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Kauvar, G.B. (1977). The Psychological Structure of English Romantic Poetry. Psychoanal. Rev., 64(1):21-40.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Review, 64(1):21-40

The Psychological Structure of English Romantic Poetry

Gerald B. Kauvar

Structural approaches to Romanticism will strike many students of literature as yet another evasion of our responsibility to understand in detail the literature itself; others will see in them fresh evidence of the intellectual or emotional bankruptcy of traditional modes of literary criticism. Regardless, the application of Freudian hypotheses and terminology is likely to be particularly resented; psychoanalytic categories seem to be more of a threat to our sense of uniqueness, importance, and independence than we care to tolerate. But if we can agree that the verification of structural approaches is in the determination of how much light they shed on particular works and canons, then we may be able to willingly suspend our disbelief, at least long enough to see whether poetry with which we are very familiar “may be presented to the mind,” as Wordsworth writes in the preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads,

in an unusual aspect; and further and above all … make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature.

Let me begin by stating, in non-Freudian language, my idea of the structure of the Romantic literature produced by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats.

The poetry of the English Romantics has, as its central modality, a symbolic debate between the legitimate claims of the quotidian world and the equally legitimate and equally real claims of the imagination.

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