Author

Craig Titus

Date of Award

8-2008

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Advisor

Tony Brinkley

Second Committee Member

Benjamin Friedlander

Third Committee Member

Steven Evans

Abstract

This thesis offers a reading of Wordsworth's early poetry that recognizes his engagement with the infinite as a source for overcoming its boundedness, and as an opportunity to presence the presencing offered as an alternative by imagination and infinitude. Kant spoke of the sublime as that "where boundlessness is presented," but also where "totality is present to the thought." With Wordsworth, especially his Spots of Time moments in The Prelude, sublimity comes not from the unitary concept infinity, but from being without end, from moving always forward into "something evermore about to be." The J 799 Prelude offers the most condensed version of the Spots of Time, but the 1805 version includes important additions to the idea, which can be seen as developments. This thesis reads the Spots of Time moments as sublime, but in a uniquely Wordsworthian way. Wordsworth approaches the uncertainty of unbounded subjects—subjects often written in the negative, or in absence—but resists concretizing the uncertainty with concepts. Rather, he leaves the idea unbounded, limitless, something always evolving into something else, something more. I suggest that Wordsworth's sublime is differentiated from Kant's in this regard, but that it may be complimentary. Where Kant says a number sequence leads always to infinity, Wordsworth says from infinity we have infinity plus one.

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