Work of the Fellows: Monographs

The Romantic Body: Love and Sexuality in Keats, Wordsworth, and Blake

Hagstrum, Jean H. (Fellow, 1985-86; Fellow, 1986-87)

Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985

From the publisher's description:

The Romantic Body is an eloquent and persuasive defense of what Lionel Trilling powerfully argued over twenty years ago in “The Fate of Pleasure,” that Wordsworth and Keats (and, Hagstrum would add, Blake and Byron, Shelley and Coleridge) believed that “the grand elementary principle of pleasure” constitutes “the naked and native dignity of man” and is the principle by which man “knows, and feels, and lives, and moves” (as Wordsworth put it in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads). Pleasure, here, is of course explicitly sensual or sexual pleasure, as well as the mental and poetic images which that bodily delight produces. Only in an era in which deconstructive and semiotic approaches dominate our reading of texts, in which desire and pleasure are confined to linguistic strategies, would Trilling’s insight require Hagstrum’s strenuous defense. But today Hagstrum’s unabashed insistence that “real experience” exists outside of “fiction, rhetorical and verbal structures,” that human experience is sensual experience, and that poetry expresses or communicates that experience, may be welcome to many.

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality; Literature; Literary Criticism; Romanticism; English Poetry; Love