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Wordsworth's empiricist poetic and its influence in the twentieth century

By Jeffrey Side


This thesis has two connected aims. Firstly, it claims that it is meaningful to describe Wordsworth's aesthetic, and his beliefs about the subject-object relationship, as substantially empiricist. However, it is not claimed that Wordsworth is consistently empiricist in the way that a philosopher might aspire to be: indeed, there is a place to be found within this argument for the recognition of his transcendentalism. While it is granted that the word 'empiricist' is not always used in the most rigorous philosophical sense, the influence of philosophical empiricism on Wordsworth naturally figures in the argument. Secondly, the thesis demonstrates that the continued influence of Wordsworth in the twentieth century has to be understood primarily as the influence of his empiricist aesthetic. The thesis concludes by suggesting that there are wider possibilities for poetry than are encouraged by this aesthetic. The importance of undertaking this project does not lie only in objections to Wordsworth's theory or practice, but arises also from a consideration of his continuing influence.\ud Chapter One argues that on the basis of his poetry and criticism of the period 1787 to 1805, the description 'The Empirical Wordsworth' is a meaningful one. This is established through an examination of Wordsworth's writings, his sister's journal entries, his correspondence, his poetry and contemporaneous literary reviews of The Prelude.\ud Chapter Two, in order to demonstrate the antecedents of Wordsworth's empiricist beliefs, is a study of his philosophical development from the influences of Hartley, Burke and Berkeley.\ud Chapter Three examines the influence of Coleridge on Wordsworth. This is predominantly an empiricist one contrary to received notions of it being transcendentalist.\ud Chapter Four reviews the reading of Wordsworth in the twentieth century. This has to be understood in terms of the reaction to Romanticism in the twentieth century.\ud Finally, Chapter Five looks at twentieth-century poetry that largely avoids the empiricist influence of Wordsworth. It also introduces the concept of 'Empirical Identifiers': an analytic tool for literary criticism

Publisher: School of English (Leeds)
Year: 2006
OAI identifier:

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