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Representations of the Gypsy in the Romantic Period$
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Sarah Houghton-Walker

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198719472

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198719472.001.0001

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Wandering, Wordsworth, and Gypsies

Wandering, Wordsworth, and Gypsies

(p.126) 5 Wandering, Wordsworth, and Gypsies
Representations of the Gypsy in the Romantic Period

Sarah Houghton-Walker

Oxford University Press

Previously a deeply suspicious pursuit, wandering becomes a desirable and highly aestheticized activity in the Romantic period. This chapter examines the effect of this dramatic shift in discourse on representations of gypsies, who are known precisely as wanderers, in Wordsworth’s verse. Acknowledging that Wordsworth’s attitude stems from the poet’s recognition that he shares many of the characteristics he identifies in the gypsies he meets, the chapter outlines the way in which being confronted with problematic suggestions of wandering, and of labour and leisure (which are in turn aspects of a highly pertinent discourse of Englishness), prompts Wordsworth’s troubled responses. But it also argues that the histrionic tone of Wordsworth’s poem “Gipsies” arises because these troubling questions are apprehended through what is, in this period, a sublime object. Reflecting on the idea of strangeness with familiarity, the chapter dwells particularly on notions of identity and knowledge raised by Wordsworth’s encounters with gypsies.

Keywords:   Wordsworth, wandering, labour, leisure, Englishness, sublime, sublimity, identity, knowledge

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