Wordsworth's Poetical Works

Sublimity in Wordsworth and Smith

Romantic literature is deeply concerned with manifestations and attainment of the sublime. The notion itself asserts gender upon both subject and object, and pervades any attempt to gain historical knowledge. This fetishization of the sublime, however does not prevent the concept from being subverted consciously and unconsciously in the literature of the period. The poetic conceptualization of sublimity by William Wordsworth and Charlotte Smith has a fracturing effect on the constructed nature of gender, as well as the sublime itself.

Caught within the ‘masculine-feminine’ dialectic, the sublime is stereotypically conflated with ‘male’ characteristics. In a supposedly non-gendered paradigm, the sublime “…concerns the solitary individual…the more powerful feelings of terror or pain…[and] a sense of height or loftiness…”(Trott 72). In a more philosophical context “…Kant analyses…the sublime as a presentation of an indeterminate concept of reason”(Trott 73). Although these definitions may at first seem direct and simply denoting the signifier; they also reveal the underlying agenda of such distinctions. Rationality, reason and logic are all supposedly ‘masculine’ characteristics in the Romantic worldview, and therefore sublimity...

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