Romantic vagrancy: Literature and the simulation of freedom
This dissertation seeks to explain the ideological resonance of the pedestrian metaphor informing Wordsworth's representation of social relations, politics, and history. I suggest that Wordsworth's passionate belief that walking constituted a fundamental human right emerges from the negative definition of freedom, in Declaration of the Rights of Man, as "freedom from unjustified restraint." This definition justifies the dispossession, dislocation, and vagrancy produced by the transference of property, reproducing them as forms of social mobility.^ I read Wordsworth's enriched attention to a perpetually or chronically unemployed surplus-population within the formal structure of the walking tour as his attempt to transform the expropriation of the rural poor into their liberation. Adopting the behavior of the dispossessed, Wordsworth effaces the particular class content of that behavior, so that walking embraces two entirely different significations: vagrancy and freedom. On a literary or aesthetic level, Wordsworth thus simulates their enforced mobilization as his own freedom.^ The first two chapters, on Plato and Rousseau, establish a philosophical tradition identifying freedom with itinerancy, distinguished from both absolute vagrancy and all trajectories determined by needs-statisfaction. The third chapter reads Wordsworth's early poems against the English legal tradition regarding a disputed jus spatiandi, or right to wander over other's property; I argue that Wordsworth validates an aesthetic of mobility as essential to a new form of property, the money-form. The fourth chapter establishes the political context of Wordsworth's pedestrian excursions, reading Descriptive Sketches and The Prelude in the context of the French Revolution. The final chapter, "The Walking Cure," attempts to draw together the various discourses of walking--philosophical, political, and poetic--in a reading of The Excursion as an attempt to establish community no longer on an ethic of productivity, but on the negative exercise of freedom that is walking. Finally, I suggest how the poem offers a critical method for resisting current theories still sedimented by the Romantic simulation of freedom as mobility. ^
Celeste Gerard Langan,
"Romantic vagrancy: Literature and the simulation of freedom"
(January 1, 1989).
Dissertations available from ProQuest.