William Wordsworth And The Maternal Body English Literature Essay Free Essay

The term abasement literally means the province of being cast off, and has intensions ofA debasement and repugnancy.A In modern-day critical theory, abasement is chiefly used to depict the province of normally marginalized groups, such as cocottes, inmates, the hapless and destitute, and the afflicted. This use of the term originated in an essay, Powers of Horror, by Gallic author and philosopher Julia Kristeva. Kristeva defines abasement as the emotional reaction to the menace of presented by objects which challenge our apprehension and perceptual experience of world by film overing the line between capable ( or ego ) and object ( or other ) .A The primary illustration for what causes such a reaction is the human cadaver, as it is at one time really easy related to the ego and besides dramatically opposed – it reminds us of our ain mortality. Other points can arouse the same reaction: an unfastened lesion exposes our interior stuff to the outer universe, puke and faecal affair represent something we have attempted to absorb through ingestion but have failed to absorb, or other worlds or existences which operate outside of the normal social boundaries, who may look repugnant because they violate the societal contracts of our communities.

William Wordsworth and the Maternal Body

William Wordsworth ‘s poetic theory- that poesy is a “ self-generated flood of powerful feelings: it takes its beginning from emotion recollected in repose ” ( Ballads 3 ) – is one of several features normally associated with the literature of Romanticism. As one so good acquainted with powerful feelings, and so talented with the capacity to remember those feelings in poesy, it is deserving inspecting his plants for the uneasy bang and repulsive force of abasement. Of peculiar applicability, though, is Kristeva ‘s impression of the kid ( or self ) being in resistance with the female parent ( the abject ) . For Kristeva, “ The chief menace to the newcomer topic is his or her dependance upon the maternal organic structure ” ( Powers 192 ) . Therefore, abasement is basically related to the maternal map. In Wordsworth, there are legion illustrations of female parents and kids, and this peculiar facet of abasement – the kid ‘s separation from and rejection of the female parent, is readily displayed. Get downing in his autobiographic verse form, The Prelude, an scrutiny of the “ growing of a poet ‘s head ” , it is the purpose of this essay to set up a connexion between Wordsworth ‘s personal experience, his written work, and the abasement of the maternal organic structure.

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On the Growth of the Poet ‘s Mind

Autobiography is an thought of a life, filtered through the head of the one whom lived that life. What is non relevant to it becomes necessarily, to the author as for the reader, experienced as suppression, as perilously intrusive stuff to be kept out without any compromising of the honestness the author wants to claim. One of the signifiers of suppression in The Prelude is the about entire absence of the parents. The poet ‘s female parent and male parent died when was eight and 13 respectively.A Yet, these mournings are hardly mentioned in the verse form. An of import portion of every autobiography in the outlook of the reader would be the parental upbringing of the hero, as a kid seldom rears itself. Yet Wordsworth wrote four books of The Prelude about without any mention to parental intervention with his childhood games, alternatively using indirect methods to depict the tragic loss of a female parent. Wordsworth says that a “ hard ” way is before him: “ For now a problem came into my mind/From unknown causes. I was left alone/Seeking the seeable universe, nor cognizing why/The props of my fondnesss were removed. “ ( Prelude II, 276-9 ) The “ problem ” Wordsworth references here has by and large been interpreted as the loss of his parents, though some critics choose non to make so. Wordsworth ‘s “ edifice stood, as if sustained / By its ain spirit! ” ( II, 280-81 ) . To explicate Wordsworth ‘s reserve in speech production of his female parent straight, James A. Heffernan, mentioning to the Derwent intermixing its mutters with his nurse ‘s vocal ( “ Was it for this. . . ” I, 260-71 ) , says: “ He can adumbrate her remembered presence more subtly and strongly by remembering her alternate, the nurse and the watercourse ” ( Heffernan 258 ) .

A A A A A A InA ” My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold ” , A Wordsworth famously wrote ‘The Child is Father of the Man’.A This ‘fathering ‘ , as portrayed autobiographically in The Prelude, is a wonder that suggests the rejection of his true parents.A A Kristeva posits the physical separation from the female parent at the clip of birth designates the female parent as abject and unable to be assimilated by the ego. Separated by decease and life, Wordsworth is basically opposed to his biological parenthood – he can take a female parent and male parent who are cadavers, or no female parent and male parent at all. As a consequence, Wordsworth chooses alternates: his nurse, nature, and even himself. Wordsworth writes that he “ grew up / Fostered alike by beauty and by fright ‘ ( Prelude 301-2 ) , claiming parenthood among the forces of emotion and nature instead than by his biological parents. Wordsworth presents the statement: through abasement, one becomes a more artistically productive and possibly liberated poet. Rather than mourning his parents, Wordsworth alternatively casts them out.

Among the more celebrated scenes in The Prelude can be found in Book I and concerns a immature Wordsworth stealing a boat in the dark from its usual moorage at a willow tree near a cave, and rowing out onto a lake:

One summer eventide ( led by her ) I found

A small boat tied to a willow tree

Within a bouldery cave, its usual place.

Straight I unloosed her concatenation, and stepping in

Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealing

And troubled pleasance, nor without the voice

Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on ;

Leaving behind her still, on either side,

Small circles glistening lazily in the Moon,

Until they melted all into one path

Of scintillating visible radiation. ( I.357-67 )

The “ her ” mentioned in the gap line of this transition is Wordsworth ‘s chosen alternate – Mother Nature. He feels nature is ever with him, ever watching over him. His trip in the boat, the rapture of rowing in the Waterss, is a sort of maternal embracing. He pushes off in the unfastened H2O, “ reverberations ” all around him merely as the kid ‘s caput pressed in a female parent ‘s embracing would here the murmuring round of her bosom. Wordsworth describes the repose of the H2O, the twinkle of circles in the aftermath of his rowing oars. This item of circles conjures specific imagination, when sing the lake as a substitute for the organic structure of a life human female parent. Anatomically, the parts of the maternal organic structure which coincide with the round form are legion – a face can be a circle, and parts of the face such as eyes and oral cavity frequently associated with the maternal figure ( a female parent ‘s regard, a female parent ‘s busss, etc ) . Of class, the chests and mammillas are besides round and are a beginning of nutriment and bonding for female parent and kid, and even the pregnant female signifier can be seen as handbill.

Beyond this transition Wordsworth writes of the glorious mountain scope raising up before him on the skyline. The imagination of these mountains can be seen as chests, and Wordsworth ‘s ain rowing, rhythmic and steady, has been read as a sort of look of sexual desire. However, when sing his chosen surrogacy by nature, it appears there is something less animal occurring in the stolen boat. There is an exhilaration, to be certain, in stealing a boat in the lull of the dark – nevertheless the ultimate end is non one of stealing and secret rendezvous, but instead of company. Wordsworth is naming out for attending from his chosen female parent ( Mother Nature ) , and is enjoying in her embracing – the sound of her around him, the peace found in her watery ways, even the repose of her bosom.

The Other Mothers

See “ The Female Vagrant ” , a verse form from the 1798 version of Lyrical Ballads. In these earlier verse forms, Wordsworth ‘s feelings toward his female parent are more genuinely represented. This is the narrative of a adult female, her female parent dead and buried at a immature age, her male parent and place lost to spread outing greed, who turns to a adult male she loved for shelter, has three kids before her ain male parent dies and times get tough once more. She travels aboard a ship with her hubby for some clip, surrounded by the ill and deceasing on a long ocean trip across the Atlantic. The ship battered, the crew suffers, and in one twelvemonth she loses her hubby and all three kids before waking up one twenty-four hours on board a ship headed back to England. She arrives as a homeless, friendless, broken drifter:

What could I make, unaided and unblest?

Poor Father! gone was every friend of thine:

And kindred of dead hubby are at best

Small aid, and, after matrimony such as mine,

With small kindness would to me tend.

Ill was I so for labor or service tantrum:

With cryings whose class no attempt could restrict,

By high-way side forgetful would I sit

Whole hours, my idle weaponries in moping sorrow knit. ( Ballads 37 )

Wordsworth writes preponderantly in the voice of this adult female, giving her humanity and supplying his readership with an interesting position: the position from abasement. Indeed, to come upon one such as the female drifter is to meet abasement. Disheveled, hungering, dirty, entirely, and given to throws of anguish, the Female Vagrant would look subhuman. Reduced to populating in sordidness, among the outer peripheries of society, she is despair given human signifier – utterly repugnant, and in direct resistance with the ideals of human society ( cleanliness, personal pride, good mode, saneness, etc ) . In prosecuting with or otherwise facing the abject, in this instance the enduring Female Vagrant, the poet himself is implicated in the infinite of abasement, and by reading his work so excessively the reader is facing the abject, and so the boundaries are challenged further. A Abjection implicates the topic in the thing it is trying to reject, a testament to the infirmity of the resistance between ego and other. As Elizabeth Grosz has put it, ‘ [ this waste ] can ne’er be definitively and for good externalized: itA is the topic ; itA cannotA be wholly expelled ‘ ( Grosz, 91 ) . Through the eyes of this vagrant-to-be, the reader is made to “ stare with panic on the glooming sleep/Of them that perished in the whirlwind ‘s expanse ” ( 121-2 ) . But for the poet, something else wholly. In voicing the abject, facing it in this confidant prowess, he himself becomes the abject. However, the true rubric of significance to Wordsworthian abasement is non “ aimless ” , but instead “ female parent. ” The poet is non powerless before the verse form, but instead rather the antonym. Wordsworth is the Godhead of this phantasy, a phantasy in which this adult female is made to endure. Though there is much talk of her “ hapless male parent ” , there is no reference of her female parent. She, like Wordsworth, loses her male parent. Yet her female parent is wholly absent. Why would n’t she advert her female parent, when the drifter is herself a female parent driven huffy by loss?

She is non entirely in this status. For illustration, “ The Thorn ” introduces a female parent gone huffy with heartache over the decease of her baby, a kid she herself is purported to hold hanged. A chilling narrative, the talker Tells of Martha Ray the liquidator, Martha Ray the abject, Martha Ray the female parent. “ It looks so old and Grey ” , says the verse form ‘s talker. He is depicting the irritant, a funny characteristic atop a cragged hill and the initial topic of the verse form: “ A deplorable thing forlorn./It stands vertical, and like a stone/With lichens is it overgrown ” ( Ballads 37 ) . A funny description of a irritant, by and large more brown or green – a works like construction. This irritant, though, is grey and vertical. The imagination evokes a memorial or a sedate marker.

A beauteous pile, a hill of moss,

Merely half a pes in tallness.

All lovely colorss at that place you see,

All colorss that were of all time seen ;

And moss-grown web excessively is at that place,

As if by manus of lady carnival

The work had woven been ;

Allusions are made in this first stanza to the adept work of a “ lady carnival ” in making the “ moss-grown web ” of the little hill, which is “ an baby ‘s grave in size ” . Interestingly, Wordsworth removes the normal ambiguity of a poetic third-person storyteller in “ The Thorn ” , alternatively incasing the full verse form in citations. The storyteller, so, is steadfastly understood to be a individual in the town telling the narrative of Martha Ray, non Wordsworth himself. In this manner Wordsworth interruptions from Kristevan thoughts about assimilation in an exciting manner. He seems to non merely cast out Martha, but instead the full town, the impression of chitchat itself, and his ain verse form. The storyteller is clearly engaged in chitchat:

But what ‘s the Thorn? and what the pool?

And what the hill of moss to her?

And what the crawl zephyr that comes

The small pool to stir? ”

“ I can non state ; but some will state

She hanged her babe on the tree ;

Some say she drowned it in the pool,

Which is a small measure beyond:

But all and each agree,

The small Babe was buried at that place,

Beneath that hill of moss so just.

Martha, the deplorable female parent, is dramatically implicated in the decease of her kid by the townspeople, though the storyteller continually professes he can non cognize the whole narrative. He goes on to theorize about the nature of the “ deep vermilions ” of the mossy hill, all at the disbursal of Martha Ray, who ‘s merely spoken lines are bawling plaints of her status, the true nature of which the reader can non of all time know. Wordsworth offers a kindness to Martha in this manner. By presenting the citation Markss, the storyteller is immediately introduced as his/her ain entity, bing in the universe of Martha Ray, and the poet is knocking the society in which they both live, and by extension the nature of societal category. The contents are wholly composed of chitchat and hear say, and so possibly the grieving female parent is no slaying at all, but merely a grieving female parent.

Still, it is a fact of the text that Martha goes to the topographic point all the clip, both in the twenty-four hours and at dark and in all mode of conditions. In this regard, the hysterical adult female has a particular relationship to the natural forces that surround her ; “ And she is known to every star/And every air current that blows. ” ( 2.69-70 ) . Martha recalls her baby with a sense of torment, sorrow and agony. This sorrowing female parent is associated with nature, merely as the Female Vagrant is associated with life in the out-of-doorss, and merely as Wordsworth associates himself with nature, showing nature in The Prelude as a sort of maternal figure. In the instance of Martha, it is repeatedly echoed in the enunciation of the verse form:

And there she sits until the Moon,

Through half the clear sky will travel,

And when the small breezes brand,

The Waterss of the pool to agitate,

As all the state know,

She frissons and you hear her call:

‘Oh wretchedness! Oh wretchedness! ‘

She attends to the mossy hill until the “ Moon ” has moved half across the dark “ sky ” , and when a “ zephyr ” stirs the still “ Waterss of the pool ” , is stirs Martha excessively, and she cries ‘Oh wretchedness! ‘ . David Collings writes that “ The Thorn ” is a “ masochistic phantasy ” in which “ the kid additions avenge against the female parent through the phantasy of his ain decease. “ ( Collings 91 ) . Assuming Collings is right, why does Wordsworth convey his talker so near to the abject female parent? The poetic talker overhears the female parent ‘s calls, and quotes her straight in repeat throughout: “ Oh wretchedness! oh wretchedness! /oh suffering is me! Oh wretchedness! “ ( Ballads 65 ) , as if he were ( or were fantasying about being ) inside her organic structure, one with her organic structure.

Wordsworth ‘s phantasy sees the female parent ‘s words become the talker ‘s words, in an act of attempted assimilation. When this assimilation finally fails, the kid reacts with choler foremost, and so finally with abasement. The female parent becomes something repugnant, something which can non be assimilated. ( Powers 192-202 ) This is non the violent separation of topics that is first birth of the kid, and subsequently decease of the female parent, as has been demonstrated to be in The Prelude, but is that 2nd, unambiguously Kristevan quality of abasement – the deduction of the ego. By fantasying a kind of re-assimilation of the kid, back into a unity with the female parent, Wordsworth himself becomes implicated in the abject.

This non merely contradicts the startling quality of abasement which leads the Wordsworth of The Prelude toward being genuinely self-made, self-governed, self-fathered – but it besides contradicts Wordsworth ‘s ain sentiments in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads. He argues that he chose to compose in poetry because “ words metrically arranged ” ( Ballads 444 ) give more pleasance than mere prose. Given that the “ terminal of poesy is to bring forth exhilaration in coexistence with an overbalance of pleasance ” ( Ballads 444 ) , the normality provided by a peculiar beat maps to anneal emotions. The metre can besides work to extenuate the “ painful feeling ever found intermingled with powerful descriptions of the deeper passions. “ ( Ballads 445 ) Wordsworth ‘s claim that metre serves to insulate the reader from placing excessively closely with true agony are clearly contradicted in this verse form. It is the metre which intensifies this designation.

In a treatment of “ Goody Blake and Harry Gill ” , Adela Pinch argues that metre increases the male talker ‘s masochistic designation with the old adult female. The ‘stout ‘ and ‘ruddy ‘ land-owner, Harry Gill, springs out of a hiding topographic point and snatches the old, enduring Goody Blake by the arm, shouting her down with healthy energy. The old adult female curses him with cold, and since that twenty-four hours Harry has ne’er been warm. Losing his wellness, his “ lustful ” verve, he falls into a lasting province of shuddering with cold: “ his dentition they chatter/Chatter, yak, yak still ” ( 3-4 ) . In going cursed with cold, Harry Gill becomes more like Goody Blake, in a manner rather similar to that of the talker in “ The Thorn ” going more like Martha Ray. Pinch suggests that this chattering/meter, “ both testifies to the transmutation of Harry ‘s organic structure into that of the old adult female ‘s and marks out the ill-mannered metre of the verse form: the onomatopetic line – ‘Chatter, yak, yak still ‘ – attacks sheer beat as it describes the repeat of unintelligible sound located in the organic structure ” ( Pinch 842 ) .

The talker in “ The Thorn ” frequently repeats the same rhythmic chorus of “ Oh wretchedness! Oh wretchedness! ” – the eternal crying of the sorrowing female parent. Is this the ultimate beginning of the unusual relationship between Wordsworth and female parents? Having ne’er rebound from his legion separation injury, possibly Wordsworth sees all female parents as enchantresss. Or, possibly, the sentiment expressed in “ The Thorn ” , that of a masochistic self-infanticide phantasy to penalize the female parent, the true apostate, is in truth a self-conscious plaint. That the poet needs to reincorporate, to go every bit close as possible with Martha Ray, with the Female Vagrant, is a treachery of the self-mothered, self-fathered Nature Boy of The Prelude. If The Prelude efforts to set up a superior kid through self-fathering, and “ The Female Vagrant ” reveals a poet conflicted about the power and necessity of parents, so possibly “ The Thorn ” illustrates the true failure of Wordsworth ‘s abasement of his parents – a powerful pull toward the female parent, instead than off.

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