Conclusion: Critical Issues Then and Now

  • John Williams
Part of the Critical Issues book series (CRTI)


In this chapter I shall consider why there has been such a marked change in Wordsworth’s fortunes in the course of the second half of the twentieth century. At the same time I shall be reviewing Wordsworth criticism in our own time; the latter needs the former to make sense of it. In many respects, the 1960s and early 70s was an inauspicious time to be excited by Wordsworth; there were plenty of other Romantics on offer who seemed more in tune with what was understood to be the spirit of both their own time, and with the preoccupations of post-second-World-War America and Europe. Not least among these was William Blake. New voices were also being discovered; one of the most exciting of these was John Clare (1793–1864), whose genuine ‘peasant’ simplicity seemed directly to challenge the more self-conscious, assumed simplicity of the university-educated Wordsworth. In 1979 Routledge published Marilyn Butler’s Peacock Displayed, a study of the life and work of the satirist and member of the Shelley/Byron circle, Thomas Love Peacock (1785–1866). This book was a reminder of how the whole process of canonisation had for some time been rigorously interrogated, along with larger questions about the status of single academic ‘disciplines’ such as English and History.


Literary Criticism Textual Research Textual Scholarship Critical Climate Time Literary Supplement 
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© John Williams 2002

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  • John Williams

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