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Wordsworth and the Composition of Knowledge

Refiguring Relationships Among Minds, Worlds, and Words


Brad Sullivan

To understand and value Wordsworth’s efforts to make poetry a tool of cultural intervention, critics must, like him, struggle with the Cartesian dualisms that dominate Western culture. Drawing on a number of interdisciplinary sources, including classical rhetoricians Isocrates and Quintilian, and twentieth-century scientists Gregory Bateson and Antonio Damasio, this study develops a coherent framework for understanding Wordsworth’s efforts to refigure the relationships that constitute knowing. Sullivan argues that Wordsworth sketched out an «ecology of mind» in which perception, feeling, thinking, and acting were related in a continuum of mental processes, and in which individual minds had a mutually shaping, integrative relationship with larger mind-like processes (particularly «Nature»). This study also shows how this «ecology of mind» can offer significant insight to learners in the twenty-first century.