"Romanticism, Inc.: New Critical Professionalism and the Appreciation of Wordsworth"

The American New Criticism famously repudiated the romantics. Yet the movement's leading figures, seemingly in spite of themselves, were compulsively drawn to romantic poetry, offering idiosyncratic and influential readings of its major works and taking intellectual inspiration from its literary theories. Focusing especially on the case of Wordsworth, about whom critics such as John Crowe Ransom and Cleanth Brooks had uncommonly vexed feelings, this talk considers the New Critical ambivalence toward romanticism in the context of a broader concern, circa 1930-1950, with establishing criticism (rather than historical or philological scholarship) as the disciplinary center of literary studies, and literary studies as an intellectual pillar of the modern university.