Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Note on Trilling's Essay on Wordworth's Immortality Ode

I just finished reading Trilling's essay on the Wordsworth's Immortality Ode.

Apparently this is the only close reading of a poem he ever published. I thought it excellent, making a good case for the poem not being about Wordsworth's lamenting his lost powers of poetry. It's easy to follow the argument because Trilling appends the text of his poem to his essay. I find his essays much better when he focuses on specific works of literature rather than trying to pursue a systematic account of some general idea such as in his essay On The Meaning of a Literary Idea, which I thought weak.

And, I finally understand better, not fully perhaps, what Trilling means by moral realism. As explained by Adam Kirsch, whose book Why Trilling Matters, I'm reading, it's "...a realism that is 'not the awareness of morality itself but of the contradictions, paradoxes, and dangers of living the moral life,' ” somewhat, says Kirsch, in the spirit of Berlin's idea of liberalism as necessarily imperfect and conflicted due to the inevitable clash of conflicting moral principles in specifc cases

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