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date: 14 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Eighteenth-century topographical poetry reveals spectacularly the connection between any act of representation and the arrangement of nature according to a point of view, one always enmeshed in relationships of power and governance. All English topographical verse in fact descends in one way or another from Sir John Denham’s Coopers Hill (first published 1642, substantially revised 1655, published 1668). This prototype of what Samuel Johnson called “local poetry” derives its profound capacity to influence later generations from its relations of production, and the signs it bears of those relations, namely, civil violence and global commerce. During the eighteenth century, two alternatives to Coopers Hill arose: iter poetry recounting journeys, and poetry of private rather than public patriotic views. Heartened by these alternatives, and seeking to dispense with the topographical tradition altogether, William Wordsworth found himself nevertheless rewriting Coopers Hill when he composed Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey in 1798.

Keywords: poetry, topographical verse, local poetry, travel, John Denham

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