Romantic Vagrancy: Wordsworth and the Simulation of Freedom (Cambridge Studies in Romanticism)

  • Publish Date: 2006-12-14
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Celeste Langan
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Romantic Vagrancy offers a provocative account of Wordsworth's representation of walking as the exercise of imagination, by tracing a recurrent analogy between the poet in search of materials and the literally dispossessed beggars and vagrants he encounters. Reading Wordsworth--and Rousseau before him--from the perspective of current debates about the political and social rights of the homeless, Celeste Langan argues that both literature and vagrancy are surprisingly rich and disturbing images of the 'negative freedom' at the heart of liberalism. Langan shows how the formal structure of the Romantic poem--the improvisational excursion--mirrors its apparent themes, often narratives of impoverishment or abandonment. According to Langan, the encounter between the beggar and the passerby in Wordsworth's poetry does not simply reveal a social conscience or its lack; it represents the advent of the liberal subject, whose identity is stretched out between origin and destination, caught between economic and political forces, and the workings of desire. Langan's powerful and innovative argument revises current views both of Wordsworth's poetry and of the relation of literature to its social and political context.