VIDEO: What Does Poetry Prove About Humans?

A Philosopher Explains How Romantic Verse Shows the Moral Capacity of Language

In 1798, poet William Wordsworth and his sister took a walk in the Welsh countryside. The poem he wrote about that walk—“Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”—moved readers deeply. Wordsworth was one of the leading poets of the Romantic era, and he called poetry “a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”

What is it about humans and our relationship to language that allows us to be so moved by poetry? In this interview philosopher Charles Taylor talks about his next book, which contemplates the change in Romantic poetry, and what it is that poetry proves about being human.

Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf is one scientist studying the big puzzle of how the brain reads. She explains in this essay how Taylor’s arguments about language as a fundamentally human endeavor add to that debate.


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