• “Oft, In Lonely Rooms”: Wordsworth’s Self-Pleasuring "Tintern Abbey"

    Author(s):
    John Stephenson (see profile)
    Date:
    2009
    Subject(s):
    William Wordsworth, 18th-century English poetry, Queer studies, Romanticism
    Item Type:
    Essay
    Tag(s):
    Sexuality in literature, male gaze, landscape allegory
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/mpb9-a714
    Abstract:
    Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” is in essence an exploration of the poet’s internal transformation in relation to the natural landscape and the memory of landscape. This process of maturation enables Wordsworth to experience and reflect upon nature’s beauty rather than simply enjoy its immediate sensation. The poem’s emphasis on pleasure derived from gazing upon nature suggests an eroticization of the landscape, but reading with this focus progressively reveals a strong autoerotic impulse, in which the fantasy of the desirable image is of primary importance. This masturbatory subtext is also discernible in the "Preface" to the "Lyrical Ballads", in which Wordsworth discusses the motives and poetic principles that inspired “Tintern Abbey” and its companion texts. Connections between the solitary activity of artistic creation and the autoerotic impulse have been noted by writers such as Guy-Bray and Kosofsky Sedgwick, and building upon such work, I argue that seemingly contradictory desires within “Tintern Abbey” can be resolved to some extent through the trope of self-pleasure. Wordsworth’s solitary gratifications in and away from nature, through the body and via memory, and within the uneasy homosocial space of his and Coleridge’s "Lyrical Ballads" are examined within the context of autoerotic practice.
    Notes:
    Paper originally submitted to ENG E-245 Approaches to the Practice and Profession of Literary Study (Graduate credit), Harvard University Extension School, 12 January 2009. Minor revisions 26 April 2019.
    Metadata:
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
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