Wordsworth's Prelude, the Eternal Child, and the Dialectics of Bildung
Keywords:William Wordsworth, The Prelude, Childhood, Growing up, Bildungsroman
Franco Moretti argues that inherent in the Bildungsroman is a tension between youth as an energetic emblem of modernity and change, and adulthood, which signifies stoppage, stasis, and finality. However, Wordsworth’s Prelude complicates this binary, as the Romantic resistance to the adult order renders childhood and youth a dialectical image of rebellion, stasis, and finality. The Prelude has been read as a formation narrative that influenced the English Bildungsroman, yet Wordsworth’s representation of childhood within a frozen temporality indicates how the Prelude’s telos of progress and growth becomes a conflicted matter. The dialectic of growth that informs the work subverts the linearity of the story of development and at the same time produces anxiety about the difficulty to grow up. The topos of the child who does not grow up captures the inherent ambiguity surrounding the Bildung ideal, while the morbidity associated with this topos reveals the dark side of the idealization of childhood.
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