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Department of English, NTNU


As a subgenre of the ode, the victory ode constitutes one type of national narrative that celebrates the military victories of the nation and promotes national consciousness, at the same time providing a subject position for the poet, who employs the generic and cultural codes to claim his right to be the national bard. After teasing out the basic structure and reasoning logic of this sub-genre, based on examples from William Congreve, Matthew Prior, and Elizabeth Cobbold, the author proceeds to examine the imperial discourse of Wordsworth’s Thanksgiving Ode (1816). The article argues that the poet employs the generic code of the traditional victory ode, but departs from it in order to explore the meaning of war and exorcize Napoleon’s satanic power. Wordsworth ostensibly succeeds in creating an idiosyncratic style of victory ode writing to build up his imagined empire-nation, while an aggressive overtone grows to destabilize the dichotomized signification cluster established previously, with the threat of the Other finally co-existing in tension with the British Empire.