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Use Of Landscape As Form Of Expression In Tintern Abbey By William Wordsworth

2608 words - 10 pages

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My last two presentations have argued that Wordsworth is a split and exiled, yet transcendent and visionary poet who creates community by inserting the idealized Romantic poet into the ideological center interpellating those around him into similar subject positions. But, how can Wordsworth, a separated individual, reveal his heightened awareness to the rest of humanity? He answers in his "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" when he asserts that poets like himself can communicate their alternate awareness "[u]ndoubtably with our moral sentiments and animal sensations, and with the causes which excite these; with the operations of the elements and the appearances of the visible universe [. . .]" (Norton 173). Poets can express their alternate perception through a shared experience of the landscape.

Landscapes are a reflection of the ideology at the centre. Simon Schama argues in Landscapes and Memory, "Landscapes are culture before they are nature; constructs of the imagination projected onto wood, and water and rock" (61). The real world exists but because we can never unproblematically engage with reality, we make it over, re-present it as landscape. In this way, landscape is ideological, is a cultural construct draped over reality. As Wordsworth writes in Tintern, the perceptions of the eye and ear are "both what they half-create and what perceive" (107-108). According to Wordsworth, nature has become the "anchor" (110) of his thoughts, the tether that restrains his creative imagination. But because landscape is based on the real, it can also be used to express an alternate ideology.

Wordsworth's approach to landscape is chiliastic, to use Karl Mannheim's term. In Ideology and Utopia, Mannheim argues that although Chiliasm "has always accompanied revolutionary outbursts and given them their spirit" (217), it developed as a movement out of the oppressed strata's refusal of fatalism and their following of the teachings of Thomas Munzer and the Anabaptists in the 16th Century (211 - 212). He writes, "It corresponded to the spiritual fermentation and physical excitement of the peasants, of a stratum living closest to the earth. It was at the same time robustly material and highly spiritual" (emphasis added 213). Chiliasm arises out of something interior, something outside the realm of ideas and reason and cannot be easily described, yet Mannheim does say that: "The only true, perhaps the only direct, identifying characteristic of Chiliastic experience is absolute presentness. […] For the real Chiliast, the present becomes the breach through which what was previously inward, bursts out suddenly, takes hold of the outer world and transforms it" (215). This breaking through into ecstasy can only be brought about through "Kairos" or "'fulfilled time, the moment of time which is invaded by eternity,' and distinguished from progress or 'perfection or completion in time'" (Translator's Note 220). Mannheim argues, "For...

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