The Ordinary Sky: Wordsworth, Blanchot, and the Writing of Disaster

Romantic Psyche and Psychoanalysis

The Ordinary Sky: Wordsworth,
Blanchot, and the Writing of Disaster

Mary Jacobus, Cambridge University

Taking as its point of departure Wollheims autobiographical observation about a sight that stirred him to melancholy, this essay explores a series of passages that attest to Wordsworth's fixation on similar sights in poetry associated with the composition of 'The Ruined Cottage'. Other poems by Wordsworth--'A Night Piece' and 'The Discharged Soldier'--open transcendental or deathly vistas relating to the sky. In _The Writing of the Disaster_, Blanchot testifies to his childhood experience of a premature death that emptied the sky of significance, suggesting (with Winnicott) the the unrecognized trauma attached to ordinary sights, and--by extension--the problem of autobiography. This essay appears in _Romantic Psyche and Psychoanalysis_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (, University of Maryland.

  1. In Germs, a posthumous memoir of his suburban childhood, the philosopher and aesthetician Richard Wollheim describes his deep-seated dread, on emerging from rainy-day afternoon trips to the cinema, of the sight of the sun on a wet road—"where the first rays of pale sunlight hit it, so that, looking out, I could see the tarred surface glint and sparkle in the late, departing glory of the evening" (45). "A natural cause of joy to many," he recalls, "this sight stirred in [him] the deepest, darkest melancholy." As one can tell from even this brief excerpt, the young Wollheim is a budding aesthete—a Wordsworthian Proust, fostered alike by beauty, boredom, and suburban fear. His confessional memoir sometimes refers to discussions with his psychoanalyst, Dr. S.[1] As the psychopathology of everyday life goes, British suburbia has a lot to answer for. But it has also produced its own distinct aesthetic, as we know from the poetry of Wollheim's near contemporaries, John Betjeman and Philip Larkin.

  2. The sight of a shiny wet road retained its life-long capacity to induce dismalness in Wollheim: "Even today," he writes, "when in actuality the sheen on a bright wet surface has more or less lost its terrors for me, I have only in imagination to take myself back in years, and recall it in the mind's eye, and, in such moments, once again understand the full dismal power that the experience had over me." But attempts to convey the depths of this melancholy experience to others comically misfire. The test comes in a moment that occurs during Wollheim's undergraduate years at Oxford. On one occasion, after-dinner talk turns to the difference between melancholia, sadness, and nostalgia; between Ivan Turgenev, Jane Austen, and Thomas Hardy. Wollheim plucks up his courage to bare his soul and announces that he "knew nothing more melancholy than sun after rain on a suburban road" (46).

  3. At this, his literary interlocutor, Lord D[avid] C[ecil], "blurted out his answer in a fast, high-pitched voice: 'Richard,' he said, 'I think I see exactly what you mean, and it's fascinating, but really I don't see why 'suburban.' Aren't you trying to be too—specific? I don't see why 'suburban' has anything to do with it. I really don't think it has.'"[2] At that moment, Wollheim records, the certainty that he "had had interesting experiences, and that one day I would be able to convey their poignancy in words of great precision, died. Over the years it was to die many deaths, none altogether fatal" (46). Fortunately, then, not a writer's death: he lived to tell the tale.

  4. The young Wollheim might have objected that the thudding predictability of "sún after ráin on a róad" required "suburban" for metrical as well as purely cognitive reasons. Lord DC (aesthete as well as aristocrat, author of—among other books—The Fine Art of Reading, The Striken Deer, Hardy the Novelist, Jane Austen, and many others) possibly envisaged a pared-down imagiste line ("petals on a wet, black bough"), or even an un-specifically Wordsworthian spot of time, singular yet universal, but never prosaic—let alone suburban. In any event, his blue pencil descended unerringly on what is least "Romantic" in Wollheim's formulation—neither urban and modern, nor rural and Wordsworthian. But did he miss the point?  It's not just that an affluent childhood passed in Weybridge or Walton-on-Thames was melancholy or boring. It was also, for Wollheim, associated with death.

  5. As Wollheim explains, privation and excess were intimately connected in his psychic economy. He "always found one thing worse than having too little, and that was having too much" (46). Having too little—the parsimony of affluence—meant that having too much (for example, the sun breaking through on a rainy afternoon on quitting the cinema) was like being God, if you happened to be a superstitious child; or like being rich, if you were the adolescent socialist Wollheim became; but worst of all, he says: "It handed life over to boredom" (46). The only thing that brought him closer to the sense of death was the glimpse from his mother's car of "a man in white tennis trousers, who had been walking home after an energetic game of tennis" and who had collapsed from a heart-attack, lying dead beside the road with his un-pressed tennis racquet (the un-pressed racquet is a telling detail of disaster-stricken suburbia).

  6. The shining wet road of Wollheim's memoir came to mind for me because its serio-comic narrative of his emotional de-formation unexpectedly condenses a number of recurrent motifs in the autobiographical writings of William Wordsworth and Maurice Blanchot. These motifs include a fixation on "the glint and sparkle" of reflected light; a moment of sudden revelation in which joy and sorrow are indistinguishable; and the disquieting glimpse of death by the road as the traveler passes by. I will argue that the shine (the Schein or sheen; the appearance), the vision, and the intimation of mortality together signal an aspect of Romantic autobiography that Jacques Derrida, writing apropos of Blanchot in Demeure calls "autothanographical" (55); that is, a narrative of one's own death. Derrida's account emphasizes the structuring of "real experience" by fiction, creating a form of testimony in which "the border between literature and its other becomes undecidable" (92). This is the border traversed by Wollheim's memoir, with its staging of the formative literary encounter. As Freud reminds us in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901) with his account of memory's tricky relation to temporality, childhood memories and "screen memories" are themselves a kind of fiction, a retrospective projection on the past, date-stamped by subsequent events, fantasies, and desires—not to be trusted any more than the dream-screen.


  7. I want to turn to two early testimonial fragments by Wordsworth, "The Baker's Cart" lines and "Incipient Madness." Both fragments survive from spring 1797 and the origins of work towards The Ruined Cottage, the narrative of a passer-by who encounters the melancholy sight of a ruin once inhabited by a now-dead woman. In both fragments, melancholy road-sights converge with melancholia; the setting is late eighteenth-century Dorset, where Wordsworth was living at the time—then the poorest of all agricultural counties.[3] The first draft describes a poignant scene of rural poverty and neglect. A woman stands with her children while the baker's cart passes by their wretched hut, not stopping to make its usual delivery. In this scene, an unbalanced mind is attributed to the starving and depressed woman. Seeing the narrator's eyes following the cart, "in a low and fearful voice / She said 'That wagon does not care for us'" (15-16).

  8. The attribution of uncaring to the wagon strikes the narrator as eloquent testimony to a "sick and extravagant" mind:

    The words were simple, but her look and voice
    Made up their meaning, and bespoke a mind
    Which being long neglected and denied
    The common food of hope was now become
    Sick and extravagant—(17-21)
    The truth-value of the passage lies in Wordsworth's insight: the mind is made sick by—what? By "strong access / Of momentary pangs driv'n to that state/In which all past experience melts away" (21-23), the combination of hunger and neglect (stomach and mind). Made creative by suffering, "the rebellious heart to its own will / Fashions the laws of nature" (24-25). The emphasis on "Fashions" links poet and sufferer. Mingled hunger and hopelessness produce a rebellious figure of speech: pathetic fallacy, or an unfeeling wagon ("that wagon does not care for us").
  9. The everyday psychopathology of displaced affect is attributed here to the pangs of privation, already metaphorically—extravagantly—understood by Wordsworth himself as having to do with affect as well as appetite ("denied / The common food of hope"). Hopelessness is located in the stomach. Another fragmentary draft describes the woman's mind as "by misery and rumination deep / Tied to dead things and seeking sympathy / In stocks and stones" (Butler 467). Again the word "rumination" suggestions an oddly somatic association: to ruminate is to turn over in mind and mouth (as in: chewing the cud). The same ambiguously sympathetic link to "dead things" surfaces in the related fragment, "Incipient Madness." Here the pathology is attributed to a narrator who crosses "the dreary moor / In the clear moonlight" and reaches an abandoned hut, where he has his own version of the hunger-experience. As for Wollheim, so for Wordsworth: if there is one thing worse than having too little, it is having too much:                                                

                        . . . within the ruin I beheld
    At a small distance, on the dusky ground,
    A broken pane which glitter'd in the moon
    And seemed akin to life. There is a mood,
    A settled temper of the heart, when grief
    Become an instinct, fastening on all things
    That promise food, doth like a sucking babe
    Create it where it is not. (4-11)
    We might recall that the hungry baby, according to Freud, hallucinates or creates the absent breast (as Wordsworth puts it in The Ruined Cottage, "obedient to the strong creative power of passion," like the poets in their elegies and songs). For Klein, the breast that feeds is the good breast. The bad breast is the absent breast—making its presence all too much felt in the unconscious phantasy and persecutory hunger-pangs that are impossible for the infant to distinguish.
  10. The glittering pane in the moonlight "was in truth an ordinary sight" (a phrase imported here from another fixation-spot in the 1798-99 Prelude, the gibbet on the moor).[4] Seeming "akin to life" it offers its own hallucinatory tribute to the instinct to create meaning in the face of absence, or instinctual grief. At once a visual and an emotional fixation-point, the glittering glass (a light-reflecting surface) fixes the narrator's eye and his sick state of mind: "From this time / I found my sickly heart had tied itself / Even to this speck of glass" (again the word tied—"tied to dead things"—comes up in relation to the inanimate). A draft adds: "It could produce / A feeling as of absence" (13-14). Eager for "the moment when [his] sight / Should feed on it again" (15-16; my emphasis), the narrator revisits it every night when the moon rises:                                    

               . . . I reach'd the cottage, and I found
    Still undisturb'd and glittering in its place
    That speck of glass more precious to my soul
    Than was the moon in heaven. (20-24)
    What is "more precious" than the moon—another mirroring, secondary light-source—is the hallucinatory nourishment provided by its reflection. The sound that later startles the traveler from the ruin (the clanking chain of a hobbled horse sheltering from the rain) adds a gothic resonance to an everyday psychopathology of the eye.
  11. These fragments convey Wordsworth's well-known narrative fixation on a spot (a ruin haunted by the absence of a dead woman).  But in this case, the poet-narrator is fixated, not just on a "spot," but on a "speck" (an interesting word: a speck is sometimes thought of as a minute mark, almost too small to see, or as a speck that is in the eye, on the retina itself): a glittering pane of glass. Here one might recall Lacan's parable of the look (le regard) in his 1964 seminars on the Gaze: the fisherman Petit-Jean points to a floating sardine-can, glittering (miroitait) in the sun and says to Lacan: "—Tu la vois? Eh bien, elle, elle te voit pas!" ("You see that can? Do you see it? Well, it doesn't see you!"). Lacan glosses the glittering can otherwise: "in a sense, it was looking at me, all the same. It was looking at me at the level of the point of light, the point at which everything that looks at me is situated" (Four Fundamental Concepts 95).[5] At the level of the subject, it is not the eye that singles out the mirroring source of light, but the reflected light that singles out and constitutes the look: "That which is light looks at me." The play of light and opacity is analogous to the relation of gaze and screen: "It is always that gleam of light—it lay at the heart of my little story—it is always this which prevents me, at each point, from being a screen, from making the light appear as an iridescence that overflows it" (96). So much for phenomenology.

    Seeing Things

  12. "The Line and Light" follows on from Lacan's earlier seminars prompted by Maurice Merleau-Ponty's recent posthumously published Le Visible et  l'invisible (1964). Merleau-Ponty is concerned not only with the emergence of vision from the iridescence of which it is part, but with the illusion that consciousness has of "seeing itself seeing itself" (Four Fundamental Concepts 82). Hence the inside-out, glove-like structure of the gaze.  For Merleau-Ponty, the reciprocity of seeing turns the self inside out:

    "As soon as we see other seers, we no longer have before us only the look without a pupil, the plate-glass of the things with that feeble reflection, that phantom of ourselves they evoke by designating a place among themselves whence we see them:  henceforth through other eyes we are for ourselves fully visible. . . . For the first time I appear to myself completely turned inside out under my own eyes." (143)
    The structure of vision is that of a visibility that involves the non-visible. The lens through which we see ourselves is not the plate-glass of shimmering things but being seen by another. The implication I want to draw from these reflections on the optics of seeing is that the autobiographical self may be imagined, contrarily, as both finding and losing itself in the eye of another—as both bathed in iridescence and uncomfortably skewered by a sardine-can. For Merleau-Ponty the seeing eye finds itself in the eye of another, rather than in the plate-glass of things; but for Lacan this is the illusion of the phenomenological subject. The difference is not one of emphasis, but absolute.
  13. And what about that shine in Wordsworth? Written less than a year after "The Baker's Cart" lines and "Incipient Madness," during the winter of 1797-98, a related pair of fragments in the Alfoxden Notebook focus on sights seen on a moonlit road.[6] Although not overtly melancholic in the Wollheim mode, both "A Night-Piece" and "The Discharged Soldier" share some of its features: light-sensitivity; immanent revelation; and the sense that elation and melancholy are never far apart. Wollheim recalls his love of the moment, "half sunset, half sunrise," when the lights in the cinema dimmed and the titles come up, "and they could, just for a moment, be seen, the far side of the gauze curtains, as clear as pebbles through still water"; before the curtains slid open, the gauze was gathered into pleats, the lettering became blurred, "until the curtains passed across it, and then, one by one, the words again became legible, and the screen took on the unbounded promise of a book first opened" (Germs 45)—surely a screen memory: the young Wollheim is an avid reader of Sir Walter Scott's romances.

  14. "A Night-Piece" offers its own promise of transcendental disclosure by a sky that is similarly veiled—"overspread / With a close veil of one continuous cloud / All whitened by the moon" (1-3)—until (with the slight suspension of the line-break) "the clouds are split / Asunder" (8-9) to reveal

    The clear moon & the glory of the heavens.
    There in a blue-black vault she sails along
    Followed by multitudes of stars, that small
    And bright, & sharp along the gloomy vault
    Drive as she drives. How fast they wheel away!
    Yet vanish not! The wind is in the trees,
    But they are silent. Still they roll along,
    Immeasurably distant . . .  (10-15; Butler and Green 276-77)
    A visionary silent cinema indeed, with its rolling credits and focused motion. "At length the vision closes," and the mind re-settles, "Not undisturbed by the deep joy it feels" (20-21). As described in Dorothy's Alfoxden journal entry, the brightness of moon and stars, "seemed concentrated" (Journals 4).[7] Sharp focus gives way to the unbounded promise of an immensely open book, or the unmasterable field of vision that, for Lacan, "grasps me, solicits me at every moment, and makes of the landscape something other than a landscape, something other than what I have called a picture" (Four Fundamental Concepts 96).
  15. Another night-time experience, once more involving a moonlit road, introduces the figure of the other-worldly war-veteran in "The Discharged Soldier," later to be embedded in Book IV of The Prelude:

    I slowly mounted up a steep ascent
    Where the road's watry surface to the ridge
    Of that sharp rising glittered in the moon
    And seemed before my eyes another stream
    Stealing with silent lapse to join the brook
    That murmured in the valley. (6-11; Butler and Green 277)
    Here the "glint and sparkle" of Wollheim's tarred surface is rendered as the "watry" surface of an unpaved road which "glittered in the moon," like a "stream / Stealing with silent lapse." The narrator's "exhausted mind worn out by toil" is restored unawares, as if by "the calm of sleep. Into this restorative scene intrudes "an uncouth shape," the gaunt and spectral figure of the discharged soldier. Propped and ghastly, this scarcely human figure induces "a mingled sense / Of fear and sorrow" (68-69) in the onlooker, "Myself unseen" (41). It is, in fact, the immobility and abstraction of the Discharged Soldier that disconcerts the onlooker: no visibility is to be found here in the eye of the seer.
  16. Wordsworth's description of "a man cut off / From all his kind, and more than half detached / From his own nature" (58-60), summons death onto the scene. The "uncouth shape" of Milton's Death casts its long shadow across the pretext (or post-text) of a trumped up humanitarian narrative. In "Mourning and Melancholia" Freud famously argues apropos of the processes of identification involved in melancholia that 'the shadow of the object falls on the ego.' The spectral figure of the soldier embodies what Blanchot calls "the passivity which is beyond disquietude" (Writing 15); his is not the calm of sleep. A dis-identificatory Other—"dis-identifying me, abandoning me to passivity"—causes the bereft self to take leave of itself  (Writing 19). His trust (he says) is in God and "in the eye of him that passes me" (165; Darlington 437). Like a speck of glass in the moonlight, the Discharged Soldier mirrors the eye of an alienated beholder. He takes his meaning from the passer-by because he himself has lost it. But for the passer-by, his failure to return the look, like his words, have the effect of "a strange half-absence." If autobiography entails visibility in the eye of the other, the soldier resembles that figure of unseeing in Book VII of The Prelude, the blind London Beggar. "His fixèd face and sightless eyes" admonish the onlooker ("I looked, /As if admonished from another world" [7.622-23; 1805]) just as the writing he wears undoes that peculiar form of seeing we call reading.


  17. Blanchot's The Writing of the Disaster (L'Ecriture du désastre) is a book of fragments: "Fragments are written as unfinished separations" (Blanchot, Writing 58); they implicate both temporality and its absence: "Fragmentation is the spacing, the separation effected by a temporalization which can only be  understood—fallaciously—as the absence of time" (60). The sketch, study, or rejected version overturns what has never been whole; fragments ruin the totality of the work. Linked to the disaster, unity disappears, along with identity; repetition signals the peculiar presence of the work of art's (parenthetical) absence: "(to say it all again and to silence by saying it again)." The fragmentary "(. . . dismisses, in principle, the I, the author)" (61). The Writing of the Disaster is autobiography without an author, temporality without time (as in the unconscious).

  18. "Let us suppose," writes Blanchot, "that every one has his private madness" (Writing 44). The phrase "private madness" is Winnicott's and it refers to the private madness—the hallucination—of the creative individual.[8] Blanchot calls it "knowledge without truth." For all Blanchot's notorious reticence, The Writing of the Disaster invokes a Winnicottian child who lives on in the wake of an anterior disaster—an uncertain death that has already happened. Prior even to having a self, Winnicott's child may have experienced overwhelming states of anxiety or "primitive agonies" which he cannot know. Blanchot calls this a "fictive application," but the fiction that Winnicott calls "fear of breakdown" (the breakdown that is feared is the breakdown that has "always-already" happened) permits him to say, however fictively, "I remember" (Blanchot, Writing 66). What Blanchot remembers is an unexperienced event, "the experience that none experiences, the experience of death." Here is the dead child, "the child who, before living, has sunk into dying" (Writing 68), as Blanchot offers, speculatively "(A primal [primitive] scene?)":            

             . . . suppose, suppose this: the child—is he seven years old, or eight perhaps?—standing by the window, drawing the curtain and, through the pane, looking. What he sees: the garden, the wintry trees, the wall of a house. Though he sees, no doubt in a child's way, his play space, he grows weary and slowly looks up towards the ordinary sky, with clouds, grey light—pallid daylight without depth.
    What happens then: the sky, the same sky, suddenly open, absolutely black and absolutely empty, revealing (as though the pane had broken) such an absence that all has since always and forever been lost therein—so lost that therein is affirmed the vertiginous knowledge that nothing is what there is, and first of all nothing beyond. The unexpected aspect of this scene (its interminable feature) is the feeling of happiness that straightaway submerges the child, the ravaging joy to which he can bear witness only by tears, an endless flood of tears. He is thought to suffer a childish sorrow; attempts are made to console him. He says nothing. He will live henceforth in the secret. He will weep no more. (72)
    (The young Wollheim weeps inconsolably, submerged in tears at the sound of music). The secret is that there is no secret; the disclosure of a sky that it is absolutely black and absolutely empty.
  19. The Writing of the Disaster returns to this "screen memory" as if to a spot of time. Blanchot calls its banality "consolation's commentary whereby solitude is shut out." In this "pre-story, 'the flashing circumstance' whereby the dazzled child sees . . . the happy murder of himself," the child's tears "shine in this dissolution and keep shining all the way to emotion that gives no sign at all" (115). The lack of emotion is the sign, signaled by the shine of tears combined with banality (the "suburban"?):

    Let me continue to emphasize the banality; the circumstances are of this world--the tree, the wall, the winter garden, the play space and with it, lassitude; then time is introduced, and its discourse: the recountable is either without any episode of note, or else purely episodic. Indeed, the sky, in the cosmic dimensions it takes on as soon as it is named—the stars, the universe—brings only the clarity of parsimonious daylight, even if this were to be construed as the "fiat lux."—It is a distantness that is not distant.—Nevertheless the same sky . . .—Exactly, it has to be the same.—Nothing has changed.—Except the overwhelming overturning of nothing.—Which breaks, by the smashing of a pane (behind which one rests assured of perfect, of protected, visibility), the finite-infinite space of the cosmos—ordinary order—the better to substitute the knowing vertigo of the deserted outside. Blackness and void, responding to the suddenness of the opening and giving themselves unalloyed, announce the revelation of the outside by absence, loss and the lack of any beyond. (115)
      The last line of Blanchot's fragmentary work plays on the -aster—the star—in disaster: "Shining solitude, the void of the sky, a deferred death: disaster" (146). The concentrated star in Dorothy's Journal entry is dis-astered by Blanchot's tearful eye.
  20. Attentive readers will have noted how Blanchot negates the voluminous Wordsworthian sky ("a blue-black vault . . . the gloomy vault") as a sky that is absolutely empty. As if the pane of visibility has been broken, the child sees "that nothing is what there is"—not at all the same as "a calm and simple negation (as though in its place the eternal translator wrote 'There is nothing')"(116).  "Ordinary order" becomes "the knowing vertigo of the deserted outside. Blackness and void . . ." (115). For the young Wollheim, reflected sunlight undercuts the  "fiat lux" of the cinematic apparatus. The un-broken window pane is like the screen through which the child inserts himself into an imaginary cinematic order (as opposed to the "ordinary order" of his childhood); the aftermath is a Blanchotian "absence, loss and the lack of any beyond." Blanchot's commentary evokes "A scene: a shadow, a faint gleam, an 'almost' with the characteristics of 'too much,' of excessiveness" (114). Even the shadow of a scene offers the gleam of  "too much," worse than too little.

  21. Apropos of Blanchot's fragmentary autobiographical texts, Derrida writes that "testimony is always autobiographical: it tells, in the first person, the sharable and unsharable secret of what happened to me, to me alone" (43). But a testimony is not supposed to be either a work of art or fiction. Derrida's reading of The Instant of my Death (Blanchot's account of his narrow escape from death during WWII) invokes The Writing of the Disaster, which defines writing one's autobiography ("like a work of art") as seeking to survive through a perpetual suicide, or "a death which is total inasmuch as fragmentary" (Blanchot, Writing 64; Derrida 44).[9] The work of art, the fiction, the fragment, all "place" autobiography in literature. This is the fracture—between (false) testimony and (true) fiction—that Derrida explores in his reading of Blanchot's autobiographical fragments.

  22. For Derrida, Blanchot's "unexperienced experience" (65)—experience which escapes comprehension—defines the literary. Fiction plays a disconcerting game with testimony. In a court of law, Derrida observes, an accused who launched into the discourse of "the unexperienced" would be turned over to a psychiatrist. He connects Blanchot's "feeling of lightness" as he faces the firing squad—"The encounter of death with death?" (Blanchot, Writing  5; Derrida 63)—with the child's feeling of happiness in the "primal scene" of The Writing of the Disaster: "A child, perhaps the same as this "young man", experiences, through tears, following something that resembles an  unspoken trauma, a feeling of lightness or beatitude" (64). What they share is "the memory of lightness" due to "the imminence of a death that has already arrived" (88).

  23. Wollheim's memoir ends with one of the many ways in which childhood ends, "when, no longer reconciled to the cold fact that there are things about ourselves we cannot say but can at best express in tears, we try obliquely to conquer the inability to say one thing through the hard-won ability to say another thing that neighbors on it" (255). His telling of an (un)thought that lies too deep for tears deploys the metonymy common to both confession and "screen memory," testimony and autobiography. It links a suburban road to Blanchot's "ordinary sky," and the "ordinary sight" of Wordsworth's Prelude. As Freud puts it, "the affect was in the wrong place" (51-52)—or rather, not the affect, but the stress. Romantic autothanography transforms an endless flood of tears into the melancholy sight of "sun after rain on a suburban road," a line that just fails to be Wordsworthian blank verse.

Works Cited

Blanchot, Maurice. The Writing of the Disaster. 1986. Trans. Ann Smock. Lincoln, NA: U of Nebraska P, 1995.

---. The Instant of My Death and Demeure: Fiction and Testimony. 1994. Trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2000.

Butler, James ed. The Ruined Cottage and The Pedlar. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1979.

Butler, James, and Green, Karen eds. Lyrical Ballads and Other Poems 1797-1800. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1992.

Darlington, Beth. "Two Early Texts: 'A Night-Piece' and 'The Discharged Soldier.'" Bicentenary Wordsworth Studies. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1990. 425-48.

Derrida, Jacques. The Instant of my Death and Demeure: Fiction and Testimony. 1998. Trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2000.

Freud, Sigmund. "Mourning and Melancholia." 1915. Vol. 14. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 24 vols. Trans. James Strachey. London: Hogarth P, 1954. 243-258.

---. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. 1901. Vol. 6. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 24 vols. Trans. James Strachey. London: Hogarth P, 1954.

Lacan, Jacques. Livre XI; Les Quatre Concepts Fondamentaux de la Psychanalyse, 1964. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1973.

---. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Visible and the Invisible. 1964. Ed. Claude Lefort. Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1968.

Winnicott, D. W. "The  Fate of the Transitional Object." 1959. Ed. Clare Winnicott, Ray Shepherd, and Madeleine Davis. Psycho-Analytic Explorations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1992. 53-58.

Wollheim, Richard. Germs, A Memoir of Childhood. London: Waywiser P, 2004.

Wordsworth, Dorothy. The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth. Ed. Helen Darbishire. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1958.

Wordsworth, William. Lyrical Ballads and Other Poems 1797-1800. Ed. James Butler and Karen Green. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1992.

---. The Prelude, 1798-1799. Ed. Stephen Parrish. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1977.

---. The Ruined Cottage and The Pedlar. Ed. James Butler. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1979.


1. Characters in Wollheim's adult life are referred to by initials only. The distinguished Kleinian psychoanalyst, Hannah Segal, seems a likely candidate, given Wollheim's psychoanalytic era and orientation.

2. Lord David Cecil, Professor of English at Oxford; author of The Stricken Deer: A Life of Cowper etc.

3. Both passages were written at Racedown in Dorset, among the poorest of agricultural counties at the end of the eighteenth century. They survive in DC MS. 13; see Butler 461-62. Reading texts and drafts are cited from this edition.

4. Cf. the episode of the gibbet, associated with murder and hanging, is one of the two germinating "spots of time" in the 1799 two-part Prelude: "It was in truth / An ordinary sight …" (1799; 1.319-20).

5. ". . . en un certain sens, tout de même, elle me regarde. . . . Ce qui est lumière me regarde" (Livre XI 89).

6. By now Wordsworth had moved from Racedown in Dorset to Alfoxden in Somerset, in order to be closer to his friends Pojjole and Coleridge.

7. Entry for 25 January 1798. Cf. Dorothy's entry for a few days after, again describing a landscape transformed by moonlight: "a brighter gloss spotted the hollies" (Journals 5).

8. See Winnicott on going to a concert: ". . . I say I created it, I hallucinated it, and it is real . . . This is mad. But in our cultural life we accept the madness, exactly as we accept the madness of the infant" ("Fate" 58).

9. Derrida's translator, Elizabeth Rottenberg, gives "like" as "in the manner of."