Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Calamity FormOn Poetry and Social Life$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Anahid Nersessian

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226701288

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226701455.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 04 December 2021

Wordsworth’s Obscurity

Wordsworth’s Obscurity

(p.57) 2 Wordsworth’s Obscurity
The Calamity Form

Anahid Nersessian

University of Chicago Press

In his 1961 essay, “Resistance and Difficulty,” J. H. Prynne writes that it is through poetic “sources” of difficulty “that we derive our most powerful and sustaining sense of the world, in all its complex variousness.” This chapter argues that Wordsworth’s own dealings with poetic difficulty or obscuritas figure this variousness as a block to representing history as a process of cause and effect, or as an engine of progressive change. Through intensely focused readings of Wordsworth’s poems, in particular “Michael" and The Prelude, the chapter shows obscurity as a trope of ontological recession that challenges the idea that the contents of history are, in the provocative words of Georgi Plekhanov, always “distinguished by...marked solidity.” In the midst of industrial calamity and rural impoverishment, or what Dorothy Wordsworth refers to as “the alteration in times,” obscurity—or, to invoke its philosophical analogue, vagueness—becomes a way of making materially present the losses that would otherwise register as simple absence or negation.

Keywords:   obscurity, vagueness, William Wordsworth, The Prelude, historical materialism

Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.