“A Dim and Undetermined Sense of Unknown Modes of Being”: Wordsworth, The Prelude and the beginnings of modernity

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This essay argues that, with the French Revolution, Wordsworth is one of the great instances of the onset of modernity, and, with the later Kant, one of its first great exponents. Here modernity is understood as an intermittent phenomenon, one that happens only rarely, every now and again. Wordsworth is the first great literary diagnostician of modernity as characterized by interruptions of an inert world of repetitive series, notably in The Prelude. But he both affirms and resists what he diagnoses. He progressively organizes The Prelude in the service of an anti-modern position, but can never altogether smother the modernity that position seeks to resist.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-278
JournalEtudes Anglaises
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


  • Wordsworth
  • Prelude
  • Kant
  • modernity

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