Geoffrey H. Hartman probably intended his brief discussion of Wordsworth's "Michael" less as a full reading than as a correction of received opinion. If so, he might be dismayed at his own success, for his discussion has now itself become received opinion, so influential that it is echoed even when it is not cited. Hartman's most compelling challege comes from Marjorie Levinson, who convincingly establishes a conflict between Wordsworth's social concerns and his poem's "aesthetic ideology." But Levinson conducts her argument with Hartman as if it were an argument with Wordsworth. Other interpretations of "Michael" are possible, including one that responds to Don H. Bialostosky's call for a "dialogic criticism" and that regards Michael as breaking his own covenant with the past. Because their attention is diverted to the induction, neither Hartman nor Levinson allows Michael any tragic complexity, and both emphasize the lyrical qualities of Wordsworth's narrative poem.
- Copyright 1994 The Regents of the University of California.