The Introduction demonstrates that Wordsworth’s local – and apparently marginal and merely decorative – images derive their capacity to respond to weighty matters from their allusiveness and verbal nuances. It argues that, in The Excursion, the ergon (the major arguments) and the parergon (the by-work of landscape imagery) feed into each other in important ways. By means of visual and verbal examples, the Introduction considers the prominence of rural images in post-1789 Britain and France. An account is then offered of the iconographical methodology, which is aimed at restoring the significance of visuality in Wordsworth’s poetry. A survey is given of The Excursion’s critical history, clarifying where the iconographical approach – as well as the thematic concerns of this study – stands in relation to the poem’s different interpretative traditions. Also mapped out here are the ways in which this study engages with the influential view which claims to identify ‘escapist’ tendencies of Wordsworth’s landscape imagery.
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