The Acci-Mental Tourist: Plato, Landscape, and Memory in “Tintern Abbey”

In the Meno, Plato sets forth his principle of anamnesis (Gk. recollection, remembering) as support for argument that the soul possesses all of the eternal knowledge of the universe. Existing free of the body, the soul “remembers” the pure Forms of virtue, justice, and beauty because no materiality fetters that memory. “Forgetting” occurs when the body enters corruptible flesh, the body. Through dialectic and the spirit of philosophical inquiry, the soul recollects the universal knowledge that it forgot upon entering this temporal, material plane of existence:

As the soul is immortal – as it has been reborn, time and again, and has seen both the
things of this world and those of the underworld, and all matters – there is nothing it
has not learned. So it is in no way surprising that it can recollect that which it knew
before, about virtue and other things. As everything in Nature is akin, and the soul has
learned all, nothing prevents a man who has recalled one single thing – a process men
call ‘learning’ – from discovering everything else; nothing, that is, if he is brave and
does not weary of the search; for searching and learning are entirely recollection. (Holbo)

Wordsworth, too, employs an anamnetic approach in “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” when he accesses memory through landscape. Actually, this event is bilateral. Wordsworth interchangeably gains entry to each through the other. “Tintern” as a work lives at the junction of memory, landscape as material space, and time. In fact, the poem represents a convergence of all three. Phenomenologically, Wordsworth enters landscape through retrieval of memories; reciprocally, experiential encounter with the natural world stirs old remembrances. Ultimately, landscape and soul, internal and external realms, establish that Romantic symbiosis of mind and  matter that position nature as an anamnetic agent, with environment as recovery of lost memory. In its own way, “Tintern” is a Platonic work of anamnesis.

William Wordsworth, co-author of Lyrical Ballads (1798), the work credited with inaugurating the Romantic movement. Source: https://www.google.com/search?q=william+wordsworth&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAWoVChMIu4u6obasyAIVQpQNCh1B0Qyr&biw=1680&bih=916#imgrc=upFEDPz63zDcVM%3A

William Wordsworth, co-author of Lyrical Ballads (1798), the work credited with inaugurating the Romantic movement. Source: https://www.google.com/search?q=william+wordsworth&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAWoVChMIu4u6obasyAIVQpQNCh1B0Qyr&biw=1680&bih=916#imgrc=upFEDPz63zDcVM%3A

WORKS CITED

Holbo, J. and B. Waring. Meno. Plato. 2002. https://www.ma.utexas.edu/users/rgrizzard/M316L_SP12/meno.pdf

Advertisements