Wordsworth's denunciation of the Infant Prodigy (1805 Prelude, Book V) has two related motives. Through writing off the Prodigy, Wordsworth would symbolically divorce his own poetry from the satiric tradition that the boy seems to embody; he would also sequester the Prodigy's "bad" self-consciousness-seeing oneself in the public eye-from the poet's "good" or imaginative self-consciousness. Moreover, reading the portrait of the Prodigy in the context both of Wordsworth's juvenilia and of other passages in The Prelude suggests that the Prodigy represents Wordsworth's vision of his own schoolboy self-an earlier self he conjures in order to renounce. But Wordsworth obscures this act of self-fashioning in his later revisions of the Infant Prodigy episode. His gentler treatment of the Prodigy in the 1850 Prelude serves to veil the earlier text's crucial revelation of the violence with which radical change is effected, in literary history as in life.
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