Wordsworth, Commodification, and Social Concern: The Poetics of Modernity

Overview

This 2009 reading of Wordworth's poetry by leading critic David Simpson centres on its almost obsessive representation of spectral forms and images of death in life. Wordsworth is reacting, Simpson argues, to the massive changes in the condition of England and the modern world at the turn of the century: mass warfare; the increased scope of machine-driven labour and urbanisation; and the expanding power of commodity form in rendering economic and social exchange more and more abstract, more and more distant from ...

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Wordsworth, Commodification, and Social Concern: The Poetics of Modernity

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Overview

This 2009 reading of Wordworth's poetry by leading critic David Simpson centres on its almost obsessive representation of spectral forms and images of death in life. Wordsworth is reacting, Simpson argues, to the massive changes in the condition of England and the modern world at the turn of the century: mass warfare; the increased scope of machine-driven labour and urbanisation; and the expanding power of commodity form in rendering economic and social exchange more and more abstract, more and more distant from human agency and control. Reading Wordsworth alongside Marx and Derrida, Simpson examines the genesis of an attitude of concern which exemplifies the predicament of modern subjectivity as it faces suffering and distress.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"David Simpson pursues an elegant thesis: Wordsworth's writing is haunted by specters and automatons because it records the early stages of modernity as shaped by the 'ghostly' work of the commodity form... Other critics have written about Wordsworth and modernity, and Romanticists will note quick, dense treatments of subjects such as time, 'thing theory,' and wartime displacement that have received more extensive discussion elsewhere. This does not diminish the value of the clarity and range of theoretical exposition here or of Simpson's sharp, economical descriptions of the state of modernity... Most admirably, the book demonstrates that political and historical criticism can be evaluative, even appreciative. Simpson reminds us that Wordsworth's poetry remains urgent, not only because of what it may tell us about his modernity and our own but because, as this dazzling series of analyses shows, what is unsaid and undone—what is unsayable and undoable—remains both spectral and present there."
-Brian Goldberg, Modern Language Quarterly March 2012
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107403086
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/18/2011
  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Romanticism Series , #79
  • Pages: 292
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

David Simpson is G. B. Needham Distinguished Professor of English, University of California-Davis.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. At the limits of sympathy; 2. At home with homelessness; 3. Figures in the mist; 4. Timing modernity: around 1800; 5. The ghostliness of things; 6. Living images, still lives; 7. The scene of reading.

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