Essays in Romanticism

Pitching Apocalypse

Essays in Romanticism (2015), 22, (2), 215–233.

Abstract

This essay focuses on the tension in Wordsworth’s Poetry between its definition of imagination in Wordsworth as “consciousness of self raised to apocalyptic pitch” and its characterization of Wordsworth’s signature achievement as the “avoidance of apocalypse.” Through readings of Kant on the mathematical sublime, Malthus on the mathematical modeling of population dynamics, and early recastings of Malthus that were to prove paradigmatic for chaos theory, it seeks to shift Wordsworth’s “avoidance of apocalypse” into a conceptual landscape where that avoidance appears more a cognitive advance than an evaded, if poetically necessary, recognition. I conclude with a reexamination of the apostrophe to the Imagination which serves Wordsworth’s Poetry as its prime example of “consciousness of self raised to apocalyptic pitch.”

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Author details

Wilner, Joshua