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Wordsworth's Fun$
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Matthew Bevis

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226652054

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226652221.001.0001

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(p.38) Fits
Wordsworth's Fun

Matthew Bevis

University of Chicago Press

If laughable echoes offer Wordsworth a spur to self-exploration and also a means to emblematize his own demands for poetry in relation to those of his audience, then "fits" are the vehicles for a more provocative, more visceral testing of boundaries. This chapter considers Wordsworth's interest in laughing gas, and in debates about physiology and meter, before turning to a sustained reading of "Strange Fits of Passion I have known," a poem, the chapter suggests, is conceived as a serious comedy of desire, a study of the links between the amorous and the absurd, as passion gets played out between mind and body, semantics and sound effects, the fitted and the fitful.

Keywords:   Erasmus Darwin, Humphry Davy, Thomas Beddoes, nitrous oxide, fits, laughter, Strange fits of passion

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