Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Adam Potkay

Committee Members

Kim Wheatley

Simon Joyce

Vassiliki Panoussi


William Wordsworth has long been considered one of the greatest British Romantic poets, and critical interest in his use of sound has grown since the mid-twentieth century. This paper investigates Wordsworth's fascination with "poetic musicality"—a phrase developed by the researcher to describe a poem's sensitivity to sound—and its effect upon the active imagination of a poem’s listeners. Such aural receptivity is explored in several of Wordsworth's early works, namely: the 1805 Prelude and selections from Lyrical Ballads. Rather than limiting conceptions of musicality to song and instrumentation, this project investigates how the power of sound can be extended to the realm of literature, through techniques such as aural imagery and metrical language, in order to understand Wordsworth’s conception of a world “half creat[ed]” (“Tintern Abbey” l. 107). Wordsworth’s emphasis on poetic musicality proves to be more than a rejection of the limited receptivity of the eye. Instead, it serves as a conduit for creative imagination in both listeners’ active interpretations of poetry and their perceptions of the world.