William Wordsworth: The Prelude
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William Wordsworth: The Prelude

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Radcliffe Humanities Building, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter

Oxford, United Kingdom

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To celebrate the publication of The Prelude (a new illustrated edition) the editors James Engell and Michael Raymond, will discuss their book with Fiona Stafford, Emily Knight, and Steven Matthews. 


About the Book

This is an entirely new edition of The Prelude, the most resonant poem of the entire Romantic Era. Over the last 150 years this poetic autobiography has emerged as one of the most admired works in all of English literature and certainly as the pre-eminent long poem expressing a personal romantic spirit. It tells the story of the growth of imagination and love in the mind of one of the finest poets of the last 250 years. It recounts Wordsworth's childhood and youth, his days at Cambridge, residence in London, walking tour of the Alps, his witnessing of the French Revolution, crisis and turmoil over the apparent failure of its revolutionary ideals, and the ultimate restoration of imaginative power. The poem is spiritual and inward, yet anchored in particulars of landscape and events of history. Wordsworth addressed his poem to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and read it aloud to him. Coleridge's poetic response, To William Wordsworth, is also included.

Speakers' Biographies

Fiona Stafford is a Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, and Tutorial Fellow at Somerville College. She lectures on eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century literature at Oxford University, and frequently gives public lectures to general audiences on a range of topics. She regularly participates in Radio programmes, and wrote and delivered three series for Radio 3’s ‘The Essay’, entitled ‘The Meaning of Trees’. In 2015, with the poets, Andrew McNeillie and Bernard O’Donoghue, she organised the Unencompassing the Archipelago Conference at Somerville, with key note addresses from the artist, Norman Ackroyd, and the travel writer, Philip Marsden. I have also contributed to the literary magazine, Archipelago. Fiona enjoys working with artists and art historians and recently contributed to two of Calum Colvin’s art books, Jacobites by Name and The Magic Box.  She also wrote an essay for Tate Britain’s ‘In Focus’ project on William Dyce’s well known painting, Pegwell Bay and published an essay on John Clare’s interest in colour and the visual arts.  She has longstanding interests in Ossian, Austen, Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, the Shelleys, Byron, Heaney, Carson, literature of the Romantic period, the literature of place, nature writing (old and new), Scottish poetry (post 1700), dialogues between English, Irish and Scottish literature, literature and the visual arts, contemporary poetry.  


Emily Knight is a D.Phil candidate in History of Art at the University of Oxford supervised by Professor Hanneke Grootenboer. Her research focuses on posthumous portraiture in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries in Britain, considering the ways in which these works became a language for mourning and commemoration. She completed her Masters in History of Art and Visual Culture at Oxford in 2012 and before that, studied for her undergraduate degree in the same subject at the University of Edinburgh. In addition to her research and role as TORCH Graduate Project Coordinator, she also runs RECSO (Romanticism and Eighteenth Century Research Oxford), a research network supported by TORCH.


Steven Matthews is a Professor in English Literature (Modernism) at the University of Reading. His primary research interests are in modernism and its aftermaths, and in modern and contemporary British, Irish, and American poetries. He also publishes on Samuel Beckett, Thirties writing, and post-colonial poetry. Within the English department at the University of Reading, he teaches courses on Modernism, Samuel Beckett (undergraduate and M.A.), American literature, and modern and contemporary British poetries.


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Free, all welcome. Booking essential.

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Radcliffe Humanities Building, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter

Oxford, United Kingdom

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