Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226652191 Published August 2019
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Wordsworth’s Fun

Matthew Bevis

Wordsworth’s Fun

Matthew Bevis

264 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2019
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226652191 Published August 2019
Cloth $82.50 ISBN: 9780226652054 Published August 2019
E-book $10.00 to $27.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226652221 Published August 2019

“The next day Wordsworth arrived from Bristol at Coleridge’s cottage,” William Hazlitt recalled, “He answered in some degree to his friend’s description of him, but was more quaint and Don Quixote- like . . . there was a convulsive inclination to laughter about the mouth.” Hazlitt presents a Wordsworth who differs from the one we know—and, as Matthew Bevis argues in his radical new reading of the poet, this Wordsworth owed his quixotic creativity to a profound feeling for comedy.

Wordsworth’s Fun explores the writer’s debts to the ludic and the ludicrous in classical tradition; his reworkings of Ariosto, Erasmus, and Cervantes; his engagement with forms of English poetic humor; and his love of comic prose. Combining close reading with cultural analysis, Bevis travels many untrodden ways, studying Wordsworth’s interest in laughing gas, pantomime, the figure of the fool, and the value of play. Intrepid, immersive, and entertaining, Wordsworth’s Fun sheds fresh light on how one poet’s strange humor helped to shape modern literary experiment.

Facing Him









Review Quotes
Michael Wood, Princeton University
"Bevis says he is not trying to save Wordsworth from himself, but he brilliantly rescues the poet from two very large groups of would-be possessors: his solemn admirers and his solemn detractors. Life for the Wordsworth evoked in this book is too serious to be taken only seriously—he believes, as Bevis says, ‘that only one sort of feeling about a subject isn’t enough.’ Bevis's double claim is richly sustained: that Wordsworth is more fun than we may have thought, and that fun itself is more Wordsworthian than we have imagined."
Langdon Hammer, Yale University
Wordsworth’s Fun: surely that’s an oxymoron, or a joke? But Bevis is serious. Showing how much Wordsworth and fun have to teach us about each other, Bevis de-familiarizes his monumental subject and returns the poet to his essential human strangeness. In the process, this book makes a literary contribution to the small shelf of philosophical and psychoanalytic works that think hard about the nature of laughter and play.” 
James Longenbach, University of Rochester
"When was the last time you read a hefty book about an indefatigably English poet for pleasure, the pleasure of tracking a mind’s encounter with what interests it? Bevis possesses the most lively mind of any critic writing today, capable simultaneously of intense concentration and wide-eyed distractibility. Every page of this book feels as surprising as it feels inevitable.” 
Maureen N. McLane, New York University
"From its provocative title through its subtle and dazzling readings, Wordsworth’s Fun reopens a case one might have thought not only closed but nonexistent. Bevis brilliantly pursues the queer conundrum the poet’s contemporaries better recognized (even if they often censured it): how Wordsworth sounded out the ludic in the ludicrous, the fun in the funereal, the wit in the withheld, the daftness in daffodils, the glee in what’s agley. Elegant, absorbing, and often (yes) fun, Bevis’s book is a bravura inquiry that looks hard at the rebarbative often obscured pleasures of this poet. Bevis offers not only vivifying readings of signal poems – lyrical ballads, the Lucy poems, passages in The Prelude – but a model for reading and hearing the allusive counter-pressures throughout Wordsworth’s oeuvre. Bevis reanimates Wordsworth’s perverse funny-peculiar poetics of pleasure; his Wordsworth profoundly registers the tragi-comedy of subjectivity itself. This book could do for Wordsworth what, say, Christopher Ricks and Marjorie Levinson differently did for Keats: instead of saving the poet from his critics, Bevis illuminates and transvalues (without dismissing) what’s embarrassingly ridiculous in Wordsworth’s works and commitments. This is a companionable, dizzying, pleasing, and revelatory book. It teases us out of and into thought."
Colin Burrow | London Review of Books
“Bevis has done something genuinely valuable by drawing attention to Wordsworth’s humour. A poem can be a risk akin to a joke. Like a joke it depends on an intricate connection between your own sense of timing and the good faith of an audience. As with a joke an audience has got to want to take it the right way for the performance of a poem to work. Bevis is particularly good on moments in Wordsworth that activate those risks. But what’s cumulatively impressive about his book is the multiplicity of kinds of comedy it explores.”
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