"Uncertain disease": nostalgia, pathologies of motion, practices of reading.
I don't remember any longer whether I am responsible for this term [i.e the "nostalgia film"], which still seems to me indispensable, provided you understand that the fashion-plate, historicist films it designates are in no way to be grasped as passionate expressions of that older longing once called nostalgia.
--Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1)
AMONG THE MANY EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY WRITERS SEDULOUS TO ENACT what Adam Smith called his era's "love of system," William Cullen, the well-esteemed Edinburgh physician and Professor of Medicine at Glasgow and later Edinburgh, deserves a place in the first rank. As its title suggests, his Nosology, or a Systematic Arrangement of Diseases, By Classes', Orders, Genera, a,d Species, with the Distinguishing Characters of Each, and the Outlines of the Systems of Sauvages, Linnaeus, Vogel, Sagar, and Macbride aspired to be the key to all nosologies (classifications of" human illness according to a Linnaean botanical model), for it provided synopses of all the major existing schemes. It had the widest influence, as well. First published in 1769 and then reprinted without interruption into the early nineteenth century, Cullen's disease system circulated around the emerging imperial system with British doctors on voyages of conquest and exploration, and with the nation's armies fighting on the continent; it also enjoyed great popularity at home as a handbook and a teaching manual. Cullen translated his own work (from Latin to English) and revised it continually, thereby testifying not only to the "love of system" but also to the truth of Smith's self-knowing corollary: "We take pleasure in beholding the perfection of so beautiful and grand a system, and we are uneasy until we remove any obstruction that can in the least disrupt or encumber the regularity of its motions." (2)
However, there was such an obstruction, encumbering both systems, medical and imperial, and it bore the name of "nostalgia." Unlike the predecessors scrupulously catalogued in his epic title, who had classified nostalgia with melancholia and other likely relatives among the mental illnesses, Cullen moved nostalgia into the class called "Locales" (impairments of a part of the body) and, within that class, he placed it in the order of the Dysorexiae, the "false or defective appetites." There it stood, flanked by some unlikely next of kin, in the following sequence: Bulimia ("Appetite for a greater quantity of food than can be digested"); Polydispsia ("Preternatural thirst"), Pica ("A desire of eating what is not food"); Satyriasis ("Excessive desire of venery, in men"); Nymphomania ("Uncontrolable [sic] desire of venery, in women"); "Nostalgia" ("In persons absent from their native country, a vehement desire of revisiting it"); Anorexia ("Want of appetite for food)"; and more. (3) As if aiming for greater precision, Cullen also distinguished between a nostalgia simplex and a nostalgia complex (nostalgia accompanied by other diseases). Yet, for all his attempts at taxonomical precision, an uneasy footnote at the start of Dysorexiae offered a retraction of sorts:
I have formerly observed that the Morositates of Sauvages are improperly referred to the class Vesaniae. I have therefore brought them under the Locales, as almost every species of Dysorexiae is evidently an affection of a part, rather than of the whole body. Nostalgia alone, if it be really a disease, cannot properly come under this class, but I could not well separate this uncertain disease from the other Dysorexiae." (4)
The systematizing project falters, short of its end, and nostalgia, almost squeezed out, occupies an uncertain place at the bottom of the page.
What was nostalgia at the moment that it snagged Cullen's system? As I am not the first to point out, the "nostalgia" of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries barely resembled the familiar, tolerable, often sentimental desire for a simpler time or place that we now designate by that name. It was not the nostalgia that critics now view, for the most part quite skeptically, as "a longing that is inauthentic ... because the past it seeks has never existed" (Susan Stewart), or because it "exiles us from the present" in order to "bring the imagined past near" (Linda Hutcheon). (5) Hard as this fact may be for us to keep in mind, the word "nostalgia" did not describe a feature of memory at all: the Oxford English Dictionary lists the first use of the word in relation to the past in 1900. Obviously the retrospective yearnings and fantasies that we now call nostalgia existed in force: the interest in childhood and in putatively primitive consciousnesses, the recuperation of oral cultures, the rosy-fingered celebration of national pasts, the antiquarian recovery (or Fabrication) of texts and other artifacts. But these would not have been called, or recognized as, signs of "nostalgia."
For period readers, the word held no cozy meanings or associations whatsoever. Its provenance was scientific, and it did indeed designate an illness with startling somatic symptoms and even fatal consequences. It had been well known to doctors since it received its name in 1688 from the Swiss physician, Johannes Hofer, who coined the term from the Greek words nostos (home) and algia (pain, suffering). During the century following Hofer's death, as I discuss in more detail in my next section, medical nostalgia acquired international recognition as a disability of wartime and colonial mobility, a somatic and psychological protest against forced travel, depopulation, emigration, and other kinds of compulsory movement. Thus, although we now associate later nostalgias with nationalist or expansionist ideologies, the mobility disability then called nostalgia functioned in practical terms as an encumbrance, a cog in the wheel of political economies premised on circulation and assimilation. Amor patriae could be a double-edged sword, after all. Army doctors and generals during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, for example, complained that their men were not dying on the battlefield like patriotic citizens in defense of their country but rather deserting to go back to it; sailors reportedly threw themselves into the sea, mistaking the green fields they thought they saw there for home. Medical discourse on the problem proliferated in Britain and in most European nations, as well as in colonial writing, its textual presence subsiding during the middle of the nineteenth century, in part due to new developments in bacteriology and pathological anatomy, as well as improved conditions in armies and navies. (6) The word remained, but by 1900 it had come to mean something altogether different, losing much of the crucial ache--the algia--formerly in nostalgia.
As some nineteenth-century scholars, notably Nicholas Dames and Linda M. Austin, have suggested, literature was just as instrumental to the redefinition and repurposing of the word and its associated ideas. For Dames, writing about narratives of development in British fiction from 1810-1870, it was the nineteenth-century novel, starting with Austen, that intervened to reclaim the ardent, unsettling longing, "to depathologize and then propagate a new nostalgia" (or, presumably, the basis for what would become a new nostalgia, since Austen still does not use the word as such). Austen's later novels redeem spatial dislocation and the insatiable desire for a still-real place, he argues, by converting these into memories of an inaccessible time, a yearning that can be eased by voluntary recollection and reconstruction of the past. For Dames, too, this newer nostalgia fits well into an overall social process: "insofar as this [newer] nostalgia knows that it desires that which cannot be regained, its desire does not harden into mental disturbance," and indeed it collaborates amenably enough with the embrace of a new home. (7) Dames, in other words, gives nostalgia its own Bildungs roman--his object of study shapes his thesis. Linda Austin's account is complementary: while she examines a wider array of genres and cultural artifacts from the nineteenth century, she, no less than Dames, is interested in the progress of nostalgia from a disease of displacement to "a cultural aesthetic--a way of producing and consuming the past." She prefaces her literary history with the writings of Friedrich von Schiller, whose two careers--first in medicine and then as a philosopher of aesthetics--herald "nostalgia's transition from a medical into an aesthetic concept." The therapy that Schiller the medical student designed for a dangerously ill nostalgic patient he encountered at the Military Academy in Stuttgart--recreational tours of the countryside, mediated by readings in pastoral literature, souvenirs of home or the past--mimed for the patient the desired return home, and, Austin suggests, later became the basis of Schiller's aesthetic philosophy in On Naive and Sentimental Poetry and On the Aesthetic Education of Matt. In this way, she writes, "the erstwhile disease became identified with the simulations that once effected its cure." (8)
The late modern concept of nostalgia, now perhaps irrevocably associated with sentimentality, is the result of that substitution of the cure for the disease, and for the larger unease of modern mobility that it represented. We have largely forgotten the earlier version, except where its residues live on in acknowledgments like Fredric Jameson's, in my epigraph, of a "passionate ... older longing once called nostalgia," or in Svetlana Boym's distinction between a conservative "restorative" nostalgia and a critical "reflective" nostalgia. For Boym, where the first (the restorative kind) aims to reconstruct or patch up the home or homeland, or else to conquer time and revive the past, the second ("reflective") "does not follow a single plot but explores ways of inhabiting many places at once and imagining different time zones." It can be incorporated into a "tradition of critical reflection on the modern condition," and it suggests that "longing [that algia] and critical thinking are not opposed to one another." (9) These and indeed most accounts, however, have their sights set on the nineteenth century or the twentieth, and so they share, if not a downright Bildungsroman approach, then at least a distinctly teleological drift. After an introduction or first chapter, they leave behind the odder medical history of the eighteenth century as an outdated curiosity.
They therefore provoke a series of questions, all of which motivate this study. What happened to the disease formerly known as nostalgia? Given that we so often associate the Romantic era with traits that we now call nostalgia but were not then known by that name, what happens if we reconceive such an association around a more historically accurate version of nostalgia, one unlike our own? The explanatory power of the twentieth-century's understanding of nostalgia for many of Romanticism's phenomena has been powerful indeed--I listed some of them above. But what comes into view if we look at the period through the nostalgia that it inherited and held from eighteenth-century medicine and its human sciences?
Behind these questions stand further concerns, which I hope will become apparent. Austin is right, I think, to recognize that nostalgia is suggestive as a peculiarly interdisciplinary disease--or, more accurately, one whose migration from medicine into aesthetics is part of the very formation of the modern disciplines--and so my next section examines that migration more carefully. However, I would maintain that it is important not to conflate this discursive or disciplinary migration with the restorative turn that put the cure in place of the disease. These two developments were not inevitably coupled. When the medical "system" handed what Cullen had so aptly called "this uncertain disease" over to an emerging system of literature and criticism, it passed on the uncertainty and the disease as much as the attempted solutions to both. To keep the disciplinary shift and the therapeutic mandate coupled is to risk reducing aesthetic representation to therapeutic simulation, relegating it to a largely functional role, normative and normalizing, and depleting its power and pathos as a reflective and critical mode of thought. In the terms of the observation of Adam Smith with which I started, but with some prepositions altered: we would risk shaping the new science of aesthetics into an unencumbered system, rather than one itself internally attuned to understand the "[ir]regularity of its motions." The focus of the second half of this essay is therefore on that irregularity as it takes shape and acquires significance in the subset of aesthetics that Wordsworth in 1800 called the "history or science of feelings," namely poetry and poetics.
As it turns out, the problem of "motions" is exactly where we have to start.
2. Motion Sickness
... 'a world Not moving to his mind.' --The Excursion 2:314-15
Ian Hacking has written compellingly about the French fugue, the epidemic of compulsive traveling that broke out in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France and a "transient" illness in multiple senses, including the duration of its vogue, which lasted less than thirty years. Proposing the biological metaphor of the "ecological niche" for such phenomena, Hacking writes that such niches are defined by four critical "vectors":
One, inevitably, is medical. The illness should fit into a larger framework of diagnosis, a taxonomy of illness. The most interesting vector is cultural polarity: the illness should be situated between two elements of contemporary culture, one romantic and virtuous, the other vicious and tending to crime.... Then we need a vector of observability, that the disorder should be visible as disorder, as suffering, as something to escape. Finally something more familiar: the illness, despite the pain it produces, should also provide some release that is not available elsewhere in the culture in which it thrives. (10)
Hacking's fugue was in certain ways a later-day [in]version of the disease formerly known as nostalgia, and so his vectors offer a preliminary compass. Preliminary only, for the differences are also notable: medical nostalgia's period of visibility, both in terms of the patients that presented themselves and the discourse generated around them, lasted for over a century, and the term never disappeared. It was just redefined, as I noted above, and attached to a different, more quotidian, social plaint.
Let us start with Johannes Hofer himself, the first to give nostalgia a medical profile in (what else?) a "Dissertation." The most striking aspect of this 1688 text to later readers is probably the elaborate physiology provided; Hofer does not conceive the illness simply as an affliction of the mind or imagination. The disease is said to coincide with organic lesions in the brain, caused by the excessive "vibration of the animal spirits through those fibers of the middle brain in which impressed traces of ideas of the Fatherland still cling." (11) The brain "traces" are then "impressed more vigorously by frequent contemplations of the Fatherland," Hofer writes, with a symptomatically circular logic, and in turn "raise up constantly the conscious mind toward considering the image of the Fatherland." The "Dissertation," as even the briefest quotation makes clear, is thus steadfastly equivocal about identifying cause and effect. Do the repeated thoughts of the Fatherland produce the organic lesions in his subjects' brains--or do the repeated motions of the animal spirits in the same pathways of the brain deepen those pathways into lesions, a physiological anomaly which then manifests itself affectively in the nostalgic fixation on home? Either way--and Hofer has it both ways, tautologically--the results are patho physiological, and they take the form of paralyzed and paralyzing organic "motions":
[Nostalgia] brings back the animal spirits as though fixed or rather directed always toward the same motion.... [T]he spirits, busied excessively in the brain, cannot flow with sufficient supply and proper vigor through the invisible tubes of the nerves to all parts.... In truth, when the animal spirits are regenerated in niggardly supply, and at the same time are devoured on account of the continuous quasi-ecstasy of the mind in the brain, by degrees partly the voluntary motions and partly the natural [motions], grow quiet, langour of the whole arises, the circulation of the blood loses vigor ... and becomes denser and thus apt to receive coagulation. (Hofer 387)
Hofer's medical cases--including a country girl taken from home for hospitalization, a young student from Berne transplanted to Basel, and Helvetian soldiers fighting abroad--tend first to be "moved by small external objects" and are soon possessed by the single, fixed idea of home ("Ich will heim, Ich will helm" are the only words spoken by his country girl). In more extreme cases, the sufferers are engrossed in that "quasi-ecstasy"; they "feel little, nor see those present, nor hear them ... even if their senses are twitched by these external motions" (385). They are thus ex-static in a precise sense: they have been "put out of place"--the literal sense of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--and seem to occupy another place, preoccupied by absent things as if they were present. Forced to move, their minds resist and stand still--a "release," as Hacking's discussion suggests, from the new and unwelcome setting, or simply from the mandate to move on. Symptoms, according to Hofer, included fever, livid spots and, in extreme cases, death; remedies prescribed ranged from emetics and emulsions to distraction and, if these did not work, repatriation.
Although occasionally called the "Swiss sickness" after Hofer, nostalgia, unlike the fugue, did not remain a national disease; what Hacking would call its "vector of observability" was far more widely distributed across international space as well as historical time. Nostalgic patients--and their physicians' attempts to treat them--were soon documented across Europe and in the colonies, including America. The disease accordingly entered and traversed all the major and minor nosologies of the eighteenth century; the nosologists listed in Cullen's long subtitle hailed from France (Sauvages), Sweden (Linnaeus), Germany (Vogel), Poland (Sagar), and Ireland (Macbride). Other discussions would appear in the work of the American Benjamin Rush, who studied with Cullen during the later 1760s before bringing Cullen's teachings back to the new medical school of the College of Philadelphia, and in the print phenomenon that outpaced Cullen's for length: Erasmus Darwin's late-century compendium of British empiricism, Zoonomia, whose second volume took the form of a nosology. Each nation added its own variations on the common theme of displacement. In sea-bound Britain, not surprisingly, nostalgia flourished in naval and maritime contexts, as well as in narratives of exploration and conquest. (12) Here it merged with related or concomitant ailments of seafaring, notably calenture, or tropical fever, and scurvy, to form "scorbutic nostalgia"--an example of Cullen's nostalgia complex--blending its own iconography with the lore and imagery that had become affixed to these sailors' complaints. (13) The cosmopolitan entry in Zoonomia acknowledges the Swiss susceptibility, while also quoting Oliver Goldsmith's "The Traveler," and offering both the French "maladie du pays" and the British calenture as national equivalents. Syncretic as always, Darwin merged Cullen's definition of nostalgia ("in absentibus a patria, vehemens eundum revisendi desiderium," or "in persons absent from their native country, a vehement desire of revisiting it") with Samuel Johnson's Dictionary definition of calenture ("a distemper in hot climates wherein [sailors] imagine the sea to be green fields"):
Nostalgia. Maladie du Pais. Calenture. An unconquerable desire of returning to one's native country, frequent in long voyages, in which the patients become so insane as to throw themselves into the sea, mistaking it for green fields or meadows. The Swiss are said to be particularly liable to this disease, and when taken into foreign service frequently desert from this cause, and especially after hearing or singing a particular tune, which was used in their village dances, in their native country, on which account the playing or singing this tune was forbid by punishment of death. Zwingerus.
Dear is that shed, to which his soul conforms, And dear that hill, which lifts him to the storms. Goldsmith. (14)
Variations on the tableau of those inviting green fields seen immediately below, as I have written elsewhere, proliferated widely, appearing in medical narratives, as well as in prose fiction and verse about travel, whether physical (as in Roderick Random) or imagined (as in William Cowper's The Task). (15) The vertiginous scene became a charged figure, the signature of an increasingly mobile existence in which once-distant places, newly intertwined and mutually imbricated, seem superimposed as in a palimpsest. In the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads, it appeared as the fate of the mariner Leonard in Wordsworth's "The Brothers," who "in the bosom of the deep / Saw mountains, saw the forms of sheep that graz'd / On verdant hills, with dwellings among trees, / And shepherds clad in the same country grey / Which he himself had worn." (16) In this unstable world, as Alan Bewell has put it in his excellent discussion of the poem, "pastoral verges on psychopathology." Countryside and seascape, there and here, are inseparable--a here-there. (17)
The proliferating descriptions and diagnoses of nostalgia answered, or at least addressed, several needs in a century marked by patterns of emigration and depopulation, by voyages of exploration for scientific and imperial purposes (a number of the reports of nostalgia came from physicians traveling with Captain Cook), and by persistent international and domestic warfare. (18) If for the patients themselves it was a somatic resistance and semi-articulate outcry against new, undesired circumstances, then for the doctors and philosophers, who generated the prose about the disease, nostalgia offered something else: a way of imagining the world-historical present, otherwise beyond the grasp or view of any single body, precisely by displacing that present onto particular bodies and grappling with it there. The disordered motions within bodies recognized, sometimes more directly than others, the global movements of persons and among peoples. Cullen himself was a cautious Humean skeptic--he was also Hume's doctor, not coincidentally--and he put little trust in causal explanations of any kind. "We learn nothing of the form of the disease by taking the cause into the definition," he told his students in his lectures, because causes are "often conjectural." Instead, the medical taxonomist should "abstract from the causes and consider [the disease] only as evident from certain appearances," and he should "distinguish diseases from one another merely by the differences of their external appearances and by different concurrences in their symptoms." (19) However, in the case of nostalgia, the causes came back in the form and figuration of the effects, as the problem of disturbed bodily motions remained central to conceptions of (all) disease throughout the period, even as the older diction of "animal spirits" ceded to its successors, such as David Hartley's "vibrations" and "vibratiuncles," Robert Whytt's "vital motions," then the "excitations" of Cullen and his student-rival John Brown, and, perhaps more elaborately, the four categories of "motions" (irritative, sensitive, voluntary, and associative) in Erasmus Darwin. (20) As Darwin would generalize the principle: "All the pains of the body may be divided into those from excess of motion, and those from defect of motion; which distinction [as he added in a considerable understatement] is of great importance in the knowledge and cure of many diseases." (21) Too much vital motion in the body produced overwrought intensity and illness; too little presaged depletion ... and illness. Newton's model of gravitational forces moving inanimate bodies was at work here, providing a prestigious and powerful analogy for the dynamics internal to animate ones, but the detailed, material imagination on display in the medical literature points to a phenomenon larger even than Newton: the fascination, as Natania Meeker puts it, "with the perceptible substance of experience--as available to experiment, narratable in literary texts, malleable through education, manipulable through time, and regularizable in space." (22)
In this framework of diagnosis, the doctor was essentially a motion detector and regulator; his tasks were to read and to regulate the balance of excitation within the patient's frame. So it was that medical nostalgia flourished alongside the popularity of its antithetical double, the travel cure, and the great faith placed in the change of scene and air for the debilitated, as if external mobility could jumpstart internal fixation--a homeopathic cure in cases of nostalgia. The eternal convalescent Humphry Clinker and peripatetic Roderick Random, as Smollett intuited, were different sides of the same coin. The travel cures and the travel diseases of this period are very much of a piece, or a niche, which makes clear that the problem was not motion in itself but the vexed relationship between mobility and the will, or choice, to move. I will return to the larger question of volition in both medical and literary discourse, below, but here I would simply note that the literature on nostalgia recognized this point perfectly well. Naval shipmen, noted the ship doctor Thomas Trotter (one of Cullen's more devoted students), are prone to nostalgic illness when they are impressed, while, as volunteers or bounty-men, they remain in healthful and active spirits. Sir James Pringle, tending to the British army fighting in Napoleonic France, noted the greater prevalence of disease among foot-soldiers, whose lives are marked by "excess of Rest and Motion," than in the cavalry, who, controlling their horses, "lead a more uniform life ... and a constant and easy exercise." (23)
Eighteenth-century medicine was thus a Janus-faced phenomenon, receptive to the outside, but projecting it inward. It mediated between physiology and historicity, where "mediate" should be understood in its original sense as a difficult intercession between two parties not entirely at peace (e.g., God and man). Here it is also necessary to bear in mind that Cullen and the Edinburgh school generally did not separate diseases of the mind from those of the body, physiology from what we would call psychology. (Cullen objected to the phrase status corporis in an earlier writer's definition of disease because it limited the notion to the state of the body only, while also arguing that "there is no irregularity of the mind that does not depend upon certain changes in the condition of the body." (24)) As a result, "the influence of the passions upon disorders of the body"--the title of a 1788 dissertation by William Falconer that cited nostalgia as its "last, and perhaps the most remarkable instance" of that influence--became a favorite subject for the aspiring medical student as well as the practitioner. (25) In all cases, at least from the doctor's point of view, equilibrium was the goal. Where illness befell a patient because of "a world not moving to his mind" (as in the case of Wordsworth's Solitary, chided by the therapeutically-minded and disciplinary Wanderer in the epigraph to this section), then one tried to move the mind, or, when possible, move the world. Benjamin Rush, who also remained a dedicated student and defender of Cullen from his position in Philadelphia, pursued this logic to its fullest both as a diagnostician and healer, but with much less hesitation than Cullen about probing causation. "Revolutions in governments which are often accompanied with injustice, cruelty, and the loss of property and friends ... [or] with an inroad upon ancient and deep-seated principles and habits, frequently multiply instances of insanity," Rush wrote, while also pursuing the complementary position that cases of political apathy--such as "those friends of Great Britain" and "those timid Americans, who took no public part in the war"--also produced morbid states, like "the tory rot, and the protection fever." For the first group of sufferers, Rush hoped for a government willing to honor those deep-seated habits, plus "a day of general suffrage, and free presses," which could (as he argued in a striking simile) "serve, like chimnies in a house, to conduct from the individual and public mind, all the discontent, vexation, and resentment, which have been generated in the passions." For the politically lethargic, by contrast, he recommended "imbibing a portion of party spirit" to raise the level of excitation. And then this signatory on the Declaration of Independence noted with some complacency that because of the exercise provided by the American revolution, "tory rot," "protection fever," and similar diseases have "happily for our citizens ... passed away." (26)
When minds needed to be moved, books also worked. Rush became interested in the uses of biblio-therapy, a practice (if not a term) that he is credited for founding. (27) Accordingly, he recommended the reading of novels or other narratives composed of "a succession of connected events" for some melancholic patients (William Cowper and Mary Robinson provided him with examples here), while reporting that, at the other extreme of reading practices, "booksellers have sometimes become deranged" from "the frequent and rapid transition of the mind from one subject to another": "the debilitating effects of these sudden transitions upon the mind, are sensibly felt after reading a volume of reviews or magazines." In these cases, he argued, "the mind could be restored by the beneficial pursuit of a single habit, which prevents fatigue to a certain extent" (Rush 118, 37).
If Rush turned to the cure of reading, however, he did so because during the later part of the eighteenth century doctors of the literary and fine arts had already become motion detectors, too, alongside their medical counterparts. The distinction is itself a false one for the period. Simon Oliver's comment that "motion does not constitute the separation of discourses but is a means of their unity," although intended as a description of classical and Renaissance thought, still pertains in the decades leading up to 1800. (28) Part of the reason was simply that, as Deidre Lynch puts it: "literary appreciations and medical case histories could be penned by the same authors. The same principles of associationist psychology were mobilized in both neurological and aesthetic speculations." (29) The intimacy between Cullen and Henry Home, Lord Kames, offers an interesting case in point. The two men moved in the same Edinburgh circles and conducted a considerable literary correspondence (Kames was also Cullen's patient, like his distant cousin Hume); Cullen's lectures on physiology at Edinburgh and the six editions of Kames's seminal Elements of Criticism (1762-1785) emerged as tandem efforts. To read them together is to find in Kames's Elements a sustained translation of the principles and tenets of the Edinburgh school of medicine into "a science of rational criticism" for the fine arts, and to see in Cullen the physiology for Kames's claims. (30) Elements of Criticism included a full chapter on the aesthetics of bodies in motion, defining beauty or "agreeability" as the same equilibrium, or "happy adjustment of the internal nature of man to his external circumstances," that Cullen and others called the "latitude of health." (31) Hence for Kames "the quickest motion is for an instant delightful; but soon appears to be too rapid: it becomes painful by forcibly accelerating the course of our perceptions," while "slow continued motion becomes disagreeable from an opposite cause, that it retards the natural course of our perceptions." Following Hogarth and fully evading the complexity and ideological gambits in the term "natural," Elements of Criticism declared that "motion in a straight line is agreeable, but we prefer undulating motion, as of waves, of a flame, of a ship under sail, such motion is more free, and also more natural. Hence the beauty of a serpentine river." (32)
Coleridge's later version and translation of the travel cure into literary prescription is well known from the Biographia Literaria. In the "legitimate" poem, Coleridge wrote:
The reader should be carried forward, not merely or chiefly by the mechanical impulse of curiosity, or by a restless desire to arrive at the final solution, but by the pleasurable activity of the mind excited by the attractions of the journey itself. Like the motion of a serpent, which the Egyptians made the emblem of intellectual power; or like the path of sound through the air, at every step he pauses and half recedes, and from the retrogressive movement collects the force which again carries him onward. 'Preciptandus est liber spiritus' says Petronius Arbiter most happily. (33)
But Coleridge protests too much, of course, and he protests against his own practice and earlier preoccupations. Behind this pleasantly progressive vision lurked the alternately static and madly kinetic bark of the Ancient Mariner, or the meter of "Christabel," whose irregularity Coleridge would have to work to deny. And side by side with the good taste of the freely undulating motion of "a ship under sail" in Kames's Elements of Criticism, there stood Cullen's near-simultaneous diagnosis of the "false appetite" of the traveler who vehemently wants to go home. In other words, if we take at face value, or as a simple matter, the ideal shared by medicine and aesthetics-worlds harmoniously moving to minds, and minds to worlds--we forget the aphoristic but sober wisdom of Kenneth Burke. "Threat is the basis of beauty," Burke commented in The Philosophy of Literary Form, then unfolding his own Blakean Proverb of Hell as follows: "implicit in the idea of protection there is something to be protected against. Hence, to analyze the element of comfort in beauty, we must be less monistic, more 'dialectical,' in that we include also ... the element of discomfort." Raymond Williams asked a related question: certain kinds of reading may become an "easy drug," he wrote in The Long Revolution, but "the question still is one of the circumstances in which the drug becomes necessary." (34)
What follows tries to be "'dialectical'" in several senses, of which Kenneth Burke's is just one. (35) I want to identify, in Darwin's Zoonomia and then in Wordsworth's and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads, the internal or immanent recognition of that discomfort. But dialectical thought also requires a diachronic aspect, an unfolding in time, which can (or should) simultaneously consist of a widening scope of explanation. And therefore I also hope to suggest that the Lyrical Ballads volume--absorbing Zoonomia and the legacy of eighteenth-century medicine's attempts to address the motions of modernity--turns a discomfort, which for Darwin had remained largely psycho-physiological, into an inquiry and reflection on the larger historical circumstances that might call forth the desire for reading as cure to begin with--into a meditation on that complex "something to be protected against." In that process, I think, the uneasy resistance once called nostalgia persists, not by that name, but as way of reading.
3. Diseases of Volition: Nostalgia, Tautology, and Reading
"You see a little muddy pond Of water, never dry; I've measured it from side to side: 'Tis three feet long, and two feet wide." --Narrator of "The Thorn"
I noted earlier that the antithetical proximity between the travel disease and the travel cure, the very fact that movement was considered in some cases healthful and in other cases deadly or dangerous, points us to the vexed relationship between mobility and volition, or the choice to move. Let us return to precisely that problem, now through the category of volition rather than motion. For volition, in fact, was a complex medical and philosophical term in the period.
Erasmus Darwin was one of the many students and readers of William Cullen's Nosology unhappy with its placement of nostalgia, in particular, as well as with Cullen's general method of classification by effects; "in the Cullenian practice ... an effect, a set of symptoms, are usurped for [i.e. mistaken as] an agent," as one 1790s commentator put it. (36) So when Darwin expanded the initial volume of Zoonomia to include four volumes (in two parts) and a very full nosology of his own, he moved the travel disease--again--into the class he called "Diseases of Volition." One of the four faculties of the sensorium analyzed at length in Zoonomia, "volition" in that text consists of an "exertion or change" beginning in "the central part of the sensorium, terminating in those extreme parts of it" located in the muscles and sense organs; this change or exertion, Darwin writes, "constitutes" what we call desire or aversion. Any muscular actions or ideas that might result (for Darwin ideas are the contractions of the sense organs) were considered "voluntary motions." Darwin contrasts volition most immediately with "sensation," where the "change or exertion" starts in the extremities of the sensorium, then produces "sensitive motions" in the muscles or organs, and "constitutes" what we call pleasure and pain. The distinction between voluntary and sensitive motions, therefore, is a difference in direction and origin, not in kind. "Sensation and Volition" are the "two great powers of motion," Darwin concludes, but they cannot exist in an animal body at the same time, "though they can [and do] exist reciprocally," the one subsiding into the other (Zoonomia  32-33, 277).
Because volition, unlike Locke's "reflection," did not, for Darwin, always depend on previous sensations, it seemed to offer him and others a way of fending off the specter of man as machine, propelled from without, or as a blank page, inscribed by experience and able to reflect only on the data provided by those inscriptions. It held out, if I may be so crude, the possibility of having one's empiricism and eating it too--a physiology of relative freedom from outer forces. So, at least, implies the dedicatory poem to the first volume of Zoonomia, by Dewhurst Bilsborrow, celebrating Darwin as "the Bard" who teaches "With shadowy trident how Volition guides / Surge after surge, his intellectual tides." One does not have to ride very far into the first volume of Zoonomia, however, before finding an undertow of complication. As soon as he gets to the chapter entitled "Diseases of Volition," Darwin announces that "the word volition is not used in this work exactly in its common acceptation." It is not equivalent, in other words, to the power of choice or to an act of will. Volition "means simply the active state of the sensorial power in producing motion in consequence of desire or aversion, whether we have the power of restraining that action or not"--or whether we are conscious of any desire or aversion to begin with or not. And in many cases, we do not and are not:
From this account of volition it appears, that convulsions of the muscles, as in epileptic fits, may in the common sense of that word be termed involuntary, because no deliberation is interposed between the desire or aversion and the consequent action; but in the sense of the word as above defined they belong to the class of voluntary motions.... If this use of the word be discordant to the ear of the reader, the term morbid voluntary motions ... may be substituted in its stead. (Zoonomia  274) (37)
Volition, it seems, does not always bestride the intellectual tides, pace Bilsborrow. Insouciantly setting aside centuries of theological and metaphysical speculations that have left many more than Milton's poor devils in "wand'ring mazes lost" (Paradise Lost 2.561), Darwin concludes that "it is probable that this twofold use of the word volition in all languages has confounded the metaphysicians, who have disputed about free will and necessity." Instead, he implies, they should all along have been talking about volition--with and volition--without the interposition of conscious delibera Fate may be a just misrecognition of inner compulsion, after all. As Freud would remark with mild irony of patients who seem to be pursued by a malignant fate--"their fate is for the most part arranged by themselves." (38)
In the expanded editions of Zoonomia, then, nostalgia belonged to the specific genus of this class called "Diseases of Volition with Increased Actions of the Organs of Sense." These illnesses, as Darwin explains, are marked by fixed and "peculiar ideas" that are neither prompted nor confirmed by external circumstances but generated without restraint from the center of the sensorium--"green fields in the sea," for example, or the chant of Hofer's homesick patient, "Ich will heim, Ich will heim." Patients in this group mistake "imaginations for realities"; such "deluded" ideas may be pleasurable or painful, and they may range in severity from outright madness to compulsive cases of sentimental love, vanity, superstition, pride, ambition, pity, and so forth (Zoonomia  8: 64). Reading the case histories and anecdotes that fill the narrative of this part of the volume, one moves from something resembling the daemonic agents that Angus Fletcher has described in Spenserian and other allegory to the pathos and psychopathology of everyday life. More expansive than his predecessors, Darwin writes cases as if they are micro-novels, recounting the woes and cures of "my friend Mr.--," "a widow lady ... in narrow circumstances," Mr.--, a Clergyman," "Z.Z.," and "Miss G--." He starts, moreover, with the plight of "a young farmer in Warwickshire" rendered shivering cold forever by an old woman's curse (Zoonomia  8: 68-69). This case of mania mutabilis (mutable madness), of course, was the basis of Wordsworth's "Goody Blake and Harry Gill" in the 1798 Lyrical Ballads.
It has long been common practice to note Wordsworth's eagerness to command a copy of Zoonomia, or, as he wrote Joseph Cottle in early 1798, "merely to request (which I have very particular reasons for doing) that you would contrive to send me Dr. Darwin's Zoonomia by the first carrier" (Wordsworth's emphasis). (39) Quite a number of critics have tried to reconstruct those "very particular reasons," and I want to acknowledge some of that work before stepping slightly to the side of it. James Averill and Richard Matlak have traced Wordsworth's debt to Zoonomia's case studies in a number of the Lyrical Ballads, and Desmond King-Hele argued that Wordsworth and Coleridge "plundered" Darwin's poetry, not only for its narratives but for a number of its concepts. Both King-Hele and, more recently, Noel Jackson have explored connections between Darwin's notion of reverie and Wordsworth's rendering both of the states of his strange characters and of the workings of the poetic imagination--for, as Jackson aptly notes, such states could be, and were described as, "a sign of privilege or pathology" (88). (40) Certainly many of the ballads that caused Wordsworth and Coleridge the most notoriety borrow aspects of Darwin's case histories and his exploration of lives conducted according to a fixed and "peculiar idea." These would have to include not only "Goody Blake and Harry Gill," where the appropriation is explicit and acknowledged in a note, but also Wordsworth's "The Last of the Flock," "The Mad Mother," "The Idiot Boy," "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman," "The Thorn," and Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere." To these I would have to add the collaborators' preoccupation with medical nostalgia as it came to them from Darwin as well as from other sources, notably the voyage narratives that the two consumed avidly (they credit Shelvocke for the "Ancyent Marinere" and Gilbert's "The Hurricane" for "The Brothers"). This longing unfixes itself from specific stories and contexts to permeate the volume in the form of the general affective stance that Geoffrey Hartman once, if for different reasons, called the "spot syndrome": these poems, as Hartman wrote, "are basically similar in showing us people cleaving to one thing or idea with a tenaciousness both pathetic and frightening.... They cleave to one thing or idea in order to be saved from a still deeper sense of separation." (41) They endure, in other words, the fully antithetical senses of the verb "to cleave": to join ("a man shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh") and to sunder.
At a more general level than particular cases or species of illnesses, Wordsworth and Coleridge pursue with fascination the logic of the common problem underlying mania mutabilis, nostalgia, and their siblings--the diseased volition and its "morbid voluntary motions." Many of the Ballads are thus poems fully engaged by the ambiguity of a "volition" that sometimes seems voluntary "in the common sense of the word," at other times appears involuntary in the common sense but voluntary in the technical sense, and most often remains altogether uncertain: "The Marinere hath his will" (does he?); "The little Maid would have her will"; and "Our bodies feel, where'er they be / Against or with our will." Yet, if it seems as if Darwin's patients have gotten up out of Zoonomia and stepped into certain of the Lyrical Ballads, then it is also true that Wordsworth and Coleridge do something that Darwin does not. They widen the frame, the scope of exposition, by matching psychological symptoms up with historical circumstances. I am tempted to say that the Lyrical Ballads "historicize" Darwin, but since that verb can become a cant word of criticism, it might be better to say that they offer a kind of historical epidemiology, in the root sense of epidemiology--the study of what is "upon people" (epi + demos). If the characters in these poems "cleave to one thing or idea in order to be saved from a still deeper sense of separation," then the volume's authors also deliberately link that sense to very specific situations and determinants, not (or not only) to the threat of the vortex that Hartman called "imagination." The conditions that are "upon" people are vagrancy, rural depopulation, emigration, new world contact, slavery, warfare, seafaring and sea-fights, whether these circumstances are front and center or, as often, pressing in from the margins of the poem, as in the fate of the dying son of "Old Man Travelling." For this reason I agree with David Simpson's incorporation and redirection of Hartman's particular kind of indirect historicism: "Hartman's thesis is constantly cited as the one primarily responsible for taking the poet out of history. But it articulates ... all of the major syndromes that a historical method must account for," because it "brings out the formal and psychological terms of Wordsworthian displacement." (42) Simpson's own work on Wordsworth has devoted itself, at least in part, to bringing out the historical terms and referents of that displacement, the social and economic conditions of alienation that, in the terms I have been using, limit and thwart volition "in the common sense," or drive a wedge between volition as desire (or aversion) and the exercise of will.
I now would like to take this diverse work, draw on it, but point it in a different direction. The contribution of Lyrical Ballads to the work of historicizing was not only in the ways that volume gave the medical cases a local habitation and a name (or several). Identifying the referent is one form of historical epidemiology; another is to think about the kinds of reading practices answerable to an increasingly mobile and disorienting existence. I would like to suggest that the Ballads volume and its paratexts (including, most obviously, Wordsworth's 1800 "Preface" and Coleridge's ex post facto discussion in Biographia Literaria, as well as some less obvious ones) groped toward a poetics, and a theory of reading, that might register and resist the modern mobility that had evoked both nostalgic disease and its cures.
Take "The Thorn." One has to start with the plot, for better or worse, in order to move outward from it. As Wordsworth informed readers in his long prose "Note" to "The Thorn" (which characteristically lengthened between 1798 and 1800), the poem's narrator has been a "Captain of a small trading vessel," and is now "past the middle of life"; while he has come home to England, he has "retired to some village or country town of which he was not a native, or in which he had not been accustomed to live"--in other words, he is not at home (LB 288). In the course of the poem itself, the captain relates that he comes "with his telescope, / To view the ocean wide and bright"; but in fact he points his gaze inland for, when a storm arises, with "mist and rain, and storm and rain" (Wordsworth's nod to Coleridge's "Rime"), the captain's eye is caught by the sight and site of a woman seated on the ground, a hill of moss, a thorn, and next to them all, a reductio ad absurdum of the haunted sea in the nostalgiacalenture topos--a pond ("Thorn" 181-82, 188). This pond, we are told no less than three times by a refrain that has generated considerable mirth and contempt since 1798, measures "three feet long, and two feet wide": "I've measured it from side to side: / 'Tis three feet long, and two feet wide," chants the captain (32-33). The precision of its dimensions notwithstanding, it is no less a delusive screen than Leonard's flashing scene in "The Brothers," which reflected back to him images of his own earlier self. The "Thorn"'s sea captain puzzles:
"Some say, if to the point you go, And fix on it a steady view, The shadow of a babe you trace, A baby and a baby's face, And that it looks on you; Whene'er you look on it, 'tis plain The baby looks at you again." (225-32)
The minds of men like the narrator, Wordsworth's note informs us, "are not loose but adhesive"; as he adds, in a well-known phrase, they "cleave to the same ideas" (LB 288). Like Hofer's nostalgic subjects whose minds, as we have seen, return "as though fixed or rather directed always toward the same motion," such minds as the captain's circle around an idle fixe. And here the emphasis falls indeed on the "fixed" and the small--we know its dimensions ("'tis three feet long, and two feet wide")--out of which impressive effects are built.
All of this would be interesting in a limited, thematic way were it not also the case that in this poem and its explanatory note, the characteristics of nostalgia are no longer just a subject of representation--they have become a defining principle, even motor, of presentation. To a degree that I do not think we have fully understood, Wordsworth's note absorbs the conditions and the disorder that "The Thorn" and certain other Ballads render topically into the very groundwork of his developing aesthetic theory. The note, of course, is famous, since it includes some of the poet's major statements about the work of poetry:
There is a numerous class of readers who imagine that the same words cannot be repeated without tautology; this is a great error: virtual tautology is much oftener produced by using different words when the meaning is the same. Words, a Poet's words more particularly, ought to be weighed in the balance of feeling, and not measured by the space which they occupy upon paper. For the Reader cannot be too often reminded that Poetry is passion: it is the history or science of feelings; now every man must know that an attempt is rarely made to communicate impassioned feelings without something of an accompanying consciousness of the inadequateness of our own powers or the deficiencies of language. During such effort there will be a craving in the mind, and as long as it is unsatisfied the speaker will cling to the same words, or words of the same character. There are also various reasons why repetition and apparent tautology are frequent beauties of the highest kind. Among the chief of these reasons is the interest which the mind attaches to words, not only as symbols of the passion, but as THINGS, active and efficient, which are of themselves part of the passion. And further ... the mind luxuriates in the repetition of words which appear successfully to communicate its feelings. The truth of these remarks might be shown by innumerable passages from the Bible, and from the impassioned poetry of every nation. 'Awake, awake Deborah!' (LB 28-889; my emphasis)
The "vehement desire of revisiting" (Cullen) and the "cravings of appetite" (Trotter), which had characterized the eighteenth-century literature on nostalgia, reappear in the first part of what I have quoted in several ways. First, they have moved to the level of rhetorical performance--in the form of the speaker's "craving of the mind." For the act of speaking described here, volition occurs not as an exercise of will (not as "volition in the common acceptation," as Darwin put it) but in those seemingly involuntary-voluntary, or automatic-voluntary, motions, discharges of desire that outpace "restraint" or "deliberation." Coleridge's later acidic comment about "The Thorn"--" It is not possible to imitate truly a dull and garrulous discourser, without repeating the effects of dullness and garrulity"--imputes the spreading contagion to a haplessly prosy "Mr. Wordsworth," and many subsequent readers, including some of Wordsworth's best interpreters, have concurred (BL 2: 49). Yet, in a sense, Coleridge did not go far enough, thereby missing (or perhaps refusing to acknowledge) Wordsworth's calculation. As the note toggles back and forth between describing the poem's speaker and justifying its writer's own liberal use of tautology, Wordsworth deliberately extends the condition to "the Reader" as well, seeking to prescribe a reading pace or rhythm. The poet wants to snag the mind upon the thorn of tautology in order to keep the eye from measuring or moving across "the space upon paper." The note, I think, is not a "fiction supplementary to the poem," as Frances Ferguson once felt, but rather a continuation of the poem in another key: the disease formerly known as nostalgia has become a recommended reading practice--reading as repetitive motion syndrome. (43) "[T]o the thorn, and to the pond / Which is a little step beyond, / I wish that you would go," chants the narrator, and--like the "Ich will heim, Ich will heim" of Hofer's patient--that is indeed the effect of tautology over and over again: "And that it looks on you; / Whene'er you look on it, 'tis plain / The baby looks at you again." The "spot syndrome" has moved onto the page. Tautology may be homesickness by another means.
However, if nostalgia's protesting immobility amidst mobility has come to describe the mode of sensuous cognition advocated for reading poetry, the return to the spot of page is not exactly the equivalent of the captain's redundancy and garrulity. The note seems to want to bring captain and reader together in a common "adhesiveness," but also to cleave them apart again--hence Wordsworth's over-anxiousness, in the 1798 "Advertisement" as well as the 1800 "Preface," to distinguish the poem's narrator from "the author's own person." (The singling out of "The Thorn" for this author/narrator distinction is, after all, rather peculiar, since exactly the same thing can be said about many of the ballads.) In the note's scenario, ideal as it certainly is, the quality and intensity of the apparently-involuntary but technically-voluntary motions, both in Darwin's Zoonomia and in the haunted figures populating Lyrical Ballads, alters, and something like the "deliberation" elided in those cases slips back in here when Wordsworth imagines the halted reader--in the form of that "interest which the mind attaches to words." The automatic quality of repetition shifts, and the reader moves to embrace (even "luxuriate" in) the repetition. The motion becomes voluntary in both "the common" and the technical sense--will and desire, after their divergence, converge again. The erstwhile "deficiency of words" swivels round to become or be claimed as the very source of their new "efficiency"--their power, that is, not "as symbols of the passion, but as THINGS, active and efficient, which are themselves part of the passion."
Wordsworth's conception of "Poetry" as the "science of feelings" thus intervenes where the medical writings on nostalgia had previously lodged, tending to the precarious relationships between mobility, displacement, and volition. And yet, I think, this is not exactly bibliotherapy in the mode of eighteenth-century medicine, nor the physical therapy to the feelings that Victorian readers like Mill and Arnold wanted to find in Wordsworth. It is certainly not the undulating motion of Kames. Nor is it Coleridge's happily precipitant free spirit (" 'Preciptandus est liber spiritus' says Petronius Arbiter most happily"), cited at the end of the preceding section. Refuting Wordsworth's comments on meter, and thereby implicitly responding to Wordsworth's theory of poetic motion as much as his claims about poetic diction, Coleridge in the Biographia would like to re-synonymize volition and will. Quarreling specifically with Wordsworth's claim (in the "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads) that the addition of meter effects no difference between the language of poetry and prose, Coleridge insisted that it does, because the "artificial superaddition" of meter to the elements of diction constitutes (or should) a "voluntary act," and "traces of volition should throughout the metrical language be proportionally discernible" (BL 2: 65; Coleridge's emphasis). The Coleridge of the Biographia would like to imagine the poet's imposition of meter in something of the same way that Dewhurst Bilsborrow conceived "Volition" guiding the surges with his trident--presumably so that the reader does not end up in the Ancient Mariner's boat, alternately set and stopped in motion by outside forces. Wordsworth, by contrast, here seems far more interested in passing his reader through that experience of automatism, via that peculiarly involuntary volition. (44) He seems eager, in other words, to court the disease and to inculcate a kind of cognitive fixation, staging the dialectic between the two senses of "cleaving," as clinging together and as coming apart. At the very least, he refuses to resolve the crisis of motion, with the result of some garrulity of his own as he tries to explain the meter of "The Thorn": "It was necessary that the Poem, to be natural, should in reality move slowly, yet I hoped that, by the aid of the metre ... it would appear to move quickly. The Reader will have the kindness to excuse this note, as I am sensible that an Introductory Poem is necessary to give this Poem its full effect." This over-explanation which explains nothing whatsoever registers the poet's sense that something important but unresolved is at stake in achieving the proper readerly "motions"--neither too quick nor too slow--although it remains entirely and symptomatically unclear whether the poem moves slowly or quickly. (Try reading those lines to discern an answer!)
Therefore, where one might expect--approaching either from much eighteenth-century medical aesthetics or from the nineteenth-century readings of Wordsworth's "healing power" and "medicine for [the] mind"--to find the promotion of poetry as cure, one gets something rather different. (45) In the "Note," there appears something like the undertow of complication that comes in Darwin's explication of volition's seemingly involuntary qualities. One also finds the remarkable paradox whereby the grandest, most willful claim for poetry as human science, as rival and heir apparent to the Enlightenment systems of human nature, is inseparable from a description of various effects of compulsory movement. Even the declaration itself ("Poetry is the history or science of feelings") becomes subject to near-compulsive utterance: "the Reader cannot be too often reminded.... " And so "the Reader" is again reminded.
4. On Tautology
Thus at its extreme limit thought tends somehow to unravel itself, and it is this more than anything else that justifies the description of dialectical thought as tautological ...
--Jameson, Marxism and Form (46)
I have been tracing the translation, or remediation, of an earlier, resistant nostalgia into poetic form and reading practice, which preserved its force but unfixed it from attachment to (literal) place. But we have not yet taken the measure of Wordsworth's careful distinction between "apparent tautology," which his note on "The Thorn" defends, and "virtual tautology," which it does not. The distinction appears elsewhere in Wordsworth's work as well, and it participated in a larger contemporary conversation about tautology, repetition, and habit. "Virtual tautology," as the note explains, consists of "different words where the meaning is the same"--i.e., the production of more matter without the generation of more meaning. Here Wordsworth follows the standard handbooks of rhetoric that he would have read in school. "The repetition of the same sense in different words" was one of the primary definitions offered by George Campbell's The Philosophy of Rhetoric, and one would have found similar ones in Hugh Blair or James Buchanan. (47) This sort of redundancy was a favorite anathema among teachers of rhetoric and belles-lettres, who were worried that the spawning of synonyms had become a bad habit among "all grown Persons who have not read with much Attention," especially since "a Multiplicity of Synonyms" would dilute that attention further. "Words which add nothing to the sense or to the clearness, must diminish the force of the expression," insisted Campbell's Philosophy (275). Coleridge similarly attacked the "unmeaning repetitions" intended "to prevent the appearance of empty spaces," but in fact calling attention to them (BL 2: 57). To combat that ill, handbooks, grammars, and philosophies of rhetoric regaled in providing ecstatically verbose exercises designed to teach "Youth" the non-substitutability of each word for its occasion, "fixing their Attention as to the Choice ... with regard to the subject." (48) To every place there is a word. For Wordsworth, "virtual tautology" created not only a deficit of attention but also its correlative, another craving, the negative twin of the one courted in the "Note." This evil twin emerged most famously in the diatribe launched by the 1800 "Preface" against the "savage torpor" of reading audiences "craving for extraordinary incident which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies," as if torpor might be overcome, rather than just increased, by something truly extraordinary (LB 249). This well-known passage has often been read as a jealous attack on popular culture and the content of its "frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse," but in fact the complaints about quality and content are subsumed under a larger sociological analysis, within which battles for canon-formation take place, and which has as much, if not more, to do with quantities of words ("deluges") and speed ("rapid communication"). (49) These literary and theatrical exhibitions, says the "Preface," are merely "conforming themselves" (by gratifying) "the most effective of these causes," namely "the great national events that are daily taking place," "the encreasing accumulation of men in cities," and "the uniformity of their occupations." They would make slow minds move to fast worlds (unsuccessfully) redressing the craving for stimulation with more and more of the same.
The note's "apparent tautology" responds in the opposite way. It protracts the craving stirred by "the deficiencies of language" by refusing synonyms and substitution. That refusal, however, has the possibility of reconceiving or re-cognizing language. As his concluding reference to the Book of Judges suggests, Wordsworth was here drawing on a counterplot within contemporary discussions of tautology, which developed out of the analysis of oral and biblical verse and defended the repetition of the same word as a means of desynonymization and differentiation. "One word," as Blair's Rhetoric put it, might "stand also for some other idea or object," and (as an earlier handbook had put it) "we shall often find that an epithet at first sight superfluous is really not so, and that it raises a new idea." (50) Apparent tautology promises to disclose more meaning in the same matter, and Celeste Langan has shown us how this might work in her analysis of the opening line of the Zoonomia-inspired "Goody Blake and Harry Gill"--"Oh! What's the matter? what's the matter?":
Repetition, this time apparently of a positive content (matter) has the effect of transforming that content, making it mean metaphorically. One might inflect these two identical questions each in a different way. First, in a paraphrase offered in the second line, what is wrong with Harry Gill? What "ails" him? Second, in light of the fact that his ailment is psychosomatic: what is the nature of matter? The effect... is to ambiguate matter. (51)
A strategy like this may seem to return us to a Wordsworth we already know, the one who lowers the stimulus to increase the desired response, the poet who withholds story so that the "gentle reader" might "find / A tale in everything" ("Simon Lee" 73-76). Similarly, looked at in one way, the defense of apparent tautology, especially given its attributed origins in oral culture, might seem a defensive cleaving to the spot of page against both the flux of time and the flow of print--that is, nostalgic in the derivative sense of the word we assume now, from the vantage of a much later modernity. And the poet's complaint against the (virtually) tautological character of literary culture might seem--has seemed to many readers-just a reactive symptom of print anxiety. But then again something else may be going on, in light of the discursive migration this essay has tried to illuminate--something stranger, if we consider tautology as the continuation of homesickness by another means. Here, although not everywhere, Wordsworth keeps at bay the use of reading as that "easy drug" (Raymond Williams), instead harnessing (apparent) tautology's capacity to unfix words from single meanings and to "unravel" thought. Such a capacity can open up a critical disturbance, the algia once in nostalgia, but largely lost from it since. It is here, more than in Wordsworth's supposed choice of "low and rustic life" and the "real language" of men, that the volume may best answer the ambition of its 1798 "Advertisement": to challenge "our pre-established codes of decision" (LB 7). At the least, the return to the same word or spot of page produces not a comforting familiarity, as habit does, for example, in Rush's bibliotherapy and its precursors. One might find that the old spot has moved, or is set in motion by the very attempt to return. Indeed, one might find oneself in the uneasy position of the villagers at the end of "The Thorn" who, determined to get to the bottom of just "what's the matter" (and what's the matter), set out with their spades to the small plot--"But then the beauteous hill of moss / Before their eyes began to stir; / And for fifty yards around, / The grass it shook upon the ground" (236-39). This poem and its note are nothing if not deliberate about their measurements. Now, at "fifty yards," it is--three feet long by two feet wide no longer. And the spot is less familiar than ever. (52)
I would not want to claim that Wordsworthian tautology did infallibly have this effect on his actual readers. There is no denying that his reader is an abstraction, "the Reader, philosophically considered." The more outraged contemporary reviews suggest some inroads, but the persistent construction of Wordsworth as physician to the exhausted soul makes clear enough that it did not always unsettle in this way. Moreover, statistical studies of print culture like William St. Clair's The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, which have shown that Byron, Mary Shelley and others were far better sellers, would chasten any generalization about widespread impact. (53)
However, we do find confirmation that Wordsworth was not alone in intuiting the limits of bibliotherapy even in the most unlikely of places. From its opening sally, "I hate to read new books," William Hazlitt's "On Reading Old Books" starts out as an apparent celebration of the stabilizing power of habit and the pleasures of rereading favorite books. Moreover, like Coleridge's aphorism in the opening of the Biographia Literaria--"that not the poem which we have read but the poem to which we return ... claims the name of essential poetry"--Hazlitt's essay is in the business of consolidating a canon of English Literature (BL I: 23; Coleridge's emphases). Here, too, we see the strong stirrings of what, after 1900, would be called nostalgia, the pleasing longing for a retrospectively sanitized past. "In reading a book which is an old favorite with me (say the first novel I ever read)," writes Hazlitt:
Not only are the old ideas of the contents brought back to my mind in all their vividness, but the old associations of the faces and persons of those I then knew, as they were in their lifetime--the place where I sat to read the volume, the day when I got it, the feeling of the air, the fields, the sky--return, and all my early impressions with me. (54)
Benjamin Rush and his followers would be pleased, but only briefly. For Hazlitt soon comes across the fateful antimony of habit, recognized in the previous century's medical science. Habit can dull down or devolve into habituation as easily as it can supply stability or comfort:
The sharp luscious flavour, the fine aroma is fled, and nothing but the stalk, the bran, the husk of literature is left. If anyone were to ask me what I read now, I might answer with my Lord Hamlet in the play--"Words, words, words."--"What is the matter"--"Nothing!"--They have scarce a meaning. But it was not always so. There was a time... (Hazlitt 157)
Even the burst of ventriloquism (in this short excerpt alone I count quotations or near quotations from Hamlet, the Canterbury Tales, and the "Immortality" Ode), even the return to old spots of page, cannot summon up the lost vitality. In one sense, we can see this as Wordsworth's nightmare, the possibility he does not admit: that, rather than the self-amplifying, internally differentiating semantic effect of "What's the matter? What's the matter?," the response comes back empty, displaying the full deficiency of words. "Nothing" is the matter, but "words, words, words"--and not even as solid things. Yet, in another sense, it also substantiates my point. To turn to reading for stimulation, for the satisfaction of a craving, is to multiply words with "scarce a meaning." Instead, there may be a virtue in dwelling in deficiency. I have been suggesting that where volition-as-will meets its limits, finds that undertow of complication, that thorn in its way, there, perhaps, a different kind of thinking can begin--involuntary, unsettling, but therefore potentially "reflective" (in Boym's sense) and critical.
University of California, Berkeley
(1.) (Durham: Duke UP, 1999) 21, xvii.
(2.) Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie, The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith, vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976) 185. There have recently been, of course, quite a number of discussions of the eighteenth century idea(s) of "system." See Clifford Siskin, "1798: the Year of the System," in 1798: The Year of the Lyrical Ballads, ed. R. Cronin (New York: St. Martin's P, 1998); Siskin, "Novels and Systems," Novel: A Forum on Fiction 34 (2001): 202-15; Miranda Burgess, British Fiction and the Production of Social Order, 1740-1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000); and Robert Mitchell, Sympathy and the State in the Romantic Era: Systems, State Finance, and the Shadows of Futurity (New York: Routledge, 2007). I have found very helpful Mitchell's observation that "periods of crisis are also moments in which systems become phenomenologically available--it is not when systems function well, but rather when they do not that they become visible as systems--and, as a consequence, moments in which the potential for radically different forms of social systems become palpable" (19). For a discussion of Cullen's theory and practice of nosology, see R. E. Kendall, "William Cullen's Synopsis Nosologiae Methodicae," in William Cullen and the Eighteenth Century Medical World, ed. A Doig et. al. (Edinburgh; Edinburgh UP, 1993) 216-33.
(3.) William Cullen, Nosology; or, a systematic arrangement of diseases ..., third edition (Edinburgh, 1800) 162-64. If this family resemblance seems less than obvious to us, we might note that it was also not unique. Giving his lectures on anthropology at Konigsberg at roughly the same time, and offering instances of "deception due to the strength of the imagination," Kant lists "the homesickness of the Swiss" right next to "the sight of others enjoying loathsome things (e.g., when the Tungese rhythmically suck out and swallow the mucus from their children's noses) [which] induces the spectator to vomit." "Patria ubi bene," Kant added, by way of explanation for this startling breach of decorum (Immanuel Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, ed. Robert Louden, trans. Manfred Kuehn [Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006] 71-72).
(4.) Cullen, Nosology 162.
(5.) Linda Hutcheon, "Irony, Nostalgia, and the Postmodern," Methods for the Study of Literature as Cultural Memory, ed. Raymond Vervliet and Annemarie Estor (Atlanta: Rodopi, 2000) 195; Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham: Duke UP, 1993) 23; see also 145.
(6.) For overviews of this process of waxing and waning, see Jean Starobinski's wonderful essay, "The Idea of Nostalgia," Diogenes 54 (1966): 81-103; also George Rosen, "Nostalgia: A 'Forgotten' Psychological Disorder," Clio Medica 10 (1975): 29-52, and Michael Roth, "Dying of the Past: Medical Studies of Nostalgia in Nineteenth-Century France," History and Memory 3 (1991): 5-29.
(7.) Nicholas Dames, Amnesiac Selves: Nostalgia, Forgetting, and British Fiction, 1810-1870 (New York: Oxford UP, 2001) 36, 24 and 20-75 more generally. Dames lists five interrelated elements of this "newer nostalgic system": " pleasure;  temporal rather than spatial orientation:  disconnection [i.e., from the past];  naming or categorizing;  communal dissemination" (35).
(8.) Linda Austin, Nostalga in Transition, 1780-1917 (Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2007) 2, 14.
(9.) Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic, 2001) xviii, xvi, and 49-50.
(10.) Ian Hacking, Mad Travelers: Reflections of the Reality of Transient Mental Illness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP: 2002) 1-2.
(11.) Johannes Hofer, Dissertatio Medica de Nostalgia (Basel, 1688), trans. Carolyn Kiser Anspach, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 2 (1934): 381, 384.
(12.) British medical accounts included: Thomas Trotter (Observations on the Scurvy, 1792), William Falconer (A Dissertation on the Influence of the Passions upon Disorders of the Body, 1792), Joseph Banks (Journal of the Right Hon. Sir Joseph Banks, 1768-71), Robert Hamilton (History of a Remarkable Case of Nostalgia, affecting a native of Wales, and occurring in Britain, 1786-87), Thomas Arnold (Observations on the Nature, Kinds, Causes, and Prevention of Insanity, Lunacy, or Madness, 1782), George Seymour (Dissertatio Medica Inauguralis de Nostalgia, 1818), and others.
(13.) See, for example, Trotter: "The cravings of appetite, not only to amuse their waking hours, with thoughts on green fields, and streams of pure water; but in dreams they are tantalized by the favourite idea; and on waking, the mortifying disappointment is expressed with the utmost regret, with groans and weeping, altogether childish.... This scorbutic Nostalgia, "in absentibus a patria, vehemens eundum revisendi desiderium," belongs to the second species of Doctor Cullen's Genus" (Observations on the Scurvy; with a review of the opinions lately advanced on that disease ..., 2nd edition [London, 1792] 45).
(14.) Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia; or the Laws of Organic Life, 3rd edition, corrected (1801), in The Collected Writings of Erasmus Darwin, intro., Martin Priestman, 9 vols. (Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 2004) 8: 82-83. Hereafter, I will refer to this edition as Zoonomia 1801 (to distinguish it from the 1794 version, also cited below).
(15.) Kevis Goodman, "Romantic Poetry and the Science of Nostalgia," Cambridge Companion to British Romantic Poetry, ed. James K. Chandler and Maureen N. McLane (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008) 201, 203-5.
(16.) For the passage, see "The Brothers" 51-62. All quotations from the poems and authors' notes in Lyrical Ballads, its 1798 "Advertisement," and its 1800 "Preface" come from William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads, ed. R. L. Brett and A. R. Jones, 2nd edition (London and New York: Routledge, 1991). Hereafter cited in the text as LB (poems by line numbers, prose by page numbers).
(17.) Alan Bewell, Romanticism and Colonial Disease (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999) 59.
(18.) I.e.: the wars of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), the Polish wars of the 1730s, the Franco-Austrian wars of the 1740s, the Seven Years War carried out globally in the 1750s, the struggle for American independence, and then, from 1793 to 1815, the almost uninterrupted conflict with France. On home tuff, there were also Scottish uprisings and the threat of Jacobite invasions. For the beginnings of what, I suspect, will become a more and more widely-sounded argument encouraging us to read the literature of the eighteenth century and Romantic eras as (an increasingly world-) war literature, see, for the eighteenth-century, G. S. Rousseau, "War and Peace: Some Representations of Nostalgia and Adventure in the Eighteenth Century," Guerres et paix: La Grande Bretagne au XVIIIe siecle, ed. Paul-Gabriel Bouce (Paris, France: Universite de la Sorbonne Nouvelle) 1-11: 121-40. For an excellent account of Romanticism and--also as--wartime, see Mary A. Favret, "War in the Air," Modern Language Quarterly 65 (2004): 531-59; "Everyday War," ELH 72 (2005): 605-33. Both pieces are part of Favret's recently published book, War at a Distance: the Making of Modern Wartime (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2010).
(19.) Quotations from Cullen's comments on causation and the construction of nosology are from John Thomson, The Life, Lectures, and Writings of William Cullen, 2 vols. (Bristol: Thoemmes P, 1997) 1: 329-30. Cullen's position was more carefully considered than might appear from this brief quotation. His epistemological modesty and commitment to a botanical model of classification resulted largely from his recognition of the difficulty of telling what he called "proximate" causes from "remote" causes. He writes, for example: "Almost every event in nature may be considered as part of a chain or series of causes, which have, in that series, produced one another; and of which, consequently, every part may be said to be a cause of the last effect. Thus a man on board a ship of war applies a lighted match to the touch-hole of a loaded cannon; this kindles the gunpowder; this produces an explosion; this explosion pushes with great rapidity the bullet; this bullet, striking upon the timber or another vessel, shivers it into splinters; one of these splinters happens to hit, with great force, the head of a man standing by, and instantly kills him. Now this death may be easily traced from any one of the series or chain of causes; and the same is the case with regard to most other effects or events in nature. It is common to apply the term cause to each of these actions or motions, but there is often a necessity for distinguishing them as more immediate or more remote in relation to their ultimate effect" (Thomson 1: 332). It will be apparent that I do not consider this choice of epic analogy coincidental in the least.
(20.) For an account of the relation between Brunonian physiology and some of Words worth's contributions to Lyrical Ballads, see Paul Youngquist, "Lyrical Bodies: Wordsworth's Physiological Aesthetics," European Romantic Review 10 (1999): 152-61. As will become clear in what follows, I part considerably from Youngquist's argument that Wordsworth flirts with, but ultimately fails to live up to, "the radical politics [that attends a] physiological aesthetics, one that posits the health of the body as an index of social justice" (159). Wordsworth is, to my mind, much more self-aware and critical, his more overt, complacent statements undergirded by considerable tension and internal difference.
(21.) Darwin, Zoonomia, Vol I, Or the Laws of Organic Life (1794) (Middlesex: Echo Library, 2007) 276. References to this first edition of Zoonomia will be cited in the text as Zoonomia 1794 (to distinguish it from Zoonomia 1801; see note 14 above).
(22.) Natania Meeker, Voluptuous Philosophy: Literary Materialism in the French Enlightenment (New York: Fordham UP, 2006) 2.
(23.) Trotter, quoted in The Health of Seamen: Selections from the Works of Dr. James Lind, Sir Gilbert Blane, and Dr. Thomas Trotter, ed. Christopher Lloyd (London: Navy Records Society, 1965) 269. Sir James Pringle, Observations on the Diseases of the Army, with Notes by Benjamin Rush, M.D. (Philadelphia, 1810) 81.
(24.) Cullen, in Thomson I: 238.
(25.) Falconer, A Dissertation on the Influence of the Passions upon the Disorders of the Body (London, 1788) 90.
(26.) Benjamin Rush, Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind (Philadelphia, 1812) 68-70, 114-15.
(27.) See Philip J. Weimerskirsch, "Benjamin Rush and John Minson Galt, 2 Pioneers of Bibliotherapy," Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 54 (1965): 510-26.
(28.) Simon Oliver, Philosophy, God, and Motion (New York: Routledge, 2005) 2.
(29.) Deidre Lynch, "Canon's Clockwork," in Lynch's forthcoming At Home in English: A Cultural History of the Love of Literature (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2010). I am grateful to Professor Lynch for her willingness to share her important work in manuscript.
(30.) In his Science and Sensation in British Romantic Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008) Noel Jackson examines the relationship between Kames's "ideal presence" in Elements of Criticism and Cullen's physiology (see, in particular, 84-88). While there is considerable discussion of Cullen within the history of medicine, Jackson's study is important for his rendering of Cullen's resonance and relevance for literary study and the history of aesthetics.
(31.) Quoted in Thomson I: 330.
(32.) Henry Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, ed. Peter Jones, 2 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005) I: 330.
(33.) Samuel T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ed. James Engell and W. Jackson Bate, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton UP/Bollingen, 1983) 2:14 (Coleridge's emphasis). Hereafter cited in the text as BL.
(34.) Kenneth Burke, The Philosophy of Literary Form, 3rd edition (Berkeley: U of California P, 1973) 61. Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution (Toronto, ON: Broadview, 2001) 93.
(35.) Here and elsewhere in this article, my understanding of the possibilities for a dialectical criticism (and a dialectical critical temperament) is inspired not only by Kenneth Burke but also by Fredric Jameson's early Marxism and Form (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1971), especially Chapter 5 ("Towards Dialectical Criticism"). For Jameson, the synchronic element--"the dialectical reversal, that paradoxical turning around of a phenomenon into its opposite" necessarily also "involves and implies a diachronic framework as a necessary condition of their articulation" (309-11).
(36.) [Henry Wilkins], "An original essay on animal motion: in which the instrument thereof, its definition, and mode of operating, are minutely treated upon. By *** *** nec Cullenius nec Brunonius" (Philadelphia, 1792) iv.
(37.) Cullen's writings on custom acknowledge the difference between actions that occur with a "consciousness of volition" and those that, by repetition, occur without apparent sensation. See Institutions of Medicine. Part 1. Physiology, 3rd edition, corrected (Edinburgh, 1785) 45.
(38.) Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works, trans. James Strachey, 24 vols (London: Hogarth P, 1955) 18: 21.
(39.) In Mark L. Reed, Wordsworth: The Chronology of the Early Years, 1770-1799 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1975) 224.
(40.) James Averill, Wordsworth and the Poetry of Human Suffering (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1980) 153-58, 166-68; Richard Matlak, "Wordsworth's Reading of Zoonomia in Early Spring," Wordsworth Circle 21 (1990): 76-81; Desmond King-Hele, Erasmus Darwin and the Romantic Poets (London: Macmillan, 1986). For another study to make a case for the relevance of Darwin's physiology to Wordsworth and Romanticism more generally, see Alan Richardson, British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001).
(41.) Geoffrey Hartman, Wordsworth's Poetry, 1787-1814 (New Haven: Yale UP, 1964) 143 and 84-87. See also 120-23.
(42.) David Simpson, Wordsworth's Historical Imagination (New York: Methuen, 1987) 19. See also Simpson's Wordsworth, Commodification, and Social Concern (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009). This most recent of Simpson's books on Wordsworth develops his interest in Wordsworth's troubled understanding of modern alienation, specifically in a culture governed by industrial labor, time, and the commodity form.
I have suggested elsewhere that Hartman's career-long interest in mediation and his growing distrust of "unmediated visions" (the title of his first book) was itself a form of historicism, if not often recognized as such. Whereas the Romantic New Historicism of the 1980s and 1990s was most concerned with the fading of historical context over time--the loss of the sense of a poem as a social event that would (supposedly) have been more explicit at the moment of its production--Hartman's later work has worried about the loss of reality in the present to the present, a danger in the Romantic era no less than now. In other words, his concerns have increasingly focused on the lapses of understanding, interest, or very desire for knowledge, each of which undermines the perception of the present as history. A relationship to the present not the past, the perception of history-in-the-making, is, after all, one strong sense of historicity, often treated only as the contextualization of the past. For more of this argument, see my review essay occasioned by Hartman's A Scholar's Tale (in The Wordsworth Circle 39 : 136-43).
(43.) Frances Ferguson, Wordsworth: Language as Counter-Spirit (New Haven: Yale UP, 1977) II.
(44.) In a forthcoming book, Steven Goldsmith makes a similar observation about a very different kind of poet and poem--William Blake's Jerusalem: "Critical feeling is not the sudden eruption of liberating impulse but the discovery of the machine within emotion; it is the uneasy awareness that emotion consists of the unnatural scraping against the comfortably human" (A Passion for Blake, in MS, n.p.).
(45.) "Healing power" is Matthew Arnold's phrase; Wordsworth as "medicine for my mind" is J. S Mill's. Noel Jackson examines the construction of the character of the poet as physician in Wordsworth's own writings and in the later reception of his work, arguing that, although Wordsworth and other Romantic authors "often vested feeling [and therefore the poet as doctor of the feelings] with the ability to reconcile conflicts of the faculties, and to integrate conflicting interests within a harmonious social whole, sensation frequently surfaces in their work as something other than the guarantor of consensus" (148, and see Chapter 4 of Science and Sensation in British Romantic Poetry more generally).
(46.) Marxism and Form 341.
(47.) George Campbell, The Philosophy of Rhetoric, Volume II (London, 1776) 272-73.
(48.) James Buchanan, The British Grammar: or, Essay, in four parts, Towards Speaking and Writing the English Language Grammatically, and Inditing Elegantly (London, 1762) xiv. For a good discussion of Wordsworth's "The Thorn" in relation to contemporary rhetoric, particularly the treatment of tautology in Bishop Lowth, see Corinna Russell, Paragraph 28 (2005): 104-18.
(49.) With respect to speed, although not quantity of words, Miranda Burgess makes this point, too, in her essay's excellent discussion of this passage, which emphasizes the speed of conveyance or "transport" as a source of anxiety for both Wordsworth and Coleridge (see "Transport: Mobility, Anxiety, and the Romantic Poetics of Feeling," in this volume). Burgess finds in Wordsworth's passage, one might say, nostalgia in the later, conservative sense, a longing for the intimacy of "the closed circuit" of conversation between poet and reader. I recognize that aspect of Wordsworth's work, but find it contested or checked there as well. Against the backdrop sketched in this essay, my reading of Wordsworth's sophisticated analysis of different kinds of tautology emphasizes the persistence of the older and more troubled nostalgia. I am arguing that the disease, and unease, that once went by that name is retained, transposed into a self-checking, dialectical consciousness, one that desynonymizes the given.
(50.) John Jortin, Miscellaneous Observations Upon Authors, Ancient and Modern, 2 vols. (London, 1732) 2: 38. The legitimate inclusion of tautology frequently marked the distinction of poetry from prose. Campbell, Hugh Blair, and Joseph Priestley all argued that tautology or repetition should be avoided when "perspicuity" is the end (business prose, for example), but when the goal is passion and forceful impression on the mind of the hearer (poetry, in most cases), then such rhetorical figures should not be condemned.
(51.) Celeste Langan, Romantic Vagrancy: Wordsworth and the Simulation of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996) 115.
(52.) I am mindful of the degree of truth in Deidre Lynch's skeptical observation that "if, as [Michael] Warner suggests, piety about critical reading forms 'the folk ideology' of professional literary studies, piety about defamiliarization plays a supporting role" ("Canon's Clockwork," citing Warmer's "Uncritical Reading," in Polemics: Critical or Uncritical, ed. Jane Gallop [New York and London: Routledge, 2004[ 13-38.) However, pieties are made such by their users; while they may become pieties, they were not always so.
(53.) William St. Clair, The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004).
(54.) William Hazlitt, "On Reading Old Books," in Essays of William Hazlitt (London: Walter Scott, 1889) 153.
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|Publication:||Studies in Romanticism|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2010|
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