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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.114) Idlers
Wordsworth's Fun

Matthew Bevis

University of Chicago Press

If Wordsworth is drawn to conceive the spirit of play as a form of recompense for personal losses or as a revaluation of his own fallings and failures, then how far might this spirit be imagined as interpersonal? How might play be a form of work? Language, like humor, is a social animal, and Wordsworth is mindful of the fact that composition is also a form of conduct. This chapter considers what sort of play is achievable--and, indeed, defensible--in that seemingly most nonludic of Wordsworthian modes: the poem of encounter. The chapter looks first at three poems of encounter before focusing in detail on “Resolution and Independence,” attending to that poem as a form of acoustic play (as one might play on an instrument) and keeping in mind T. S. Eliot’s claim that “versification is a definite concession to the desire to play.”

Keywords:   play, work, encounter, Resolution and Independence, meter, risibility and responsibility, laughter

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