Romanticism, Lyricism, and History

By Sarah M. Zimmerman

Subjects: English Literature
Paperback : 9780791441107, 233 pages, May 1999
Hardcover : 9780791441091, 233 pages, May 1999

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Table of contents



Standard References

The History of an Aura: Romantic Lyricism and the Millennium that Didn't Come

"Dost thou not know my voice?": Charlotte Smith and the Lyric's Audience

William Wordsworth and the Uses of Lyricism

Dorothy Wordsworth and the Liabilities of Literary Production

John Clare's Poetics and Politics of Loss




Argues against the persistent view of Romantic lyricism as inherently introspective by relating the poems of William Wordsworth, John Clare, and Charlotte Smith, as well as the letters and prose works of Dorothy Wordsworth, to their historical and literary contexts.


Arguing against a persistent view of Romantic lyricism as an inherently introspective mode, this book examines how Charlotte Smith, William Wordsworth, and John Clare recognized and employed the mode's immense capacity for engaging reading audiences in reflections both personal and social. Zimmerman focuses new attention on the Romantic lyric's audiences—not the silent, passive auditor of canonical paradigms, but historical readers and critics who can tell us more than we have asked about the mode's rhetorical possibilities. She situates poems within the specific circumstances of their production and consumption, including the aftermath in England of the French Revolution, rural poverty, the processes of parliamentary enclosure, the biographical contours of poets' careers, and the myriad exchanges among poets, patrons, publishers, critics, and readers in the literary marketplace.

Sarah M. Zimmerman is Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


"This study offers a much needed revisiting of the problem of the Romantic lyric, its historical and its critical place, and how the addition of women and working-class writers to the canon changes our understanding of the lyric. I find Zimmerman's construction of a new 'school' of poets, outside of the Lake school, Cockney school, or Shelley Circle, intriguing and useful. Zimmerman's insights into the configurations of these authors are refreshing and, in many cases, compelling." — Elizabeth Fay, University of Massachusetts–Boston

"Zimmerman takes us in new directions, offers new insights and revelations. Everywhere one gets a sense of reading these texts—and their authors—anew. Time and again I found myself silently saying, 'Of course!' as she moved to conclusions whose plain good sense (and real critical insight) proved genuinely interesting and convincing." — Stephen C. Behrendt, University of Nebraska

"I like very much the way in which Zimmerman manages to read men and women writers of the Romantic period in tandem. There has been a great deal of interest of late in Romantic women writers but they have too often been read as separate or different from their male contemporaries. The general premise of the book as a whole—that is, the effort to historicize the lyric—stands as a healthy corrective to a tendency in New Historicist accounts of Wordsworth's poetry to overemphasize the poet's retreat from the material circumstances of his day."— Judith Pascoe, University of Iowa