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The Romantic Period 1798-1832 “The divine arts of imagination; imagination, the real & eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.”

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Presentation on theme: "The Romantic Period 1798-1832 “The divine arts of imagination; imagination, the real & eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.”"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Romantic Period “The divine arts of imagination; imagination, the real & eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.” - William Blake

2 Revolutionary Beginning – Lyrical Ballads, With a Few Other Poems 1798 – William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge publish Lyrical Ballads Wordsworth, age 27, is unknown; Coleridge, age 25, is feared as a radical (British feared radical influences from French Revolution) “Few Other Poems” included The Rime of the Ancient Mariner & “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” – both poems now known as two of the most important poems in English literature Six poets dominate the period – 1 st three born before period began: William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Robert Burns is sometimes added to this group) “Second Generation” poets – Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, and George Gordon, Lord Byron

3 Turbulent Times, Bitter Realities Age of Revolution in history: America in 1776 (a great economic & prestigious loss for Britain; France in 1789 (with the overthrow of a king by a democratic “rabble”) represented triumph of radical principles – British feared revolution would spread to England England changed from an agricultural society to an industrial nation with a large & restless working class concentrated in the mill towns Some critics start the Romantic Period in 1789 (French Revolution) since Romantic poets introduced revolutionary ideas in poetry Wordsworth & others were exhilarated by events in France but became disillusioned in 1792 with “September Massacre” when aristocrats and the king went to the guillotine (a new invention) Napoleon was ruthless & cruel as dictator, and then also as emperor of France

4 Effects of the Times on England Conservatives in England became more rigid than ever- instituted repressive measures Outlawed collective bargaining; kept suspected spies or agitators in prison without a trial 1805 – began a long war with Napoleon - defeated his navy at Trafalgar and his army at Waterloo in 1815 Conservatives felt they had saved their country from a tyrant and from chaos Supporters of the revolution like Wordsworth felt betrayed - Waterloo was simply one tyrant defeating another All these events consolidated the power of the rich in England

5 The Tyranny of Laissez Faire – The Industrial Revolution Factories in cities could produce goods faster than people making them by hand Small farms taken over by individual owners – landless people migrated to cities Economic philosophical basis of capitalism – laissez faire “let (people) do (as they please)” – operate without government interference Result = rich get richer, poor get more suffering Children used in coal pits, like donkeys-they were pushed with poles or pins or even scorched with fire to make them crawl into narrow black channels filled with soot – became crippled or chronically ill “Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man or order of men.” - Adam Smith, from The Wealth of Nations, 1776

6 Romantic Poets Respond to the Times Poets turned from the formal, public verse of the 18 th century Augustans to a more private, spontaneous, lyric poetry Lyrics expressed Romantics’ belief that imagination, rather than mere reason, was the best response to the forces of change Then naked and white, all their bags left behind, They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind; And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy, He’d have God for his father, and never want joy. And so Tom awoke: and we rose in the dark, And got with our bags and our brushes to work. Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm; So if all do their duty they need not fear harm. - William Blake, from Songs of Innocence The Chimney Sweeper When my mother died I was very young, And my father sold me while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry “’weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!” So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head, That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved: so I said “Hush, Tom! Never mind it, for when your head’s bare You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.” And so he was quiet, and that very night, As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight! – That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack, Were all of them locked up in coffins of black. And by came an Angel who had a bright key, And he opened the coffins and set them all free; Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run, And wash in a river, and shine in the Sun.

7 More Economic Woes England resistant to political and social change to improve conditions James Watts invents steam engine in 1765 Coal output doubled from 1750 to 1800 because steam pumps enabled mining to go deeper Iron production rose 200% Factory towns “smoked and stank” and sanitation was worse Middle class got street lights, water and sewage, & policing, but their sewage drained into the water supply of the working class William Godwin’s An Inquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) criticized the existing social structure & proposed an ideal solution, based on the human rights of individuals. One representative of the English government was so outraged by what he saw as Godwin’s radical ideas that he labeled Godwin a disease, not a man.

8 What Does Romantic Mean? Word romantic comes from the term romance, popular genre of Medieval literature Romantic writers self-consciously used romance elements to go back beyond refinements of neoclassical literature to older types of writing that seemed more “genuine” Romance genre allowed exploration of psychological and mysterious aspects of human experience Today, romantic is often a negative label describing sentimental writing, particularly best-selling paperback “romances” about love Historically, romantic signifies 3 things: a)fascination with youth & innocence, with “growing up” by exploring and learning to trust our emotions, sense of will, & identity b)A stage in cyclical development of societies of questioning tradition and authority in order to imagine better ways to live – associated with idealism ( in the USA might be called romantic era) c)An Adaptation to change – 1 st half of 19 th century in America, industrialization requires people to be able to change

9 What Was Romanticism? (Romance is Old French word romans – refers to the act of writing in Roman or Latin, the language for educated classes Turned away from 18 th -century emphasis on reason & artifice Rejected the public, formal, & witty works of 18 th century Turned to the imagination & naturalness Embraced poetry that spoke of personal experiences & emotions, in simple, unadorned language Use of the lyric as best form suited to expressions of feeling, self- revelation, & imagination A Democratically (equally) viewed audience though the Poet has special powers, he is “a man speaking to men” - Wordsworth A Turning to the past or an inner dream world that was more picturesque & magical than the ugly industrial age the poets lived in A Belief in individual liberty & sympathy with those who rebelled against tyranny A Belief that Nature was transformative; a fascination with the ways nature and the human mind “mirrored” the other’s creative properties

10 Poetry, Nature, and the Imagination Lyrical Ballads Preface – Wordsworth declares he is writing a new kind of poetry Subject Matter – not satire or argumentative techniques in a witty, polished style like 18 th century writers, but “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” Rural life instead of the city - in the country “the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of Nature” Commonplace subjects, beauty of nature, power of the human imagination Technique or style – simple, unadorned language

11 Imagination Word imagination comes from the word image Image as a verb means “to reflect” or “to mirror” Image comes from the Latin imitare meaning “to imitate” Romantic poets believed that the imagination was a kind of desire, a motive that drives the mind to learn and to know things it cannot learn by rational and logical thinking Although the mind is a mirror of nature, as Wordsworth thought, the imagination actually moves the mind in mysterious ways to imitate the powers of its Maker in order to create new realities in the mind and (as a result) in poetry

12 What is a Poet? “He is a man speaking to men” but still “endowed with [ … ] a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul” A person in the poem – narrator or speaker Speaker speaks to someone or something else – a baby asleep in a cottage, a skylark, a Greek vase Speaker praises or confesses, or complains or worships or envies Audience eavesdrops on a private conversation or on someone talking to himself out loud Speaks true voice of feelings or language of the heart Concerned with truth “I will not Reason & Compare; my business is to Create.” - William Blake

13 The Byronic Hero Byron created a character that was like himself Proud, moody, cynical, defiant, miserable, vengeful, yet capable of deep & strong affection Devastatingly attractive yet fatally flawed – sin in his past that haunts him Prototypes: Cain, Faust,Prometheus, Napoleon Other descendants: Rochester, Heathcliff, Marlon Brandon in The Wild One, James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” - Lady Caroline Lamb, speaking of George Gordon, Lord Byron

14 The Lure of the Gothic Horace Walpole (son of Prime Minister Robert Walpole) started the trend – 1747 began building a gothic Castle – Avoided Neoclassical architecture (like the White House) and focused on irregularity 1764 – wrote The Castle of Otranto using ghosts, living statues, and an eerie forest cave to illustrate the collapse of a royal family Romantics thought that Gothic architecture reflected the wild, unpredictable aspects of nature Gothic ruins reflected human aspirations and failures Melancholy paintings could enhance spiritual awareness Other Gothic Writers: Ann Radcliffe – The Mysteries of Udolpho Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights Stephen King Dean Koontz Ann Rice


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