"So I Sung the Same Again": Reading Revision in the Nineteenth-Century Long Poem
This study considers the practice of textual revision in Romantic and Victorian long poems that exist in multiple versions. Each of the long poems explored in this study is concerned with the growth of consciousness: Blake's Jerusalem narrates a story about spiritual awakening through imaginative vision; Wordsworth's The Prelude tells to its addressee, Coleridge, the story of the growth of the poet's mind, particularly the restoration of imagination through memory; and Tennyson's In Memoriam narrates the poet's growing sense of solace as he struggles to come to terms with the death of a dear friend. Although different in each poem, revision is central to the stories these poems tell. They are not so much works, but workings--records of the continuous process of seeing (or singing) something again and recasting it in a new light. Building on the work of critics who have argued for the legitimacy of multiple textual versions (like Hans Zeller, Jerome McGann, and Jack Stillinger), this study takes the claims of textual pluralism a necessary step further in its attempts to read among versions, to interpret them diachronically and synchronically. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that the practice of textual revision is part of the meaning of that which is repeatedly revised. Recognizing Blake's practice of abbreviating the narrative of contracted perception allows us to understand the last version, and see this process of revision as a figure for expansive vision and revelation in the larger story. Reading Wordsworth's practice of reframing and removing references to Coleridge in The Prelude allows us to understand the significance of textual absence and its relationship to the growth of the poet's presence. Finally, considering Tennyson's practice of adding paired, or partner sections to published versions of In Memoriam allows us to understand the importance of revision, incorporation, and closure in the wake of loss. The Coda considers affinities between British and American nineteenth-century poetry in process by exploring "points of contact" between William Blake and Walt Whitman.
textual revision; long poem
dissertation or thesis