By John Woolford, Daniel O''Gorman
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Extra info for Browning the Revisionary
G. Kingsland 27 Nov. , LH 128). The reference to Wordsworth is particularly significant, since it was from Wordsworth that Browning, and the Victorian period as a whole, inherited their theory of audience. The controversy as to what he meant by 'the language really used by men' has sometimes obscured Wordsworth's concern with the writer-reader relationship; in fact it was this relationship, and Wordsworth's desire to revolutionise it, that was itself responsible for the famous phrase. Wordsworth's attack on 'Poetic Diction' dramatises his claim that the poet is not a privileged, exceptional being but 'a man speaking to men'; it produces four revolutionary poetic principles: 1.
He uses art for his purposes, and deals with the object after his own fashion' (Wenckstern 77). Such a view is the natural outcome of the position, most famously advanced by Coleridge, that creative power is essentially godlike. 24 Its most notable opponent among the Romantics was Wordsworth, who in the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads (1800-02) attacked 'poetic diction' on the grounds that no poet for whom poetry is, as it should be, a celebration of man's 'ordinary life' 'will break in upon the sanctity and truth of his pictures by transitory and accidental ornaments, and endeavour to excite admiration of himself by arts, the necessity of which must manifestly depend upon the assumed meanness of his subject (Poems, ed.
Once his reader has fully 'rouse[d] himself', 'the guidance which the artist gives him should be full and authoritative: the beholder's imagination should not be suffered to take its own way, or wander hither and thither' (xi 214). e. to reach a conclusion already predetermined by the author. In terms of the model of poetic creation I proposed in the last chapter, such a restoration of the author's didactic hegemony amounts to a resumption of power over the reader. I shall show that in Browning's case this equivocation forms the core of an almost intractable problem of audience.
Browning the Revisionary by John Woolford, Daniel O''Gorman