Impossible purposes: Re-examining Romantic poetry as theory

Scott Anthony Levin, Fordham University


In addressing the traditional division between thought and form, I demonstrate how three very different poets of the Romantic Age create a poetic form in which the paradoxical theory of Romanticism, both past and present, thrives. Impossible Purposes establishes how Romantic poetry manifests a Romantic theory that focuses on the blending of idealism and skepticism through the aesthetic. However, this theoretical conversation too often remains in the realm of theory without close textual analyses of the aesthetic works themselves. Whether through the discursive practices of German Romanticism, the non-fiction prose work of the Romantic poets, or the works of postmodern critics, Romantic theory centers on questions of aesthetics. However, the contemporary take on Romantic theory exists only in theory without the close readings that I provide. Yet, recent new formal practices suggest that poetic form is an inclusionary means of reconciliation, and through my close reading of William Wordsworth, Letitia Landon, and John Clare I demonstrate how Romantic theory benefits from textual analysis. As I demonstrate, each poet creates a poetic form where the very notion of poetry becomes an idealized purpose that is shrouded in a world of skepticism. Impossible Purposes provides a neo-formal attention to close textual analysis that demonstrates the close ties that exist between Romantic-era poetry and modern Romantic theory.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Levin, Scott Anthony, "Impossible purposes: Re-examining Romantic poetry as theory" (2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3435798.