The Sonnet as Idyllium

Next week I will be presenting at the International Conference on Romanticism at Arizona State University. My paper is on Wordsworth’s 1815 preface and his generic/formal classification of the sonnet as “Idyllium.” I will be looking at this surprising classification of the sonnet essentially as a “loco-descriptive” poem is not necessarily an overwriting or even a circumventing of those problematic influences; rather, Wordsworth’s poetics of sonnet as Idyllium, seemingly de-emphasizing the amorous and the political, is a kind of circumnavigation that increasingly becomes associated with place and the movement from place to place. As he goes on to write hundreds of sonnets, most of which would appear in series memorializing his travels, Wordsworth never forgets the sonnet tradition—and he self-consciously alludes to it and to the form he’s using—but he wants to redefine the mode if not the form of the sonnet for himself. The 1815 preface and the sonnet as Idyllium is the beginning of that journey.

Some of this I will be able to repurpose for my essay on the Duddon sonnets in the Handbook and also for my book.

I’m fortunate to be part of a group of fascinating panels organized by Michael Gamer devoted to “Catastrophes of Genre,” in keeping with the conference’s general theme, “Catastrophes.” In fact, I’m honored to have the first slot. Also presenting in my session are Judith Thompson and Deven Parker. I’m looking forward to it! The program can be found here.


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