Poetic/rhetorical ethos and the performative power of words in The Prelude (books 9-11), with special reference to reflections on language from Burke to the Idéologues - Université Paris Nanterre Access content directly
Journal Articles Litteraria Pragensia : studies in literature and culture Year : 2024

Poetic/rhetorical ethos and the performative power of words in The Prelude (books 9-11), with special reference to reflections on language from Burke to the Idéologues

Catherine Bois
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Abstract

Wordsworth attended revolutionary debates in Paris in 1791. As a young republican he felt unskilled in public speaking. When he later sympathized with Tory principles he extolled Burke’s oratorical genius. However, he did not quite disown his early use of ideologically loaded words like ‘liberty’. According to Wordsworth's view on ethos, poetic authority is related to collaboration with the reader. Classical argumentation is a feature of his work, but his ‘verse rhetoric’ favours the performative power of words. The notion of verbal effectiveness is to be found in the sensualist reflection on language from Burke to Condillac and the Idéologues. It also proceeds from the 18th century reassessment of style: rhetoric of communication and bellelettrism value elocutio higher than inventio and dispositio. Romantic appraisal of ethos undercuts Aristotle’s ideal of the orator’s control over speech, which depends on a measure of distinct balance between ethos, logos, and pathos. Unlike the Ciceronian rhetoric and neoclassical poetics of Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, Wordsworth’s periodic syntax in The Prelude (books 9-11) is energized by words geared to deliberative-cum-poetic persuasion. Verbal echoes disseminate memorializing effects through such heterodox spots of time as the “hunger-bitten girl” episode. Ethos permeates the poetic persona and his practice of language indiscriminately, infusing words with an unprecedented combination of ethical and ideological ambiguity.
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hal-04442993 , version 1 (07-02-2024)

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Catherine Bois. Poetic/rhetorical ethos and the performative power of words in The Prelude (books 9-11), with special reference to reflections on language from Burke to the Idéologues. Litteraria Pragensia : studies in literature and culture, In press, Special issue (December 2024). ⟨hal-04442993⟩
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