Wordsworth and Creativity

I’m excited to announce that I’ve signed a contract with University of Iowa Press to write a book tentatively titled Spots of Time: Wordsworth and the Writing of One’s Life. This book will be part of the Iowa Series in Creativity and Writing, which was launched last year with Eric Wilson’s impressive My Business Is To Create: Blake’s Infinite Writing.

In Spots of Time: Wordsworth and the Writing of One’s Self, I want to demonstrate how Wordsworth’s autobiographical epic poem—the first of its kind—The Prelude may serve as provocative, instructive, and inspirational rumination on the writing of one’s life—but not strictly as autobiography or memoir. Although there have been many studies of The Prelude as it relates to the epic tradition, to Enlightenment questions about epistemology, to pre-Freudian questions about personality and development, to critical theory and related issues of language and gender, to the political crisis of the 1790s, and to the poem’s particular historical and biographical context, no book exists to make The Prelude accessible to creative writers or to general readers who are interested in questions of how one is to write about oneself—or one’s self—for others to read. I want to show how Wordsworth not only adapts his personal history for his poetry but also how he develops The Prelude as a poetics for life writing.

More specifically, I want to show how this very long poem is about the way a creative artist adapts the materials of one’s life for a work that is manifestly something else altogether. Spots of Time, therefore, is a book about why The Prelude is important for today’s writers and how they might use the poem as a kind of handbook for adapting one’s past experiences to create something new for the present. The Prelude offers numerous examples of how Wordsworth demonstrates the adapting of one’s life for a creative work of art, based on one’s self, that is not limited to biographical interest or confined by egocentrism. This seems to me a vital concern for any writer who wants to avoid self-absorption. In The Prelude, Wordsworth shows how looking inward makes a creative writer better able to project outward, to touch others—indeed, to teach others. Much scholarly commentary exists on this poem—and I certainly will make use of some of the best of it—but I am particularly interested in recovering Wordsworth and The Prelude for general readers who may be unaware of this great work and, more specifically, for creative artists who need to be reminded of why they are important and of how a writer may express the subjective experience of an individual life in a way that matters to others.

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