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WatchwordsRomanticism and the Poetics of Attention$
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Lily Gurton-Wachter

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804796958

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804796958.001.0001

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Bent Earthwards

Bent Earthwards

Wordsworth’s Poetics of the Interval

(p.84) Chapter 3 Bent Earthwards

Lily Gurton-Wachter

Stanford University Press

This chapter focuses on a story De Quincey tells about Wordsworth, who, when he put his ear to the ground to listen for the arrival of the newspaper, looked up and noticed that a new perception arrives only when the “organs of attention” relax from an attentive brace. Investigating how Wordsworth’s verse formally manages, deflects, and distracts the reader’s attention, the chapter rereads “There Was a Boy” to articulate a poetics of the interval that promises perception through and at the moment of lapse. De Quincey’s own interest in the military order to “Attend!” make clear the wartime stakes of this phenomenological insight. And reading The Prelude in light of this phenomenological insight reveals how, when Wordsworth tries to witness the French Revolution, he only gains a sense of history in the intervals between two states of heightened attention.

Keywords:   attention, phenomenology, history, the French Revolution, witnessing, William Wordsworth, Thomas De Quincey, interval, relaxation, distraction

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