Burial, Community, and the Domestic Affections in Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads

  • David McAllister


Graves and burial sites function for Wordsworth as a locus of difference between the vanishing rural idylls proleptically elegised in poems such as ‘Michael’, ‘We Are Seven’, and ‘The Brothers’, and the rapidly modernising world beyond the mountains. To lose the deathways constructed in and around these sites would risk the loss of every good that they conferred: belief in a sympathetic nature, the sense of a place’s distinctive history and significance, a basis on which to build enduring domestic ties, the means of incorporating individuals into communities, and, ultimately, the source for an intense affective power which radiated outwards from the soil of home to shape both society and nation. This chapter argues that Wordsworth’s poetry of the 1790s suggests that the nation would need to find new ways of retaining a sense of the presence of the dead when communities could no longer rely on their buried presence to link discontiguous generations, if these social goods were to survive in the new century. In doing so, he identifies the ways in which poetry becomes the site of an interaction between the living and the dead, offering poets the opportunity to reimagine the place of the dead in their developing conceptions of community at the beginning of the nineteenth century.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David McAllister
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English and HumanitiesBirkbeck College - University of LondonLondonUK

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