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The Connected ConditionRomanticism and the Dream of Communication$
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Yohei Igarashi

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781503610040

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503610040.001.0001

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Wordsworth and Bureaucratic Form

Wordsworth and Bureaucratic Form

(p.74) 2 Wordsworth and Bureaucratic Form
The Connected Condition

Yohei Igarashi

Stanford University Press

This chapter considers William Wordsworth’s thirty-year civil service career as a Distributor of Stamps to examine how Romantic literature was shaped by several intertwined developments: the formation of a fiscal bureaucracy in Britain during the long eighteenth century, the attendant proliferation of bureaucratic genres and media, and utilitarian theories of administrative efficiency. This chapter argues that Wordsworth’s writing responds to what it calls bureaucratic form: the form taken by writing when the efficient capturing and communicating of data, or “particulars,” are principal considerations. Operating in concert with the contemporaneous virtue of brevity in writing and long-standing concerns about brevitas in literature, bureaucratic form made the economical collection and delivery of information an ideal for all kinds of writing. This chapter shows that Lyrical Ballads (1798), Essays upon Epitaphs (comp. 1810), and above all, The Excursion (1814) accommodate, as much as they ignore, the rule of streamlined writing.

Keywords:   William Wordsworth, bureaucracy, bureaucratic form, taxation, data, information, administration, paperwork, brevity, utilitarianism

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