Edited By Francesco Marroni, Renzo D'Agnillo and Massimo Verzella
Part 4: Narrative possibilities and intertextual territories
ALLAN C. CHRISTENSEN “Ruth...sick for home”: The Keatsian imagination in the novel of Elizabeth Gaskell* Among the Romantic poets, Wordsworth holds a particular fascination for Elizabeth Gaskell. Margaret Homans thus discusses Gaskell’s pleasure, described in a letter of 1836, as she composes in a “fit place” − “a field gay with bright spring flowers [...] & with lambs” − an es- say now lost on Wordsworth1. In Homans’s interesting analysis Gas- kell is further absorbed at this point in the delight of sharing with her infant daughter Marianne “the nonsymbolic language of infancy”2. Yet a tension exists between the joy of that direct, nonsymbolic com- munication and the need to write about Wordsworthian joy in a more literary or symbolic language. Gaskell experiences the same tension that she must discern in Wordsworth’s own treatment of the “Babe” and the animals – the “blessed Creatures” – of the “Immortality” ode. In his self-conscious need to speak a literate language, the poet feels alienated from “the call / Ye to each other make”. For Homans the alienation is also typically that of the woman writer, who will not be heard unless she adopts a male language, foreign to her instinctive nature. * An earlier version of this essay appeared in Configuring Romanticism, ed. Theo D’haen, Peter Liebregts and Wim Tigges, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2003, pp. 105-122. 1 J.A.V. Chapple and Arthur Pollard (eds.), The Letters of Mrs Gaskell, Manches- ter and New York, Mandolin, 1997, p. 7. The editors describe Gaskell’s project as an imitation of Wordsworth, but she...
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