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date: 19 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the ways that cultural assumptions about gender and sexuality influenced Wordsworth. Issues of gender permeate Wordsworth’s poetry and prefaces. In the Lyrical Ballads Wordsworth famously defines the poet as ‘a man speaking to men,’ at the same time that he argues for the centrality of emotion, passion, and sentiment (prior to the Romantics not typically male virtues). Wordsworth presents sexuality in terms of transgression, loss, and abandonment, especially from the point of view of his female characters. This article explores these and other issues, including Wordsworth’s constructions of manliness, from his early career through the lesser-known poetry of the later years, and also considers Wordsworth’s presentation of himself and his poetic ambitions in his theoretical and critical writings. Wordsworth’s attitudes toward gender are complex and paradoxical, and his presentation of sexuality is as equally complicated by the conflicts in his life and in his writing.

Keywords: Wordsworth, gender, sexuality, manliness, female characters, passion

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