Romanticism and Empire


Romanticism and Empire: Wordsworth's Case

This essay is to show the British Romanticism’s contribution to
the making of British imperialism through a Wordsworth’s case.
One way of doing it is to pay a close attention to the parallelism
that exists between Wordsworth’s poetic career and Napoleon’s
political career. One important finding from such a juxtaposition is
that both Napoleon and Wordsworth made their major professional
careers after their alleged apostasy from the revolutionary ideals
that they had once supported with enthusiasm. Another finding is
that their ‘apostasy’ was actually nothing but the replacement of a
cosmopolitan republicanism with a nationalistic imperialism.
The body of this essay are devoted to the elaboration of such
replacement. First of all, Wordsworth’s mental conflict between his
republican sympathy towards the Revolutionary France and his
natural attachment to his native country is examined in the
context of the semantic history of patriotism. Secondly, “Michael,”
one of Wordsworth’s pastoral poems, is presented as Wordsworth’s
poetic attempt to set the paradigm of English national character
particularly in relation to his strong attachment to the “primordial”
land. Thirdly, some passages from “The Pedlar,” “The Prospectus
to the Recluse” and “The Excursion” are examined to explain the
way Wordsworth’s nationalistic awakening is gradually pushed
into the expansionist ideology of British imperialism. The final
conclusion of the essay is that Wordsworth’s nationalistic tendency
was made into a very unnerving proclamation of an imperialistic
preacher through the quintessentially Wordsworthian poetics that
would transfigure the individual experience of ‘I’ into that of a
universal Man. 

In/Out 16(2004):36-64


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