Dorothy Wordsworth’s Bewilderment

The finale to this year’s Cultural Landscapes event series, at the University of Cumbria's Ambleside Campus, was Dorothy Wordsworth's Bewilderment. The speaker was Dr Joanna Taylor, a Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Digital Humanities at the University of Manchester.

The premise of the talk was that in Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals, wildness was a combination of geographical features and a certain state of mind: one of be-wilder-ment. Dr Taylor explored how these environmental and imaginative forms of wildness combine to make a distinct ecological imperative. 

There is a reference in Dorothy Wordsworth's Grasmere Journal (1802) to being "bewildered in the mists..." that sense of confusion and being lost in a familiar, yet deeply unfamiliar place.

Situating Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals as a starting point alongside recent geographical scholarship on wildness, Dr Taylor asked  how wildness matters literarily and environmentally, and investigated the ways in which we might read Romantic writing like Wordsworth’s as a guide towards reforming our ideas about wildness, both historically and for the future.

Alongside the journals, we were introduced to the new Dorothy Wordsworth Walks app, co-created with Wordsworth Grasmere, and explored how reading Wordsworth’s writing in place might help us also generate feelings of bewilderment that might just alter how we relate to even the most familiar of places.

We found the talk somewhat "bewildering" but enjoyable. Chris is very keen to start using the Walks app, and I took away some references to uses of the word "bewilderment" in earlier writings. I am keen to explore the works of William Erberry and, in particular, the work The Babe of Glory (1653). Erberry's life sounds like Richard Crashaw's in reverse. Where Crashaw journeyed from Anglican Puritanism to Roman Catholicism, Erberry travelled in the opposite direction, from Roman Catholicism to Non-Conformist. Erberry was suspected of being a "Ranter".

An interesting talk to complete this academic year's Cultural Landscapes events.