An Experimental Reading of Wordsworth's Prelude

Author: Davis, James P.
This interdisciplinary study examines the formal experiments of Wordsworth's 1805 Prelude in light of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century theories in neuroscience. To historians of science, the study argues that the central paradigms of dual-brain theory were advanced as early as 1805 in Wordsworth's experimental verse on the growth of his own mind. For literary critics, this study suggests ways of applying theories from neuroscience to the reading of literary texts. The study seeks to articulate a shared psychology at the center of the revolutionary poetics of the Romantics, also examining Coleridge, Blake, and other British poets.


“. . . Davis pursues what must be one of the most unusual studies of the poet yet published, aiming to assess the degree to which some of the paradigms from cognitive neuroscience might fruitfully inform one’s reading of The Prelude. . . . On the surface, this sounds like an unconventional line of enquiry, as indeed it is. It is also scrupulous in its scholarship, both Wordsworthian and psychological. Davis begins with a clear and persuasive account of the failure of The Recluse, before launching into a careful discussion of various aspects of experimentation in The Prelude, including the use of discontinuities and the Wordsworthian conception of time. It provides what is finally an original and intriguing approach to the poetry.” – The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory