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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.64, No.3, 383 ~ 402, 2018
Things That Might Occur When Objects Show Up: A Story of Life of Things and Their Ethics in Wordsworth’s Early Works
Hyeuk Kyu Joo
Wordsworth is a poet who thought seriously about problems of human’s relation to the world as perceiving subjects. What he calls “the life of things” illustrates the enabling power of things and their vitalities at play in excess of human elements. Drawing on this, he provides insights into vital materialities that act upon, and are acted upon by, the collaborative circulation between human and nonhuman agency. This paper aims to reinvigorate the debate about Wordsworth’s ethics of things in terms of such critical notions as things, objects, agency, and nonhumans in an attempt to explain what he envisions as new environmental realities built upon nonhierarchical, collaborative relationships between all participants. From the vantage point of things, we see clearly what has been neglected in the New Historicist critical method. It holds fast to the conceit that humans are entitled to have sole agential legitimacy, disregarding the vibrancy of things. They opt for the objectified matter or the (re)presented state of things. But in terms of Wordsworth’s life of things, all participants have equal amounts of agency regardless of their forms and for that reason humans are expected to respect other things’ sovereignty. Through encounters with things, things in their thingness show up for us, only to reveal the ineradicable rupture between themselves and their objectified forms.
Key Words
things, vitality, materiality, ethics, otherness
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