Laura Quinney
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The anxiety of the self and the exile of the soul in Blake and Wordsworth
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William Wordsworth and William Blake are both inheritors of the newly demystified Enlightenment anatomies of the self (Locke, Hume, Hartley), and each of them writes about divisions within the self, and yet each is also partial to older concepts of the soul, less Christian than Gnostic and Neoplatonic. These rival legacies do not simply contradict one another nor exist in tension in the works of these poets, but each of them in his own way draws on both, complementarily, in his exploration of selfhood and of the self's relation to itself. Both are concerned with a certain bewilderment in the self’s relation to the world and to itself. The two different legacies come together particularly for these poets (and this is original to the Romantic concept of self) in the connection they find between a psychology of self-alienation (the self's experience of itself as fragmented) and ‘existential alienation’ (the self's feeling of being homeless in the world or what the Gnostic and Neoplatonic tradition calls ‘the exile of the soul’).

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