Cambridge University Press, 07/12/1995
EAN 9780521475075, ISBN10: 0521475074
Hardcover, 316 pages, 22.8 x 15.2 x 2.4 cm
A provocative account of Wordsworth’s representation of walking as the exercise of imagination, Romantic Vagrancy traces a recurrent analogy between the poet in search of material and the literally dispossessed vagrants and beggars he encounters. Reading Wordsworth - and Rousseau before him - from the perspective of recent debates about the political and social rights of the homeless, Celeste Langan argues that both literature and vagrancy are surprisingly rich and disturbing images of the ‘negative freedom’ at the heart of liberalism. Langan shows how the formal structure of the Romantic poem - the improvisational excursion - mirrors its apparent themes, often narratives of impoverishment or abandonment. According to Langan, the encounter between the beggar and the passer-by in Wordsworth’s poetry does not simply reveal a social conscience or its lack; it represents the advent of the liberal subject, whose identity is stretched out between origin and destination, caught between economic and political forces and the workings of desire.
'This is an extraordinarily important, exhilarating and brilliant piece of work on Wordsworth, and one of the most interesting pieces of critical inquiry on any subject I have read in some time.' Alan Liu 'This volume is so rich in its range of reference, so varied in the modes of analysis it offers, and so thickly punctuated by the analogies it uses as its method, that it is certain to offer much to any reader interested in the philosophical and historical origins of liberalism, and their place within the formation of poetic subject in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.' British Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies