Zijingang Global Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies: Leading Lecture Series on Frontier Studies, No.2, 2023


On March 15, the 2nd “Leading Lecture Series on Frontier Studies” of Zijingang Global Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies 2023, organized by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of World Literature of Zhejiang University, was held both online and offline. Prof. Marshall Brown from the University of Washington, former editor-in-chief of A&HCI, gave a lecture entitled “Preface to Lyrical Ballads and Interpretation of Wordsworth’s Poems”. The lecture was moderated by Prof. YANG Gexin of the Institute, with the participation of undergraduate and graduate students from the School of International Studies of ZJU, as well as teachers and students from other institutions.

Prof. Brown was introducing William Wordsworth


To begin with, Prof. Brown analyzed the romanticism in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads advocated by William Wordsworth, one of the representative personages of English Romanticism. He argued that Wordsworth preferred daily life language rather than poetic diction to keep his literary creations close to public life and that he colored objects with his rich imagination and discovered their unusual features. Such pursuit of simple and unpretentious life provided a fertile ground for the expression of the essential passions of the heart, giving the feelings the possibility to grow and evolve. Prof. Brown underlined that poetry should be the natural expression of strong emotions felt in a state of solitude and peace. After a detailed reading of Wordsworth’s My Heart Leaps Up, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, and two poems from the “Lucy Poems” collection, he elaborated that the rainbow in I Wandered Lonely was borrowed from the Bible which conveyed the poet’s devotion to natural piety; the nameless, ordinary protagonist and the mysterious, sad emotions in the “Lucy Poems” epitomized one of the important claims of Romanticism, namely, reverence for the mystery, sublimity, and beauty of nature. In his interpretation of I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, he contrasted Wordsworth’s “wander” with the use of this term by Petrarch, Philip Sidney, Milton, Locke, and Rousseau, elucidating the process of change in the poetic function of the word “wander” from the expression of love, to exile, skepticism, meaningless and painful behavior, and finally to the driving force of poetic emotion in Wordsworth’s writing.

The offline attendees of the lecture


In the discussion session, Prof. YANG Gexin further explained the seemingly paradoxical line “The Child is the father of the Man” in My Heart Leaps Up based on Prof. Brown’s view. Prof. YANG pinpointed the evolutionary view implied in the line that adults grew up from children, and that the true nature of children might coexist with them in the process of growth. In addition, the line also indicated the mystical theme and rationality in Romanticism. After that, students and faculty members had a heated discussion on Wordsworth’s poetic ideas of “the immediate and natural flow of emotion” and “the acquisition of emotion in peace”. In the end, Prof. Brown and Prof. YANG agreed that the two were not clear-cut, the generation of emotion was a complex process, and that poets always wanted their emotions to mature in the process of creation, from intense emotional venting to calm reflection.

This lecture is supported by the major project of the National Social Science Fund “Collation, Translation and Research of Contemporary Western Ethical Criticism Literature” [Project No. 19ZDA292].

“Zijingang Global Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies” is named after Zijingang Campus, the main campus of Zhejiang University. It aims to provide an interdisciplinary platform for scholars engaged in humanities at home and abroad, especially those who are devoted to literary studies, to facilitate theoretical advancement, methodological innovation, intellectual promotion, and information exchange. As a foundational part of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of World Literature, “Zijingang Global Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies” launches a series of academic activities and keeps its participants informed about current scholarship in the field. To be more specific, these activities unfold in four major forums: “Leading Lecture Series on Frontier Studies,” “Leading Scholarship Exhibition,” “Leading Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies for Youth Talents,” and “Leading Forum for College Students”.


Text/Photo: LV Shanning, SUN Yuhe

Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of World Literature, Zhejiang University

March 16, 2023

Translated by ZHOU Dandan

Proofread by XU Xueying

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