Chapter 10, Rock and Romanticism, Lexington Books

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Chapter 10 of Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 is “Wordsworth on the Radio,” pp. 141-152, by Rachel Feder, Assistant Professor of British Romantic Literature, University of Denver.

Rachel Feder in “Wordsworth on the Radio” takes a unique approach to the subject of this volume by putting herself in a third position commenting on contemporary poets’ responses to current music within a framework of temporality and deferment established by Wordsworth’s Prelude. Beginning with Locke’s concept of infinity as an endless extension of numbers, his application of that thought to the human mind, and his presentation of the mind’s existence as an endless accretion of experience, she observes in Wordsworth’s Prelude a growth of the poet’s mind one image and one blank verse line at a time. The refusal of closure provided by Wordsworth’s use of blank verse, however, allows the moments or “spots of time” recorded in Wordworth’s poetry to continue into the future and so, by extension, into the present. From that starting point, she considers the implications of Brandon Brown’s Top 40 (2014) invoking Wordsworth in its poetry while it responds to Lana Del Rey, Amanda Bynes, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and Daft Punk. Lauren Ireland’s collection of epistolary prose poems, Dear Lil Wayne (2014), similarly “pleads for time and creates time, using poetry to activate everyday time travel.” Sarah Blake’s poems in Mr. West (2015) create a similar effect in their engagement with the music of Kanye West. Feder argues that Sarah Blake’s poems stretch time in a Wordsworthian way by considering how celebrity is an alternate form of memory, a “different way to consume memory” as the memories of these musicians come to us externally through their music rather than internally through our own experience. Feder ultimately argues that displacing time and memory in this way allows Sarah Blake to engage Holocaust memory with Kanye’s music through the medium of her own poetry, and that her act of doing so is a “neo-Romantic formation” first initiated by Wordsworth’s Prelude.

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Contact Rachel Feder on Twitter.


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