Untimely Interference: Anachronistic Temporalities In Nineteenth-Century British Poetry
Challenging prominent accounts of secularization that draw a hard line between pre-modern and modern experiences of the self and of history, this dissertation contends that pre-modern and religiously-inflected understandings of the world paradoxically subsist in modernity through their marked absence, inarticulacy, and inscrutability and that this subsistence renders the poems I consider not modern but rather "untimely." It ultimately associates this "untimeliness" of nineteenth-century poetry with the current state of the humanities, in which they appear increasingly obsolescent in a world where knowledge production is often understood as inseparable from technological production. I argue that it is precisely the anachronistic nature of the humanities, their being constantly "behind the times," that allows them to remain a present and powerful social force. The dissertation is framed by an Overture and Coda that investigate Romantic and contemporary understandings of the nature of literary knowledge. The opening section considers William Wordsworth's attempt to articulate the nature of poetry and its relationship to other forms of knowledge in his 1802 Preface to Lyrical Ballads and the closing section examines scholars' present attempts to bring humanities research into conversation with more dominant technological discourses, focusing especially on how the digital humanities can engage with historical texts in ways that bring into focus their resistance to full incorporation into our own dominant epistemological discourses. The body of my project is focused on close readings of three major nineteenth-century poems. My reading of Wordsworth's The Prelude in Chapters 1 and 2 locates in this autobiographical poem, which has long been considered paradigmatically modern, pre-modern experiences of the self and post-modern experiences of literature. My reading of Percy Shelley's "The Triumph of Life" in Chapter 3 similarly positions the poem between the pre-modern conceptions of temporality and history that I associate with Dante and the post-modern ones that I associate with Paul de Man. The final chapter, in moving from the Romantics to the priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, explores how the particular "untimeliness" I locate in Wordsworth and Shelley both subsists in and is radically altered by Hopkins's explicitly religious framework.
Romanticism; Secularization; Victorian
Caruth,Cathy; Chase,Cynthia; Braddock,Jeremy
English Language & Literature
Ph.D. of English Language & Literature
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis