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1 1 6 Philosophy and Literature I have learned much from Reed's book, both about what I call the Romantic world view and the varying world views of Romanticism's critics. But, more importantly perhaps to a philosopher, Reed has demonstrated — not merely talked about, but demonstrated — the intimate relationship between constructivist metaphysics and deconstructivist criticism. California Institute of TechnologyW. T. Jones Aspects of Wordsworth and Whitehead: Philosophy and Certain Continuing Life-Problems, by Alexander P. Cappon ; 283 pp. New York: Philosophical Library, 1983, $19.95. As chapter five of Science and the Modern World makes especially clear, Whitehead admired and sympathized with the works of the English Romantic poets. While both literary critics (Newton Stallknecht) and philosophers (Dorothy Emmet, Melvin Rader) have noted Whitehead's philosophical affinities with the Romantics, no one has explored the relationship very extensively . (I do not think, for example, that anyone has ever pondered or even noted how pointedly the close of Science and the Modem World alludes to the conclusion of Shelley's "A Defence ofPoetry.") Now Alexander Cappon offers a sustained juxtaposition of Whitehead with Wordsworth. Cappon's study is principally a Whiteheadean gloss to Wordsworth's long autobiographical poem The Prelude (1805), book by book, a chapter for each book. More accurately, it is but part of such a gloss to but part of The Prelude: Cappon's first chapters summarize, but also revise, his earlier Whiteheadean gloss to The Prelude Books I-VI (About Wordsworth and Whitehead: A Prelude to Philosophy), while his last chapter arbitrarily breaks off after Book XI, leaving XII (which Wordsworth explicitly pairs with XI) and XIII (Wordsworth's "Conclusion ") "for further treatment in a later volume on Wordsworth and Whitehead" (p. 279). Cappon's emphasis, then, is on The Prelude Books VII-XI. Typically he moves from whatever topic he finds Wordsworth addressing — be it education, mortality, love of nature, life in the city, ethics, eternity, the French Revolution, mathematics, guilt — to consider Whitehead's thoughts on the same topic, and then applies Whitehead's conclusions to Wordsworth's argument. The results are very uneven: at some places the book becomes a sustained discussion of Whitehead's views, while at others (e.g., chapters nine and ten, dealing with Wordsworth's "Residence in France and the Aftermath") Whitehead figures hardly at all. Reviews1 1 7 Cappon knows Whitehead's work well, Wordsworth's much less well, and their commentators' (at least of the last 25 years) not well at all. His straightforward exposition of The Prelude sometimes stumbles badly, as when he mistakes the blighted and ravaged Royalist officer of IX. 143-64 for Wordsworth's Patriot mentor Beaupuy (p. 162) or when by misreading Wordsworth's effort "to abstract the hopes of man / Out of his feelings" (X. 807-808) he completely inverts Wordsworth's self-analysis (pp. 215, 232). His oddest critical sally, though, has no direct connection with The Prelude (or with Whitehead), but concerns the most famous of Wordsworth's "Lucy" poems, "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal," which Cappon incongruously wants to read as a poem about Wordsworth's French lover, Annette Vallon. His justification, apparently, is that "Annette" and "Lucy" are both two-syllable names: "The name Annette may be read . . . either in the French fashion, without accent on either syllable, or it may be read with an accent on the first syllable. In either reading it could be fitted very well into the 'Luc/ poem rhythm. Authors of poetry often choose consciously or unconsciously the name for a character in a poem because of its possible rhythmical connection with the name of a real person" (pp. 158-59). Does anyone actually say Annette? But in fact it hardly matters — for the name "Lucy," into whose rhythm Cappon is trying to fit "Annette," never appears in the poem. Cappon chooses The Prelude as his Wordsworthian text, he says, "because Whitehead admired the poem and it seemed to us, early in our study, that he might have been influenced by it in specific ways" (p. 15). Cappon never begins to establish such influence. But why choose the 1805 rather than the 1850 version of The Prelude as a text...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 116-117
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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