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The mapping of meaning in Wordsworth's 'Michael' : textual place, textual space and spatialized speech acts.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2010
JournalStudies in Romanticism
Journal number1
Volume49
Number of pages36
Pages43-78
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

As the second of two linked papers, this piece further advances the interpretation of the text in a state of process and as a published work through the analysis of literary speech acts. It does so by exploring the place-specific nature of the spatialised speech act, for which a particular geographical location is central to meaning in multiple ways. Theoretically, the paper draws upon the work of Merleau-Ponty and Michel de Certeau. Textually, it explores such ideas through Wordsworth’s poem “Michael” considered across all its textual states. The paper is in five sections. The first, “Theorising Spatiality”, establishes a basis for considerations of space and place using the theorists already mentioned, before the second section moves on to attempt to define “textual place” and “textual space”. These concepts are then explored through a discussion of the material relationship between Wordsworth and Coleridge, “Michael” and Christabel, in surviving drafts and copied texts as well as in the relationship between geographical place and compositional place for the writing of “Michael”. The fourth section returns to the published work of art as well as to a close focus on the spatialised speech act, centring analysis on Michael’s covenant. The final part of the paper begins to explore ideas of “mapping” in terms of readerly inhabitation of space, with particular reference to the mapping of manuscripts. Throughout, theoretical and textual ideas are grounded in close analysis of the poem itself in different manifestations. The paper hopes to illustrate more generally the potential of a spatialised approach for Literary Studies but also the value of a spatial approach for Romantic textuality, through its capacity to allow free movement across and between the text in a fixed, published, state and the text in a state of process.