Poetry of Opposition and Revolution: Dryden to Wordsworth

Poetry of Opposition and Revolution is an important new study of the relation between poetry and politics in English literature from Dryden to Wordsworth. Building on his argument in Poetry and the Realm of Politics: Shakespeare to Dryden (also available from OUP), Howard Erskine-Hill reveals that the major tradition of political allusion is not, as has often been argued, that of the political allegory and overtly political poems, but rather a more shifting and less systematic practice, often involving equivocal or multiple reference. Drawing on the revisionist trend in recent historiography, the book offers new and thought-provoking readings of familiar texts. Dryden's Aeneid version and Pope's Rape of The Lock are shown to belong not just to contemporary convention, but to a more widespread and older style of envisioning high politics and the crises of government. The early books of The Prelude can be seen to show marked political features; reflections of the 1688 Revolution are traced in The Rape of the Lock; and a Jacobite emotion is identified in The Vanity of Human Wishes. Taking issue with recent New Historicist Romantic criticism, the concluding chapters argue that what have seemed to many to be traces of covert political displacement or erasure in Wordsworth are in fact marks of a continuing political preoccupation, which found new forms after the collapse of the Enlightenment programme into the Jacobin terror.