In his early poetic writing (around 1797–99), William Wordsworth (1770–1850) often expressed a sense of animism: a sentience to be found not only in living beings but also in the air and in stones. Support for the underlying, psychological meaning of Wordsworth’s account is provided by recent developments in the study of embodied cognition, now taken as shaped by feelings and by our different senses, including kinesthetic and other bodily processes. Cognition extends to the environment around us in terms of affordances—ways we interact immediately with objects in the environment, and it includes the power of mirror neurons, which provide immediate, preconscious understanding of the feelings or actions of others. The new understanding of embodied cognition is discussed in relation to animistic aspects of Wordsworth’s writings, such as his account of infancy, bodily sensation, the role of feeling, the shaping powers of the mind, and empathy.
David S. Miall; Wordsworth’s “First-Born Affinities”: Intimations of Embodied Cognition. Poetics Today 1 December 2011; 32 (4): 693–715. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-1459854
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