Abstract

Reading some well-known childhood poems by Blake and Wordsworth, the article challenges the accepted opinion that the Puritan and Romantic concepts of the child at the turn of the nineteenth century functioned as opposites. Instead, the article offers a reading that unravels the residues of Puritan and catechetical thinking in texts by two of the earliest advocates of the child's perspective as a valuable human and poetic quality. Though denouncing authoritarian and catechetical modes of interaction in which the child's speech is silenced, Blake and Wordsworth, writing at a moment of cultural transition, construct the child in a way that indicates a failure of their own declared purpose of redeeming the child's perspective and voice as valuably distinct from those of the adult. Although formally and grammatically the voice of Blake's poetic child is sometimes restored to him, the child is made a spokesman of a sophisticated and emphatically adult discourse of political radicalism. Similarly in Wordsworth, the construction of the child as a necessary layer in the uncovering of the poetic and autobiographical Self denies the child its valuable difference through an adult voice's ongoing narcissistic ventriloquism. The adult speaker's idealization of the child's freedom is ambiguated by the implicit association of freedom with parental neglect, which involves a disregard of the child's perspective. Thus, in contrast to the declared agenda of the poems, they also imply a desire that the child be less liberated and more regulated by the adult world.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-9247
Print ISSN
1565-3668
Pages
pp. 167-197
Launched on MUSE
2007-07-05
Open Access
No
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