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The Poetry of William Wordsworth

6. Childhood

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore the poetry the Wordsworth through the themes of childhood and education, focusing in particular on the importance of nature in education, the changes in one's imagination as one moves from childhood to adulthood, and the child's relationship to nature. Poems discussed in this module include: The Prelude, 'There was a Boy', 'Ode: Intimations of Immortality', 'Anecdote for Fathers', as well as Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Frost at Midnight'.


In this course, Professor Keith Hanley (University of Lancaster) explores the poetry of the great Romantic poet, William Wordsworth. In the first module, we think about Romanticism, the Romantic movement, and some of the leading themes of that period, including the relationship between fantasy and reality, as well as the period as an age of revolution and change. After that, we think about the specific places and landscapes that appear in Wordsworth's poetry, (especially the Lake District) before moving on in the third module to think about how Wordsworth responded to the two great political events of his lifetime: the Revolution in France (1789-99, much of which Wordsworth witnessed first-hand) and the Industrial Revolution in England (c. 1770 – c. 1820-40). In the fourth module, we explore the theme of nature in Wordsworth's poetry, focusing in particular on the different levels on which Wordsworth relates to nature, before turning in the fifth module to the theme of the imagination and creativity. In the sixth and final module, we think about the figure of the child in Wordsworth's poetry, focusing in particular on Wordsworth's views on education, the child's relationship to nature, and the way in which imagination changes as one moves from childhood and adulthood.

Taken as a whole, this course covers a very wide range of Wordsworth's poetry, including several passages from the Prelude, as well as his poems 'Home at Grasmere', 'The Brothers', 'The Naming of Places', 'The Excursion', 'The Idiot Boy', 'The Last of the Flock', 'Michael', 'Old Man Travelling', 'A Slumber did my Spirit Seal', 'We are Seven', 'Lines Written in Early Spring', 'Simon Lee: The Old Huntsman', 'Tintern Abbey', 'Expostulation and Reply', 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud', 'There was a Boy', 'Ode: Intimations of Immortality' and 'Anecdote for Fathers'.


Keith Hanley studied English at Lincoln College, Oxford (MA, B.Litt). At Lancaster (Ph.D) he founded the Wordsworth Centre, which he directed from 1988-2000, and initiated the transfer of the John Howard Whitehouse Ruskin Collections from Bembridge school, directing the Ruskin Centre at Lancaster from 2000-2008. From 1994 he has co-edited the quarterly Nineteenth Century Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Journal (published by Routledge since 2002), currently with David Thomas. He has held posts at a number of European universities and at Notre Dame, Indiana.

Since 1991 he has been a permanent member of the executive board of the American organisation, Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies (INCS), which holds annual conferences throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe. He serves on the advisory board of Anglica: An International Journal of English Studies, Warsaw. His interest in nineteenth-century interdisciplinary studies is reflected in many edited collections of essays, for example, (with Ray Selden) Revolution and English Romanticism: Politics and Rhetoric, Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990, (with Tony Pinkney and Fred Botting) Romanticism Theory Gender, Ryburn Publishing/Keele University Press, 1995, (with Alison Milbank) From Lancaster to the Lakes: The Region in LIterature, NWRS, 1992, and three collections on Ruskin, Art and Society. With Greg Kucich he co-edited the collection Nineteenth Century Worlds: Global Formations Past and Present (Routledge, 2008).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hanley, K. (2018, August 15). The Poetry of William Wordsworth - Childhood [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hanley, K. "The Poetry of William Wordsworth – Childhood." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,