another aspect of the
"masculine" appropriation of "feminine" characteristics.
Quoting Coleridge, "The truth is, a great mind must be
androgynous," Carolyn Heilbrun suggests a rather awkward
correspondence with Wordsworth's poetic statement that
Dorothy had given him eyes and ears.2 Although she does not
pursue this particular analogy, we recognize the subservient

86
position of the female in this form of androgyny; the poet
remains the center of focus, receiving from the female.
Heilbrun does, however, remark upon Coleridge's definition of
androgyny as less apt to make prejudicial distinctions
between traditionally "masculine" and "feminine."
Although Heilbrun attempts to define androgyny in terms
of reconciliation between the sexes, she admits its
essentially indefinable nature, as well as its threats to
men's and women's sexual and social roles. For Heilbrun, the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries "superseded all others in
finding confusion between the sexes terrifying or indicative
of some nameless and horrible threat."3 However, she declares
the creative and civilizing force of androgyny essential to
the survival of human society. Virginia Woolf provides a
standard feminist understanding of androgyny, decrying
likeness between the sexes in favor of an enrichment rising
from a fruitful interchange of attributes; for the most part,
her allusions to sexuality function metaphorically.4 More
recently, Diane Hoeveler warns us of confusing the
androgynous reunion of masculine and feminine principles in
the psyche with the literal and sexual union of male and
female: "The latter union produces a sort of physical
monstrosity that merely accentuates the differences between
the sexes. The androgynous, on the other hand, is a merger
of psychic characteristics within the imagination."5

87
Wordsworth's attempts to reconcile the "masculine" and
"feminine" aspects of the psyche in several of the Lyrical
Ballads suggest a wish for complementarity and gender fusion,
but upon closer examination, these poems go beyond androgyny
into a complicated interaction that reflects the poet's
search for his lost mother, or a maternal surrogate. In his
discussion of The Prelude, James Heffernan remarks, "Since
his separation from Dorothy directly resulted from the death
of their mother, one separation metonymically signifies the
other."6 In communicating with Dorothy, Heffernan suggests,
Wordsworth can by transference communicate with the lost
mother, and essentially, repeat and correct the past:
"Separation does not preclude the possibility of return or
the creative re-enactment of the past, which is essential to
the growth of the poet's mind."7
Heffernan cautions us that returning to the past in
memory and re-enacting it in words is not the same as
regressing to infancy or returning to the womb. Having seen
spectacles of inhumanity in both England and France toward
abandoned women, prostitutes, and the homeless, Wordsworth
views the pain of separation on a more widespread, human
basis. His initial experience of "primordial separation" is
intensified by his adult experience of societal
disintegration, and both serve to stimulate his attempts at
both familial and poetic unity. Wordsworth achieves his
reunion with both maternal and sororal figures not on a

88
physical, but on an imaginary plane, as memory and the
imagination together compensate for losses both personal and
political.
While a number of critics have carefully examined the
maternal influence upon the poet in The Prelude9. only
superficial attention has been paid to "tracing the maternal
passion through many of its more subtle windings"9 in the
Lyrical Ballads, despite Wordsworth's remarks in the
"Preface." Although Wordsworth's major characterizations of
nature as maternal are found in The Prelude, several of the
poems in Lyrical Ballads portray nature as "feminine" or
maternal; most of the female figures are like nature or
interact with nature, whether positively, like Dorothy in
"Tintern Abbey," or in an ambivalent or negative fashion as
in the "Mad Mother," "The Thorn," or "The Female Vagrant."
Through the contrast between the women's absorption into
nature and the poet/speaker's conscious distance, the poems
reflect the difficult distinctions between subject and
object, "masculine" and "feminine," with which the poet is
wrestling. Merging with nature is both desired and feared;
Wordsworth does not simply accept the traditional patriarchal
association of the "feminine" with nature and the resulting
paradigms of activity versus passivity, reason versus
emotion, and so forth.
If we examine the role of the nature/mother figure in
Lyrical Ballads, we find Wordsworth working through both

89
positive and negative feelings toward the "feminine,"
striving to break through the traditional relationship of
"masculine" subject and "feminine" object. By concluding
Lyrical Ballads with "Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth reemphasizes
the complicated role played by nature in relation to the
"feminine" throughout the volume. Nature's separation from
the "feminine" has represented the height of unnaturalness,
as in "the Female Vagrant." It has played a fatal role, as
in "The Forsaken Indian Woman," or a healing, maternal role,
as in "The Idiot Boy." Unlike "The Female Vagrant," "The Mad
Mother" or "The Thorn," in which nature is represented both
threatening and redeeming, "Tintern Abbey" presents nature as
uniting with the female and male figure in a primarily
positive fashion. Nevertheless, the absorption of the female
figure in the natural elements serves and empowers her
brother as much as herself; a number of critics find "Tintern
Abbey" a rather calcifying experience for the sister, for the
"feminine" as nature/mother figure appears to absorb the
female figure as it sets the male figure free. We may wonder
whether Dorothy's failure to break with nature, i.e., the
maternal figure, prevents her full growth; I will argue that
Wordsworth's intentions are otherwise.
The psychological literary critic might read into
this conflict the poet's attempts to overcome his rejection
of the maternal figure and celebrate her wholeness and her
separate reality. Barbara Schapiro (1971), for example,

90
finds in the conclusion of "Tintern Abbey" the integration of
a realized self with the landscape, an ego achievement
resulting from loss of one relationship with Nature or the
mother (and "all its aching joys") and the development of
another; Wordsworth has effectively achieved resolution of
the pre-Oedipal ambivalence. Schapiro also suggests that
Wordsworth's preoccupation with abandoned women in several of
the Lyrical Ballads reflects his own feeling of abandonment,
coupled with the desire to punish his mother. By affirming
the self-sacrifice and goodness of such women, he can resolve
his guilt and reaffirm his belief in mankind, his mother, and
himself.
Thomas A. Vogler (1984) also examines Dorothy as a
maternal surrogate, her spiritualized presence serving as the
living embodiment of Wordsworth's idealized lost mother.
Taking a strongly Freudian turn, Vogler describes
Wordsworth's use of Dorothy as a form of psychoanalytical
transference, enabling him to recover and work through
repressed experience in order to achieve an integrated self:
"The Wordsworthian activity of writing during this period
combines the textual goals of a completion of form with the
psychological goal of achieving a coherent identity."10
As psychoanalytic theory continues to argue in favor of
the central importance of the mother-child relationship,
mention should be made of the controversy surrounding the
significance of maternality, and the indictment of mothers in

91
both psychological literature and literary criticism. An
understanding of current trends in developmental theory
enables us to apply theories of maternal influence or neglect
more carefully in our criticism of the Literary Ballads.
Since the early 1970's a number of critics have
illuminated the manner in which we idealize the "good mother"
and castigate any other. Janna Malamud Smith emphasizes the
general neglect of "the social context of mothering"!! and
concurs with Jean Baker Miller that "It is easier to blame
mothers than to comprehend the entire system that has
restricted women."13 Smith points out a number of unresolved
guestions regarding the relative importance of maternal and
paternal influence, and the reluctance of psychiatric
literature to acknowledge the influence of societal contexts.
In Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory (1990), Nancy
Chodorow warns of the dangers of psychoanalytic feminism,
both its tendency toward a universalism which disregards
class, racial, and ethnic differences among women and,
historically, the failure of psychological critics to apply
method and theory in a socially or culturally specific
manner. Chodorow herself argues that mothering generates "a
defensive masculine identity in men and a compensatory
psychology and ideology of masculine superiority."13 She also
believes that the oppression of women preceded class society
and that the dynamics of this oppression extend beyond the
social and work relations: "An open web of social,

92
psychological, and cultural relations, dynamics, practices,
identities, beliefs, in which I would privilege neither
society, psyche, nor culture, comes to constitute gender as a
social, cultural, and psychological phenomenon."14 While The
Reproduction of Mothering (1978) implied that mothering was
the cause or prime mover of male dominance, Feminism and
Psychoanalytic Theory (while not denying the social and
cultural significance of her former argument) examines other
axes of power and dimensions of gender, in particular the
father's social, cultural, and political power. Examining
this "multiplex web" of sexual inequality, Chodorow continues
to privilege psychoanalytic object-relationship theories that
emphasize the mother-dominated pre-Oedipal period over the
father-dominated Oedipal period.
Chodorow also reveals how the fantasy of the perfect
mother has permeated literary criticism as well as
psychoanalytical literature, citing some of the most virulent
and extreme examples, such as Nancy Friday's My Mother/My
Self (1977)and Dorothy Dinnerstein's The Mermaid and the
Minotaur (1976)16, as well as more objective accounts such as
Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born (1976)17 which examine the
difficulties of being a mother in a male-dominated society
and emphasize identification with the mother. Much recent
feminist literature contains conflicting expectations
regarding maternity/mothering and sexuality; in the split
between sexuality and maternity, motherhood often remains

93
linked with death or denial of self. Chodorow emphasizes
that blaming or idealizing the mother, or asserting the
incompatibility of motherhood and sexuality (or romanticizing
maternal sexuality), all stem from cultural understandings of
mothering. These (mis)understandings climaxed in the
nineteenth century with the sexual division of the spheres,
and the glorification of an ideal mother who would create
morally perfect children and symbolize a morally desirable
world, isolated from the social reality of the period.
Post-Freudian psychology assumes that the isolated
mother-child unit is central to the psychological, emotional,
and relational development of the child; this has led to a
psychological determinism and reductionism, namely, that the
dynamics of this relationship determine all of history,
society, and culture. In her strongly polemical (and highly
controversial) study of western art, Sexual Personae. Camille
Paglia examines "the way Romanticism, as part of its
archaizing movement, restores the mother to matriarchal
power, notably in Goethe, Wordsworth, and Swinburne."18 Even
as she terms matriarchy a myth originating in our universal
experiences of the power of the mother in our infancy, she
defines human development from the nursery to society as the
overthrowing of this myth. However, her reductive approach
often ignores external conditions that determine or foster
maternal behavior.

94
Both the idealization and the blaming of the mother
reinforce the concept of the all-powerful mother, perpetuated
by feminists who assume the accuracy of these
characterizations without questioning their ideological
bases. Chodorow suggests that feminists must move beyond
developmental theories based on dominant cultural and
psychological assumptions of mother and child as adversaries;
likewise, she calls for rejection of those models of child
development which characterize the child as a passive reactor
to drives or environmental pressures. For the purposes of
this dissertation, any analysis of Wordsworth's relationship
to his mother as manifested by his treatment of women must be
tempered by recognition of these current controversies
regarding the significance of the maternal influence. I seek
to avoid either the indictment or the idealization of
Wordsworth's lost mother; rather, I acknowledge the
importance of the mother-child relationship in his poetry and
examine its personal and political ramifications.
Traditional assumptions of what constitute "masculine"
and "feminine" traits often blind the reader to the
permeation of one into the other. As Michael Cooke notes,
"Authority, institution, sameness: these are the terms that
arise in connection with the masculine when it is established
as a norm. The feminine then is obliged to represent
obedience, tameness, mimicry."19 In his analysis of
"Nutting," Cooke notes the subtle integration of the

95
"opposites" of "masculine" and "feminine" authority, of
judgment and reflection, arguing that the hazel bower is not
entirely or simply "feminine," but possesses power to make up
for its lack of force. Nor is the boy entirely or simply
"masculine." In coming to terms with the "feminine" and
attempting reconciliation, Wordsworth is in accord with what
Cooke terms a revolutionary impulse in romanticism, one which
enabled it to recognize "a sense of the natural but untapped
power of the feminine, which because it had so little social
or political expression, was doing less than it should for
the masculine and for the human. "20 Although Cooke does not
discuss "Tintern Abbey" in terms of this reconciliation of
the "masculine" and the "feminine," I feel that "Tintern
Abbey" also reflects Wordsworth's search for a complementary
wholeness as an alternative to the prevailing cultural poles
of masculinity and femininity.
Traditional Romantic associations of nature with the
"feminine" suggest an "eternal" and unchanged base upon which
the "masculine" can grow and change; the poet both supports
and undermines this concept. In "Tintern Abbey" we
acknowledge the physical sameness of the scene, independent
of any emotional or intellectual changes in the poet. As
Robert Langbaum notes, "His perception of nature now combines
with the purely emotional response of the last visit an
intellectual and moral response."21 We also recognize subtle
suggestions of "feminine" instability and change. The choice

96
of certain adjectives applied to nature, and the use of
diminutives and qualifiers, create a sense of hesitancy and
delicacy. The waters possess a "sweet inland murmur." The
hedge rows are "hardly hedge rows, little lines of sportive
wood run wild." Nature is repeatedly "wild" and elusive, the
emotional and uncivilized "feminine."
If the portrait of nature in "Tintern Abbey"
associates nature with the traditionally "feminine," it also
possesses a number of traditionally "masculine" aspects; the
interaction of sound and vision serves as a paradigm for the
interaction of the "feminine" and the "masculine." Although
the initial emphasis in "Tintern Abbey" is on sound, the
"steep and lofty cliffs" suggest a more active, i.e.,
"masculine" power, especially in their ability to "impress
thoughts of more deep seclusion" upon the "wild secluded
scene" (which foreshadows Dorothy's "wild eyes.") Here
reason seems to permeate emotion, which reflects the emphasis
in the Preface upon the modification of our influxes of
feeling by our thoughts, "which are indeed the
representatives of all our past feelings."22 A further
exchange occurs as the cliffs "connect/ The landscape with
the quiet of the sky," echoing the epiphanic moment of "There
was a Boy." As in "To My Sister,"23 Wordsworth anchors his
treatment of time upon a present moment, a specific day and a
specific spot, "when I again repose/ Here." Passive repose
replaces action, and enables the scene to act upon the poet.

97
The poet develops the dialectic of opposition and
interaction between the "masculine" and the "feminine" as he
describes the plots of cottage ground and orchard tufts,
cultivated and civilized works of man which contrast to the
wild woods and copses in which they lose themselves. Their
"unripe fruits" suggest his less mature sister, while the
"hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines/ Of sportive
wood run wild" and the "pastoral farms/ Green to the very
door" reflect the furtive blending of nature and
civilization. Silent "wreathes of smoke" suggest "vagrant
dwellers in the houseless woods," or man's solitary existence
within nature, "some hermit's cave, where by his fire/ The
hermit sits alone." This emphasis upon the solitary state of
the hermit suggests the poet's awareness of his own long
absence from the scene; this sense of solitariness is echoed
by the "lonely rooms" and his isolation "mid the din/ Of
towns and cities," whose clamor contrasts with the "sweet
inland murmur" of the mountain waters. We sense the poet's
difference, or separateness, from ordinary mankind, a
loneliness only relieved by the "feminine" presence of
nature.
Wordsworth's vision of Dorothy is also a transforming
one. Although he perceives her as a child of nature both
now and in her future, he identifies her future memories with
his present memories, granting her a similar ability to grow
and develop in a harmonious fashion. One can profitably

98
compare the blending of past, present, and future in
"Tintern Abbey" to a similar molding of time in "To My
Sister," in which the poet creates a concrete vision of
himself, his sister, and the landscape, while blending their
love for each other with their love for nature and nature's
love for them.
A brief discussion of "To My Sister" may illuminate our
understanding of gender issues in "Tintern Abbey," since in
the former Wordsworth attempts to disassociate feeling from
reason and elevate the significance of feeling in accordance
with his intentions as stated in the Preface. "To My Sister"
uses a simple ballad form to convey the conflict between
reason or thought and feeling; the contrast between the
simplicity of the form and language and the problematic theme
creates a tension that remains unresolved.
Although the first lines of "To My Sister" introduce a
mood of calm freshness, of beginning, the reader already
senses the passing of time buried within the urgency and
sweetness of the moment;
It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before,
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door. (1-4)
One might compare the presentation of time in these verses
with the emphasis upon time past and present in the
initial lines of "Tintern Abbey," where Wordsworth uses
repetition with variation to create a sense of temporal
continuity:

99
Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur. (1-4)
In "To My Sister," the clear and simple image of the
redbreast, one of the few concrete images in the poem, adds
color and conceptual melody to the alliterative melody of the
first lines. Compare this image to that of the murmuring
waters of "Tintern Abbey," whose sound and movement stands in
similar relation to the movement of time in that poem.
The second stanza of "To My Sister" begins in a
similarly firm and unequivocal fashion as the first, "There
is" echoing "It is," yet the image is less specific, more
spiritual, "a blessing in the air,/ Which seems a sense of
joy to yield." This abbreviated image foreshadows the more
complex "sensations sweet" and even "that blessed mood"
elaborated upon in "Tintern Abbey." In "To My Sister," as in
"Tintern Abbey," the reader is drawn from the specific
observation of nature into the perceptions of the narrator,
"seems" replacing "is" and creating a sense of uncertainty.
The natural imagery of "bare trees and mountains bare,/ And
grass in the green field" suggests spring amidst the
barrenness of winter, an early metaphor for feeling amidst
reason, and adds to the sense of anticipation. As the poem
is directly addressed to Dorothy, one may associate the
anticipation of spring with the anticipation of her presence,
"feminine" growth and renewal bringing life to the austerity
of "masculine" winter. Although both poems require the

100
presence of a female figure, in "To My Sister" she has a more
immediate, physical presence. The poet addresses her
directly from the beginning of the poem although her actions
remain an extension of his needs—"'tis a wish of mine"—
despite the seemingly inclusive "we." In "Tintern Abbey," as
I will argue, we find a far more complicated consideration of
her development.
The third stanza further develops the dialectic between
feeling and reason as the poet commands his sister, "Come
forth and feel the sun." The Oxford English Dictionary
(1971) provides a contemporary definition of "feel" which
corresponds with Wordsworth's use of this verb (III 13): "to
be emotionally affected by (an event or state of things)," as
supported by a quotation from Goldsmith ("Epit. to Parnell,"
1774), "What heart but feels his sweetly moral lay." A
contemporary definition of reason (III 10) is "That
intellectual power or faculty . . . which is ordinarily
employed in adapting thought or action to some end; the
guiding principle of the human mind in the process of
thinking." Wordsworth takes a firm position at the end of
the sixth stanza, "It is the hour of feeling." Again, one
notes the determinism of "It is," a determinism the poet
attempts, with mixed success, to maintain throughout the
poem.
By contrast, the verb tenses which conclude "Tintern
Abbey" reflect wishfulness and hope as opposed to certainty,

101
their ambivalence reinforced by the use of negatives in
connection with verbs which undermine his intentions, such as
"nor all/ The dreary intercourse of daily life,/ Shall e'er
prevail against us," and "Nor wilt thou then forget." In
comparison with "To My Sister," "Tintern Abbey" reflects
Wordsworth's expanded awareness of the difficulty of
elevating emotion over reason, and the need for a more
fruitful interchange between the two.
By repeatedly associating feeling with "idleness" (he
urges his sister "bring no books, for this one day/ We'll
give to idleness"), the poet weakens his emphasis upon the
supremacy of feeling over reason. He appears to feel a need
to justify giving this day to "idleness," as if idleness
(which might be culturally associated with the "feminine" in
contrast to "masculine" industry and efficiency) were morally
or socially unacceptable. "Put on with speed"—again an
emphasis on urgency—"And bring no book." The rejected books
are associated with industry, in contrast to the newly
conceived image of the poet lounging al fresco. The curious
juxtaposition of idleness with haste reflects a certain
tension which Wordsworth leaves behind him in "Tintern
Abbey." Perhaps the broader time span of the later poem,
with its continuous links between past and present and
future, enabled the poet to abandon the urgency of "To My
Sister.

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The strict ballad form of "To My Sister," with its
structured metrical pattern and rhyme scheme and use of
repetition, particularly of the lines, "And bring no book,
for this one day/ We'll give to idleness," also creates a
sense of rhythmic movement and haste lacking in the more
formal blank verse of "Tintern Abbey." Stanza four, for
example, flows along in simple alliterative verse until
Wordsworth breaks the alliterative patterns and slows down
the third line with four plain words which alternate vowels
and consonants, "and this one day," forcing our attention and
emphasizing the transitory nature of this time.
"Idleness” also corresponds to the freedom from external
structure expressed in stanza five: "No joyless forms shall
regulate/ Our living Calendar;" the progression from winter
to spring is not to be regulated by any external calendar or
similar man-created structure, but by one's own living
calendar, or rather, one's emotional flowering or growth.
His spring will begin with this day of rejecting books and
entering "the hour of feeling." This is accompanied by "a
universal birth" of love in human hearts, not occurring
immediately, but gradually "stealing" from heart to heart in
a horizontal fashion. At the same time love spreads in a
circular, continuous fashion, "From earth to man, from man to
earth." (Given his emphasis upon his sister, Wordsworth's
use of "man" here is surely generic.) In the midst of this
continuous movement Wordsworth asserts "the hour of feeling,"

103
creating a paradox, a tension between the continuous movement
of love and the transitory "hour, " as if feeling were frozen
in time. However, the use of ambivalent or qualified verb
tenses, "One moment now may give," "Some silent laws our
hearts may make, " undermines the promise of the continuous
movement of love and the "blessed power," and foreshadows the
wishfulness and uncertainty of "Tintern Abbey."
Josephine Donovan, among other feminist critics, has
suggested that the traditional woman's sense of time is
repetitive or cyclic rather than linear (the time of the
quest). She uses Carol Gilligan's images of hierarchy and
web to represent the basic differences in the male and female
modes of knowledge. Donovan contrasts the traditional
"masculine" or Aristotelian narrative structure, which is
linear and progressive, with a "gynocentric" narrative
structure: "Instead of being linear, it is nuclear: the
narrative moves out from one base to a given point and back
again, out to another point, and back again, out again, back
again, and so forth like arteries on a spider's web."24 In
its complex expansion and contraction of time, "To My Sister"
does not fit into traditionally "masculine" notions of genre
and linear narrative progress, as Donovan defines them; and
while time in "Tintern Abbey" follows a more linear
progression, the poet's use of memory to link past, present
and future similarly creates a sense of circular movement
with the poet as the nucleus of the circle.

104
Stanza seven of "To My Sister" serves as a model of this
cyclical movement: the poet, elaborating upon this "hour of
feeling," reduces it to its smallest increment, the moment,
then expands its significance. This fixed moment of feeling
may be more fruitful than "fifty years of reason."
Wordsworth plays with concepts of time and distorts the
relationships between the elements of time by expanding and
then contracting them. Again one notes the ambivalence of
the auxiliary verb "may," as if Wordsworth were not
completely sure of the efficacy of his plunge into feeling
and the abandonment of reason. As if to negate his
uncertainty, the poet pronounces: "Our minds shall drink at
every pore/ The spirit of the season." The use of "minds"
rather than perhaps hearts or souls demonstrates that
Wordsworth does not entirely reject thinking, while the image
of drinking suggests life, even rebirth, especially following
"universal birth." The association of the word "pore" with
the mind gives the latter a more organic nature, although
this figurative use of the word was not uncommon (Sheffield,
1720, "Love's pow'r can penetrate the hardest hearts; and
through the closest pores a passage find," and Emerson, 1847,
"He sees at every pore.") By juxtaposing minds, pores, and
drinking, Wordsworth also suggests a sort of involuntary
absorption, as if minds were sponges, susceptible to a number
of different influences.

105
The poet, however, is not absorbing nature itself so
much as the spirit of the season. Among the numerous
definitions of "spirit," The Oxford English Dictionary
presents two significant examples of the nineteenth-century
understanding of this concept. One applicable definition,
(II 10 a), is "The essential character, nature, or qualities
of something; that which constitutes the pervading or
tempering principle of anything (common after 1800)," as
supported by Ruskin (1843) , "The spirit of the hills is
action, that of the lowlands repose." A second relevant
definition is, (II 10 b), "The prevailing tone or tendency of
a particular period of time," as in Shelley (1820 Lett.). "It
is the spirit of the age, and we are all infected with it."
One senses the exhilaration still remaining in Wordsworth
from his experiences in the French Revolution, to which
"spirit of the age" and "universal birth" might both
obliquely refer. Yet in this poem, Wordsworth has shifted
his hopes from mankind to the individual, from external forms
and action to internal change, just as he promotes "feeling"
over "toiling reason."
Through the progression of tenses—"It is. the hour, "
"One moment now mav give." "Our minds shall drink"—
Wordsworth gradually projects into the future as if it were
already accomplished, in contrast to the more uncertain
projections of "Tintern Abbey." Stanza eight reverses this
temporal progression: "our hearts will make." "they shall

106
lona obey." "We ... may take." "Will" and "shall" become
"may." "Long obey," which projects into the future, but not
eternity, contracts to "the year to come" and then to
"today." Within this complex framework of time and
temporality, what "silent laws" could Wordsworth be
suggesting after rejecting the "joyless forms" and insisting
that his sister her "morning task resign"? The adjective
"silent" corresponds with love "stealing" from heart to heart
and with the concept of "feeling," while "silent laws”
suggest vows appropriate to the "blessing in the air" and the
"blessed power" in the following stanza.
Stanza five returns to nature, not the concrete nature
of the earlier stanzas, but rather the spirit within nature
as perceived by the narrator. Again, "blessed power"
reinforces the earlier "blessing" and adds a more
specifically spiritual dimension to the poem. This power,
"that rolls/ About, below, above," echoes the continuous
circular progress of love in stanza six, reinforcing the
theme of eternal movement that Wordsworth plays against that
of the temporality, the urgency of the moment. He concludes
the stanza with a metaphor of spiritual music: "We'll frame
the measure of our souls,/ They shall be tuned to love," as
if souls were a musical instrument, whose measure or melody
would be formed and articulated by the blessed power. Again
Wordsworth projects into the future, "We’ll frame," "They
shall be tuned." He continues to develop the paradox between

107
the continuous nature of existence, as manifested by the
progress of love and the rolling of the blessed power, and
the transitoriness of the moment, the uncertainty of the
future despite his projections. The emphasis lies on speed
and haste, this one day, the hour of feeling, the moment.
Even the temper of the future, actually only the year to
come, is taken from today. The feeling of immediacy,
reinforced in the final lines, "for this one day/ We'll give
to idleness," almost overrides the sense of the
continuousness of love and the blessed power.
The use of the simple ballad form permits Wordsworth to
control this unresolved tension and frame his thoughts as
simply as he and Dorothy would "frame the measure of our
souls"; "To My Sister" effectively carries out his intention
of expressing profound concepts within a basic form, as
elaborated in the Preface. The superficial story of a
brother urging a sister in familiar language to leave her
book for the richer pleasures of the woods pleases our ballad-
loving senses, while we absorb the deeper, more troubling
theme, the contrast between feeling and reason, the
"feminine" and the "masculine." Wordsworth attempts to
demonstrate that feeling and communion with nature are more
fruitful to man than books and reason, but ultimately fails,
for a sense of urgency and immediacy, if not breathlessness
and desperation, undermines his attempts to show the
continuous nature of love and the blessed power. Yet this

108
very tension and ambivalence, further manifested by his
expansion and reduction of time, give the poem its strength
and power.
The dialectic between eternity and the temporality of
the moment revealed in "To My Sister" receives a broader
treatment in "Tintern Abbey," which encompasses a future
without the poet. Initially Wordsworth emphasizes the linear
progress of time as opposed to the cyclical time of "To My
Sister." Revisiting the Wye after an absence of five years,
he recalls the spiritual nourishment he received over the
past five years, while hoping that his present visit will
provide a corresponding nourishment in the future.
The insistency and determination of "To My Sister"
emerge as hope in "Tintern Abbey." Wordsworth both questions
the efficacy of nature's consolations, "If this/ Be but a
vain belief," and assuages his own doubts, "How often has my
spirit turned to thee!" In setting up an opposition between
nature and "the fretful stir/ Unprofitable, and the fever of
the world," he turns to nature "in spirit" but not in
physical actuality; Wordsworth attempts to escape from "the
dreary intercourse of daily life" through the intercession of
nature. Dorothy serves as a useful emblem of nature's peace
and calm. The strong and immediate response to the scene of
"To My Sister" is replaced by a more hesitant, conditional
(though hardly less potent) response, corresponding with his
evolution into a more mature state. Passion remains a

109
necessary element in the process of maturation, but the
violent, impulsive responses of his youth have graduated to a
more complicated, interactive response. Feeling and
responding replace action, as the poet has learned to "look
on nature," to hear "The still, sad music of humanity," to
feel "A presence that disturbs me with the joy/ Of elevated
thoughts." Yet the poem evolves as much from his wishes and
desires as his certainties; as Camille Paglia aptly remarks,
"This knowing is hope under duress."25
The question remains: To what extent does Wordsworth
appropriate the "feminine" vulnerability of emotion into the
realm of his "masculine" power, or affirm emotion's own
significant value? Does the poem succeed in revealing the
"natural and active power of feeling?" Marlon B. Ross
suggests that Wordsworth, perhaps unconsciously, emphasizes
and allegorizes the feminine gender in much of his poetry.
Examining "Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower" in the
light of a "feminine" allegory, Ross emphasizes the
significant difference between Lucy's relationship to Nature
and the poet's; his childhood focuses upon his attempts to
affirm his independence from nature, his unique human
identity, and self-differentiation; hers suffers from
premature closure, permitting no change or growth.
I argue, however, that in contrast both to the "Lucy"
poems and to "Nutting," "Tintern Abbey" permits the female a
wider range of action and reaction. Wordsworth's sense of

110
continuity between past and present parallels the interaction
between "masculine" and "feminine"; furthermore, the
continuities between his experience and Dorothy's grant her
both selfhood and imaginative power. If a number of critics
find this sense of self to be vicarious or superficial,
closer examination reveals that Dorothy is hardly a blank
slate; even though the poet identifies the recurrence of his
former pleasures, he grants Dorothy her separate autonomy and
vision.
I have argued that various physical elements of the
scene suggest aspects of the "masculine" and the "feminine"
and reflect the interaction between the two; as Wilfred Owen
suggests in his Introduction to the Lyrical Ballads, the
physical continuities in the landscape also echo or serve as
an emblem for the continuity of Wordsworth's experience in
Dorothy's. Despite the passage of five years, the poet finds
continuity in the sound of mountain waters which, "rolling
from their mountain-springs," suggest the origins of
experience and its uninterrupted succession. Likewise the
steep and lofty cliffs, "Which on a wild secluded scene
impress/ Thoughts of more deep seclusion," both create a
complicated interchange between the scene and the mind of the
poet, and forge a connection between landscape and sky. The
"orchard-tufts" of man blend and mingle with the more purely
natural "woods and copses" both in form and hue; the
reference to "unripe fruits" provides a link between present

Ill
and future as well as an image of potential growth, and, as I
noted, may suggest Dorothy herself. Through repetition,
Wordsworth further creates a sense of continuity and blending
of natural and human elements: "These hedge-rows, hardly
hedge-rows, little lines/ Of sportive wood run wild." Such
continuity and interpenetration between man and nature sets
up a paradigm for the emotional continuity and interchange
between the poet of five years previous, the poet of the
present, and his sister in future years.
Wordsworth's interest in "the pleasure which the mind
derives from the perception of similitude in dissimilitude"26
results in the poetic creation of similar landscapes
perceived by different eyes, male and female. The landscape
is physically more or less the same; however, the poet
differs from the self of five years earlier. Dorothy too is
different, both from the poet and from the Dorothy she is yet
to become. We recall that this unique pleasure "is the great
spring of the activity of our minds and their chief feeder"
and that "upon the accuracy with which similitude in
dissimilitude and dissimilitude in similitude are perceived,
depend our taste and our moral feelings."27 The difference
and similitude between the poet's former and present selves
and his sister's developing self grant authority to both
"masculine" and "feminine" mental activity.
"Tintern Abbey" further affirms the traditionally
"feminine" values of feeling and emotion through the romantic

112
intensity of its language, which invests it with the passion
Wordsworth emphasizes in his comparison of poetry and prose
in the Preface. The poem firmly supports the poet's
definition of poetry as taking its origin "from emotion
recollected in tranquility." As Wordsworth recollects the
landscape, description gives way to emotion. In accordance
with the Preface, the "painful feeling of delight" which
occurs as he remembers the past is tempered by the "complex
feeling of delight" created by the "harmonious metrical
language," an effect enhanced by repetition of words and
images. In insisting that we must consider Wordsworth's
choice of the title Lyrical Ballads as a revolutionary
departure, Robert Langbaum states: "The departure lay
precisely in the word, lyrical. by which he could not have
meant that the poems were to be sung but must have meant that
they were lyrical in the sense of subjective, stressing
feeling over action."28
The obvious identity of the speaker in "Tintern Abbey,"
with its strong autobiographical emphasis, compels an
emotional interaction between poet and reader that transcends
gender. As in the dramatic monologue in general, the poem
projects a consciousness beyond that of the speaker. Such a
consciousness may be clearly demarcated from the speaker, as
in "The Thorn," in which the reader identifies with a
perceptive consciousness clearly beyond that of the sea
captain. When, however, the speaker is. the poet, indeed

113
asserts his poetic stance, the strength of his projection
into the narrative voice compels the projection of the
reader's consciousness into the poem. For Charles Ryskamp,29
the self-revelation, often unconscious, of the central
figures is an evolving dramatic achievement as well as a
psychological revelation; on this point, Ryskamp seems to
concur with Stephen Parrish, who emphasizes Wordsworth's
original use of the dramatic form to reflect the language of
the mind. Action becomes secondary; the emotional and mental
interaction of poet and reader takes precedence.
The respect accorded to this reader in the "Preface," in
which Wordsworth honors his ability to "abide independently
by his own feelings,"30 is clearly extended to the "feminine"
in "Tintern Abbey"; here the reader is both Dorothy and our
("masculine" and "feminine") selves. In the "Advertisement"
to Lyrical Ballads Wordsworth stated his experimental purpose
in determining "how far the language of conversation of the
middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the
purposes of poetic pleasure."31 An effective application of
this purpose is, of course, the jocular ballad style of "The
Idiot Boy"; his use of colloquialisms and loquacious speech
celebrate the homely life of Betty Foy and her son. Yet
Wordsworth concludes Lyrical Ballads with a poem of far more
serious metrical style which focuses upon himself and his
sister, neither of whom represents low and rustic life. I
imagine Wordsworth as creating a space for interaction

114
between the lowly subjects of several of the other ballads
and those readers, both masculine and feminine, who inhabit a
higher intellectual, social, and economic realm. This
theoretical space is occupied by Wordsworth and his sister.
Blank verse is, by tradition, an elevated genre used to
celebrate an elevated subject; by choosing the personal self
as subject, Wordsworth both undermines traditional
expectations regarding the nature of blank verse and, at the
same time, elevates feeling and emotion. As L.J. Swingle
remarks, "The specter of enthrallment to single-minded
perception haunts Romantic literary art. The literary
artifact is disguised to move the reader, in company with the
artist, toward a free mental space beyond or between
enthrallments through simultaneous invocation of competing
enthrallments."32 It is this free mental space towards which
Wordsworth draws us, a space which grants mental and
emotional authority to the "feminine" as well as the
"masculine."
By replacing "I" with "we" in his concluding restatement
of his love for "all that we behold," the poet includes his
sister and mankind as well. Patricia L. Skarda remarks:
"Emblematically, the imagining poet becomes an archetype of
humankind, as 'we' replaces 'I' in the poet's restatement of
his love of 'all that we behold/ From this green earth of all
the mighty world/ Of eye and ear.'"33 The frequent repetition
of "all" throughout the poem reinforces the poet's inclusion

115
of humanity in his wish for continuity and union; by using
the Romantic myth of universality, it also enables the poet
to avoid specific problems of class and gender. "All"
encompasses a wide range from difficulties to triumphs, from
"all/ The dreary intercourse of daily life" to "all which we
behold/ [is] full of blessings." Here, verbal repetition
creates an infusion of harmony amidst disparity.
Although the break with nature is necessary for the
poet's growth, two factors sustain the continuity between
childhood and maturity: memory and the presence of the female
figure enable Wordsworth to maintain a myth of unity which
corresponds to the complicated exchange he envisions between
the "masculine" and the "feminine." Certain critics condemn
his failure to allow his sister that separation from nature
which enhances his own visionary powers. Margaret Homans
suggests that "Association with nature and exclusion from
speaking subjectivity amount to two different ways of placing
the woman in dualistic culture on the side of the other and
the object."34 Comparing "Tintern Abbey" and "Nutting" in
terms of the growth of the poet's imagination, Homans finds
both poems directed towards a sister whose presence serves
both to assuage her brother's needs and reaffirm his wisdom.
As listener, she receives the benefits of his experience but
avoids the pain and struggle of his growth. However, Homans
fails to acknowledge a significant development: although
Dorothy's vision may reflect the poet's former pleasures,

116
that vision is hers—it is Dorothy herself who speaks, hears,
and sees. Wordsworth affirms this through his many
references to her individuality: "thy voice," "thy wild
eyes," "thy mind," and "thy memory."
If Wordsworth yearns for the ungendered paradise of his
childhood, before his growth (or perhaps fall) into
"masculine" self-consciousness, he regards Dorothy almost as
a symbol of that pregendered period: "Oh! yet a little while/
May I behold in thee what I was once,/ My dear, dear Sister!"
Although he resigns himself to the process and fact of
separation, we recognize a continued longing to heal this
split. Mary Jacobus senses poignancy and doubt in
Wordsworth's intuition of harmony and joy in the natural
world, an awareness of loss and suffering that transforms his
beliefs into wishes rather than certainties.35 His
recognition that he no longer possesses access to natural
experience increases the importance of his sister's present
access to such experience. Anne K. Mellor, however, denies
such valuation of Dorothy's own experience: "Since
Wordsworth's female figures embody nature or his former,
closer-to-nature self, they cannot exist as self-conscious,
autonomous human beings with minds as capable as the
poet's."36 However, Mellor does not acknowledge the poet's
affirmations in the conclusion of "Tintern Abbey" that
Dorothy will eventually succeed to his current position, even
as she retains access to the natural experience.

117
While the poet of the Lucy poems focuses upon his
memories, his desires, and his subjectivity, the poet of
"Tintern Abbey" permits Dorothy a certain subjectivity
outside nature, and he continues to benefit from her
experience. Lucy, who lacks voice and subjectivity, serves
merely as the focus of masculine desire or nature's plans; by
contrast, while the speaker of "Tintern Abbey" focuses upon
his own needs and desires, he acknowledges Dorothy's as well,
even though he may unconsciously continue to "naturalize" her
socio-historical role. We recognize in most of the Lyrical
Ballads the ideological placing of women as a link between
man's first nature and himself, a placing which reinforces
women's role as secondary; nevertheless, Wordsworth's
assertions and exhortations reflect an underlying anxiety
regarding the myth of "masculine" assertion. Of all women in
the Lyrical Ballads. Dorothy in "Tintern Abbey" comes closest
to a form of Wordsworthian self-determination, even as she
operates within his gender-determined landscape, his
"naturalizing ideology."37
Wordsworth's emphasis on impulse and feeling as opposed
to intellect and action reflects his withdrawal from active
political partisanship into self; the English declaration of
war on France and the atrocities of the Reign of Terror
forced the repression of his sympathies for the French
Revolution. Charles Rzepka remarks, "Wordsworth's attempt in
the 'Preface' to strike a contract with himself and to stress

118
the poet's inner nature is motivated in part by the failure
of the tacit contract he struck with the leaders and
participants of the Revolution."38 Thus the emphases in
Lyrical Ballads upon emotion, nature, and passivity are in
accord with Wordsworth's new enthusiasm for the ahistorical
self, albeit an enthusiasm partially motivated by external
events. W. J. B. Owen suggests that the simile, "more like a
man/Flying from something that he dreads than one /Who sought
the thing he loved," reflects Wordsworth's attempt to escape
undesirable thoughts of France: "it seems reasonable to
assume that Wordsworth's search for the natural scene was
prompted by a wish to escape from the political."39 Owen
finds other sequences in Wordsworth's poetry of heroic
figures fleeing to nature to escape something undesirable,
with the hero serving as a persona for the poet. These
similes of a fugitive serve to dramatize and heighten
Wordsworth's description of the situation and of his actions.
It is, however, important to note that although Wordsworth
employs a simile of flight and escape, his destination,
"Wherever nature led, " is positive, as evidenced by the value
he places on natural images. As passion matures into wisdom,
and certainty reduces to hope, the poet receives his
spiritual nourishment from more abstract sources, the "still,
sad music," the "presence of elevated thoughts."
Much has been made of the fact that the period of living
with Dorothy produced Wordsworth's strongest love poetry. In

119
response to critical implications of a covertly incestuous
relationship between Dorothy and William, Jean Hagstrum
(1985) fervently defends the poet against such charges,
emphasizing the sentimental, as opposed to sensual, nature of
the relationship between sister and brother. Hagstrum
remarks upon the taboo upon incest in rural England, noting
that living in such proximity with friends and neighbors
would make incest extremely difficult for the Wordsworths, to
say the least. Nevertheless, he does not deny the fervency
of their love, as well as the poet's essential physicality,
which permeated all his emotional relations. Nor was their
relationship without a certain amount of guilt or potential
danger. Dorothy is, of course, implicated in the sexuality
of "Nutting," with its metaphors of virginal isolation and
sexual violation and atonement; she is implicated, as well,
in the imagery of sexuality and death in a number of the
"Emmeline" and "Lucy" poems. Hagstrum directly suggests that
the "wild eyes" and the "dizzy Raptures" and "wild ecstasies"
of "Tintern Abbey" reveal a sexual undercurrent running
through the poet's blending of the love of Dorothy with the
love of nature. The affirmation that "Nature never did
betray/ The heart that loved her" likewise reveals "that
Wordsworthian nature unmistakably sanctions sexual passion
and love and that to such shared vitality a man disappointed
in the structures both of romance and of law and custom might
gladly commit himself."40

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Many critics have aligned Wordsworth's search for poetic
self-identity with his quest for manhood; as I argued in
Chapter One, much of the Preface presents the poet in the act
of masculine self-possession, using metaphors of conquest and
achievement. The poet must struggle against a multitude of
causes acting "with a combined force to blunt the
discriminating powers of the mind and unfitting it for all
voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage
torpor."41 "The sense of difficulty overcome" assists in
"tempering the painful feeling which will always be found
intermingled with powerful descriptions of the deeper
passions."42 These historically and socially entrenched
concepts reflect the poet's need to assume a masculine
approach toward poetic and personal identity, his failure to
escape or effectively challenge the implications of a
gendered approach to achievement. As noted in Chapter One,
confrontation, assault, and combat are traditionally termed
"masculine" attributes, and Marlon Ross finds that Wordsworth
uses images of both aggression and sexual violence as he
attempts to affirm his independence from nature and his
separate human identity.43
The socio-historical view of women's role in
civilization, which encourages them to be weak and non-
aggressive, does not permit such an assertion of identity for
women, and Wordsworth never directly questions this view. As
Katherine M. Rogers remarks, "Any assertiveness in women,

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including that necessary for achievement and independence,
might be associated with unchastity, the one vice that was
universally condemned out of hand,”44 and as readers we
recognize the perils of unchastity in poems such as ""The Mad
Mother" and "The Thorn." Again I acknowledge the difficulty
of separating sexual identity from writing, for the stands
which define poetic and personal achievement depend upon
culturally entrenched ideals.
Like a number of the poems in Lyrical Ballads. "Tintern
Abbey" reflects an ambivalence towards the gendered division
of power, alternately yearning for and rejecting the
feminine, seeking fusion yet separateness. Susan J. Wolfson
characterizes "the masculine tradition" as "deriving from the
performative Logos of a paternal deity" and "discerned in
poetic subjectivity that simultaneously advances a male
center and writes the female as the 'other'—necessarily
represented without her own subjectivity or power of self¬
representation, and inscribed in political and epistemic
hierarchies alike as the object of appropriation,
instruction, or mastery.Wolfson finds Wordsworth
ambivalent about his position in this hierarchical order of
masculinist poetics which polarizes the mind as either lord
and master or passive and confused. He is hardly the "sure,
secure figure of logocentric performance and egocentric
confidence ascribed to him in some feminist (and older
masculinist readings of Romanticism)."46 Careful reading of

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the poetry reveals that Wordsworth does not always attempt to
dominate in subject-object relations, but often presents male
consciousness as passive, even "feminine," accompanied with
images of "feminine" reproductivity or nurturing. While
Wordsworth overtly accepts the gendered division of the
masculinist tradition, he nevertheless ascribes "masculine"
force to nature. Likewise the poet expresses a sense of
"masculine passiveness" through a self dominated by nature.
In general, masculine self-possession in Lyrical Ballads
reflects an underlying anxiety and uncertainty. In his
discussion of Lyrical Ballads. John T. Ogden suggests that
one's response to the natural environment may correlate with
one's response to other people.47 Correspondingly,
Wordsworth's need both to interact with and grow beyond
nature may be fruitfully compared with his relationship to
his sister; "Tintern Abbey" reflects the continuation of his
consciousness within hers as the poet attempts to achieve
fusion and separation simultaneously.
If we focus upon Dorothy as an individual in "Tintern
Abbey," we need to read beyond pure physical description, as
the poet's syntax makes her appear a good deal younger and
less mature than she actually was; she becomes an image of
the poet at a much earlier stage of his development. Susan
Levin finds Dorothy fixated at this stage of development:
"When William writes in 'Tintern Abbey' that he can see his
former self in his sister, he represents the idea of Dorothy

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as childlike, naive, respondent."48 Yet Levin ignores the
significance of the poet's plea, "Oh! yet a little while/ May
I behold in thee what I was once," with its implications that
Dorothy too will grow and change. Moreover, the poet
directly affirms Dorothy's future growth and maturity:
in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; (138-143)
Taking a radical stance, Dorothy Hoeveler argues that
Wordsworth, jealous of his sister's relationship with nature,
wishes upon her the same imaginative decline he is suffering.
In fact, Hoeveler finds the entire poem motivated by the
poet's resentment of Dorothy's intuitive "feminine" capacity
to see into the heart of things and the anxiety that
accompanies his vindictive wishes: "There is finally a good
deal of fear, for when Dorothy's imaginative powers decline
and eventually extinguish (as William both dreads and wishes
for her) , so will his ability to relive his earlier
experiences with Nature through her."49 I find Hoeveler's
polemical conclusions out of proportion to the poetic
evidence that Wordsworth sees Dorothy's relationship with
Nature as analogous to his own and her growth and development
a positive, rather than negative, issue.
Gilbert and Gubar have discussed the symbolism of houses
and home in association with the literal and figurative
confinement of women.so Being house-bound corresponds with

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being duty-bound, as women and women writers are trapped
within the houses and institutions of patriarchy. If houses
serve as primary symbols of female imprisonment for both male
and female writers, such symbols would certainly hold
different implications for each; Wordsworth's use of
architectural imagery might correspond with his sense of the
"feminine" as a safe refuge, even a return to the pre-Oedipal
unity with the maternal figure. "Mansion" does imply
restraint and confinement, in contrast to the freedom of
nature, although "dwelling place" suggests a more natural
association, reinforced by its existence at once within
nature and in the mind of man. "Mansion" also contains
1
religious implications, in particular that of eternal life:
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so I
would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John
14: 2). As such it reinforces the idea of his own—and her—
personal and poetic immortality.
In his ultimate encomium to nature, Wordsworth's choice
of plural pronouns surely grants Dorothy shared authority.
He refers to "this our life;" and affirms that nature "can so
inform/ The mind that is within ns." Although he reinforces
the imagery of nature as "feminine" in the sense of
nurturing, in that it will "feed" the mind "With lofty
thoughts," in opposition to the "evil tongues,/ Rash
judgments," and "the sneers of selfish men." the latter

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cannot prevail "against us., or disturb/ Our chearful faith
that all which w£ behold is full of blessings."
Surely Wordsworth sees Dorothy as authoritative, too, in
her capacity to suffer: "If solitude, or fear, or pain, or
grief,/ Should be thy portion." Now the poet, not nature, is
the healer: "with what healing thoughts of tender joy wilt
thou remember me." He takes on a "feminine," nurturing role;
having evoked Nature as a nurse or mother, he now assumes a
similar role, and thus he blurs gender demarcations between
man and nature.
The ideology of women's "proper sphere," from Ruskin's
"Of Queens' Gardens" to Coventry Patmore's The Ancrel in the
House, assumes that women serve as refuge for men, but Judith
Newton suggests that Dorothy serves not as a refuge for the
poet, but as a confirmation of his ability to create a refuge
for himself: she reminds him of his capacity to heal himself
as well as her.si if she enables him to recreate the natural
experiences of his youth, to "read/ My former pleasures in
the shooting lights/ Of thy wild eyes," it is Wordsworth as
much as she who becomes an emblem of "calm peace" and of
refuge from the "dreary intercourse of daily life."
Dorothy's memories of Wordsworth will bring her "healing
thoughts of tender joy" in the hours of "solitude, or fear,
or pain, or grief" which he imagines for her.
Dorothy will walk the same "solitary walk"; the "wild
ecstasies" one might initially define as "feminine"

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attributes are those that by implication Wordsworth himself
has undergone. If they have matured into a "sober pleasure,"
this maturity reflects the interaction of the "masculine" and
the "feminine," not a contrast between the two. Wordsworth,
granting Dorothy strength of her own, emphasizes both the
physical and emotional support she provides him. Even should
he lack the teaching of nature, he should not "Suffer my
genial spirits to decay" for the specific reason that "thou
art with me." Her emotional support extends beyond that of
an adoring younger sibling to "my dearest Friend, / My dear,
dear Friend." If Dorothy supports him physically and
spiritually, she does so as an equal.
A number of critics reject the possibility of Dorothy's
obtaining any personal autonomy through following her
brother's admonitions. Margaret Homans asks, "What is the
female listener (or reader) to do with these words that are
intended to help her circumvent the painful experiences that
have forged the poet's consciousness? What does it mean to
follow instructions given not for the sake of the student but
for the sake of the teacher?"52 Homans casts Dorothy in the
role of mirror to the poet, reflection and support of his
faith; she suggests that Dorothy exists solely to receive the
poet's wishes, "to confirm for him his hope that what he has
gained in the course of the poem will find a habitation in a
consciousness perhaps more enduring than his own."55 Simply
to accept the poet's words would, according to Homans, result

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in silence; Dorothy exists in the poem not in her own right
but in answer to the poet's and the poem's needs. Although
Wordsworth's accounts of the growth of his imagination
presume a solitary relationship between himself and nature,
one that precludes other people, he demands that Dorothy
retain a sense of his presence. Marlon B. Ross also suggests
that Wordsworth needs a female listener, "one who can be a
central figure in the landscape once he attempts to vacate
(by transcending) it."54 As he moves through and beyond
nature, the female remains behind, representing that part of
him determined by natural force.
For these critics, Dorothy does come closest to self-
determination of all the women in Wordsworth's poetry;
nevertheless, she remains confined in her secondary role as
"positive" link between nature and mankind, a role which
reaffirms the female's historical position in society. While
he moves through nature to human identity, she moves within
nature. As an object, she is granted a form of centrality
within the confines of her secondary role; her role as
subject remains marginal.
Anne K. Mellor, arguing that Wordsworth does not grant
Dorothy an autonomous identity in "Tintern Abbey," suggests
that she serves as a projection of the poet's childhood
passions, and even claims that "all of Wordsworth's poetic
women are dead, either literally (Lucy, Margaret, Martha Ray)
or figuratively (Dorothy, Ruth, his numerous mad mothers and

128
vagrants.)"55 Her polemical argument assumes that Wordsworth
bases his conception of nature upon the traditional
patriarchal identification of the female with earth and the
body, conceiving of nature "as an other that must be both
possessed and exploited, specifically through the agency of
language or poetic discourse."56 According to Mellor,
Wordsworth, locked into a masculine linguistic universe, can
only perceive nature or the objective universe as the
"other," the "mysterious female." I disagree with her
insistence that Wordsworth never permits his female figures
to exist other than as personifications of the natural life
cycle; Wordsworth presents his female figures as distinct
individuals with complicated personalities, even as they
serve in contrast to "masculine" ideals. Camille Paglia
asserts "that the more emotionally remote a person is to
Wordsworth, the more pictorially detailed. The more
emotionally central, the vaguer and more numinous."57 I agree
that other women in the Lyrical Ballads are presented with
greater physical detail than Dorothy, but do not find any
vagueness in her essential portrayal. Paglia does go on to
affirm Wordsworth's perception of Dorothy as an individual
and his candid identification with her: "He sees her as
separate, even as he simultaneously acknowledges her as his
mirror-image."58
Dorothy represents past, present, and future; in a sense
her presence foreshadows those "spots of time" in the Prelude

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which embody and reflect essential truths. As a maternal
surrogate she will not, unlike the literal mother, desert him
through death but on the contrary, will survive past death.
As such she protects him from death; by bearing his
exhortations in her memory, she affirms his existence. If
nature "never did betray/ The heart that loved her," by
implication Dorothy too will not betray his faith, although
his faith in both remains conditional, a faith he seeks
through prayer and reaffirmation. Yet surely the
indeterminate pronouncements at the conclusion of "Tintern
Abbey" suggest that Wordsworth recognizes the risk of
illusion inherent in his notion of a continuous self.
Clearly, many of Wordsworth's beliefs are conditional;
despite the poet's passionate desire to fuse his childhood
bonds with nature with the insights of his mature experience,
he ultimately must profess himself content with what
"remains." If, as some have suggested, the poem is more
about wanting to believe, more about the persistence of
"childish" desire, than about the fulfillment or resignation
it professes, this reflects Waordworth's sexual politics.
Although his desire for a nonhierarchical interaction of the
"masculine" with the "feminine" comes closest to
actualization in "Tintern Abbey," it retains a certain
ambiguity and indeterminancy.
Although much can be made of the role of vision in
"Tintern Abbey," the relationship between Wordsworth's vision

130
and his sister's raises issues of gender. His initial
impressions of the scene are of course, auditory as well as
visual, and he stresses that his visual memories have a
continuing life, not "as is a landscape to a blind man's
eye," but creating ongoing sensations and feelings.
Ultimately vision merges with sound and goes beyond mere
sight, as "with an eye made quiet by the power/ Of harmony,
and the deep power of joy,/ We see into the life of things."
The universal "we" includes his sister by implication; she
possesses the potential power of sight to perceive a greater
"vision." Vision takes on its own role: "the picture of the
mind revives again." He refers again to the immaturity in
his youth, when nature contained no interest "Unborrowed from
the eye." Although by implication he has learned to look on
nature with a mature interest, now unborrowed from the eye,
he must nevertheless borrow from the eye of his sister
something of that earlier self in order to remain a lover "of
all the mighty world/ Of eye and ear, both what they half-
create,/ And what perceive." He acknowledges that Nature and
"the language of the sense" permit his perception of the
"sense sublime" by serving in a role culturally ascribed to
the "feminine": "The anchor of my purest thoughts, the
nurse,/ The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul/ Of all
my moral being." Despite his statement of growth beyond a
younger, more "natural" state of vision, he continues to

131
require her vision in order to read his former pleasures in
her wild eyes, or catch gleams of past existence.
The poet's attempts to "catch the language of my former
heart" bring up issues of the "masculine" versus the
"feminine" voice and dissolve cultural boundaries that
traditionally doomed women to silence; moreover, the poet's
choice of "heart" as opposed, for example, to "mind" involves
issues of reason versus emotion. The verb "Catch" suggests
such language as a desirable prey, one more immediately
accessible and attractive than pure memory; further on in the
poem Wordsworth projects into a future when he cannot "catch
from thy wild eyes these gleams of past existence." As well
as a language to capture, Dorothy is also a text, since the
poet can "read" his "former pleasures in the shooting lights
of thy wild eyes." If "wild eyes" suggest a certain
instability associated with the "feminine," the poet also
implies that formerly, he too had "wild eyes." By thus
reading the "feminine" text he confers upon it his
patriarchal literary authority.
To an extent, Dorothy must remain "wild" and "young" so
that she can embody that "former self" for him, that state of
nature, which he, as grown man, is now defined as different
from, advanced beyond; as such she represents the
psychologically cooperative "feminine." If she is not there
to represent that state, then he is less secure of his
differentiation from it. Yet as he grows beyond and

132
separates from nature, he attempts to heal or bridge his
sense of separation through Dorothy.
This and corresponding paradoxes are expressed through
Wordsworth's use of negative conjunctions and verb
constructions to affirm oppositions, typified in his
statement that the forms of beauty he describes "have not
been to me,/ As is a landscape to a blind man's eye." By
implication he is himself a man of vision, inner as well as
outer; moreover, we cannot state with certainty whether
Wordsworth was referring to a man who had once seen and now
was blind, retaining a memory of a landscape, or a man blind
from birth, who could only imagine a landscape, either
through the descriptions of others or through his own mental
creation. Either way, a blind man cannot literally "see";
even were such a man to see figuratively, through the faculty
of imagination, what he perceives would be but "forms."
Wordsworth suggests that his own apprehension goes beyond
sight into feeling, specifically "sensations sweet,/ Felt in
the blood, and felt along the heart." The double emphasis
upon feeling suggests "the spontaneous overflow of powerful
feelings;"59 yet lest we rush to laud emotion over reason,
Wordsworth portrays such feelings as "passing even into my
purer mind/ With tranquil restoration." Feelings,
significantly, of unremembered pleasure" receive the muted
force of a negative, conditional construction: "such,
perhaps,/ As may have had no trivial influence."
The

133
continued use of such constructions, "Nor less I trust./ To
them I may have owed another gift," creates a tentative,
rather than purely affirmative, faith. In another sense,
such constructions serve to lead us gently toward
understanding of "that blessed mood," with the accompanying
sense of physical suspension, and ultimate reconciliation of
sight and sound in a vision that supersedes pure sensory
experience: "While with an eye made quiet by the power/ Of
harmony, and the deep power of joy,/ We see into the life of
things."
The repetition and highly spiritualized mood of this
passage suggests the wish to return to a prelapsarian
paradise where more "feminine" values predominate, a paradise
separate from "all this unintelligible world." The emphasis
upon "that best portion of a good man's life;/ His little,
nameless, unremembered acts/ Of kindness and of love"
suggests a childlike, innocent approach to the world, or even
a specifically Christian approach. "That serene and blessed
mood,/ In which the affections gently lead us on" suggests a
passive, receptive mode of existence, one which echoes the
culturally defined "feminine." Wordsworth contrasts this
receptive turning to the inner, "feminine" life with the
activity, the "fretful stir/ Unprofitable," and "the fever of
the world." Yet even at his most impassioned, he aches for
affirmation: "If this/ Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how
oft,/ ... in spirit, have I turned to thee." The strongly

134
spiritual metaphors strengthen the poet's affirmation of
"feminine" values.
The conflict and interaction between reason and emotion
also evolves into a higher, more spiritual plane. "With
gleams of half-extinguished thought," and "many recognitions
dim and faint," "The picture of the mind revives again"; this
imagery creates a sense of resurrection following the lifting
of the "burthen of the mystery" in the preceding passage.
Likewise, the "pleasing thoughts/ That in this moment there
is life and food/ For future years" suggests a form of
Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, as well as
"feminine" care and nurture. Both the memory of childhood
and the presence of the "feminine" evoke a quasi-religious
epiphany; it also suggests sacrifice, both Christian and
personal.
The poem circles back upon the experiences of the poet's
youth; as I noted earlier, "Tintern Abbey," like "To My
Sister," challenges the linear, progressive structure of
"masculine" time in favor of a more circular diffused
"feminine" time. Wordsworth greatly expands upon his
youthful experiences, his animal energy and its physical
release, "when like a roe/ I bounded o'er the mountains." If
nature must be associated with the "feminine," it is a
powerful association which leads the poet on and in his later
youth absorbs him totally: "For nature then/ . . . To me was
all in all.” The poet's claim, "I cannot paint/ What then I

135
was," reflects his early focus upon external forms, upon
feeling and emotion, "That had no need of a remoter charm,/
By thought supplied, or any interest/ Unborrowed from the
eye." Ironically, his choice of "paint" rather than
"describe" or "write" does not hinder him from an effective
verbal emphasis upon the "sounding cataract," "the tall
rock,/ The mountain" contrasting with "the deep and gloomy
wood." All the "aching joys" and "dizzy raptures," suggest a
"feminine" response on the part of the poet. Although he
will no longer "faint," "nor mourn nor murmur," his
acknowledgment of these traditionally "feminine" behaviors
strengthens their authority. The "still, sad music of
humanity," possessing a patriarchal power "to chasten and
subdue," stands in contrast to the "sounding cataract" of the
"hour/ Of thoughtless youth." Likewise, the "appetite," the
"feeling" and "love" conveyed by the colors and forms of
nature are superseded by "the joy/ Of elevated thoughts" and
reflect the impact of reason upon emotion (and
correspondingly, the "masculine" upon the "feminine.")
Wordsworth intensifies the integration of the physical
with the spiritual through his emphasis upon "a sense
sublime/ Of something far more deeply interfused," which
echoes "that blessed mood" in which "we are laid asleep/ In
body and become a living soul." Rather than a rejection of
the body, and its associations with fleshly appetites and
"feminine" weaknesses, one may read this passage as an

136
affirmation of both the physical and the spiritual, through
the creation of a "living soul," which encompasses both
natural and mental realms:
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. (98-103)
By breaking the descriptive series with the preposition "in,"
Wordsworth stresses the significance of "the mind of man."
If we read "man" as simply a gendered term, we find the poet
emphasizing mind over nature, but the emphasis on "motion"
and "spirit" impels the interactive conjunctions of "thinking
things" as well as "all objects of all thought." Thus the
mind of man is subject to the authority of external forces
both material and spiritual. The passage recalls both the
circular movement of love in "To My Sister" and the rolling
of the blessed power "About, below, above." Nevertheless, in
his description of "the mighty world/ Of eye and ear,"
Wordsworth is careful to emphasize, "both what they half-
create/ And what perceive." He implies an ultimate exchange
and interaction between the senses and the natural world,
granting authority to both eye and ear, while defining their
borders. The senses do not predominate, but they interact.
Nature continues to reflect a primarily feminized role;
the poet is still "a lover of the meadows and the woods,"
which permits him to retain a certain authority over the
natural world, and by implication the "feminine." Moreover,

137
he is "well-pleased" to identify both in nature and "the
language of the sense" a number of traditional roles which
define the "feminine" as the repository of morality (and
foreshadow Ruskin's "Of Queens' Gardens"): "The anchor of my
purest thoughts, the nurse,/ The guide, the guardian of my
heart, and soul/ Of all my moral being." His lover's
language—"knowing that nature never did betray/ The heart
that loved her"--suggests her "feminine" prerogatives, "'tis
her privilege," as do various images of nurturing from
"nurse" to her ability to "feed/ With lofty thoughts."
Nature remains active as well as passive; through all the
years of our life, her privilege is "to lead from joy to
joy." In contrast to his use of negative verb constructions
to express his wishfulness and hesitancy regarding his own
future role, Wordsworth uses active verb constructions to
define the strength of nature: nature "can so inform"/ The
mind that is within us, so impress/ With quietness and
beauty, and so feed/ With lofty thoughts." Consequently,
"neither evil tongues,/ Rash judgments, nor the sneers of
selfish men" can prevail against us; while "men" is possibly
generic in this phrase, Wordsworth may be obliquely referring
to males who might criticize his choice of vocation and
retreat from public life as unmanly.
Lest we conclude that after all his ostensible
challenges to tradition, Wordsworth is just another
masculinist Romantic poet attempting to appropriate the

138
"feminine" for his own intentions, Wordsworth surprises us
with the open-ended conclusion of "Tintern Abbey." Again he
injects a mood of uncertainty even in his most fervent
wishes: "Nor, perchance./ If I were not thus taught, should I
the more/ Suffer my genial spirits to decay." A full-fledged
emotional affirmation of Dorothy's specifically physical
presence breaks through his tentativeness: "For thou art with
me, here, on the banks/ Of this fair river; thou, my dearest
Friend,/ My dear, dear Friend." There is again a sense of
religious epiphany in the literal repetition of the words of
the twenty-third Psalm, and in the emotional repetition with
variation of "my dearest Friend,/ My dear, dear Friend." By
consecrating their love in quasi-religious terms, the poet
lessens any suggestion that the love between Dorothy and him,
with its passionate intensity, is physically suspect;
although erotic and religious terms can accompany one
another, in this passage religious terms predominate. Thus
as a "worshipper of Nature," he meets his sister on the banks
of the stream "With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal/ Of
holier love." According to Camille Paglia, Wordsworth's
spiritual identity with Dorothy was so intense that it might
be termed "Romantic incest," or incest transformed into a
spiritual principle. Like Hagstrum, she argues against any
possible sexual involvement, although on a more literary
basis: "Romantic incest is a metaphor for supersaturation of
identity. It is an archaic device to propel history

139
backwards, enabling the poet to return to primal sources of
inspiration."so i feel that Wordsworth affirms emotional and
spiritual growth as much as a return to primal sources in
this passage; he comes as a "worshipper of Nature" with
"warmer love," (implying feeling and emotion) reaffirmed as
"far deeper zeal of holier love."
All the activities of nature are directed towards an
"us" which, by inference, refers to Dorothy. As I remarked
earlier, the plural pronouns grant autonomy to Dorothy; they
also unite brother and sister against the dominance of the
world: "nor all/ The dreary intercourse of daily life,/ Shall
e'er prevail against us. or disturb/ Our chearful faith that
all which w£ behold/ Is full of blessings." Theirs is faith,
not certainty. Even as the poet commands the elements, "let
the moon/ Shine on thee in thy solitary walk," he emphasizes
her, and by correspondence, his, separation from the rest of
the world. Indeed he exhorts her to give herself willingly
to nature, without restraint: "And let the misty mountain
winds be free/ To blow against thee." Critics who accuse the
poet of refusing to permit Dorothy to mature ignore his clear
references to her development—the maturation of her "wild
ecstasies" into "a sober pleasure," the metaphors of mind as
"a mansion for all lovely forms" and memory as "a dwelling
place/ For all sweet sounds and harmonies," with their
implications of growth and permanence. Certainly he
emphasizes his continued importance in her life; should she

140
suffer any painful emotions, "with what healing thoughts/ Of
tender joy wilt thou remember ¡n£, / And these my
exhortations!" On the other hand, he acknowledges her
importance in his life, almost wishfully praying that should
he no longer "catch from thy wild eyes these gleams/ of past
existence," she might not forget their unity in nature, "That
on the banks of this delightful stream/ We stood together."
Again, we note the use of negative verb constructions to
express a sense of the conditional, the uncertain, rather
than the definite. The positive is implied, but in inverted
fashion, "Nor wilt thou then forget."
In "Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth ultimately abandons his
fantasy of the prelapsarian androgyny of childhood, a fantasy
in which he could lose himself in the wildness and emotion of
nature, for a more advanced reconciliation and exchange of
"masculine" and "feminine," a new understanding of the
integrated self. In doing so the poet must challenge the
traditional roles of Nature and the poetic imagination. His
greatest challenge involves the figure of Dorothy—can she
achieve an imaginative growth corresponding to that of the
poet and yet retain that intuitive connection with Nature he
appears to have lost? Wordsworth affirms this possibility.
Much has been made of the final lines in which the poet
supposedly replaces Dorothy: "That after many wanderings,
many years/ Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,/
And this green pastoral landscape, were to m£/ more dear,

141
both for themselves, and for thy sake." While certain
critics treat his final communication to Dorothy as almost an
appendage to his own response to the scene, I find it a
climactic and dramatically strong moment, for he transfers to
her the joy and understanding with which he has been
suffused: she enjoys pride of place in "for thy sake."
Robert Langbaum refers to Wordsworth's vision as "a
perception of a benevolent working of things, which, if we
fit our life into it, roots our most sophisticated idea in
our most primitive impulse, uniting youth with age, the
external with the internal, sense with idea, and matter with
spirit."61 This reconciliation of idea with impulse, and the
succeeding binary oppositions, suggests, as I argue, the
interaction and exchange of the traditionally opposed
"masculine" and "feminine."
Notes
1. Sarah McKim Webster, "Circumscription and the
Female," Philological Quarterly 61.1 (1982): 59.
2. Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Toward a Recognition of
Androgyny (New York and London: Norton, 1964) xx.
3. Heilbrun 29.
4. "It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like
men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes
are guite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of
the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought
education to bring out and fortify the differences rather
than the similarities?" Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
(New York: Harcourt, 1957) 91.
5. Diane Long Hoeveler, Romantic Androgyny: The Women
Within (University Park and London: Pennsylvania State UP,
1990) 250-251. Hoeveler uses a plurality of psychoanalytical

142
approaches from Freud to Lacan to argue that the Romantic
poets used androgyny as both psychic goal and poetic
technique. Their ultimate goal was to merge both the
"masculine" and "feminine" into a fictional completion of
their own psyches, the androgynous male poet: "all the
Romantic poets to a large extent explored in their poetry one
of their culture's dominant ideological fantasies - that
artistic power and creativity were possible for men only if
they unified their masculine and feminine components"(2).
Hoeveler argues, however, that "women" in English Romantic
poetry served only as projections and/or symbolic qualities
within the minds of the poets themselves.
6. James A. W. Heffernan, "The Mother in Wordsworth's
Prelude/" Studies in Romanticism 27.2 (1988) 267.
7. Heffernan 270.
8. Richard Onorato examines images of nursing in The
Prelude as an objective correlative to the masculine
absorption of feminine qualities; the infant feeds upon his
mother's soul as well as her breast. Fantasies of
incorporation permit the writer to reclaim "feminine"
qualities, while the depiction of childhood experiences of
relatedness permit him the expression of empathy and
sensibility. Onorato also discusses the use of Dorothy as a
displaced maternal figure; while The Prelude openly
celebrates the maternal qualities of the fully developed man,
it also touches upon the incorporation of feminine qualities
effected by Wordsworth's relationship with his sister. (The
Character of the Poet: Wordsworth in The Prelude (Princeton:
Princeton UP, 1971)). Mary Jacobus discusses the suppressed
passage in which Vaudracour finds spiritual nourishment at
one of Julia's breasts while their infant finds physical
nourishment at the other ("The Law of/and Gender: Genre
Theory and The Prelude." Diacritics 14:4 (1984): 47-57).
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak finds textual signs of
Wordsworth's rejection of paternity in The Prelude as well
("Sex and History in The Prelude (1805): Books Nine to
Thirteen," In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (New
York and London: Holmes & Meier, 1984) 243.)
9. Owen 158.
10. Thomas A. Vogler, "'A Spirit, Yet a Woman Too'
Dorothy and William Wordsworth,'" Mothering the Mind: Twelve
Studies of Writers and Their Silent Partners, ed. Ruth Perry
and Martine Watson Brownley (New York and London: Holmes &
Meier, 1984) 243.
11. Janna Malamud Smith, "Mothers: Tired of Taking the
Rap," The New York Times Magazine 10 June, 1990: 32-38.

143
12. Jean Baker Miller, Toward a New Psychology of Women
(Boston: Beacon, 1976) 139. Miller remarks upon the long
history of "mother-blaming" in psychoanalysis, but finds
mothers victims of an oppressive system rather than agents of
that system: "Mothers have been deprived and devalued and
conscripted as agents of a system that diminished all
women"(139). Most important, "it is impossible to analyze the
mother-daughter relationship without an analysis of the
actions of the father, more accurately an analysis of the
overall context which defines the family structure."
13. Nancy J. Chodorow, Feminism and Psychoanalytic
Theory (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1989) 1.
14. Chodorow 5.
15. Nancy Friday, My Mother/My Self (New York: Dell,
1977). Friday condemns mothers as noxious influences who
often constrain their daughters's sexuality and serve as the
agents of their oppression.
16. Dorothy Dinnerstein, The Mermaid and the Minotaur
(New York: Harper, 1976). Dinnerstein examines the emotional
maiming of both men and women by maternal caretaking and
finds that women's mothering creates conditions that threaten
human existence; she attacks the enforced economy of
mothering as primarily responsible.
17. Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born (New York: Norton,
1976). Rather than portraying the mother as a powerful,
destructive force, Rich idealizes the mother as powerless
under patriarchal forces, decrying woman's alienation from
mothering experiences and her own sexuality.
18. Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence
from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (London and New Haven: Yale
UP, 1990) 43.
19. Michael G. Cooke, Acts of Inclusion: Studies Bearing
on an Elementary Theory of Romanticism (New Haven and London:
Yale UP, 1979) 136.
20. Cooke 136-137.
21. Robert Langbaum, The Poetry of Experience: The
Dramatic Monologue in Modern Literary Tradition (New York:
Norton, 1957) 43.
22.Owen 157-158.

144
23. In the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads, the title of
this poem is "Lines written at a small distance from my
House, and sent by my little Boy to the Person to whom they
are addressed." For the sake of brevity, I shall use the more
familiar title "To My Sister" in this dissertation.
24. Josephine Donovan, "Toward a Woman's Poetics,"
Feminist Issues in Literary Scholarship, ed. Shari Benstock
(Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1987) 105.
25. Paglia 308.
26. Owen 173.
27. Owen 173.
28. Langbaum 56.
29. Charles Ryskamp, "Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads in
Their Time," From sensibility to Romanticisms .Essays
Presented to Frederick A. Pottle. Ed. Frederick W. Hilles and
Harold Bloom (New York: Oxford UP, 1965).
30. Owen 177.
31. Owen 3.
32. L.J. Swingle, The Obstinate Questionings of English
Romanticism (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1987) 52.
33. Patricia L. Skarda, "Verbal Repetitions in "Tintern
Abbey," Approaches to Teaching Wordsworth'? Poetry, Ed.
Spencer Hall with Jonathan Ramsey (New York: MLA, 1986) 84.
34. Homans, Women Writers and Poetic Identity 215.
35. Mary Jacobus, Romanticism. Writing, and Sexual
Difference: Essays on the Prelude, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989)
124.
36. Anne K. Mellor, "Teaching Wordsworth and Women,"
Hall and Ramsey 144.
37. Homans 406.
38. Charles Rzepka, "Books 10 and 11 of The Prelude: The
French Revolution and the Poet's Vocation," Hall and Ramsey
113.
39.W. J. B. Owen, "The Most Despotic of Our Senses,"
The Wordsworth Circle XIX.3 (1988): 136. Owen defends his
position historically: "If he needed any prompting towards

145
dread of the current international situation, he had just
received it from his observation of the British fleet at the
Isle of Wight about July, 1793."
40. Hagstrum, The Romantic Body 97.
41. Owen 160.
42. Owen 174.
43. Marlon B. Ross, "Naturalizing Gender: Woman's Place
in Wordsworth's Ideological Landscape," ELH 53.2 (1980): 391-
410. Ross's article focuses primarily on "Nutting," but his
arguments are useful in examining "Tintern Abbey" in terms of
the poet's understanding of the development of human (i.e.
masculine) identity.
44. Katharine m. Rogers, Feminism in Eighteenth Century
England (Urbana, Chicago, and London: U of Illinois P, 1982)
242. Rogers's work reveals the widespread reinforcement of
women's inhibitions by eighteenth century writers who
portrayed sexual desire as resulting in seduction and
inevitable ruin. Even female writers, by presenting romantic
love as an irresistible force, generally reduced women to
helpless victims. Any expressions of feminist awareness were
undercut by the writers' personal self-doubts and male-
created literary forms that provided little scope for
feminine perceptions and experience.
45. Susan J. Wolfson, "Dorothy Wordsworth in
Conversation with William," Romanticism and Feminism. Ed.
Anne K. Mellor
(Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1988) 139-140.
46. Wolfson 146.
47. John T. Ogden, "What Wordsworth Has Made of Man:
Teaching the Lyrical Ballads." Hall and Spencer 81.
48. Susan M. Levin, Dorothy Wordsworth and Romanticism.
(New Brunswick and London: Rutgers UP, 1987) 15-16.
49. Hoeveler 96-97.
50. Sandra M.Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in
the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century
Literary Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1979) 83-
92.
51.Judith Newton, "Making- And Remaking- History:
Another Look at 'Patriarchy,'" Benstock 124- 140. Newton also
decries the "tragic essentialism" in feminist criticism in

146
regard to male domination: "Much feminist criticism, although
it assumes the existence of unequal gender-based relations of
power, implicitly constructs those relations in such as way
as to render them tragic - unchanging, universal, and
monolithically imposed"(125).
52. Margaret Homans, "Eliot, Wordsworth, and the Scenes
of the Sisters' Instruction," Critical Inquiry 8.1 (1981):
224.
53.
Homans 223.
54.
Ross 395.
55.
Hall and
Anne K. Mellor,
Spencer 144.
56.
Mellor 143.
57.
Paglia 306.
58.
Paglia 314.
59.
Owen 157.
60.
Paglia 309.
61.
Langbaum 44.
"Teaching Wordsworth and Women,

CHAPTER 4
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The Preface to Lyrical Ballads, then, presents a number
of radical challenges to poetic tradition and the gendered
hierarchy of reason and emotion. Wordsworth struggles to
reconcile those attributes his culture terms "masculine" and
"feminine." By affirming the superiority of feelings over
action and situation, and by rejecting the poetic chain of
influence, he undermines the canons of both literature and
criticism. Although Wordsworth well recognizes both the
strength of patriarchal poetic tradition and the ideological
bases of criticism among his readers, he grants the reader
authority to "decide by his own feelings genuinely, and not
by reflection upon what will probably be the judgment of
others"1; again, he asserts the power of emotion and
challenges patriarchal/"masculine" critical modes.
Thus, I reaffirm that Wordsworth does not reject
traditional forms of literature and critical values but
recognizes instead the value and influence of the "feminine."
His task is difficult; the associations of passivity with the
"feminine" and activity with the "masculine," and all
corresponding paradigms, are culturally entrenched. To
challenge this deeply embedded hierarchical system is
147

148
revolutionary and involves an examination of personal and
poetic identity: Wordsworth redefines himself in the process.
While the Preface introduces the gender-specific
strategies of writing, the poems themselves employ them. In
"The Female Vagrant," "The Mad Mother," and "The Complaint of
a Forsaken Indian Woman," Wordsworth establishes female
personae, and he thereby establishes his own sympathy for,
his complicated identification with, traditionally "feminine"
attributes, even as he struggles between acceptance and
rejection of the maternal figure.
I have stated that the physical status of these lost or
abandoned women reflects social reality. I also reaffirm the
significance of the poet's experiences in France and the
influence of the vast political changes of that period in
shaping his sympathies toward the "feminine." The overthrow
of a system of politics, society, and religion based on
patriarchal domination must certainly challenge one's
conception of gender and the hierarchy of "masculine" and
"feminine" values. Equally significant is the rupture of
economic and social systems within England and the impact of
the homeless upon society. Wordsworth's homeless female
personae are both individuals and symbols; while he conveys
the isolation of the female in a male world, he provides a
harsh criticism of social injustice in all its forms. His
emphasis upon the individual reflects his own sense of
powerlessness, both personal and poetic, in a changing world.

149
Although Wordsworth's poetic identity remains more or
less linked to "masculine" metaphors of power, the emotional
states of his female characters raise the questions of what
it means to speak and suffer as a woman. By assuming a
female voice, he endows the "feminine" with a certain degree
of authority. Often, efforts on the part of male writers to
voice the "feminine" result in the enlargement of the
"masculine" sphere at the expense of the "feminine" and hence
the reinforcement of traditional gender hierarchies.
Wordsworth's assumption of a female voice is not simply a
colonizing gesture, but one that embraces contradictions.
The conflict between his encultured sexism and his
iconoclasm, which parallels the conflict between reason and
emotion and other traditional subject-object dichotomies of
western culture, remains an active dialectic throughout the
poems. If at times the poet appears to oscillate
vertiginously between extremes, this reflects the complexity
of his struggle. There is no easy resolution, but
ultimately, I affirm, a reconciliation replete with tension
and ambivalence.
Although writers have traditionally naturalized the
female's social role by asserting the intimacy between nature
and the "feminine," Wordsworth often swerves from this
position, both by permitting his male characters a
corresponding relationship with nature and by endowing nature
with "masculine" as well as "feminine" attributes. He thus

150
adds significance to, rather than devalues, the "feminine."
By concluding Lyrical Ballads with "Tintern Abbey,"
Wordsworth reemphasizes the complicated role played by nature
in relation to the "feminine." In "The Female Vagrant," "The
Mad Mother," and "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman,"
merging with nature is both desired and dreaded. In "Tintern
Abbey" nature unites with a female and male figures in a
complex but primarily positive fashion.
Wordsworth's crowning achievement, perhaps, occurs in
the interaction between the poet/speaker and a sororal/
maternal figure in "Tintern Abbey," which redefines the poet
through an exchange of the "masculine" with the "feminine."
I reaffirm that this exchange is not a union, a fusion, but
rather an interactive dynamic. The issues are complicated
and paradoxical. Wordsworth suggests that Dorothy will heal
his sense of separation from his former self, but he
simultaneously permits his sister her own growth and
development. He wishes Dorothy to achieve transcendence
without rejecting her association with nature; such
transcendence raises questions as well as resolves them.
Nevertheless, the open-ended conclusion of "Tintern Abbey"
presents a transforming vision of Dorothy which grants her
both selfhood and imaginative power.
In his attempts to portray the struggles and
survival of the human spirit in circumstances of great
mental and physical stress, Wordsworth both honors the

151
strength of women and reveals the complexity of the maternal
state of mind. He well understands the significance of
relationship to identity (currently a critical issue in the
feminist thinking of Nancy Chodorow and Carol Gilligan).
Rather than glorifying or sentimentalizing the mother-child
relationship, Wordsworth reveals the mutual interdependence
and dangers of such bonds, the destructive as well as
positive elements.
I conclude this dissertation by briefly discussing "The
Thorn" and "The Idiot Boy," two poems which contribute to our
understanding of the complex female/maternal passion.
By using an unreliable narrator to tell the tale of
Martha Ray in "The Thorn," Wordsworth complicates our
understanding of "feminine" grief. Distinctions of gender
are unsettled by the blurring of boundaries among Martha’s
feelings, those feelings as understood and conveyed to us by
the narrator, the narrator's own feelings, and those of the
reader. By thoroughly undermining the concept of an
omniscient and objective narrator, Wordsworth further
challenges poetic tradition.
"The Thorn" also reflects the poet's emphasis in the
Preface upon the significance of feeling over action and
situation; despite the very dramatic and compelling events
related by the narrator, feeling triumphs over description,
illustrating the concept of "emotion recollected in
tranquility." As in "The Female Vagrant," "The Mad Mother,"

152
and "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman," the suffering
of a single woman takes on a larger significance. Yet in
contrast to those poems, Wordsworth appears to withdraw from
identity with the woman, particularly by associating her with
the thorn. But the poem does not simply reinforce the myth
of the "feminine" bond with nature. Rather, it is a poem of
both identification and separation. Certainly the dissolving
of boundaries between ourselves and Martha Ray is threatening
as well as empowering. The use of an unreliable narrator
provides a safe narrative distancing which contains Martha
Ray's female power and sexuality and its threats to the
poet's "masculine" identity. By interweaving the narrator's
story with rumor and superstition, and blending truth with
the imagination, Wordsworth acknowledges the power of the
unknown "feminine" over our fears and fantasies.
Care must be taken, however, to focus on the narrator,
not Martha Ray, as the central figure in the poem; in this
sense "The Thorn" is more akin to "Tintern Abbey" than the
other ballads I have discussed. While "The Thorn" does
concern an abandoned mother and child, and the effects of the
maternal passion, it is essentially a dramatic monologue
which reveals the effect of a female character upon a male
mind. Stephen Parrish terms it "a psychological study, a
poem about the way the mind works."2 The events are
meaningful only as they reveal the character of the person
who relates them, through the "fluxes and refluxes of the

153
mind when agitated by the great and simple affections of our
nature."3 In conveying the effect of the "feminine" upon the
narrator's mind, Wordsworth presents us with an acute
psychological portrait.
The poem, of course, deals with the effects of the
maternal passion; we see Martha Ray destroyed by her
experience of sexuality and desertion. As in "The Mad
Mother," motherhood as a redemptive force remains highly
ambiguous; does motherhood heal the wound of sexuality or
turn women into murderers? Do women's natural forces oppose
community, and does community effect their downfall?
Wordsworth refuses a clear distinction between right and
wrong. Although the poem reflects his fascination with
female sexuality and his sympathy with "feminine" values, he
avoids commitment through narrative distancing.
By contrast, "The Idiot Boy" presents motherhood as a
more mature, though still unsettling, force. Here too,
Wordsworth focuses upon feeling; Betty Foy suffers but is
rewarded for the strength and endurance of her maternal love,
which produces a variety of emotions from pride to anger,
anxiety, fear, and joy. The comic action, reinforced by a
lively use of meter and rhyme, serves as a foil to
sentimentality; Wordsworth avoids pity through the
intermittent, often joking, remarks of the implied narrator
both to the reader and to the characters.

154
There is little question here that Wordsworth uses the
language of low and rustic life and breaks the poetic
tradition that calls for elevated forms to celebrate elevated
subjects. Judith W. Page questions "whether Wordsworth's
definition of 'the very language of men' implies not so much
a cultural as a psychological reality."4 Clearly Wordsworth
justifies meter on the grounds that it assists in the
expression of feeling by subduing or intensifying emotion.
Diction, though more arbitrary, also must be representative
of mental attitudes, of psychological reality; Wordsworth
seeks to avoid "what is usually called poetic diction"5 and
asserts that "the language of a large portion of every good
poem, even of the most elevated character, must necessarily,
except with reference to the metre, in no respect differ from
that of good prose."6 The combination of the brisk ballad
meter and rustic diction in "The Idiot Boy" effectively
conveys both the psychological reality of Betty Foy's
distress and its comic overtones.
Wordsworth's attitude toward the maternal passion is not
wholly positive in "The Idiot Boy." Betty's anxiety implies
her need for control; the intensity of her feelings is almost
oppressive, perhaps reflective of a certain repressed
hostility or unconscious anger on the part of the poet. Yet
the selflessness of her love for a child who cannot respond
conventionally is indeed moving. The interdependency of
mother and child both parallels and diverges from that of

155
"The Mad Mother." Obviously, Johnny will always depend upon
his mother for survival; she clearly depends upon him to give
meaning to her life. Wordsworth privileges the mother-child
bond in "The Idiot Boy" without attaching to it any of the
sexual ambiguity inherent in "The Mad Mother" and "The
Thorn." The totally exclusive relationship between Betty and
her son makes no reference to either husband or father; the
only other male is the unsympathetic Doctor. Because Johnny
is a male, however, their relationship suggests an
unconscious desire on the part of the poet for complete
possession of the maternal figure, a yearning for the pre-
Oedipal unity of mother and child. This is reinforced by
Betty's total absorption in motherhood.
Wordsworth further demonstrates the value of motherhood
in the relationship between Susan Gale and Betty, which
resembles a mother-daughter bond. Betty's fears for Susan
make her risk sending Johnny to fetch the Doctor. Susan's
concern for Betty and Johnny draws her from her sickbed; her
illness, which appears to have an emotional basis, is healed
by the needs of others. One can compare the women's
relationship with the relationship between Betty and the
Doctor, whose patriarchal arrogance and condescension
Wordsworth implicitly condemns. "The Idiot Boy" suggests the
strength and mutual support of communities of women.
Wordsworth himself would later experience the benefits of a
female community, centered, of course, around him.

156
As an "idiot," Johnny is useless to society and has no
standing therein; his lack of "reason" and "voice" links him
with the traditionally "feminine." This association of women
with idiots suggests society's debasement of "feminine"
sensibilities. Christine Battersby, in contrasting Romantic
with pre-Romantic notions of artistic value, deplores "the
way that cultural misogyny remained (and even intensified)
despite a reversal in attitudes toward emotionality,
sensitivity, and imaginative self-expression."7 By choosing
Johnny and Betty as poetic subjects, Wordsworth continues to
question cultural attitudes. In the poem's conclusion, the
Idiot Boy's exultant return makes fun of "masculine" heroics
and epic triumphs. Wordsworth mocks the concept of
knighthood, perhaps in subtle parody of Geoffrey Chaucer's
knight in The Canterbury Tales. The Idiot Boy has indeed
returned from a pilgrimage; how ironic that he cannot relate
his tale.
A certain risk arises in making too specific connections
between the ideas Wordsworth proposes in the Preface and
their implementation in Lyrical Ballads. As James K.
Chandler notes: "The Preface is specifically not a formal and
systematic laying down of rules. It seeks only to win
attention for and patience with the poems it introduces.
These poems must do their own moral work and embody their own
moral purposes."8 I find Chandler's argument substantiated by
Wordsworth's own statement to the Reader that he has no hope

157
"of reasoning him into an approbation of these particular
Poems,"9 and by his request "that the Reader would abide
independently by his own feelings."10 The poems discussed in
this dissertation do, however, successfully illustrate a
number of the poet's theories.
In future work I hope to examine how Wordsworth
maintains his challenges to patriarchal tradition and
continues to explore nonhierarchical exchanges between
attributes of gender. Is "Tintern Abbey" the apex of his
struggles to break through the traditional relationship of
"masculine" subject and "feminine" object, or do subsequent
poems continue to undermine gender distinctions? Does
Wordsworth turn away from the "feminine" sensitivity I have
examined in this dissertation toward a more overtly
"masculine" sensibility in a number of the later poems? Does
his work continue to reflect a longing for the
undifferentiated world of childhood? Critics have
undervalued Wordsworth's struggles with the gendered
divisions of power; a critical appreciation of his attempts
to achieve a fruitful interaction of the "masculine" and the
"feminine" is essential.
Notes
1. Owen 177.
2. Stephen Maxfield Parrish, The Art of the Lyrical
Ballads (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973) 99.
3.Owen 158.

158
4.Judith W. Page, "The Preface in Relation to the
Lyrical Ballads/" Approaches to Teaching Wordsworth's Poetry
76.
5. Owen 161.
6. Owen 162.
7. Christine Battersby, Gender and Genius; Towards a
Feminist Aesthetics (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 1989) 23.
8. James k. chandler, Wordsworth's Secoud Nature; a
study of the Poetry and Politics (Chicago and London: The
University of Chicago Press) 82.
9. Owen 154.
10. Owen 177.

APPENDIX
FEMINIST CRITICISM
The recent explosion of feminist criticism within the
past several years has refocused attention upon the
significance of gender in the poetry and criticism of the
major Romantic poets. Feminist criticism seeks to examine
the inscription of gender differences in language and
literature. At present pluralistic in its theoretical
affiliations, it undertakes the dual task of revisionary
rereadings of the traditional canon, involving the
deconstruction of social constructions of gender, and the
reconstruction of a female perspective through the
examination of writings by women. Although individual
feminists do espouse various methodologies, overall, feminist
criticism avoids theoretical consensus on the assumption that
a unified critical stance would relegate it to the margins of
the academy as simply one of a number of alternate
discourses. It also seeks to avoid what might be construed
as a patriarchal, totalizing gesture.
As opposed to other schools of critical theory, feminist
criticism does not base its literary authority upon a single
critical figure (usually masculine), sanctified text, or
159

160
system of thought. Despite the risks of incoherence, current
feminist criticism remains interdisciplinary in theory and
practice; by maintaining what Annette Kolodny terms a
"playful pluralism"! in its ongoing internal debate between a
number of disciplines it receives important analytical tools
from each. Generally, feminist criticism falls into two wide
fields, Anglo-American and Continental (sometimes termed
French) criticism, although these define geographical rather
than academic boundaries. Although this division is, at
present, useful, the increasing impact of Continental theory
upon Anglo-American feminists, in particular the turn toward
a cultural materialist feminism influenced by the work of
Foucault, among others, will require its reevaluation.
Any focus upon Anglo-American feminist criticism must
recognize its empirical and humanistic assumptions, its
dependence on the concept that language basically represents
or reflects reality, as opposed to continental theory which
perceives language in the role of constructing reality; the
latter defines reality as a linguistic concept rather than a
separate entity. In continental terms patriarchal language
"sentences” women into silence; however, Anglo-American
feminists working within a patriarchal tradition cannot
reject patriarchal discourse without losing a locus within
which to speak. Elaine Showalter, examining the effects upon
women of a male-dominant mode of discourse language system,
notes: "The problem is not that language is insufficient to

161
express women's consciousness but that women have been denied
the full resources of language and have been forced into
silence, euphemism, or circumlocution."2
In conseguence, Anglo-American feminism chooses to
examine the construction of gender within language and to
place great emphasis on the social, economic, and political
conditions thus reflected which restrict and influence the
woman writer. It additionally acknowledges that the
biological sexual differences between men and women, the
separate physical experiences men and women cannot share, do
influence this social construction of gender but emphasizes
that sex roles are primarily enforced, not inherent. Within
the limits of this appendix I hope to provide a brief
overview of the work of several important feminist critics,
in order to present a number of different viewpoints and
methodologies.
New French Feminisms (1981)3 enables the reader to
appreciate a variety of the major continental writers within
one useful volume. More philosophical than practical, with
greater emphasis upon theory than practice, French theory
challenges the binary mode of thinking of Western
civilization, a dualism extending from the Greek opposition
between techne and physis through the Cartesian opposition of
mind and body, to the Kantian opposition of subject and
object. All these dichotomies serve to reinforce the
opposition of male and female, which represses and exploits

162
what Simone de Beauvoir terms "the Other,"4 whether in
reference to sex, class, or race. Such binary or dualistic
modes of thought must be shattered by resituating this Other,
deconstructing traditional systems into a form of liberating
chaos, flux, or playfulness. Many French feminists advocate
the elimination of the subject-object split in accord with
Derrida's emphasis upon the absence that lies at the center
of all linguistic referentiality; others, such as Julia
Kristeva,5 insist upon language's return to the pre-Oedipal,
pre-linguistic or "semiotic" stage between mothers and
babies. Emphasis lies upon the oppressiveness of patriarchal
discourse, in which the female exists only in terms of
absence or silence; in attempting to write within this
system, she theoretically denies her self.
As an alternative, French feminists such as Luce
Irigaray and Helene Cixous suggest the creation of a place
for feminine discourse through "l'ecriture feminine," an
avant-garde style of writing which conforms to the physical
currents of the female body, to sexual pleasure or
"jouissance."6 By using a wide variety of disruptive
stylistic devices and a nonlinear, multiple-voiced discourse,
this unique style emphasizes textual/sexual pleasure.
However, the reader has difficulty interpreting this
radically disruptive style without the tools of the past, an
understanding of the genres and styles incorporated. As a
radical challenge to all current linguistic and political

163
systems, "l'ecriture feminine" lacks pragmatic applications.
Margaret Homans notes: "Almost nothing would remain after the
excision from language of undesirable fictions and the
hierarchical structures that support them"?. Any departures
from dualistic language usually condemn the speaker to
continued silence, absence, or incomprehensibility. In
response, French critics suggest that Anglo-American
political action within the current system merely reinforces
linguistic (and political) institutions.
In general, French feminists are less concerned with
literary criticism per se, preferring to examine problems of
theory, whether textual, linguistic, semiotic, or
psychoanalytical. Much French criticism lacks reference to
recognizable social or political structures, or fails to
study the historically changing impact of patriarchal
discourse on women. While the American critics examine
concepts of gender as socially constructed, the French go
beyond this viewpoint to regard all western civilization as a
patriarchal fiction. Conceiving of this fiction of western
civilization as a historical narrative, Alice Jardine, an
American critic who favors French feminist theory, examines
the "'crisis-in-narrative' which is modernity." Jardine has
conceived the theory of gynesis as "that process diagnosed in
France as intrinsic to the condition of modernity: indeed,
the valorization of the feminine, woman, and her obligatory,
that is, historical connotations, as somehow intrinsic to new

164
and necessary modes of thinking, writing, speaking."8 This
process proposes to free the unconscious from the control of
binary oppositions. Yet in examining the space of the Other,
the gaps, silences, and absences of discourse and
representation to which the feminine has been relegated,
gynesis pays little attention to female writers,
concentrating on male writers and male theoretical texts.
Due to the problematic nature of putting "woman" or the
"feminine" into discourse, as well as the difficulties of a
theory which questions the very language in which one
articulates it, gynesis remains primarily a theoretical
possibility.
By contrast, many Anglo-American feminists depend upon
the analysis of particular cultural contexts in relation to
literature; rather than concentrating upon the "feminine" as
an idealized concept in the symbolic constructions of
language and literature, they study the canon as a culturally
bound political construct. Controversy continues over the
difficulty of defining a female aesthetic and the existence
of a uniquely feminine literary consciousness.
In Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory
(1985) Toril Moi presents a concise survey of the two primary
traditions of feminist criticism. Throughout, Moi discusses
the political implications of critical discourse, how
politics, or the lack of it, informs various theoretical
standpoints. Her emphasis on textuality leads her to

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criticize theorists who neglect it or treat it as a
transparent medium between author and character. By arguing
that "One of the central principles of feminist criticism is
that no account can ever be neutral,"9 Moi justifies her
explicitly political approach and pleads for more critical
debate about the implications of feminist criticism's
methodological and theoretical choices. One reads her work
with the awareness that she assumes the principal objective
of feminist criticism should be the political exposure of
patriarchal practices and aesthetics.
Moi concentrates on Anglo-American and French feminist
criticism, using these terms as representative of
intellectual traditions, rather than national origins.
Despite her obvious preference for the French feminists, she
presents an intelligent overview of both traditions. In
particular, she clarifies the differences between the three
major exponents of French feminism, Helene Cixous, Luce
Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva, and provides a summary of
French feminist theory from Simone de Beauvoir to Lacan. In
describing the interrelationships between various French
theories, Moi reveals how such criticism both results from
and reacts against the writings of Sigmund Freud, whom she
finds inaccurately represented in the works of Anglo-American
critics such as Kate Millett and Patricia Spacks.
Moi's opening attack typifies her critical style and
reflects one of the ongoing debates between feminist critics:

166
her biting analysis of Elaine Showalter's "negative feminist
response" to Virginia Woolf is followed by an alternate
"positive" reading of Woolf as an exercise designed "to
illuminate the relationship between feminist critical
readings and the often unconscious theoretical and political
assumptions that inform them."i° According to Moi, Showalter,
in her alignment with Western male humanism, fails to
recognize its role in patriarchal ideology, its emphasis on
the integrated, united self called "Man"—a self the French
feminists define as the phallic self, based on the Freudian
model of the self-contained, powerful phallus. While
Showalter criticizes Woolf's writing for its elusiveness and
multiplicity of viewpoints and interprets the work as a
failure due to Woolf's lack of a unified angle of vision, Moi
alternately reads Woolf as consciously emphasizing a
deconstructive form of writing in order to reject "the
metaphysical essentialism underlying patriarchal ideology,
which hails God, the Father or the phallus as its
transcendental signified."11 As I will argue later, the work
of Virginia Woolf serves as a focal point for feminist
criticism; a particular stance regarding Woolf's role
separates or unites a number of critics in addition to
Showalter and Moi.
Moi's critique of Woolf and Showalter reflects her
constant emphasis on ideology, particularly the
deconstruction of patriarchal ideology. Her analysis also

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concerns the binary opposition of "masculinity" and
"femininity," which the French feminist critics in particular
attempt to deconstruct.12 While Moi rejects the humanist
aesthetic categories of the traditional male academic
hierarchy, she reveals one of the problems resulting from the
complicated relationship between certain schools of feminist
criticism and the very system they propose to revise:
although the humanist school of feminist criticism may be
guilty of complicity with the male academic hierarchy it
superficially resists, gynocritical theory merely adds an
alternate but equally oppressive female canon to the
established canon of great writers, without changing the
canon's patriarchal aesthetics.
More so than American critics, English feminist critics
tend to interfuse their work with Marxist theoretical
interests in the connections between gender and class.
Rosalind Coward, for example, chooses to emphasize women's
shared commitment to certain political aims and objectives:
"Feminism can never be the product of the identity of women's
experience and interests—there is no such unity. Feminism
must always be the alignment of women in a political movement
with particular political aims and objectives. It is a
grouping unified by its political interests, not its common
experience."13 Many Marxist feminists emphasize the
relationship between patriarchal ideology and capitalism, a
system which treats both sexes as objects of exploitation.

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Yet although women exist within social classes, they
themselves do not constitute a class; a radical change in
society must be accompanied by the deconstruction of current
gender identity.
Although in the early 1970's lesbian and black-lesbian
feminist writers conceived of the female aesthetic in terms
of lesbian consciousness and the fluid, nonlinear avant-garde
style associated with writers such as Gertrude Stein, and
associated feminine creativity with the lesbian identity, a
number of critics oppose this emphasis upon a single style
and type of feminist identity. While critics such as Barbara
Smith*4 justly protest the neglect of black and black-lesbian
feminist literature by the white feminist mainstream, their
emphasis is often reductive in its all inclusive lesbian
focus and strident in its insistence upon justice. If one
defines lesbian or simply women's writing as less linear,
unified, and chronological than men's, with shifting
boundaries and continuous blurring between private and public
domains, how do we account for finding similar writing in
male texts? Rather than automatically associating non¬
linear, stream-of-consciousness style with lesbian identity,
one might, with Bonnie Zimmerman, emphasize the significant
overlap between experimental and lesbian literature, while
noting how lesbian criticism "helps to expand our notions of
what is possible for women, "is in any case, the privileging

169
of the lesbian identity with female creativity must remain
unacceptable for a large percentage of feminist critics.
Certain difficulties are common to both lesbian and
continental criticism which focuses upon women's writing as
reflecting the rhythms of the female body. In her analysis
of "l'ecriture feminine," Ann Rosalind Jones notes that the
emphasis on a single female libidinal voice ignores
political, economic, and cultural differences among women.is
She also asks, "If corporeal, libidinal 'ecriture feminine'
moves against the grain of masculine, objectivity-claiming
discourse, how is the critic to analyze such writing in
abstract metalanguage?"17 Both "l'ecriture feminine" and the
lesbian identity remain elusive concepts that most Anglo-
American feminist critics at the present time choose not to
pursue.
What Anglo-American critics do share with a number of
French feminist critics is a concern with the dynamics of the
mother-child relationship, especially as articulated in the
sociological and psychological theories of Nancy Chodorow,
and an interest in the differences between male and female
patterns of ethical thought and judgment as explored by Carol
Gilligan. In placing emphasis on the pre-Oedipal as opposed
to the Oedipal stage in the development of gender
differences, these theories propose to explain the
development of different patterns of relationship in men and
women, rather than defining the female by deviation from the

170
male, with subsequent implications for understanding the role
of women in literature.
Nancy Chodorow's The Reproduction of Mothering;
Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (1978) holds great
significance for feminist criticism in its emphasis on the
importance of the mother-child, in particular the mother-
daughter, relationship in the development of a core sense of
gender identity. Numerous references to Chodorow and the
psychosexual development of women occur in feminist literary
studies, especially those which challenge the Freudian
emphasis on the Oedipal conflict as central to developmental
differences between men and women. With the exception of
gestation and the act of giving birth, the reproduction of
mothering is a product of neither biology nor intentional
role training, but perpetuates itself "through social-
structurally induced psychological mechanisms."18
Chodorow dismisses arguments from nature as based on
facts derived not from biological knowledge but from social
arrangements, such as the division of labor. Rather,
psychoanalytical theory suggests that women are prepared
psychologically for mothering through the developmental
situations in which they grow, and in which women mother
them. Women's mothering determines women's primary location
within the domestic sphere.
The pre-Oedipal, early mother-infant object
relationships create the foundations for parenting in

171
children and explain the personality differences between the
sexes. Through the process of differentiation, the child
comes to perceive its self as separate and to develop ego and
body boundaries. Whereas a boy must learn to identify
negatively as nonfemale, a girl forms her gender identity
positively, developing greater capacity for nurture, empathy,
and dependence through this intensified mother-daughter bond.
And throughout her life, she will continue to define her self
through social relationships, fusions and mergers of the self
with others, maintaining more flexible ego and body
boundaries than males.
Girls' difficulties with feminine identity come after
the Oedipal phase, when masculine power and cultural hegemony
intrude upon the domestic sphere. In contrast to the
masculine Oedipal complex, the feminine Oedipal complex does
not simply transfer affection from mother to father and give
up mother: "Because of the father's lack of availability to
his daughter, and because of the intensity of the mother-
daughter relationship in which she participates, girls tend
not to make a total transfer of affection to their fathers
but to remain also involved with their mother, and to
oscillate emotionally between father and mother."is As the
feminist critic may examine relationships among female
characters, between a female writer and her characters, and
between female writers and readers in light of Chodorow's

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theories, by extension she may examine the characters of male
writers in a similarly reflective light.
In her article "On Female Identity and Writing by Women"
Judith Kegan Gardiner applies Chodorow's theories to her own
concepts of literary identifications, particularly the
relationship between a writer and her character, "a positive,
therapeutic relationship, like learning to be a mother, that
is, learning to experience oneself as one's own cared-for
child and as one's own caring mother while simultaneously
learning to experience one's relation as other, as separate
from the self."20 One might extend this analysis of the
relationship between female writers and their predecessors,
turning Harold Bloom's Oedipal paradigms among male writers
into pre-Oedipal paradigms among female writers. Gardiner
suggests that as readers "we oscillate between transient
empathetic identifications with these characters and defenses
against them, defining ourselves through them in the
process. "21
In addition to Gardiner, critics as diverse as Josephine
Donovan,22 Madonne M. Miner,23 and Jane Gallop24 acknowledge
the influence of Chodorow in arguing that women approach
texts differently from men. Women writers use their texts,
particularly those that center on female heroes, as part of a
process of self-definition, the writer learning to mother as
she creates both self and characters. In these arguments, a
woman's identity is bound up in the identity of another

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woman. Problems with this emphasis lie in its exclusive
concentration on the mother-daughter bond as a source of
creativity and the examination of all relationships between
female writers, characters and readers as determined by the
psychodynamics of female relationships.
In addition to her concentration on the mother-infant
bond, Chodorow develops many implications for feminist
criticism, especially through her theory that female
personality formation is not a predetermined biological
process but a process of social organization. In order to
disrupt this process, she demands a fundamental
reorganization of parenting so that primary parenting will be
shared among men and women. Among other benefits this would
"help women to develop the autonomy which too much
embeddedness in relationship has often taken from them."25 in
the meantime, understanding the developmental differences
between men and women and the resulting complexity of women's
inner selves can aid the feminist critic in understanding
some of the psychodynamics of a text. In Chapter Three I
provide a detailed discussion of Chodorow's most recent work,
Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory.26 and its contribution to
the debate on the development of sexual identity and its
socio-economic impact.
The frequent references to Carol Gilligan's In A
Different Voice (1982) illustrate its importance to the
development of feminist theory. Although ostensibly written

174
for the psychoanalytical field, this book draws powerful
conclusions regarding the separate nature of female judgment
and voice, conclusions that not only challenge current
theories of human psychological development, but ask us to
reexamine women's thought and language in other fields as
well. Gilligan proposes that men and women have separate
ways of speaking about moral problems and defining the
relationship between self and other. She examines past
problems in interpreting female development as well as the
disparity between women's experience and the representation
of human development in current psychological theories.
One source of this disparity lies in the concentration
of developmental theories on a masculine image, due to a
great extent to Freud's theories of the psychosexual
development of the male and the Oedipal conflict. Faced with
theoretical problems caused by the differences in the female
anatomy and female familial relationships, Freud concluded a
developmental difference but chose to view it in the light of
a developmental failure, with well-known repercussions.
Using the theories of Nancy Chodorow, Gilligan proposes
that the female personality defines itself more in relation
to and connection with other people than does the masculine
personality, turning Freud's failure into a positive asset,
with girls possessing a basis of empathy that boys lack. For
boys and men, gender identity develops through separation and
individuation, with separation from the mother essential for

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the development of masculinity; for girls and women, gender
identity develops through attachment and intimacy, as opposed
to separation and individuation. According to Gilligan, the
theories of Piaget, Erikson, and others distort or avoid the
problems of female development, continuing to regard female
failure to separate as a flaw. As long as the focus lies on
individuation and achievement, with maturity associated with
autonomy, women's concern with relationships will be viewed
as a weakness rather than a strength.
In studies in which participants must resolve conflicts
between two moral norms, Gilligan demonstrates the different
ways men and women imagine relationships, based on the
separate ethics of justice and care. Gilligan contrasts the
"female ethic of care" with the "male ethic of justice"
through the metaphors of web and hierarchy. In
reinterpreting their experiences in terms of their
particularly female imagery of relationships, the women in
her studies provide what Gilligan terms a "nonhierarchical
vision of human connection"27 and reveal a distinct moral
language which evolves in correspondence to their moral
development. Gilligan calls this language "the language of
selfishness and responsibility, which defines the moral
problem as one of obligation to exercise care and avoid
hurt."28 She notes the reiterative use of words such as
"selfish" and "responsible" as reflective of an underlying
moral obligation and thus setting women apart from men;

176
women's initial moral imperative to avoid hurt is intensified
by their understanding of the complex psychological dynamics
of relationships.
For Gilligan, women possess a more complicated
understanding of the essential concept that self and other
are interdependent, the "paradoxical truth of human
experience—that we know our selves as separate only insofar
as we live in connection with others, and that we experience
relationship only insofar as we differentiate other from
self."29 As the basis of a number of philosophical systems,
this paradoxical understanding of self and others is common
to male and female experience, but perhaps, as Gilligan
appears to suggest, more central to the female. Like
Chodorow, she proposes that men define themselves through
individuation and separation from others, while women,
possessing more flexible ego boundaries, define themselves in
terms of their connections with others. Valuing autonomy,
men view their interactions with others principally in terms
of procedures for arbitrating conflicts between individual
rights. By contrast, women consider their interactions with
others in terms of maintaining relationships.
Unfortunately, the narrow range of Gilligan's studies,
limited to a small number of females and centering around a
few issues, undermines her broad conclusions; both Gilligan
and Chodorow can be accused of making their conclusions
regarding women from samples of a single culture or social

177
class. Gilligan's concept of a distinct moral language for
women suffers for similar reasons, in addition to the
difficulty of distinguishing a sex-specific language separate
from cultural and historical contexts. If we acknowledge
that two languages exist, we must recognize the impact of
these factors, as well as the infinite exceptions to the
rule. However, her work does reflect the need for
investigation of the psychosexual aspects of language. One
might also employ her concepts of hierarchy and web as
literary metaphors to illustrate the theoretical concepts of
the linear, progressive nature of "masculine" narrative as
opposed to the nuclear, repetitive or cyclic nature of
"female" narrative.
Gilligan concludes that as long as research on men
continues to define the measurements of development, any
divergence from these masculine standards will be viewed as
developmental failures rather than differences. She demands
the development of criteria that include women's experience
and language as well. Despite her insistence on the
importance of a female model of development and her political
privileging of the "feminine," Gilligan does not condemn or
dismiss masculine developmental patterns. Rather she
suggests that the recognition of the integrity of both modes
of experience will lead to a fruitful convergence of the
ethics of care and justice.

178
Using Gilligan's studies, feminist critics can compare
the so-called "feminine" values of community, cooperation,
and denial of the self with the ostensibly "masculine" values
of individual achievement. However, the obvious presence of
the ethic of care as well as justice in "masculine"
literature challenges developmental assumptions. When a
writer such as Wordsworth expounds upon the societally-
defined "feminine" values, we must examine whether he
actually elevates them over "masculine" values or uses them
to reinforce sexual difference. As I argue, Wordsworth
proposes a beneficial interchange between the two, exploring
his own values and gender identity at the same time.
A number of critics choose to look directly at language
and linguistic change. Robin Lakoff's Language and Women1s
Place (1975) examines woman's position in society as
reflected by the use of language by and about women.
Assuming that "language is more amenable to precise
reproduction on paper and unambiguous analysis than other
forms of human behavior,"30 Lakoff examines linguistic
behavior as diagnostic of hidden feelings. Careful to avoid
accusations of simplicity by proponents of the ambiguity of
language, she concedes that the acceptability of a sentence
"is determined through the combination of many factors: not
only the phonology, the syntax, and the semantics, but also
the social context in which the utterance is expressed, and

179
the assumptions about the world made by all the participants
in the discourse."3!
Women experience linguistic discrimination in two ways:
the way they are taught to use language and the way general
language use treats them, both of which relegate women to
subservient functions such as servant or sex object. In
their choice of language women find themselves caught in a
paradox Gregory Bateson terms a double-bind: if a woman
refuses to "talk like a lady" she suffers ridicule and
criticism for being unfeminine; if she learns to do so, she
is ridiculed for being unable to think clearly or take part
in a "serious" conversation. Lakoff makes the interesting
proposal that women are more susceptible than men to mental
illness because of this double bind: "whichever course the
woman takes—to speak women's language or not to—she will
not be respected."32 Unfortunately, the brevity and limited
scope of this book do not allow Lakoff to pursue the
interesting psychological implications of language upon
women's mental states; Lakoff does note that women's language
retards a woman's personal identity by denying her the means
of expressing herself strongly, and encouraging expressions
that convey uncertainty and triviality.
Language and Women's Place does make political
assumptions regarding the use of language by stating that
women are systematically denied power on the grounds that
their linguistic behavior (along with other aspects of their

180
behavior) demonstrates their inability to possess or express
it. As remarked, the use of stronger means of expression
fortifies men's position of strength in the world. Numerous
examples abound of linguistic differences between men and
women. The language of women differs not only in terms of
the lexicon but in terms of syntax, as in the frequent use of
tag formation (a tag being an intermediate between an
outright statement and a yes-no question, a way of avoiding
commitment and coming into conflict with the addressee),
hedges, superpolite forms, and hypercorrect pronunciation, as
well as intonation which gives the impression of uncertainty.
In addition, the use of denigrating euphemisms applied to
women contrasts with supposedly parallel euphemisms for men:
master/mistress, bachelor/spinster, gentleman/lady, and so
forth.
Lakoff emphasizes that social change creates language
change, not the reverse; at most, changes in language
influence changes in attitudes slowly and indirectly.
Certain feminist critics, such as the French feminists with
their concept of "l'ecriture feminine" or those Anglo-
American critics who emphasize a fluid, nonlinear,
nonchronological, diffused style of writing peculiar to
women, might look askance at Lakoff's limited concept of
woman's language, especially in its subservient relationship
to masculine language. One must view Lakoff as writing as a
linguist as much as a feminist and concerned more with

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inequities in lexicon, syntax, and semantics than with the
possibility of a separate and positive women's language that
opposes, rather than defers to, masculine discourse.
Language and Woman's Place does force the reader to look more
carefully at language, both by and about women, to question
expressions previously taken for granted and their
assumptions about women's behavior and nature. While
Lakoff's 1975 book is somewhat dated, Alette Olin Hill's
Mother Tongue. Father Time: A Decade of Linguistic Revolt3?
updates her work through 1984, further examining language as
reflective of social change.
As earlier noted, a number of feminist critics fear
pluralism as an acceptance of the politics of the masculinist
establishment, which neutralizes opposition by appearing to
accept it. The deconstructionist critic Gayatri Spivak
expresses this viewpoint: "The gesture of pluralism on the
part of the marginal can only mean capitulation to the
center."34 Others, however, continue to strive towards a type
of theoretical consensus, despite the problematic
ramifications of a universalizing feminist discourse. Elaine
Showalter places her emphasis upon gynocriticism, or the
theory which concentrates upon the evolution of the female
literary tradition, in contrast to the more political and
polemical feminist critique, which examines the woman as
reader, primarily of masculine texts. Among the concerns of
gynocriticism are "the psychodynamics of female creativity;

182
linguistics and the problem of a female language; the
trajectory of the individual or collective female literary
career; literary history; and of course, studies of
particular writers and works."35 However, in its construction
of a separate-but-equal canon, gynocriticism continues to
elicit criticism for its exclusive and potentially reductive
focus on women, particularly with the idea of "woman"
increasingly under attack. It also runs the risks of
literary isolation as an alternative tradition and the
reiteration of difference.
In A.Literature of their Own; British Women Novelists
from Bronte to Lessing (1977), Showalter, tracing the
literary history of British women writers in the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries, examines the continuities in women's
writing as well as the relationships between the writers'
lives and the changes in the legal, economic, and social
status of women. In contrast to Ellen Moers's emphasis on a
strong tradition of literary awareness, Showalter finds
women's literary tradition full of breaks and gaps, with each
generation of women writers struggling anew to rediscover the
past and create a female literary movement. She also
questions Patricia Spacks's concept of the "female
imagination" as running the danger of reinforcing traditional
stereotypes of women as well as deepening the differences
between male and female modes of perception. Showalter finds
the female imagination, like the female literary tradition, a

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product of the relationship between women writers and their
society, a form subject to a network of cultural, social, and
political influences. Thus she intends to examine "the ways
in which the self-awareness of the women writer has
translated itself into a literary form in a specific place
and time-span, how this self-awareness has changed and
developed, and where it might lead,”36 as opposed to innate
sexual attitudes.
For this purpose Showalter divides the female literary
subculture into three phases similar to developments in other
literary subcultures: the Feminine, a phase of imitation and
internalization of the standards and values of the
predominant tradition; the Feminist, a phase of protest
against these very standards along with advocacy of
alternative values and rights, particularly feminine
autonomy; and the Female, a phase of self-discovery and
search for identity as opposed to the dependency of the
Feminine and the opposition of the Feminist. Although
Showalter separates these phases chronologically—the
Feminine phase running from the appearance of the male
pseudonym in the 1840's to George Eliot's death in 1880, the
Feminist phase from 1880 to 1920, or the winning of the vote,
and the Female phase as 1920 to the present, but evolving
toward a new stage of awareness in the latter 1960's—she
carefully notes the overlapping and interconnections between
each; one also may find all three phases in the careers of

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individual writers. Showalter's mild historicism now seems
inadequate in a critical universe focusing on class and race.
One might, however, consider parallel phases in the writing
of men, especially if one chooses to view Feminine, Feminist,
and Female as states of consciousness rather than
biologically determined categories.
Ellen Moers also argues for a female literary tradition
in Literary Women; The Great Writers (1976), a detailed
history of the female literary tradition from the end of the
eighteenth century through the twentieth century.
Acknowledging the difficulties of strict chronology, as the
history of women's literature does not always parallel the
history of feminism, Moers first discusses the history and
traditions of women's literature, then concentrates on
various aspects of what she terms "heroinism," or the
feminine of the heroic principle. Like Showalter, although
less overtly, Moers seems to deny biological essentialism in
favor of social, cultural, and political influences. Indeed
she ascribes the success against all odds of certain female
writers to nonsexual factors: "This inalterable physiological
bias to the night hours probably accounted for more in George
Sand's development as a writer than the fact of her sex."37
Although she denies the existence of an intrinsically female
sensibility or style, she does acknowledge certain seemingly
unique female modes of writing, particularly in the use of
metaphor. Of particular interest to Wordsworthians is

185
Moers's argument for landscape as a significant "feminine"
metaphor, both sexual and inspirational, which provides for
the expression of "solitary, feminine assertion."38 Moers's
discussion of landscape writing by women from George Eliot to
Willa Cather and Isak Dinesen refutes the arguments of
critics who emphasize the predominance of metaphors of home
and "inner space" in women's literature.
Moers's most significant contribution is her emphasis on
the influence of female precursors or contemporaries upon
women writers and the continuity thus created in women's
literature. However Moers avoids any real confrontation with
theory or female relationships. She does not discuss the
criteria of greatness by which she chooses her literary
women, and freguently succumbs to broad generalizations about
female style and sensibility. In her discussion of great
women characters as symbols of civilization she asserts: "to
see such women both as objects of inspiration and as threats
to selfhood; to see them simultaneously afar and near—from
within the female mind and body, within the nursery, the
kitchen, the dressing table—is the woman writer's gift to
modern literature."39 Moers obviously does not acknowledge
the works of Flaubert, Tolstoy, and James. Nevertheless,
Literary Women is important in its presentation of female
writers and the existence of a continuing tradition from
which they might draw their strength..

186
Patricia Meyer Spacks in The Female Imagination (1975)4°
searches for patterns that might characterize women's
writing, noting that literature of all periods reflects a
female self-awareness, with female likenesses more
predominant than female differences. Her emphasis upon the
interconnections between women writers recalls Virginia
Woolf. In A Room of One's Own (1929), Woolf questioned
whether a woman should or should not write out of her
consciousness of being a woman, recognizing that "we think
back through our mothers if we are women, "41 that we are
inheritors as well as originators. Spacks argues that the
idea of "femininity" is a patriarchal concept that traps
women in immanence and limits their possibilities. Her work
reflects Simone de Beauvoir's thesis that one isn't born a
woman, but rather, becomes one. Defining woman as the Other,
patriarchy presents man as transcendence, woman as immanence,
lacking both subjectivity and responsibility. De Beauvoir's
massive work, The Second Sex (1952), demonstrates the
pervasiveness of this situation throughout social, political,
and cultural life, and women's own internalization and
acceptance of its limitations. Although Spacks suggests that
the act of writing defines woman as a creature seeking
transcendence, she recognizes that the actual facts of female
experience confine her to immanence and repetition.
Some of the themes of the female imagination Spacks
explores include responsibility to others, the achievement of

187
power through passivity, the need to help and the need to
control. The exercise of feminine power occurs at both ends
of the spectrum, as women let themselves be taken care of, as
well as take care of others. While masculine heroism
involves actively changing one's circumstances, feminine
heroism (or what Ellen Moers terms "heroinism") depends upon
the qualities of denial, repression of the emotions, and
endurance. The theme of female altruism involves the moral
stance that it is better to help others than to help oneself,
a particularly "feminine" pattern of relationship which
echoes the psychological and sociological concerns of
Chodorow and Gilligan. It is interesting that none of these
critics acknowledge the Christianity inherent in this
statement of values.
Of particular interest is the complex concept of the
artist as woman, which raises the conflict between the desire
for power, in this case, artistic expression, and the desire
for relationship. While the artist's narcissism involves the
need to express, often through public achievement, feminine
narcissism, centered on one's own body, involves the need to
attract; attraction remains women's primary power. For men,
the vitality and insistence of artistic power may easily be
aligned with sexual force. Women, inculcated with the habit
of denying the self, have difficulty with the desire to
assert and create the sexual/artistic self.42

188
Spacks has been criticized for her ahistorical approach
and glossing of female differences in class or race, as well
as her concentration on white, middle class writers. In
addition, her use of the term "female imagination" opens her
work to accusations of generalization or stereotyping,
although curiously enough, Spacks never really does define
what she means by the female imagination. Beneath the image
of the self as powerless and dependent lies a disguised core
of anger, which Gilbert and Gubar develop more fully in its
symbolic manifestations in The Madwoman in the Attic (1979).
The superficial passivity of female heroines may often mask
an inner rage and drive for power deflected into other zones.
One of the foundations of Spacks's work is obviously
Kate Millett's Sexual Politics (1969),43 a seminal (perhaps
one should say germinal) work of feminist politics and
literary criticism. Millett emphasizes the idea that at the
core, relations between men and women revolve around
politics, or rather manipulations of power, rather than
sentiment. In opposition to certain extreme formalist
literary practices, Sexual Politics demands that criticism
take social and cultural contexts into account, a stand
recognized by the majority of subsequent Anglo-American
feminist critics. Millett also insists upon the importance
of the reader's viewpoint as opposed to the formalist
hierarchy of text before reader, which foreshadows more
recent reader-response criticism.

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Sexual Politics has been criticized for its neglect of
female authors, as well as Millett's failure to acknowledge
her critical precursors in feminist criticism. In her strong
emphasis upon the ubiquitousness of sexual domination in our
culture, she neglects to recognize existing antipatriarchal
works, both male and female, literary and critical, that
speak out despite monolithic pressure. Her insistence upon a
direct line between culture and power politics also appears
excessively reductive, although it initially energized the
feminist movement.
In her attacks upon Freud, particularly his theories of
penis envy and female narcissism and masochism, Millett
decries psychoanalytical theory as a form of biological
essentialism which reduces all behavior to genetically
inherent sexuality. Although many Anglo-American feminists,
such as Patricia Spacks, support Millett's criticism of
psychoanalysis, others, beginning with Juliet Mitchell in
Psychoanalysis and Feminism (1974), challenge her
interpretations. Mitchell, intent upon incorporating Freud
in her feminist approach to the female personality, argues
effectively that psychoanalysis views sexual identity as a
cultural and social construct rather than a biological
essence: "To Freud society demands of the psychological
bisexuality of both sexes that one sex attain a preponderance
of femininity, the other of masculinity: man and woman are
made in culture. "44

190
More recently, Toril Moi has severely criticized
Millett's reductive reading of Freud. Arguing in favor of
French feminist assumptions that psychoanalysis is essential
to the examination of female oppression in a patriarchal
society, Moi asserts that contrary to popular assumptions,
Freud does not assume sexual identity to be inborn and
biological in essence but rather, "an unstable subject
position which is culturally and socially constructed in the
process of the child's insertion into human society"45 Moi
argues that Millett takes little account of Freud's insight
into the influence of unconscious desire on conscious action
and ignores the possibility that much misogyny is
unconscious. Moreover, misogyny may even be unconsciously
internalized by women. By contrast to Millett's black or
white analysis of Freud, various critics take advantage of
Freud's critical methodology without necessarily subscribing
to belief in his system. One proponent of this approach is
Diane Hoeveler: "My use of several different psychoanalytic
structures is predicated by my respect for Freud, Lacan, and
the French Feminists as poets, that is, as creators of
imaginative and poetic fantasies, ideologies of the (usually
male) mind."46
Less well known but as important as Sexual Politics is
Mary Ellmann's Thinking About Women (1968), published before
Millett but scarcely acknowledged by her. Ellmann professes
to be "most interested in women as words—as the words they

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pull out of mouths, ”47 and our intellectual habit of thinking
in terms of sexual analogy. Her book provides an ironic
analysis of "phallic criticism" which focuses upon a single
point of preoccupation, the fact of femininity, and she
carefully examines the traditional stereotypes of women in
the work of male writers and critics. Such critics,
classifying content and style by sexual analogy, use the
concept of femininity as a preconceived pattern imposed upon
a woman's life and literary career. In phallic criticism,
the expected takes precedence; the actual arises from the
preconceived. Ellmann's work intends to demonstrate the
illogic of such thought.
Ellmann examines the critical implications of
femininity, particularly as reflected by such male writers as
Mailer and Hemingway in their engagement with writing as a
sexual act. She provides an entertaining presentation of
nine feminine stereotypes: formlessness, passivity,
instability, confinement, piety, materiality, spirituality,
irrationality, and compliancy; in addition she reveals the
images of two "incorrigible figures," the shrew and the
witch, which reinforce the associations of women with nature
and men with art. Another important aspect of the
stereotyping of women incorporates the polarization of women
in two separate directions from an assumed human center. The
idealization of women contrasts with the degradation or
resentment of women; the extremes of feminine virtue imply

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the extremes of vice. This range between elevation and
descent involves two moral judgments: "That women
unfortunately are women, and that their ideal condition is
attained by rising above themselves."48 In contrast, men
strive to become more masculine, with emphasis on their
becoming a more valid self rather than an ideal.
According to Ellmann, the established mode of critical
prose is "masculine," firm and assertive; the nineteenth-
century distinction between intellectual authority and
intimate emotion firmly confined women to the language of
sensibility. Moreover, "the male body lends credence to
assertions, while the female body takes it away."49 Although
the mode of authority persists today in many male writers,
modern women writers rarely focus solely upon sensibility.
Rather, twentieth century women writers undermine both
authority and sentiment through wit and irony. In this same
fashion, Ellmann herself undermines the sexual stereotypes of
femininity as social and verbal constructs.
Like all stereotypes, those descriptive (or
prescriptive) of women tend to organize themselves in a
pattern of extremes—chastity and frigidity, intuition and
irrationality, motherhood and domination, and so forth.
Toril Moi argues that "The feminine stereotypes she [Ellmann]
describes ultimately deconstruct themselves"50 through an
"explosive tendency" of exaggeration. The ability of
stereotypes to slide into contradictions further reinforces

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their definition as verbal and societal constructs. Certain
dangers do arise from the satirical style: "In the ironic
discourse, every position undercuts itself, thus leaving the
politically engaged writer in a position where her ironic
discourses might just come to deconstruct her own politics."5i
By reiterating the impossibility of a sexual sentence or
sexually characteristic writing, Ellmann escapes the dangers
of thinking by sexual analogy. Noting that the "masculine"
compulsion to define sexuality arises in certain women
writers as well, Ellmann reveals the "feminine" capacity for
"executive sexuality," a supposedly "masculine" mode of
sexual thinking in its forcefulness, economy, and
decisiveness.
In her ultimate subversion of authority, Ellmann argues
that the strengths of recent women novelists include the
reinstatement of the inconclusive, the new awareness of the
underlife, especially that which occurs or simply passes
without demonstrable effects. Given women's long historical
opportunities to learn the underlife, such a mode appears
congenial to female talents: "The writer cares less for what
is resolved by the dialogue than for the recognition, in its
course, of all its conceivable diversions into related (or
for that matter unrelated) issues."52 Leaving us with a sense
of uncertainty appropriate to her ironic discourse, Ellmann
refuses to provide a unitary conclusion. While she declares
her divorce from the reaching of conclusions, she suggests

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that for critics as well as novelists, the less said with
authority the better, and as well, the less said seriously.
Accompanying her emphasis on the inconclusive, Ellmann
recommends that women choose to exploit rather than reject
sexual stereotypes: "the common vaginal conception of women
as dark and hidden sensibilities can be exploited by women
writers, through their acknowledging that most experience is
obscure, seemingly incomplete, responsive rather than
efficient."53 This inversion of stereotypes and dwelling upon
the supposedly irrelevant and inconclusive successfully
undercuts male discourse while suggesting, without defining,
a discourse for the future. Ellmann also suggests that in
the future we may come to value passivity in literature as in
the past we have valued aggression.
In The Madwoman in the Attic (1979), Sandra Gilbert and
Susan Gubar examine the dilemma of the nineteenth-century
woman writer, the anxieties of authorship rising from the
patriarchal concept of pen as penis, and women writers'
subversive undermining of masculine assumptions in their
works. In examining the hidden psychosexual meanings of
writing, Gilbert and Gubar find that women writers usually
respond to societal constraints through symbolic narrative,
expressing their feelings of isolation, exclusion, and
rejection through a subversive literary tradition. Rather
than autonomous creator, woman has been represented as a
passive creation, a space to be inscribed by the phallic pen.

195
While this metaphor appears subversively in female writing in
the description of creative inspiration as a wound or other
form of violation, twentieth-century feminist writers are
redefining this creative act in terms of giving birth rather
than inseminating.
The Madwoman in the Attic points out the continuity of
theme and imagery found in the works of nineteenth-century
women writers despite geographical, historical, and
psychological distances. In this distinctly female literary
tradition, images of enclosure and escape predominate, along
with fantasies of insane doubles representing fictional
outlets for the authors' repressed anger and rebellion.
Certain metaphors of physical discomfort reoccur, from icy
landscapes to suffocating interiors, as well as the
metaphorically significant diseases of anorexia, agoraphobia,
and claustrophobia.
The authors find a correspondence between the social
positions of nineteenth-century women and the literary
tradition they experienced, the reading they did. Just as
they were trapped in the constructs of male-dominated
society, literary women were constricted by the architecture
of what Gertrude Stein termed "patriarchal poetry." Much of
the coherence in the literature by women may be explained by
their common urge to struggle free both from societal and
from literary imprisonment; their united strategies of self

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and art were primarily coercive, as they revised male
metaphors in their texts.
Basing their methodology on Harold Bloom's premises that
literary history consists of strong action and inevitable
reaction, Gilbert and Gubar propose "to describe both the
experience that generates metaphor and the metaphor that
creates experience."54 Of primary significance to women
writers is the traditional mimetic aesthetic originating in
Aristotle and descending through Sidney, Shakespeare, and
Johnson that defines poetry as a mirror held up to nature,
suggesting that the poet, in the manner of a lesser God,
creates an alternative mirror-universe and serves as its
paternalistic ruler. In this metaphor of literary paternity,
the literary text is both the embodiment of speech and of
male power made flesh, its author a literary patriarch who
uses a pen as an instrument of generative power. Gilbert and
Gubar demand, "If the pen is a metaphorical penis, with what
organ can females generate texts?"55
This paternity/creativity metaphor has many additional
implications. If the assertive presence of literary power
corresponds with male sexuality, female sexuality becomes
associated with the absence of power; women exist only to be
acted on by men, as literary as well as physical objects.
Any creative energy in women becomes abnormal or out of
context, "unfeminine." As much as society, literary texts

197
serve to constrict women by defining their roles in relation
to masculine expectations and designs.
In the historical association of literary authorship
with patriarchal authority, women become reduced to
properties, characters, and images. Looking into the mirror
of the male-inscribed text, women see these images generated
by male expectations and intents, in particular the extreme
images of angel and monster, images that come to infiltrate
female as well as male art. Gilbert and Gubar argue that the
image in the mirror is a masculine construct, that only by
understanding the nature and origin of these images can women
break through the aesthetic ideals that deprive them of
autonomy.
Much of The Madwoman in the Attic examines the extremes
of the images of angel and monster in order to illustrate the
power of these mythic masks imposed upon women, from the self¬
surrender and sacrifice of the household angel that dooms her
to becoming either a saint or an objet d'art to the tension
between the spirit and the flesh that results in the witch,
the antithetical mirror-image of the angel. The image of the
angel conveys the message of submissiveness; the images of
witch or monster may represent man's dread of women's
sexuality as well as her creativity. Both negatively affect
the self images of women torn between the living death of the
"Eternal Feminine" and the damning otherness of the flesh.

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As the "Other," the female monster represents woman's
ambivalence about her own sexuality and generative energy.
Absorbing the sexual disgust and nausea conveyed by female
monsters such as Bertha in Jane Eyre, women incorporate
loathing and anxiety about their own female bodies. Quoting
Albert Gelpi, "the artist kills experience into art,"56
Gilbert and Gubar suggest that women writers attempt not only
to be angels, but also to destroy the monsters in themselves,
the unfeminine horror hidden behind or within every angel.
No aspect of femininity is safe, from the "figurative
monstrosity of female narcissism" to the "literal monstrosity
many women are taught to see as characteristic of their own
bodies. "57
Gilbert and Gubar's analysis of the fairy tale of Snow
White illustrates the price women must pay for attempting to
define themselves. Snow White and the Queen serve as two
aspects of the same woman, the Queen struggling to free
herself from the passive, "dead" Snow White in her glass
coffin, Snow White struggling to repress the assertive
monstrous Queen in herself. Confined to the constricts of
the male text, women writers can only alternately define
themselves as angels or monsters.
How can a woman write in a literary culture dominated by
the patriarchal voice, if one assumes that writers either
consciously or unconsciously affirm or deny the achievement
of their precursors as well as inherited traditions of genre,

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style, and metaphor? Gilbert and Gubar discuss Harold
Bloom's anxiety of influence, his paradigms of the historical
relationship between artists as that of fathers and sons. In
Bloom's analysis, one of the ways a poet evades anxiety is
the denial of the precursor poet who serves as the source of
anxiety. This literary Oedipal struggle has no place for
women, reducing them to stereotypes that deny female
subjectivity and creativity. Rather, according to the
authors, women experience an anxiety of authorship, a fear
that they cannot create, cannot, in Bloomian terms, beget art
upon the female body of the muse: "He [the poet] must be self-
begotten, he must engender himself upon the Muse his
mother."58 In demonstrating how nineteenth-century women
writers subversively revised patriarchal poetics, Gilbert and
Gubar revise male-defined literary history through a
rereading of Harold Bloom, converting his anxiety of
influence into their anxiety of authorship.
Exploring both the sources of anxiety and its literary
expression, the authors examine the relationship between male
literary assertion and coercion and the female literary
response. Rather than revisionary swerves or misreadings of
precursors' works, women's battles become revisionary
struggles against male misreadings of women. These struggles
involve not the death or denial of male precursors but the
search for female precursors to serve as models of revolt.
The traditional concept of paternal precursors is

200
inappropriate for women by definition; the anxiety of
authorship stems from the fear of this authority, which
defines woman as an object, never a subject.
As suggested earlier, women express this fear of
becoming a literary and social object through the loathing of
their own flesh. In female texts, agoraphobia represents
both fear of society and fear of the literary marketplace;
amnesia both represents and subversively parodies the
intellectual incapacity patriarchal writers expect in women.
Images of entrapment and confinement as well as the "disease"
of claustrophobia reflect the female artist's awareness of
her lack of viable alternatives. The suicidal self¬
starvation of anorexia signifies an attempt to escape, if
only into nothingness or death, while bulimia, the disease of
overeating that mirrors anorexia, suggests an "outbreak” that
transforms the characters into huge and powerful monsters.
Pregnancy replicates physical and societal imprisonment; even
its alternate term is expressive, "confinement." These and
other female "diseases" reflect women's literal and
figurative confinement in texts, house, and their own bodies.
Women writers also use all the paraphernalia of women's
place, veils, costumes, mirrors, paintings, trunks, locked
cabinets, and so forth, to express imprisonment.
According to Elaine Showalter, nineteenth-century women
writers literally assumed a secondary position in relation to
their literary fathers and brothers. Women who neglected to

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denigrate or apologize for their literary efforts were termed
either "unsexed" or sexually fallen, another double bind.
The choice between admitting she was only a woman (and thus
secondary) or asserting she was as good as a man (and thus
abnormal) reinforced woman's literary anxiety. Women who
attempted to solve the literary problem of being female by
disguising themselves as men only faced the further anxiety
resulting from denying one's own gender and accordingly one's
self.
Even the use of traditional patriarchal plots and genres
involve women writers in anxiety and duplicity, as the writer
projects herself into characters and situations which imply
women must not do what she herself is actually doing by
writing a book. Although the writer attempts to live by her
own efforts, she simultaneously exhorts women readers to
conform to male morality and female submission; George Eliot
and George Sand are two clear examples. Again, pretending
she is male by creating works of fiction that promote the
subordination of women, the female writer only exacerbates
her anxiety of authorship.
Gilbert and Gubar state that the strongest female
writers express their true concerns through subversion: "In
effect, such women have created submerged meanings, meanings
hidden within or behind the more accessible, "public" content
of their works, so that their literature could be read and
appreciated even when its vital concern with female

202
dispossession and disease was ignored."59 The authors's key
term is "palimpsestic," applied to literary works whose
surface designs hide deeper, less immediately accessible
layers of meaning. While superficially conforming to
patriarchal literary standards, women writers achieve a form
of literary authority, creating characters which enact
covert, authorial anger, deconstructing and reconstructing
male literary images, in particular the polarities of angel
and monster. The anger and despair of these authors becomes
projected on "negative" characters that act out the authors'
subversive or rebellious impulses, with suitable punishment
of course for the overt expression of anger.
The creation of "good" heroines and mad or monstrous
women dramatizes the authors' own self-division, and
conflicting desires both to accept and to reject the roles
inscribed by patriarchal society. As authorial doubles, the
monsters represent women who seek the power of self¬
articulation; added to the anxiety of authorship is the
schizophrenia of authorship, as such women are created only
to be destroyed.
As noted, literary women have been long stifled by the
patriarchal aesthetic that defines a single paternal god as
the creator of all things, in particular, language. While
accepting Milton's paternalistic myth of origins, with its
metaphorical misogyny,60 nineteenth-century women writers
often create their own revisionary myths and metaphors.

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Since Paradise Lost, all women writers are, to an extent,
Milton's daughters, torn between a dutiful relationship of
docile submission and alternative modes of daughterhood,
secretly studying for themselves. Accepting the patriarchal
cultural myth on its own terms nevertheless involves a
rewriting as to clarify its meaning, as in Mary Shelley's
Frankenstein, in which fantasies of equality emerge in the
form of the raging monster.
Gilbert and Gubar term Miltonic roles "Procrustean beds"
in which women cannot fit. Alternately, women rewrite the
myths of origin in order to mirror female experience more
accurately, as in Bronte's Wutherina Heights: they continue
nevertheless to create a palimpsestic or encoded artwork to
mask female experience within masculine genres and
conventions.
As women internalize the strictures of patriarchy,
escape becomes more difficult. Faced with precursors such as
Wordsworth and later Matthew Arnold, who "seek escape from
the dreary intercourse of daily life through the intercession
of a girl image and source of the poets' faith,"6i women,
rather than celebrating the buried self, feel victimized by
it. Gilbert and Gubar note the numerous references to
Wordsworth's Lucy in Bronte's Villette. and Bronte's
redefinition of this myth from the lost girl's point of view.
Lucy Snowe becomes a parody of Lucy Gray: "Far from being
nature's favorite, she seems to be one of those chosen for

204
adversity,”62 unable to escape by "dehumanizing the other into
a spiritual object" because she is. the other. Such is the
double bind of the woman writer, caught between the
impossibility of self-assertion for a woman and the necessity
of self-assertion for a poet.
Despite an emphasis on the parallels between social and
literary repression, The Madwoman in the Attic is essentially
ahistorical, in that Gilbert and Gubar draw no specific
connections with social actuality and change but assume the
existence of a historical situation and concentrate on
textual readings and evidence. Nevertheless, their study of
women writers' literal and figurative confinement and
expressive use of subversive metaphor and imagery is thought-
provoking and psychologically revealing.
Of course, these writers harken back to Virginia Woolf
in A Room of One's Own, with her emphasis on women writers
thinking back through their mothers. Woolf too, suggests
that a purely masculine or purely feminine mind cannot
create. Although Woolf finds the creative powers of men and
women to be quite different, she considers the androgynous
mind the most fully developed. However, Woolf qualifies
Coleridge's statement that a great mind is androgynous by
insisting that such a mind has no special sympathy for or
interest in women but is rather a creative fusion of the
faculties of both: "He meant, perhaps, that the androgynous
mind is resonant and porous; that it transmits emotion

205
without impediment; that it is naturally creative,
incandescent and undivided."63 As such it does not think
specially or separately of sex.
As Janet Todd notes in Feminist Literary History,
"attitudes to Virginia Woolf became the real acid test of
critical positions."64 In A Literature of Their Own (1977),
Elaine Showalter criticizes Woolf's emphasis on androgyny as
an escape from her female gender identity and an avoidance of
the issues of feminism. As remarked earlier, Toril Moi
argues in favor of Woolf's feminism by contrasting
Showalter's traditional humanist approach and concept of
identity (which Moi sees as part of patriarchal ideology)
with Woolf's deconstruction of gender identities, her
understanding that "the goal of the feminist struggle must
precisely be to deconstruct the death-dealing binary
oppositions of masculinity and femininity."65 Showalter
attacks Woolf's elusiveness as a denial of feminism; Moi
argues that by consciously playing upon language and its
deferrals of meaning, Woolf rejects the concept of a
fundamental unit, a transcendental signified, whether in the
form of the Word, God, or the Phallus.
In Toward a Recognition of Androgyny (1973), Carolyn
Heilbrun, a strong admirer of Woolf's conception of female
writing, reinforces the essentially indefinable nature of
androgyny as well as its threats to men's and women's sexual
and social roles. Heilbrun focuses upon androgyny as a

206
"hidden river" in the antiandrogynous world, tracing it from
the Aegean Age through the twentieth century. In contrast to
the Hellenic tradition, the Judaeo-Christian tradition
emphasizes patriarchy to the practical exclusion of any
feminine, or androgynous, interpretation. In medieval
literature, androgyny, or "the re-entry of the feminine
principle as a civilizing force,"66 takes the form of romance.
Heilbrun reveals the parallels between the flowering of
medieval civilization in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries
and the growth of the cult of the Virgin Mary, which
challenged the completely male, patriarchal power of the Holy
Trinity. In discussing the Renaissance fascination with the
concept of androgyny, she emphasizes Shakespeare's
androgynous vision, in particular his fascination with sexual
disguise and opposite-sex twins, and his recognition that
"masculine and feminine qualities, in proper balance, are
essential to the expression of humanity."67 His androgynous
vision also includes the portrayal of the daughter as the
true inheritor of the father. Subsequent centuries reflect
strong discomfort, anxiety, or even fear associated with any
confusion of the sexes. However, twentieth-century
literature finds signs of this terror abating, as novels by
Hesse, Mann, Barth, Porter, and Murdoch portray twins as a
powerful symbol and present a broadening range of destinies
for either sex.

207
Difficulties arise in the separation of the concepts of
androgyny and feminism, in part due to the similarities
between the antiandrogynous temper confronted by the great
writers and the similar temper faced by the fighters for
women's rights. Heilbrun chooses to distinguish androgynous
from feminist novels in at least one aspect: in a feminist
novel, the reader identifies with the female hero; in the
androgynous novel, the reader identifies with both male and
female characters. Her comparison of Jane Eyre and Wuthering
Heights defines the former as a feminist novel, the latter as
an androgynous one.
In her perception of the arbitrary assignment of male
and female characteristics, Virginia Woolf holds an
androgynous ideal yet does not underestimate the importance
of sexuality. Heilbrun decries Woolf's fate in being
"declared annoyingly feminine by male critics at the same
time that she has been dismissed by women interested in the
sexual revolution."68 Rather Heilbrun recognizes Woolf's
vision as "embodying less an inner tension between masculine
and feminine inculcations than a search for a new synthesis
and an opportunity for feminine expression,"69 particularly in
To The Lighthouse, which she considers Woolf's best novel of
androgyny. In this work, the "feminine" and "masculine"
impulses alternately dominate, concluding in an androgynous
vision of marriage in the future.

208
At one point Heilbrun uses Coleridge's statement on
androgyny to suggest a correspondence with Wordsworth's
statement that Dorothy had given him eyes and ears. Although
she does not pursue this particular analogy, she associates
androgyny with greatness throughout her study, finding it a
creative and civilizing force essential to the survival of
human society.
Any discussion of gender and writing leads at some point
to the debate surrounding the establishment of a female canon
of literature, separate from the traditional patriarchal
canon of primarily male literature, as opposed to an
enlargement or radical reorganization of the latter. In
"Treason Our Text: Feminist Challenges to the Literary
Canon," Lillian S. Robinson attacks the traditional canon,
finding the admission of women writers to a basically
unchanged canon at best pluralistic. Instead we must
confront and examine the canon as a source of ideas, themes,
and motives about both sexes. She recognizes a major problem
created by regarding the canon as both a compendium of
excellence and a record of cultural history: "whether a given
woman writer is good enough to replace some male writer on
the prescribed reading lists or she is not. If she is not,
then either she should replace him anyway, in the name of
telling the truth about the culture, or she should not, in
the (unexamined) name of excellence."70 In the ensuing
dialectic between the claims of culture and "excellence"

209
(however one might define it), ideologies are invariably in
play. Robinson proposes challenging the criteria of
excellence that determines the canon rather than continuing
to expand the female counter-canon, which only enlarges the
"women's literature ghetto."71
In The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American
Fiction. Judith Fetterley, coining the memorable phrase
"resisting readers," calls upon women to resist the
traditional patriarchal point of view: "At its best, feminist
criticism is a political act whose aim is not simply to
interpret the world but to change it by changing the
consciousness of those who read and their relation to what
they read."72 Fetterley, following Adrienne Rich on the
importance of re-vision, of entering old texts from new
critical directions, takes a point of view which questions
traditional values and assumptions; she aligns herself with
those Anglo-American feminist critics who perceive the
gendered assumptions both explicit and implicit in the
traditional canon of English literature and the patriarchal
canon of criticism of these texts.
The true resisting reader does not limit herself to
examining how the texts reinforce such assumptions; she
likewise attempts to delineate ways in which these same
authors explore different facets of sexual identity or
experience through subversive or covert means. Thus, one may
examine how certain Romantic writers appropriate for

210
themselves attributes of the female, in an attempt to subvert
the inflexible gender definitions that both threaten and
restrict them. Julie Elison, questioning the place of
Romanticism in a theory of gender, finds that feminism and
Romanticism share "an anxiety about aggression and violence;
a critique of authority; a commitment to the cognitive
validity of feeling and atmosphere; an identification with
the victim; an intrigue with the construction and
deconstruction of subjectivity."73 Although I challenge this
totalizing assertion, with its broad generalizations (some
might say meaningless jargon) and tacit exclusion of other
literary eras, I recognize the areas it opens for
exploration.
A critical leader in protesting the exclusive
concentration on women's literature and rejection of the
canon as misogynist, Myra Jehlen favors a "radical
skepticism,”74 a rethinking of our fundamental assumptions
about women and the female character through comparative
examination of male and female literary culture. She employs
the metaphor of Archimedes attempting to shift the world to
illustrate the difficulty, and rather than an
extraterrestrial fulcrum outside the world of patriarchal
discourse, calls for "a terrestrial fulcrum, a standpoint
from which we can see our conceptual universe whole but which
nonetheless rests firmly on male ground.”75 Jehlen herself
acknowledges the physical contradictions inherent in the

211
image of being at once on and off a world; nevertheless, she
returns to this metaphor throughout the essay to reinforce
her belief that no locus really exists outside patriarchal
discourse from which women can speak.
Jehlen criticizes most women-centered studies for
creating an alternative context to the world of patriarchal
assumptions and thus failing to affect those assumptions.
Unfortunately, although women might define their concerns and
problems as global, men continue to view them as insular; a
focus on the world of female experience has little impact on
the world of male discourse, particularly the various
critical disciplines separate from women's scholarship. In
addition, what Jehlen terms the "insurgent" nature of
feminist thinking precludes its ever having a world of its
own.
As an alternative to women's studies Jehlen demands "the
investigation, from women's viewpoint, of everything, thereby
finding a way to engage the dominant intellectual systems
directly and organically"76 and locates her feminist fulcrum
on earth itself. The reader may agree with Jehlen that women-
centered studies lead to insularity and isolation, thus
becoming a separate discipline marginal to the literary
mainstream. However, the female tradition under Jehlen’s
regime runs the risk of becoming subsumed under the
categories of patriarchal tradition, especially since she
relies so heavily upon the idea of a nonexistent fulcrum.

212
Jehlen herself, finding the engagement of feminist thinking
with the dominant intellectual system both necessary and
fraught with perils, notes the problems of an adversarial
rather than appreciative stance in literary criticism: "To a
degree, any analysis that rethinks the most basic assumptions
of the thinking it examines is contradictory or at least
contrary, for its aim is to question more than to explain and
chart. "77
Added to the difficulties of a literary criticism that
challenges the assumptions of the parent discipline is the
nature of literature, which Jehlen defines as an
interpretation the critics must decipher. Aligning herself
with the formalists or New Critics for whom texts possess
encoded messages or values, and who consider reading an act
of creative interpretation, Jehlen poses a critical paradox:
because literature is subjective and therefore ideological,
its ideology becomes irrelevant to its literary value. Thus,
one may view a work of literature as "wrongheaded" about life
and politics yet a successful rendering of its "wrong"
vision. Jehlen's interpretation stands in contrast to the
sort of socialist criticism that Helen Vendler attacks for
valuing propaganda as art, "valuing a naive and didactic
'articulation of oppression' because it has awakened certain
members of an oppressed class."78 Now many critics might
argue against Jehlen's separation of appreciative from
political criticism, as well as her assumption that value

213
judgments are universal rather than relative to historical,
cultural and political contexts. Jehlen believes that most
of us do subscribe to a tradition of the good in art and
philosophy; the problem of feminist criticism lies in
recognizing the literary value in work we might reject
politically.
To support her positions and justify how a work can be
both great and ideologically distasteful, Jehlen cites
Shakespeare's treatment of bastards, Jews, and women.
Shakespeare's greatness involves his critical ability to
penetrate conventions without radically rejecting them.
Writing within his own ideology, he understands its tenets
while condoning them. If (from certain feminist standpoints)
Shakespeare is a misogynist, he still remains a great poet,
revealing "the complexity of all identity . . . expressed in
the terms of the contemporary ideology."79 Here are lessons
to be learned for reading Wordsworth and examining his
relationship to Romantic ideology.
Ideally, feminist critics should distinguish between
political and appreciative readings, while acknowledging that
a literary subject may possess a unique vision that may not
necessarily be ours; realistically, we must recognize that
all criticism is political, despite its claims. Avoiding
this issue, Jehlen aligns herself with New Critical,
formalist approaches that emphasize a text's integrity, the
need to respect that integrity by not asking the text

214
questions it does not ask itself but rather seeking questions
from within the text. She finds ideological criticism
reductive in its opposition to "value-free scholarship"
(itself a questionable concept), and advocates a sympathetic
and appreciative critical posture that seeks to avoid
political judgment.
Jehlen proposes that we go beyond the establishment of
"feminine" territory to examine the contingencies of
"masculine" and "feminine" traditions and focus on the
relations between the two rather that the traditions
themselves. Instead of separation or denial she promotes a
"radical comparativism,"80 which projects a metaphorical
border. Jehlen even suggests the formation of a new
epistemology, demanding that feminists do no less than
"rethink thinking itself."8i I must criticize this broad
challenge as rhetorical and nonspecific and at the same time
attack her formalist stance as reductive, her advocacy of
"value-free scholarship" as blind to the historical,
cultural, and political relativity of value judgments.
However, Jehlen's comparative approach, if it avoids
succumbing to the methods of the dominant discourse, might
provide new understanding of the relationship between
"masculine" and "feminine" literature.
Using an approach similar to that proposed by Jehlen,
Elizabeth Langland, in "Blake and the Sick Rose," defines
three "moments" of feminist criticism, not in terms of a

215
closed system but implying the possibility of further
"moments." First, she examines the traditional critical
readings and associations of a work and their development;
second, she deals with contextual issues that might expand
the interpretative field (such as postulating different
speakers or points of view); third, she investigates "the
ways language, syntax, punctuation, revisions, and
illuminations work to establish new readings."82 In moving
from the examination of traditional critical assumptions to
the exploration of the power of context in shaping and
determining meaning, Langland stresses the ideological bias
of all literature, a bias significant not only to creation
and production, but to critical reception. Her references to
"Archimedes and the Paradox of Feminist Criticism" raise the
possibility of further moments involving the radical
comparativism Jehlen advocates, and the examination of points
of difference between political and appreciative criticism
comparable to Langland's own formal-feminist approach.
The evolution of feminist criticism beyond
interpretation to challenging the grounds of interpretation
does, as Langland suggests, provide for theoretical consensus
"in pointing to the radical contingency of value and meaning,
to the ideological content of supposedly value-free
productions."88 By openly addressing ideological influences
as well as the historical determinants of a text, the
feminist critique examines the assumptions beneath our

216
reading and writing more directly than gynocriticism, with
its exclusive focus on texts by women.
As she merges a feminist critique of with a formal-
thematic methodology, Langland admits their initial
disparities. By contrast to the feminist critique, the
traditional approach favors the autonomy and integrity of the
text, allowing the text itself to raise the appropriate
questions. In its sympathetic and appreciative, rather than
openly ideological approach, it resembles gynocriticism, with
the risks of implicit ideology through the erection of an
alternative tradition. Langland poses two alternatives in
dealing with ideological questions. First, the critic may
attempt an appreciative reading by ostensibly discovering
what previous criticism had masked in a text. As an
alternative to this appreciative discovery, the critic may
choose to establish meaning ideologically by demanding of the
text questions that it does not ask itself. The seeming
contradictions between these approaches must be addressed in
any "formal-feminist" approach.
Central to feminist criticism remains the question
whether a work of literature perceived as misogynist can
nevertheless qualify as a viable work of art worthy of
inclusion within the canon. How do we recognize literary
value in a work we might reject politically? If we assume
value-free criticism to be impossible, and critical theory,
by its nature, to be ideological, we must continue to

217
question the very assumptions of what constitutes excellence
in a work of art and inclusion in the canon. We can accept a
work as a successful rendition of its ideology even if we
disagree with the tenets of that ideology, while always
recognizing that the artistic values upon which our
acceptance is based are in themselves socially constructed
and liable to change. In other words, we must remain
cognizant of the impact both of the ideology of the period in
which the work was written and the ideology of our own, from
which we judge a past work. As Jerome McGann points out,
Romanticism must be examined as a historically based
ideology. His own work assumes "that poems are social and
historical products and that the critical study of such
products must be grounded in a socio-historical analytic."84
The constant flux of socially-constructed cultural
values ensures that criticism remains an on-going, growing
discipline. The greater part of Anglo-American criticism
places emphasis on praxis, on criticism as a practical
politics. In particular, Marxist-socialist feminist critics
profess to work towards the identification of the ideological
gender-system and elimination of sexual as well as class and
racial oppression. Unfortunately, this frequently results in
the imposition of their own utopian view, where their values
are uppermost in the political/power spectrum and opposing
views are linked with ideas of oppression and ignorance. For
those of the gynocritical school, the personal is also the

218
political; in addressing both academic and political
institutions, gynocritics argue for a more balanced
representation of women writers, critics, and staff in the
university system and trade presses.
Great emphasis continues to lie upon the examination of
the critical tradition surrounding a work as well as the
implications of the work itself, as criticism often
reinforces androcentric readings of a work, while obscuring
other potential readings. In turn, we can examine the
original texts, less as documents of sexism, but as what
Elizabeth Abel terms "artful renditions of sexual
difference."85 In looking at the masculine and feminine
traditions together, we, in accord with Myra Jehlen, must
focus on the interactions, the relations between the
traditions as well as the traditions themselves; one notes
the recent focus upon the works of Dorothy Wordsworth both as
an individual writer and in relation to the work of her more
famous brother by critics such as Margaret Homans (Women
Writers and Poetic Identity; Dorothy Wordsworth. Emily
Bronte, and Emily Dickinson. 1980) and Susan Levine (Dorothy
Wordsworth and Romanticism). 1987). Nina Auerbach affirms
the necessity of looking at men along with women through a
female prism;88 Nancy K. Miller shapes a similar metaphor as
she asks us to "examine what it might mean to read and write
through the prism of gender."87

219
In the Introduction to The New Feminist Criticism,
Elaine Showalter provides an effective definition of Anglo-
American feminist criticism: "whether concerned with the
literary representations of sexual difference, with the ways
that literary genres have been shaped by masculine or
feminine values, or with the exclusion of the female voice
from the institutions of literature, criticism, and theory,
feminist criticism has established gender as a fundamental
category of literary analysis."88 She notes the evolution of
feminist criticism from the initial concentration on literary
misogyny in masculine texts through the second phase, the
rediscovery and examination of literature by women and
celebration of a female aesthetics (gynocriticism), to the
third phase, the examination of the interactions between male
and female writing and the subsequent revision of traditional
theoretical assumptions about reading and writing. In this
third (but not necessarily final) phase, theoretical
challenges to the traditional canon involve more than simply
expanding the list to include more female writers. Modern
feminist criticism must challenge the very ground upon which
we make our choices.
A number of critics concur with Showalter. In "What Do
Feminist Critics Want? A Postcard from the Volcano"89 Sandra
Gilbert emphasizes that all texts are determined by aesthetic
and political assumptions about gender, a form of sexual
poetics, while Annette Kolodny notes that the interpretive

220
strategies of criticism are "learned, historically
determined, and thereby necessarily gender-inflected."90
Subsequently, Kolodny makes three theoretical propositions:
first, that literary history is a fiction in which we
continually reshape our sense of the past (denying any
"perennial" aspects of human experience); second, "Insofar as
we are taught how to read, what we engage are not texts but
paradigms,"91 determining a text's meaning according to the
critical assumptions, whether conscious or unconscious, we
bring to it; third, we must reexamine both our aesthetics and
the critical methods which significantly shape our aesthetic
responses. One easily accepts the first two propositions;
the third challenges our critical tendencies to establish
norms for evaluating literary works and demands that we
develop new standards for examining the sufficiency of the
critical methods themselves.
In "A Map for Rereading: Gender and the Interpretation
of Literary Texts," Kolodny emphasizes the importance of
revision or rather re-vision as the essence of an ongoing
literary tradition and challenges Harold Bloom's paradigm of
poetic influence, his revisionist reading of Freud's family
romance. Like Gilbert and Gubar, Kolodny criticizes Bloom's
exclusion of poetic mothers and daughters, his rejection of
an alternate female tradition. In remarking the failure of
Bloom's historically determined but gender-deficient
strategy, its inadequacy in deciphering female systems of

221
meaning, she argues effectively for the reexamination of
critical strategies.
Feminist criticism challenges other historically
determined interpretative strategies, unmasking literary
assumptions about power and reality so common we fail to
recognize them. Vastly diverse works can be reexamined as
philosophical and political enterprises; both male
interpretive strategies and the traditional canon are
revealed as political and cultural constructs. Of some
interest is Elaine Showalter's use of Edwin Arderner's model
of culture, in particular its dual and overlapping nature.
Male culture constitutes the dominant circle, whose
boundaries overlap but do not entirely contain the female or
muted circle. The resulting "wild" zone contains the
implications of silence and difference and proves that women
speak both through the language of the dominant order and a
language of their own. In this model of culture, two
simultaneous traditions or "undercurrents" exist side by side
in partial relation. According to Showalter, this implied
difference in women's writing can only be understood in terms
of its historical and cultural relation (which reinforces her
model of gynocritical theory).
The publication of Men in Feminism (1987) drew necessary
attention to the relationship of male critics to feminist
criticism, and the controversial nature of male feminism.
Arguments within this book range from Stephen Heath's

222
assertion that for men, "any notion of writing a feminist
book or being a feminist, is a myth, a male imaginary with
the reality of appropriation and domination right behind"93 to
Elaine Showalter's affirmation that "The way into feminist
criticism, for the male theorist, must involve a
confrontation with what might be implied by reading as a man
and with a questioning or a surrender of paternal
privileges."93 Showalter also illustrates the dangers of a
phallic "feminist" criticism which competes with women rather
than breaks patriarchal bonds, using feminist language to
reinforce masculine literary dominance. However, the most
frequent error of male critics appears to be the acceptance
(and sidelining) of feminist criticism as yet another
interpretive method or form of intellectual inquiry.
One of the most significant issues to arise from the
study of men in feminism is the reformulation of the nature
of patriarchy, the possibility of its existing as a third
term outside men and women and encompassing issues of class
and race as well as gender. Laura Claridge and Elizabeth
Langland (Out of Bounds; Male Writers and Gender(ed)
Criticism 19 9 0 ) 94 question whether to write against patriarchy
automatically implies a feminist agenda, or simply enables
male writers to appropriate the feminine in order to express
themselves more fully. Calling attention to the danger of
always aligning patriarchy with male categories, the editors

223
seek to complicate the gender binary opposition underlying
and sustaining it.
Future feminist scholarship must continue to examine
patriarchal literature and critical traditions while
reconstructing female traditions and experience to reveal the
repressive effects of ideology and culture; the feminist
critique remains valuable. Yet in denigrating patriarchal
ideology previously thought universal, feminist critics must
remain aware of their own ideological assumptions, never
forgetting that all critical stances are ideological. Taking
gender as a fundamental basis for experience, we may agree
with de Beauvoir that aside from a few basic physical
differences, sexual differences are primarily cultural
constructs with specific purposes rather than biological or
spiritual givens.
The more radical feminist critics continue to
deconstruct the dichotomization of the "masculine" and the
"feminine" which ranges from culture and nature to truth and
duplicity, reason and passion, and similar value-based
oppositions upon which western society is based. If,
according to Derrida, binary oppositions suggest the
inferiority or subordination of one of the terms, difference
means both inequality and oppression. According to various
deconstructionist feminist critics, the creation of an
alternate female canon simply reverses the terms, without
altering the initial system of hierarchical oppositions. If

224
we assume that literature creates as well as transmits
ideology, that it is prescriptive as well as descriptive, the
"madonna/whore" dichotomy and other binary oppositions of
women in literature have far-reaching effects. In the
collusion between literature and ideology, critics have
canonized texts whose "universal truths" coincide with the
dominant ideology, which itself is subject to change.
Through questioning the very values implicit in these texts,
as well as the critical tradition whose interest it serves,
feminist criticism reveals this collusion.
The ultimate value of gynocriticism may be as a stage in
the development of a more inclusive literary criticism which
incorporates both male and female traditions. French
feminist criticism which emphasizes Derridean deconstruction
or Lacanian psychoanalysis still presents a radical challenge
to the Western humanist assumptions of most Anglo-American
feminist critics. The latter continue to regard the text as
a reasonably authentic transmitter of human experience,
rather than a signifying system that actually inscribes
reality, and this issue remains to be resolved. In addition,
critics (particularly gynocritical and images of women
critics) must be careful to distinguish between exploring
traditionally female values and perpetuating the image of a
universal female. Much challenging work remains to be done
in the feminist critical field.

225
Notes
1. Annette Kolodny, "Dancing Through the Minefield: Some
Observations on the Theory, Practice, and Politics of a
Feminist Literary Criticism," The New Feminist Criticism, Ed.
Elaine Showalter (New York: Pantheon, 1985).
2. Elaine Showalter, "Feminist Criticism in the
Wilderness," Writing and Sexual Difference. Ed. Elizabeth
Abel (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980) 23.
3. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron, eds., New
French Feminisms: An Anthology (New York: Schocken, 1981).
4. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (New York: Random,
1952) xix.
5. For further reading on the concept of the semiotic
and the pre-linguistic erotic energy or "jouissance" of this
ante-symbolic period, see Julia Kristeva, "About Chinese
Women," and "Stabat Mater," The Kristeva Reader, ed. Toril
Moi (New York: Columbia UP, 1986) 138-159, 160-186.
6. In "This Sex Which Is Not One," Luce Irigaray argues
that "the multiple nature of female desire and language"
creates the problematic relationship between the language of
women and men: "Contradictory words seem a little crazy to
the logic of reason, and inaudible for him who listens with
ready-made grids, a code prepared in advance" (Marks &
Courtivron 103). Helene Cixous also links women's diffuse
sexuality to their written language in her manifesto for
"l'ecriture feminine," "The Laugh of the Medusa," (Marks &
Courtivron 245-264).
7. Margaret Homans, Women Writers and Poetic Identity
217.
8. Alice A. Jardine, Gynesis: Configurations of Woman
and Modernity (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1985) 25.
9. Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics; Feminist Literary
Theory (London and New York: Methuen, 1985) xiii.
10. Moi 1.
11. Moi 9.
12. Helene Cixous examines the encultured hierarchical
oppositions based on gender in "Sorties" (Marks and
Courtivron 90-98).

226
13. Rosalind Coward, "Are Women's Novels Feminist
Novels?" Showalter, The New Feminist Criticism 238.
14. Barbara Smith, "Toward a Black Feminist Criticism,"
Showalter, The New Feminist Criticism 168-185.
15. Bonnie Zimmerman, "What Has Never Been: An Overview
of Lesbian Feminist Criticism," Showalter, The New Feminist
Criticism 218.
16. Ann Rosalind Jones, "Writing the Body: Toward an
Understanding of 'L'Ecriture Feminine,'" Showalter, The New
Feminist Criticism 361-377.
17. Ann Rosalind Jones, "Inscribing femininity: French
theories of the feminine." Making a Difference: Feminist
Literary Criticism, ed. Gayle Greene and Coppelia Kahn
(London and New York: Methuen, 1985) 101.
18. Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering:
Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (Berkeley, Los
Angeles, and London: U of California P, 1978) 211.
19. Chodorow 193.
20. Judith Kegan Gardiner, "On Female Identity and
Writing by Women," Abel 187.
21. Gardiner 188.
22. Josephine Donovan applies the theories of Chodorow
and Gilligan to Sarah Orne Jewett's Country of the Pointed
Furs in "Toward a Women's Poetics," Feminist Issues in
Literary Scholarship, ed. Sheri Benstock (Bloomington &
Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1987) 98-109.
23. Madonne M. Miner uses a psychoanalytic theory of
reading to explain the interest of women readers in fictional
texts which concern the mother-daughter bond in "Guaranteed
to Please: Twentieth-Century American Women's Bestsellers,"
Gender and Reading: Essays on Readers. Texts, and Contexts
ed. Elizabeth A. FLynn and Patrocinio P. Schweickart,
(Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins P, 1986) 187-211.
24. In her critical response to Writing and Sexual
Difference. Jane Gallop acknowledges the influence of Nancy
Chodorow upon that book's editor, Elizabeth Abel. "Writing
and Sexual Difference: The Difference Within," Abel 284.
Also see Jane Gallop, "Reading the Mother Tongue:
Psychoanalytic Feminist Criticism" Critical Inquiry 13
(1987): 314-329.

227
25. Chodorow 218.
26. Nancy J. Chodorow, Feminism and Psychoanalytic
Theory (New Haven: Yale UP, 1990).
27. Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological
Theory and Women's Development (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982)
62.
28. Gilligan 73.
29. Gilligan 63.
30. Robin Lakoff, Language and Women's Place (New York:
Harper, 1975) 1.
31. Lakoff 47-48.
32. Lakoff 62.
33. Alette Olin Hill, Mother Tongue. Father Time: A
Decade of Linguistic Revolt (Bloomington and Indianapolis:
Indiana University Press, 1986) .
34. Showalter, The New Feminist Criticism 13.
35.
Elaine Showalter, "Toward a Feminist Poetics," Showalter,
The New Feminist Criticism 128.
36. Elaine Showalter, A Literature of Their Own: British
Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing (Princeton: Princeton
UP, 1977) 12.
37. Ellen Moers, Literary Women (New York: Oxford UP,
1963) 12.
38. Moers 259.
39. Moers 240.
40. Patricia Meyer Spacks, The Female Imagination
(Knopf: New York, 1975).
41. Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (New York:
Harcourt, 1929) 79.
42. In '"The Blank Page' and the Issues of Creativity"'
(Showalter, The New Feminist Criticism 292-313), Susan Gubar
discusses the deflection of female creativity from the
production of art to the re-creation of the body. The
traditional identification of the author as male and his

228
passive creation as female "excludes woman from the creation
of culture, even as it reifies her as an artifact within
culture"(295). Gubar uses Isak Dinesen's "The Blank Page" to
illustrate "how woman's image of herself as text and artifact
has affected her attitudes toward her physicality and how
these attitudes in turn shape the metaphors through which she
imagines her creativity."
43. Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (New York: Ballantine,
1969).
44. Juliet Mitchell, Psychoanalysis and Feminism: Freud.
Reich. Laina and Women (New York: Random, 1974) 131.
45. Moi 28.
46. Diane Long Hoeveler, Romantic Androgyny: The Women
Within (University Park annd London: Pennysylvania State UP,
1990) xvi.
47. Mary Ellmann, Thinking About Women (New York:
Harcourt, 1968) xv.
48. Ellmann 67.
49. Ellmann 148.
50. Moi 36.
51. Moi 40.
52. Ellmann 229.
53. Ellmann 228.
54. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in
the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Centurv
Literary Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1979)
xiii.
55. Gilbert and Gubar 7.
56. Gilbert and Gubar 14.
57. Gilbert and Gubar 240.
58. Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence (London,
Oxford, and New York: The Oxford UP, 1973) 37.
59.Gilbert and Gubar 72.

229
60. Helen Vendler argues against feminist critics who
refer to Milton's "misogyny" in "Feminism and Literature" The
New York Review of Books 9 (1990), 19-25: "in fact Milton was
far ahead of his time in the respect, both spiritual and
intellectual, he showed for woman as a moral agent (as in his
treatment of Eve)"(19).
61. Gilbert and Gubar 402.
62. Gilbert and Gubar 402.
63. Woolf 102.
64. Janet Todd, Feminist Literary History (New York:
Routledge, 1988) 36.
65. Moi 13.
66. Carolyn Heilbrun, Toward a Recognition of Androgyny
(New York: Knopf, 1973) 21.
67. Heilbrun 30.
68. Heilbrun 153.
69. Heilbrun 154.
70. Lillian S. Robinson, "Treason Our Text: Feminist
Challenges to the Literary Canon," Showalter, The New
Feminist Criticism 112.
71. Robinson 118.
72. Judith Fetterley, The Resisting Reader: A Feminist
Approach to American Fiction (Bloomington and London: Indiana
UP, 1978) viii.
73. Julie Elison, Delicate Subjects: Romanticism.
Gender, and the Ethics of Understanding (Ithaca and London:
Cornell UP, 1990) 11.
74. Myra Jehlen, "Archimedes and the Paradox of Feminist
Criticism," The Signs Reader: Women. Gender and Scholarship
Ed. Elizabeth Abel and Emily K. Abel (Chicago and London: The
U of Chicago P, 1983) 69.
75. Jehlen 70.
76. Jehlen 71.
77.Jehlen 71.

230
78. Vendler 20.
79. Jehlen 73.
80. Jehlen 79.
81. Jehlen 95.
82. Elizabeth Langland, "Blake's Feminist Revision of
Literary Tradition in 'The Sick Rose,'" Critical Paths: Blake
and the Argument of Method Ed. Dan Miller, Mark Bracher, and
Donald Ault (Durham: Duke UP, 1987) 225-243.
83. Langland 2.
84. Jerome J. McGann, The Romantic Ideology: A Critical
Investigation (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1983) 3.
McGann's approach is criticized by Julie Elison, who
sympathizes with the "historicizing energy that places
romantic texts within the dense textures of social life" but
finds the theoretical basis highly polemical: "McGann wants
the contemporary reader of romantic texts to put the past
firmly in its place, regardless of the history of subsequent
critical identifications with it" (Elison 9).
85. Elizabeth Abel, Introduction, Writing and Sexual
Difference (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1980) 2.
86. Nina Auerbach, Romantic Imprisonment: Women and
Other Glorified Outcasts (New York: Columbia UP, 1986) xi.
87. Nancy K. Miller, Preface, The Poetics of Gender (New
York: Columbia UP, 1986) xi.
88. Showalter, The New Feminist Criticism 3.
89. Sandra Gilbert, "What do Feminist Critics Want? A
Postcard from the Volcano," Showalter, The New Feminist
Criticism 29-45.
90. Annette Kolodny, "A Map for Rereading: Gender and
the Interpretation of Literary Texts," Showalter, The New
Feminist Criticism 47.
91. Annette Kolodny, "Dancing Through the Minefield:
Some Observations on the Theory, Practice, and Politics of a
Feminist Literary Criticism," Showalter, The New Feminist
Criticism 151.
92. Stephen Heath, "Male Feminism," Men in Feminism Ed.
Alice Jardine & Paul Smith (New York and London: Methuen,
1987) 9.

231
93. Elaine Showalter, "Critical Cross-Dressing: Male
Feminists and the Woman of the Year," Jardine and Smith 116-
132.
94. Laura Claridge and Elizabeth Langland, Introduction,
Out of Bounds: Male Writers and Gender(ed) Criticism ed.
Laura Claridge and Elizabeth Langland (Amherst: U of
Massachusetts P, 1990) 3-21.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Elizabeth Lovett Colledge was born on November 28, 1952,
in Boston, Massachusetts, to William Dow and Elizabeth Ross
Lovett. She attended Wellesley College, where she received a
B.A. in English in 1974. In 1977 she received an M.A.T. in
English from Jacksonville University. From 1985 to the
present she has studied for the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy at the University of Florida. Elizabeth is
married to Shepherd Edward Colledge. They reside in
Jacksonville, Florida, with their two children, William
Lovett Colledge and Elizabeth Ross Colledge.
241

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Richard E. Brantley, Chairman
Professor of English
as
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Melvyn New
Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Beth Schwartz
Assistant Professor of English

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Dduglas A. Bonneville
Professor of Romance Languages
and Literatures
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty
of the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences and to the Graduate School and was accepted in
partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
August, 1991
Dean, Graduate School

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 08554 1844




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