Politics of William Wordsworth A Term Paper

  • Length: 8 pages
  • Subject: Literature
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #65804002

Excerpt from Term Paper :

"Buonaparte" elucidates clearly how Nature and social interaction bring about human freedom and social progress.

The analysis of "Tables Turned" and "Buonaparte" brings into focus the important points that make up Wordsworth's political views. His consistent criticism of the Enlightenment, rationalization, modernization, and the French Revolution demonstrates his belief that the path towards rationalization of society has brought greater adverse rather than beneficial effects. In the texts that follow, the main themes that emerged from the analysis of the two poems are discussed exclusively to provide greater understanding of Wordsworth's political ideology between the periods 18th and 19th centuries. These themes are identified as follows: the French Revolution, tyranny as a consequence of misguided need to attain individual freedom, the fall of human society as it succumbed to modernization and rationalization, and lastly, the path towards savagery instead of social progress as a result of political conflict that emerged during the Enlightenment period.

The first theme that is implicitly, yet powerfully conveyed in both poems is the outcome of the French Revolution. For Wordsworth, the seemingly powerful revolution of the masses has resulted to disillusionment and hopelessness instead of building a stronger republic and society in France. Reflecting on these realities in his life during the latter part of the 18th century, the poet expresses through "Buonaparte" his 'renouncement' of "revolutionary rationalism," and instead advocated for a life governed by "quietism, skepticism, and self-confessed nature-worship" (Mortensen, 2000). In his attempt to seek an alternative to discovering a more meaningful understanding of human life, Wordsworth's poems illustrate how he found meaning in life through Nature and traditionalist society rather than a rationalistic society that brought nothing but ruin to society (as in the case of France).

It is also inevitable that in discussing the French Revolution, Wordsworth also puts this event in the context of Bonaparte's rule as prime leader of France. His criticism of Bonaparte is symbolic of his criticism of the Enlightenment, for it is through Bonaparte's leadership that France began its ascent towards rationalization and modernization. Through the lesson that the whole world had learned with the fall of French society after the French Revolution, he proves to his readers in "Buonaparte" that the leader's downfall is considered also as the downfall of human society. How, in his attempt to achieve greater power, influence, and wealth all over France and Europe, he had instead received political downfall. This is evidence of how, social progress through material progress instead of social interaction and communion with Nature results to adverse effects such as disunity and disillusionment.

The themes of the downfall of human society and its return to savagery as a consequence of rationalization and modernization are a paradox to the dominance of institutionalized education and intellectual development illustrated in "Tables Turned." This is illustrated in Wordsworth's memoirs of European society after the French Revolution, wherein he describes human society in its "savage" and chaotic state: "...Wordsworth...reacted to the mental and spiritual anguish of those deprived of hope and expectation after the failure of the French Revolution and dedicated himself to the deliverance of them from their intellectual and psychological desperation and despair" (Liu, 2000). Bohm (2002) resounds Liu's assessment of Wordsworth's objective in poetry, which is to induce reform through his poetry, reflecting in these literary works his advocacy for social unity and harmony among people and with Nature (131).

From the analysis, readers have seen and witnessed the implicit political agenda that Wordsworth puts forth in his poetry. Through the poems "Tables Turned" and "Buonaparte," the poet's criticism of the Enlightenment movement and the adverse effects of the French Revolution prove that rationalization and modernization has not brought about material progress and intellectual development, claims that the movement failed to achieve. Wordsworth's insights are not only limited to his period; the lessons of the Enlightenment and French Revolution is applicable to the present state of contemporary society, wherein a post-industrialized human society has brought environmental destruction and human discord all over the world. William Wordsworth's poetry is an example of the project of modernization in general, and his argument in favor of Nature against humankind's desire to achieve material progress in order to induce social progress is a theme that is still a controversial political issue at present. Wordsworth's radical views in the 18th and 19th centuries resounds in the contemporary society, illustrating that the issues he discusses is far from being resolved, as when he encountered this problems in his own period.


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Bohm, a. (2002). "Nimrod and Wordsworth's 'Simon Lee': Habits of Tyranny." Romanticism, Vol. 8, Issue 2.

Dyer, G. (1997). British satire and the politics of style, 1789-1832. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Liu, Y. (2000). "Crisis and recovery: The Wordsworthian poetics and politics." Papers on Language and Literature, Vol. 36, Issue 1.

Mahoney, J. (1997). William Wordsworth, the poetic life. NY: Fordham UP.

Mortensen, P. (2000). "The descent of Odin: Wordsworth, Scott, and Southey among the Norsemen." Romanticism, Vol.6, Issue 2.

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