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Poetics of PalliationRomantic Literary Therapy, 1790-1850$
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Birttany Pladek

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781786942210

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786942210.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 22 September 2021

‘Soothing Thoughts’

‘Soothing Thoughts’

William Wordsworth and the Poetry of Relief

(p.96) Chapter Three ‘Soothing Thoughts’
Poetics of Palliation

Brittany Pladek

Liverpool University Press

Chapter three begins the book’s survey of palliative poetics developed by Romantic writers, comparing Wordsworth’s ideas about poetic therapy with medical beliefs of the late eighteenth century. The therapeutic holism later ascribed to Wordsworth by literary critics was held by Romantic medicine to be a restorative power of nature, a ‘vis medicatrix naturae’ that could repair a broken constitution in ways doctors could not. But as medicine professionalized, they saw how claims that nature was the real healer could damage their reputation. Their compensatory shift to a palliative ethic was driven in part by a need to renegotiate medicine’s relationship with nature. Similarly, Wordsworth initially hoped his own poetry could replicate nature’s holistic therapy. But in Lyrical Ballads (1798), a collection whose Wordsworthian lyrics extol the superiority of natural medicine, Wordsworth realized his own art could not mimic nature’s healing power. As a result, he turns towards a poetics of palliation grounded in the ‘delight’ outlined by Edmund Burke’s 1757 Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.

Keywords:   William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, medical ethics, palliative care, Edmund Burke

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