” ‘mid the din of towns and cities, / I have owed to them”

Paraphrasing Wordsworth’s understanding of what it means to attend to ordinary experience, to renew the poet’s own and his readers’ “interest” in it, Richard Eldridge in Literature, Life, and Modernity writes: “The proper work of poetry is not simply the depictive presentation of a subject matter but rather the working through of feeling in relation to a subject so that genuineness of feeling is achieved.”

Ostrovrsnik Daydreaming
Jaka Ostrovršnik, “Daydreaming” (2014).

We worry that our feelings, especially those that fill our daily routines and prompt our ordinary lives, are not fully “apt to the object of attention.”  We miss meaning, fumbling insensibly with what could be our keys.  The worry is that even our most intense experiences are simply sensations, reactions elicited from things, not attentive responses given by human “subjects.”

(Eldridge turns again and again to “subjects” as a contrast to things, partly to contest theories that debunk subjects and subjectivity.  But here it seems like the language of “characters” or, in a Confucian register, “gentlemen,” might work, as long as these were understood as achievements rather than essences.)

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