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The Nature of Aesthetic Experience in Wordsworth

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John H. Talbot

Despite the wealth of scholarly commentary on the literary criticism of Wordsworth, very little critical attention has been given to the importance of the notion of aesthetic experience in his writings. Stated simply as the synthesis of aesthetic perception and aesthetic response, this notion plays a major role in an understanding of Wordsworth's ideas on poetic language and communication and their bearing on the Coleridgean concept of the poetic imagination. In Wordsworth, we find for the first time in the history of aesthetics, an active and on-going process of poetic composition influenced and co-existing with a critical theory with which it was directly related. For this reason, an understanding of Wordsworth's notion of aesthetic experience, considered as an integral element in his critical thought is, therefore, essential not only to an understanding of his poetry, but also, to a thoroogh understanding of his literary critism as a whole.