Why read Wordsworth's poetry-indeed, why read poetry at all? Beyond any pleasure it might give, can it make one a better or more flourishing person? These questions were never far from William Wordsworth's thoughts. He responded in rich and varied ways, in verse and in prose, in both well-known and more obscure writings.
Wordsworth's Ethics is a comprehensive examination of the Romantic poet's work, delving into his desire to understand the source and scope of our ethical obligations. Adam Potkay finds that Wordsworth consistently rejects the kind of impersonal utilitarianism that was espoused by his contemporaries James Mill and Jeremy Bentham in favor of a view of ethics founded in relationships with particular persons and things.
The discussion proceeds chronologically through Wordsworth's career as a writer-from his juvenilia through his poems of the 1830s and '40s-providing a valuable introduction to the poet's work. The book will appeal to readers interested in the vital connection between literature and moral philosophy.
Adam Potkay is the William R. Kenan Professor of Humanities at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of The Story of Joy from the Bible to Late Romanticism, winner of the Harry Levin Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association.
AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. Audition and Attachment2. Close Encounters I3. Close Encounters II4. The Ethics of Things5. Music versus Conscience6. Captivation and Liberty in Poems on Music7. The Moral Sublime8. Independence and Interdependence9. Surviving Death10. The Poetics of LifeEnvoyNotesWorks CitedIndex