Central to the creative process of the Romantic poets that followed him, Wordsworth’s Preface to the Lyrical Ballads has been both a gift and a thorn in the side of critics for over a century. Readers find themselves drawn back to the essay repeatedly as they seek to untangle the ideas and contradictions within it. The Preface is a statement of Wordsworth’s poetic vision and offers an explanation of the poetic process behind the poems, which fused the rusticity of the ballad form with the psychological introspection of modernity.
But to the generation of Romantic writers that emerged in its wake, the Preface announced a new understanding of the creative process and of the high purposes of poetry: to reveal the human condition, and to awaken in its readers the profoundest emotions and the most enduring truths of existence.
Ways in to the text
Who was William Wordsworth?
What does Preface to the Lyrical Ballads say?
Why does Preface to the Lyrical Ballads matter?
Section 1: Influences
Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context
Module 2: Academic Context
Module 3: The Problem
Module 4: The Author's Contribution
Section 2: Ideas
Module 5: Main Ideas
Module 6: Secondary Ideas
Module 7: Achievement
Module 8: Place in the Author's Work
Section 3: Impact
Module 9: The First Responses
Module 10: The Evolving Debate
Module 11: Impact and Influence Today
Module 12: Where Next?
Glossary of Terms
People Mentioned in the Text
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