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Transformational personae in the poetry of Victor Hugo and William Wordsworth

Altmann, Janice M. (1987) Transformational personae in the poetry of Victor Hugo and William Wordsworth. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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A poetic persona has a permanently potential existence which the poet himself does not. such a persona allows the poet to create within the semantic structures of his poetry a presence or an ego which can experience levels of reality beyond those of Thus, a poetic persona can be used to reveal levels of significance beyond even itself. The use of "normal" human existence.

To reveal a significance beyond itself a persona has to be transformational. It must transcend the surface structures of its text, integrating mimetic significance with symbolic significance. In crossing these semantic barriers such personae also infer the crossing of metaphysical barriers. They claim the right to enter worlds other than their own in order to attain higher knowledge or "absent conclusions".

Through these personae the Romantic poet frequently effects a transformation in consciousness which enables him both to construct and to explore symbolic significance or absent conclusions beyond "normal" human experience.

A comparison of the poetic personae of Wordsworth and Hugo reveals that both of these poets use personae for precisely this purpose. Through personae which are mobile, transformational and even anthropomorphic Hugo and Wordsworth create in their poetry levels of consciousness which are both consistent with human experience and yet extend far beyond it.

The Romantic poet as inspired bard explores the world beyond natural forms and events through language. Thus, he transforms the natural world into symbolic significance and higher consciousness. The solitary poetic soul establishes harmony between itself and its spiritual universe; and it also sees the possibility of not attaining such a reconciliation. The prophetic soul unites earthly and spiritual realities, while it too sees that such a unity is constantly threatened.

Mythological personae such as Orpheus, Pan and Prometheus participate simultaneously in human and divine levels of existence, and thereby effect transactions between the two. The child persona provides the poet with a means of re-constructing his own innate cognition into higher consciousness through memory. Finally, through the persona of the genius or sage the poet constructs for himself a role as supreme creative individual with his own spark of divinity within.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Human Communication
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Frodsham, John
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