“In This Mood Successful Composition Generally Begins”: Affect, Composition Studies, and Wordsworth’s “Preface to Lyrical Ballads”

 “In This Mood Successful Composition Generally Begins”:

Affect, Composition Studies, and Wordsworth’s “Preface to Lyrical Ballads

Katie Johnson

Ever since Sandra Perl’s 1980 article, “Understanding Composing,” many compositionists have been exploring questions of the composing process and affect, the cognitive and bodily experience of feeling and emotion (Williams 4; Brand and Graves; Richmond). More recently, scholars have begun tracing how undergraduate college students’ affect impacts them and their academic writing performance. It’s no surprise that students dislike academic writing. Scholars find that most college students experience negative affect when they write academically (Bandura; MacIntyre; Williams; Daly and Miller; Scott and Rockwell; Marney; Horwitz and Young; Krashen). They often feel emotions ranging from boredom to high anxiety and intense frustration (Bandura). They see writing as difficult, frustrating, or unimportant and see themselves as unintelligent and unable to write (Bandura; Nelson 191; Williams 4). Negative affect influences motivation and performance as well; students typically perform worse when their affective experience is generally negative (Bandura; MacIntyre; Scott and Rockwell). They are also are unable to learn as easily (Tomkins). Students feel unmotivated and frustrated by academic writing, and it shows in their writing performance.

Contrast this student writing experience with the affective experience of a writer who found deep “pleasure” when writing, even when feeling negative emotions—William Wordsworth. To Wordsworth in his “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” (hereafter “Preface”), “this feeling of pleasure . . . accompanies him through the whole course of his studies,” and his “mind [is] upon the whole in a state of enjoyment.” Furthermore, although writing can be “altogether slavish and mechanical,” writerly “pain . . . [is] carried on by subtle combinations with pleasure.” Despite “slavishness” and “pain,” emotions students probably feel when they write, Wordsworth’s general writing disposition is extremely positive. While many compositionists attempt to minimize painful emotions to develop positive affect in students, Wordsworth does not attempt to diminish these emotions (Tsai and Knutson). Furthermore, most compositionists today see only an ancillary relationship between affect and performance—affect influences motivation and engagement with the assignment, which in turn impacts performance (Daly and Miller; Scott and Rockwell). However, Wordsworth posits a more direct and causal theory of affect’s relationship with writing: it is in “this mood” of “pleasure” or positive affect that “successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on.” In other words, positive affect directly creates successful composition.

While admittedly students will probably not be able to replicate the greatness of Wordsworth’s poetry, and Wordsworth is elitist and idealistic in his theories, Wordsworth’s theories of affect and composition still offer solutions for students experiencing negative writing affect. This paper posits that 1) literature generally and the “Preface” narrowly are essential artifacts for compositionists to develop composition theory and 2) that positive affect in itself can create and directly influence better writing. This paper is separated into three sections. The first broadly examines literature, Wordsworth, the “Preface,” and affect. It demonstrates why compositionists should adopt literary studies as a method of investigation, and why Wordsworth’s affect and composition theories in the “Preface” are relevant to current affect and writing issues in the college classroom. The second section dives into Wordsworth’s specific theories regarding affect and composition. Based on a close analysis of Wordsworth’s “Preface,”—Wordsworth’s most extensive writing about pleasure and composition and his only theory that directly links literary writing and non-literary writing—this section will discuss how pleasure holds a key role in composition and how meditation and deep thought can increase positive affect and emotional capacity. In a brief third section, I will also touch on implications and limitations to Wordsworth’s theories for composition teachers.

Why Use Literature, Wordsworth, and His “Preface” for Affect Studies

Wordsworth’s theories about affect and composition give valuable insight to compositionists both because of Wordsworth’s ideas and because they are from literary studies, not social sciences. Since composition studies’ inception in the 1970s, most scholars have rejected literary theory and have favored rhetoric and social sciences like psychology and linguistics to answer “important questions about the nature of the writing process” (Nystrand et al. 268). Such divide stems from what Janice Lauer notes is composition studies’ essential nature as a “social field,” a discipline that documents empirical data with real people, rather than an interpretive field like the humanities (24). However, even if composition is ultimately a social science, Lauer also importantly notes that composition studies works best from “building on relevant work in other fields and of using methods of investigation refined elsewhere,” and such fields include social science fields, pedagogy, rhetoric, history, and social theory (Lauer 25-26; see also Nystrand et al. 268). Yet only a few scholars use literary theory as part of those diverse “methods of investigation” to inform compositional theory.

This steep divide from literature is both odd and unnecessary, given that 1) most compositionists are housed in the English department, 2) literary studies ask the same core question as compositionists—what makes great writing?, and 3) literary studies holds huge amounts of writing theory and hermeneutics that might help answer important questions about writing. (For examples of literary theory informing composition, see Veeder; O’Brien; Winterowd; Yager). Although a few compositionists, such as Patricia Bizzell, Linda Bergmann, and Edith Baker, are attempting to bridge the gap between literature and composition, we do our field a disservice when we forget that literary studies has a rich history of composition theory, theory that we can draw upon as we refine our own field’s theories. While we can gain valuable insights about affect and composition from popular social and psychological methods like social cognitive theory, self-efficacy (i.e. belief in one’s ability to perform a task), and Cognitive Readiness Theory, Wordsworth and literary studies in general add new and underdeveloped understanding of how affect and composition might ideally work together (Heng and Abdullah; Rice 210; Williams; Woodrow; Qashoa; Bandura; Brand and Graves; Foehr and Schduring).

Wordsworth’s “Preface” is a major example of the rich literary history and theory that can help us link composition and literature. As Reid, Gannon and Davies, and O’Brien all posit, Wordsworth’s “Preface” is arguably the most subliminally influential piece on English as a curriculum. Its theories on spontaneous, unrevised writing as the ideal and naturally superior individuals as the best writers were incorporated into English studies and their curriculums during the formation of college English studies in the early 1900s (Reid 3; Gannon and Davies 92). Those assumptions never really left composition, expanding into student academic writing until students presumed that the best student writers were those who were simply naturally superior and never needed to revise (O’Brien 79). As Ian Reid notes, today’s basic assumptions about what writers should be and what great writing is stem largely from Wordsworth, but these “principles often ceased to be consciously associated with his name and instead became regarded as self-evidently fundamental . . . needing no particular attribution” (3). Wordsworthian ideals of “literature, imagination, creativity, expressiveness, [and] personal development” still greatly but subliminally influence writing pedagogy today (Reid 13). Thus, to study Wordsworth’s composition theories is to understand composition history and the Romantic assumptions that continue to underlie composition and how students view composition. Noting Wordsworth’s influence on writing, a few composition scholars have studied his theories, usually as a way to defend expressivist pedagogies. For example, both Sherrie Gradin and Kristi Yager trace and defend expressivism’s Romantic roots and argue that both Romantic theories of Wordsworth and Coleridge continue to affect and legitimize expressivist theories from scholars like Donald Murray, Peter Elbow and Ann Berthoff.

Wordsworth traditionally plays a role in affect studies as well. While Gannon and Davies are two of only a few scholars who have tracked Romanticism and affect in terms of composition, several studies link Wordsworth, affect, and ecology. Lisa Ottum et al. and Ashley Nichols all note how we can use Wordsworth’s varied emotional experiences in nature—ranging from exuberant joy to sublime fear—to understand emotion as it relates to nature and ecological studies and to develop useful pedagogies for environmental education. Although Wordsworth’s theories on affect’s link with composition have been almost completely ignored by both literary and composition scholars, Wordsworth continues to, at least subliminally, impact composition and affect studies.

Although Wordsworth’s theories continue to affect composition and affect studies, the “Preface” might seem like an odd place to draw theory about the student composing process, especially since academic writing appears worlds away from literary writing. However, the “Preface” clearly links both types of writing together. To Wordsworth, both literature and academic writing share key principles related to emotion and truth. His theories in the “Preface” can thus apply to both literary and academic writing. The “Preface” notes that the rules for crafting great writing are not exclusive to poetry: “There neither is, nor can be, any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition.” Specifically, Wordsworth argues that prose and poetry are so similar because the feelings—“affections”— aroused in an audience do not differ “even in degree” between any types of writing . All writing can still benefit from Wordsworth’s theories about “affections” and emotions during composition.

While Wordsworth does not distinguish between literary poetry or prose, he does distinguish somewhat between literature and non-literature. While today, “literature” means “Literary productions as a whole; . . . applied to writing which has claim to consideration on the ground of beauty of form or emotional effect” (qtd. in Widdowson 6), the Romantic period was still developing toward that definition and toward “literature” as a term. As such, the “Preface” struggles to find a term that does not differentiate poetry (or meter) from creative prose writing but does differentiate between literary and non-literary writing: “Much confusion has been introduced into criticism by this contradistinction of Poetry and Prose, instead of the more philosophical one of Poetry and Matter of Fact, or Science” (84). Even today, while literature can encompass both poetry and prose, we do not have a popular term that encompasses all that is non-literary. However, for sake of clarity, we will call “literature” what Wordsworth calls “poetry” and “prose” and will call “academic writing” what Wordsworth called “Matter of Fact, or Science” writing (84). Literature and academic writing have only minor differences to Wordsworth; while literature is concerned with “truth, not individual and local, but general, and operative” and truth that connects us with “our fellow-beings,” academic writing is concerned with individual, local, and “remote” truth . Both types of writing are concerned with finding truth—the difference is only in type and degree.

In making this distinction in type and degree, however, Wordsworth continues to develop similarities between literature and academic writing. To Wordsworth, they both share the same core objective: “the most valuable object of all writing . . . [is] the great and universal passions of men, the most general and interesting of their occupations, and the entire world of nature” (italics added). In other words, one should write about what people care about, what people occupy themselves with, and how the world works. Wordsworth’s argument is similar to common composition principles—write about what is exigent. Furthermore, the knowledge/truth that both poets and scientists search for creates pleasure; knowledge in and of itself is pleasurable “whatever difficulties and disgusts [writers] may have had to struggle with” to get that knowledge . All types of writing deal with vital emotional processes and try to find truth. Whether creative or not, writers concern themselves with what is exigent, what the audience cares about, what is true, and what creates pleasure. Thus, even student academic writing can follow the principles Wordsworth outlines in the “Preface.”

Wordsworth’s “Preface,” Affect, and Composition

Because Wordsworth’s theories in his “Preface” apply to each type of writing, Wordsworth’s theory of affect and composition can provide scholars exciting insights about how to modify the negative affect student writers typically experience when writing academic prose. In general, Wordsworth proposes that positive affect in itself can create and directly influence better writing. Firstly, pleasure is key to all composition as pleasure generates ideas and leads to greater understanding of the world. Intriguingly, pleasure can be gained from negative emotions, but one needs greater emotional capacity to create pleasure from negative emotions. Thus, secondly, the way to write better is to gain greater emotional capacity. Finally, the way to gain greater emotional capacity and generate positive affect is to recursively meditate. Wordsworth’s theory of affect and composition gives not only a solution for increasing positive affect, but it also provides a direct causal link between affect and composition—positive affect in itself creates great writing, not just motivates or engages people to write as compositionists posit.

At the core of Wordsworth’s positive affective writing experience are pleasurable emotions. Used 43 times, the third most used noun in the “Preface” behind “language” and “poet,” “pleasure” is the key element of all composition (Boyson 109–110). Although he never directly defines pleasure, Wordsworth describes pleasure as a way to generate knowledge and understand the world. To Wordsworth, pleasure should be constant while writing and while preparing to write: “successful composition” occurs when a “feeling of pleasure . . . accompanies [the writer] through the whole course of his studies” and when the writer is “upon the whole in a state of enjoyment.” This constancy in pleasure stems from pleasure’s relationship with knowledge. Wordsworth writes, “The knowledge both of the Poet and the Man of Science is pleasure.” Wordsworth here is not insinuating that the only thing to know is emotion, but rather that both poets and scientists want to gain knowledge because they feel “prompted by this feeling of pleasure” in studying their disciplines. The knowledge that they then gain becomes pleasurable to them. Thus to Wordsworth, all knowledge is pleasure and all pleasure leads to knowledge. All “studies” whether academic or creative should involve constant pleasure through knowledge-gaining.

In fact, pleasure and emotion help writers generate important knowledge about the world. To Wordsworth, “influxes of feeling” allow us to “discover what is really important to men.” Since students are concerned with exigence and Kairos in their writing, promoting deep affective experiences with certain topics might help students generate writing that is “really important to men.” This theory reflects and expands Brent’s theory that emotions are “evidence of knowing” (61). Emotions in and of themselves develop and guide us to knowledge. Not only does affect generate knowledge but continued and long-sustained “influxes of feeling” allows us to “[connect] with important subjects” more quickly and easily, growing our capacity to find good topics and generate knowledge . This idea that emotions help ideas grow expands upon Heng and Abdullah’s argument that “immersion in the writing process, giving time for ideas to grow and be nurtured” is a necessity (7). Long immersion in the writing process is not important necessarily because of time spent but because long immersion allows for sustained “influxes of feeling” to direct students to important subjects and generate ideas. Our affect not only helps us “make meaning of the world around us,” as Ilene Crawford claims, but it helps us actually create new knowledge (678).

Wordsworth’s theories that pleasure generates knowledge and vice versa can not only be directly applied to institutional and academic settings—where students learn how to research and gain knowledge—but it also opposes several composition scholars who posit that creative or expressivist writing is one of the only ways to gain positive writing affect. While Alice Brand and Richard Graves and Regina Foehr and Susan Schduring suggest that creative or expressivist writing might foster positive affect when academic writing fails, Wordsworth argues that both literary and academic writing create pleasure through gaining knowledge. A study by Gannon and Davies might provides insight into how pleasure and academic writing might mix in a Wordsworthian way. They conducted an empirical study where “students were asked to recall the piece of writing that had brought them the most pleasure through their writing lives and to identify the context of that writing. More than half the students indicated that this was inside a formal educational setting. Most of them (21 out of 24) identified university as the site of that textual pleasure. . . . Opportunities for pleasure . . . that builds a positive disposition towards writing, can be afforded within formal educational contexts (93). Providing pleasurable or positive-affect-inducing writing might then need to stem from assignments that allow students to gain knowledge constantly and care about that knowledge. In light of Wordsworth’s theories and Gannon and Davies’s study, students might be allowed to choose their own subject topic or type of writing genre, and classroom writing assignments might be designed around developing knowledge or solving an intriguing problem (Bean 102).

While one might argue that Wordsworth’s call for constant pleasure is not doable because all writers experience the gamut of emotions while writing, Wordsworth insists that pleasure does not mean the absence of painful or frustrating emotions, the types of emotions that students often feel while writing (Bandura; MacIntyre; Williams; Daly and Miller; Scott and Rockwell; Marney; Scovel; Horwitz and Young; Krashen). While the pleasure state should be constant while writing for Wordsworth, not every emotion will be what is typically thought of as pleasurable. In fact, the painful emotions are important for producing overall feelings of delight and pleasure for writings and for readers. Wordsworth admits that writing is “slavish and mechanical” and that academic work can be painful depending on the subject matter: “However painful may be the objects with which the Anatomist’s knowledge is connected, he feels that his knowledge is pleasure.” Writing can be boring at times, the subject matter can be painful emotionally for writers to study, but writing can still be wholly pleasurable. In fact, the range of emotions itself creates pleasurable writing. To Wordsworth, writing is a constant tacking back and forth between painful and pleasurable objects, creating “an infinite complexity of pain and pleasure” during writing that creates for both writer and reader “a complex feeling of delight.” Pleasure then is not a single emotion but a range of emotions that create the disposition of pleasure and delight through the merging of many different types of emotion. It is the complexity of emotion—some positive, some negative—that creates such pleasurable experiences for both writers and readers.

It is this complexity of emotional experiences creating overarching pleasure that some affect scholars overlook or even try to prevent when trying to develop positive affect in students. For example, the Affect Valuation Index is a popular affect tool developed by Jeanne Tsai and Brian Knutson to distinguish between ideal affective experiences—what writers want to feel while they write—and actual affective experiences—what writers actually feel. Unfortunately, writers who use this tool overwhelmingly choose only positive emotions in their ideal affective experience. Wordsworth posits that writers should not feel only positive feelings alone, but the mixture of the positive and negative produce an overall pleasurable disposition, or in compositionist terms, positive affect. So “ideal” affect using this tool might not be the actual ideal affective scenario, just the perceived one from someone who uses the index.

Instead, what might be ideal is the development of positive affect as overall disposition. Positive affect as a disposition rather than solitary experiences allows a disposition toward positivity while writing while still allowing for negative emotional experiences. While the mixing of pleasure and pain to create positive affect has not been fully explicated in composition literature, Silvan Tomkin in his “affective table of elements” notes that there are only two core positive affects, “interest-excitement” and “enjoyment-joy” (qtd. in Gannon and Davies 89). One can be interested in and enjoy something without necessarily always feeling positive while studying it. In fact, Tomkins insists that positive affect is “car[ing],” “be[ing] excited” and “sustaining interest” in something, not necessarily always feeling positive (qtd. in Gannon and Davies 92). However, Tomkins also claims that while intense positive feelings lead to learning, intense negative affects do not—whereas Wordsworth argues that the best writing comes from an “overflow of powerful feelings,” not necessarily positive feelings (found in Gannon and Davies 91). Wordsworth’s theory allows students to feel negative emotions and build positive affect. Painful and positive emotions within a positive affective disposition are essential to growing one’s knowledge even though not every negative emotion will attribute to an overarching sense of pleasure and painful emotions during writing might be more generative for literary writing rather than academic writing.

Yet for students, painful emotions are generally not as helpful as they are to Wordsworth. As Alice Brand demonstrates, students cannot skillfully use negative emotions to understand their writing process and their writing, even though negative emotions can help students make writing decisions such as revising, taking a break, and solving problems (441). However, Brand does not pose a solution for how students might “appreciate and recruit certain emotions” in the writing process (441). Wordsworth does pose one solution to help students use negative and positive emotions in tandem, thus fostering positive affect and better writing—develop a larger emotional capacity. Wordsworth admittedly is quite elitist to argue this. Though he claims that anyone can “enlarge this [emotional] capability” he more often speaks of superior people who naturally have large emotional capacities. These people should be poets because they naturally “possessed of more than usual organic sensibility” and “endued with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, . . . greater knowledge of human nature, and . . . more comprehensive soul[s], than are supposed to be common among mankind.” Although we cannot fully ignore Wordsworth’s elitism—it is one of the pervasive Romantic myths that only superior individuals can write well—neither can we ignore that Wordsworth does argue emotional capabilities can be developed, even if they cannot be developed to the same extent as poets (Gannon and Davies 92). As Wordsworth says, “among the qualities which I have enumerated as principally conducting to form a Poet, is implied nothing differing in kind from other men, but only in degree.”

To Wordsworth, positive affect can be enlarged and developed to create better writing, because emotions lead to knowledge formation and better ideas. One way enlarged emotional capacity creates better writing is through internal, personal changes. To Wordsworth, the best writers are those who do not need “gross and violent stimulants” to become emotionally excited as those stimulants are not always present . Rather, one can develop an internal capacity for excitement—one of Tomkin’s core positive affects—beyond “immediate external excitement.” Even in a classroom or desk or other dull writing environment, internal positive affect can be created, leading to pleasure, knowledge, and exigent ideas. In environments away from “immediate external excitement” or extrinsic factors, a writer must rely “especially [on] those thoughts and feelings which, by own choice, or from the structure of his own mind, arise in him.” This phrases of “by his own choice,” “the structure of his own mind,” and “arise in him” reflect many compositionists views of intrinsic motivation—behavior that comes from within an individual, separate from external factors, which relies on one’s own agency, will, and interest to complete an activity (deCharms; Ryan and Deci). Wordsworth’s internal development of emotions performs similarly to intrinsic motivation. Ryan and Deci posit that intrinsic motivation creates for students “interest, excitement, confidence, enhanced performance, persistence, creativity, self-esteem and general well-being” (qtd. in “Intrinsic Motivation”; see also Ambrose et al.). Internal development of emotional capacity likewise creates internal interest and excitement about a subject as well as an “enhanced performance,” a better ability to write and generate knowledge.

Extrapolating Wordsworth’s idea of “enlarged capacity” with intrinsic motivation reveals that one way to develop intrinsic motivation is through developing emotional capacity. Positive affect can cause better writing because it causes more intrinsic ability, excitement, and interest in what one is writing. While composition scholars tend to link affect and intrinsic motivation by noting that anxiety worsens motivation but positive affect strengthens intrinsic motivation or by seeing how “self-management” strategies can help strengthen positive writing affect, few have made the connection that learning to internally create emotions might develop intrinsic motivation (Kazdin; Madigan et al.; Boice). Wordsworth’s theories could help expand the directions that intrinsic motivation scholarship might take.

Although Wordsworth does not give exact instructions for how one might gain this internal emotional capacity and generate positive affect, he implies that methods of meditation can develop one’s emotional capacity, which in turn develops one’s ability to write and gain knowledge. Wordsworth mentions that he has “habits of meditation” that “form [his] feelings.” This process of meditation includes a recursive process between emotions and thoughts, in which emotions form thoughts and thoughts form emotions: 1) writer feels “overflow of powerful emotions”, 2) writer thinks “long and deeply” about those emotions, 3) there are “continued influxes of feeling,” 4) those feelings enter a recursive process whereby they “are modified and directed by . . . thoughts,” and the thoughts are “the representations of . . . past feelings.” Through the “repetition and continuance of this act” or recursive process, writers will “be in some degree enlightened” and have their “affections ameliorated,” meaning that their feelings will be bettered in some manner, and their emotional capability improved . This same recursive meditation is expanded upon later in the “Preface.” The primary emotion is “powerful,” the reflexive thought process allows the writer to recollect the emotion “tranquillity [sic],” and that recollection produces additional powerful and “kindred” emotion . Since to Wordsworth, affect creates knowledge and subsequently great writing, this recursive process of meditation ultimately produces great writing by starting the knowledge and emotion-making process.

Wordsworth’s recursive meditation is comparable to the recursive process of writing, but with the addition of affect as a huge role in that recursive process. Typically, as Perl demonstrates, writers write in a recursive process that includes prewriting (research, thought, outlining), writing, and editing or revision. People prewrite, write, and edit constantly and repeatedly throughout the entire writing process (“The Composing Processes” 317). However, Perl does not examine how emotion plays into that recursive process. To Wordsworth, writing is recursive not because it necessarily follows a pattern of prewriting, writing, and editing but because emotions and thoughts recursively work on each other to produce great ideas and great writing. Composition scholars might then examine how affect and thought reoccur during the writing process, helping ideas change and become refined along with the physical recursive process. Wordsworth’s meditation strategy is also similar to reflection strategies. Those who are proponents for reflection often posit that reflection strategies (such as keeping a writing journal) improve writing by allowing writers to process their learning and then transfer their learning to other writing assignments (Barwarshi and Reiff; Yancey, Robertson, and Taczak). Wordsworth’s own idea to “recollect” “in tranquillity” highlights the potential need for both reflection on one’s emotions and constant, recursive reflection process. Constant, recursive self-reflection is often called metacognition; thus student writers could employ emotional metacognition, a constant reflection on thought and emotion (Ambrose et al.).

Implications and Limitations

Wordsworth’s “Preface” reveals much about how composition scholars might think about and expand their theories on affect and composition. Pleasure or positive affect is thought and knowledge generating, helping writing improve by helping improve topical ideas. Positive affect need not be purely positive—pleasure comes from merging negative and positive emotions, and one way to successfully navigate that merging is through developing one’s emotional capacity through recursive meditation. Through these theories, Wordsworth expands composition studies’ theories on what positive affect is and how it is developed. Furthermore, Wordsworth’s theories can link affect with intrinsic motivation, the recursive nature of the writing process, and reflection.

At the very least, Wordsworth’s theories so relate to areas of study that compositionists care for that Wordsworth’s theories deserve more recognition in composition and more empirical study testing these theories and ideas. Composition scholars might incorporate Wordsworth’s theories here as either jumping off points in their own empirical studies or study the efficacy of Wordsworth’s theories in real-life situations. Perhaps this lack of empirical data supporting Wordsworth’s and other literary theories is the biggest reason why compositionists have largely ignored literary studies in their question for truth about composition. However, many literary theories can easily be modified and tested empirically to see what the actual effect of the theory might be on students and pedagogy. At least in Wordsworth’s case, literary theories concern themselves with the same issues that compositionists care about and address these concerns in ways related to current composition scholarship but with exciting, unexplored  angles. Thus, compositionists might turn to literary theory in general to scout out unexplored angles for scholarship, connect with a vital history of composition, and learn whether or not those literary theories hold any snuff. While this paper did no empirical testing of Wordsworth’s theories, I imagine that one could study any number of ideas posed in this paper: for example, how (or if) positive affect generates ideas, how (or if) pleasurable writing includes both negative and positive emotions, or how (or if) emotional capacity can be developed through meditation.

While lack of empirical validity of Wordsworth’s theories might be a large limitation to studying affect and composition in the “Preface,” another large limitation is Wordsworth’s prevailing elitist theories about writing. One must dismiss parts of Wordsworth’s theories, including the theories of spontaneity and solitary genius writers, in order to apply them to classroom settings. This dismissal might feel like cherry-picking theory and argument in accordance to whatever is most popular in composition at the time. However, if Wordsworth is simply a jumping-off point into composition scholarship, then one might cherry-pick theory without issue, simply looking for new angles in composition. Furthermore, since composition studies has generally disproved writing as spontaneous and solitary (see Leader; Stillinger; Lunsford and Ede), one can dismiss these Wordsworthian arguments without dismissing all of them. No theory is perfectly crafted, but they can be used in composition to situate empirical studies. And Wordsworth’s theories, elitist and idealistic, may in fact be the key to linking affect with “successful composition.”


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