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Wordsworth and the Empirical Dilemma

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Regina L. Hewitt

Departing from the familiar view of Wordsworth as an encomiast of shared ideas, this study finds him engaged in a revaluation of a consensual ideal privileged by most other heirs to British Empiricism. Hewitt argues that Wordsworth faced the isolating tendencies within his cultural tradition by accepting individual limits and that he devised a poetics to help his contemporaries explore how respect for individuality can foster a viable community. Insights from reader-response theories help Hewitt probe Wordsworth's involvement with his audience, develop new interpretations of poems from An Evening Walk to The Excursion, 1790's lyrics to 1820's sonnets, and offer a new perspective on Wordsworth's «egotism» and «decline».
Contents: An examination of Wordsworth's canon in the context of British Empiricism, designed to help readers counter idealization of consensus with respect for individuality as a basis for community.