University of Sussex
Pei, Yun.pdf (1.5 MB)

The prophetic Wordsworth: anxiety and self-fashioning

Download (1.5 MB)
posted on 2023-06-08, 23:47 authored by Yun Pei
The thesis investigates the prophetic in Wordsworth’s ‘golden decade’ (1798-1808). It establishes the following arguments: the prophetic in Wordsworth should not be treated of only incidental interest; it is a mode of his self-fashioning, as well as a mode of his writing, channelling the poet’s anxieties about his authorship, readership, reception and posterity. The thesis contains an introduction and a short conclusion, with two main sections amounting to 7 chapters. Chapter 1 to 3 form Part I, focusing on the prophetic as a mode of self-fashioning. Chapter 1 re-examines The Prelude, arguing that self-doubts and struggle are inherent to Wordsworth’s prophetic aspirations. Chapter 2 discusses three major reasons that make Wordsworth’s self-fashioning as a poet of prophetic quality possible: personal aspirations, knowledge economy, and prophetic discourse of his time. Chapter 3 investigates anxieties generated in self-fashioning: anxiety of influence and anxiety about reception. Chapter 4 to 7 form Part II, exploring the prophetic as a mode of writing. Chapter 4 studies the apocalyptic vision of the rupture in human history in Lyrical Ballads. Chapter 5 looks into Wordsworth’s concern with the nation in ‘Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty’. Chapter 6 focuses on the dual prophetic quality of The White Doe of Rylstone and its links to discourse of duty and Catholic Emancipation. Chapter 7 studies the prophet-like speaker and the prophetic nature of the narrative in Peter Bell. It also considers the discrepancy between the poet’s ideal reader and his actual reader as the reason why the poem fails to appeal. The claim to innovation in the thesis is that it offers a corrective reading of the prophetic as a mode of self-fashioning and a mode of writing in Wordsworth. It also sheds new light on the poet’s acclaimed major works such as Lyrical Ballads, as well as widely criticised minor ones such as Peter Bell.


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • English Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected