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».