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Daniel Stempel WORDSWORTH AND THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF TEXTUAL CONSTITUTION The same person may be poet and logician, but he cannot be both in the same composition: and as heroes have been frustrated of glory "carent quia vate sacro," so I think the vates himself has often been misunderstood and successfully cried down for want of a Logician in Ordinary, to supply a logical commentary on his intuitive truths. J. S. Mill, letter to Carlyle, July 5, 1833 Although phenomenological criticism has gained wide acceptance , much of it, including the pioneering work of Bachelard and Poulet, falls short of Husserl's criterion of strenge Wissenschaft, a rigorously self-consistent discipline that moves outward from apodictic insights through precise derivations to arrive at clear and certain predications . In its encounter with Husserl's method and its complex terminology, modern hermeneutics displays no unanimity of response; the spectrum ranges from Hirsch's endorsement of certainty to Derrida 's rejection of it, which uses the weapons of Heidegger's phenomenology of transcendence to "deconstruct" Husserl's transcendental idealism. But all are clear on one point, I think: that Husserl's work cannot be ignored by contemporary literary theory, although some doubt remains as to the utility of its strict application. Husserl himself suggested the relevance of his method to aesthetics, praising the arts (and poetry in particular) for their mastery of Phantasie , which, for him, means the selective visualization of the free play of possibility to derive mental data for which no "natural" correlate exists. The arts have the unique gift of transforming mere imaginings into fully realized structures through their media of representation, creating "perfectly clear fantasies." In semiotic terms, Husserl implies that a signifier can be adequately defined only in terms of other sig150 Daniel Stempel151 nifiers in a closed system, not by reference to an external signified. Thus each work of art is governed by a regional axiom that generates the logic of its language; aesthetic predications are not pseudo-statements . Husserl concludes: "So one can actually say, if one loves paradoxical locutions, and say it in strict truth, if one thoroughly understands the multiple sense, that 'Fiction' constitutes the life-element of phenomenology, as of every eidetic science, that fiction is the source from which the knowledge of the 'eternal truths' draws its sustenance."1 But, apart from this, specific historical and methodological grounds justify the interpretation of Wordsworth's writings as phenomenological , not only because they prefigure Husserl's fundamental operations, but because they also extend them, as Heidegger does, to the interaction of consciousness and transcendence. Both Husserl and Wordsworth describe the structures of consciousness. Husserl begins with the Now, the mind in the world, and shows how the knowledge of our experience is constituted logically rather than historically. Wordsworth, using a genetic approach, explores the origins of consciousness and traces its development from primitive experience to self-knowledge through an inner history of Mind which is also a personal biography. The two approaches, united by a common aim, complement each other. Wordsworth is so accurate in his delineation of the different modalities of perception and insight that his genetic theory of mind achieves an astonishing congruence with Husserl's logical analysis. And, conversely, in his last writings, Husserl realized that the "given" of the transcendental ego already has a history, a "passive genesis" that begins in "early infancy" and that the universal principle of this passive genesis is "association "!2 Husserl finally meets Wordsworth on his own ground: "Only through the phenomenology of genesis does the ego become understandable: as a nexus, connected in the unity of an all-embracing genesis, an infinite nexus of synthetically congruous performances—at levels, all of which fit the universal persisting form, temporality, because the latter itself is built up in a continual, passive and completely universal genesis, which as a matter of essential necessity, embraces everything new."3 While Husserl's philosophical terms are designed to avoid ambiguity, Wordsworth's language makes its fine distinctions through subtly precise modulations of the complex play of meaning in poetic discourse. Taken out of the continuity of the phenomenology of genesis, words revert to ordinary (and sometimes banal) levels of meaning. My use...


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