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Silent Harmony: Music and Time in Wordsworth's Prelude

Kanwischer, Sylvia

Sensual imagery has been discussed by many of Wordsworth's critics, but although they might mention "the tyranny of the ear" as closely associated with "the tyranny of the eye," they tend to emphasize visual rather than audible imagery. The poet of The Prelude, however, is "now all eye/And now all ear" in the presence of nature, giving equal emphasis to both seeing and hearing, or looking and listening. Entering The Prelude by examining the imagery associated with the ear, beginning with the many musical allusions and metaphors enhances one's appreciation of Wordsworth's imagery by opening the door to the rich category of sound. Because sound is a temporal experience, an exploration of Wordsworth's audible imagery elucidates both his ideal of time and his real-life experience of it. Having identified Wordsworth's situation with respect to time by close reading of passages alive with a great range of sounds, one can step back and use this newly gained perspective--along with some applicable concepts from musicology--to find meaning in the poem's confusing overall structure.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Arac, Jonathan
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 28, 2015
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