Romantic Period and Poetry Characteristics of British Romantic Poetry Romanticism It elevated the individual, the passions, and the inner life, embracing a more dramatic, personal, and emotional style--even to the point of melancholic emotion Romanticism followed a period we call the Enlightenment. During the 18th century, in a reaction against Enlightenment ideas, feeling began to be considered more important than reason, both in literature and in ethics What was the Enlightenment? A broad intellectual movement in eighteenthcentury Europe, particularly Britain, France and Germany, characterized by a rejection of superstition and mystery and an optimism concerning the power of human reasoning and scientific endeavor. It is also referred to as “The Age of Reason.” It was both within and against Enlightenment thought that Romanticism can be said to have been conceived. What is Neoclassicism? An 18th-century artistic movement, associated with the Enlightenment, drawing on classical models and emphasizing reason, harmony, and restraint. Literally, “new classicism,” it marked a renewed interest in the literary and artistic theories of ancient Greece and Rome and an attempt to reformulate them for contemporary society. British Romanticism The Romantic period in British Literature (roughly 1780-1832) stands between and connects the Enlightenment’s promotion of commerce, reason, and liberty and the Victorian experience of industrialization and empire. British Romanticism Romanticism in both artistic production and cultural reception elevated aesthetic practice to an almost divine activity, a realm wherein the individual might forge his or her very self as an ethical, political, and creative being. A key concept in Romanticism is the “sublime” While the beautiful is calm and harmonious, the sublime is majestic, wild, and sometimes savage. Viewers are moved and often made happy by the beautiful, but they are overwhelmed, awestruck, and sometimes terrified by the sublime. How did the sublime relate to the beautiful? Mere beauty was thought by the Romantics to be inferior to the concept of the “sublime.” The British writer and statesman Edmund Burke, who was interested in categorizing aesthetic responses, identified beauty with delicacy and harmony, and he identified the sublime with vastness, obscurity, and a capacity to inspire terror. The Falls of the Rhine at Schaffhausen Philippe Jacques De Loutherbourg Caspar David Friedrich Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog What shaped Romanticism? At the turn of the century, fired by ideas of personal and political liberty and of the energy and sublimity of the natural world, artists, writers, and intellectuals sought to break the bonds of 18th-century convention. Although the philosophers Jean Jacques Rousseau (France) and William Godwin (England) had great influence, the French Revolution and its aftermath had the strongest impact. What shaped Romanticism? In England, initial support for the French Revolution was primarily utopian and idealistic When the French failed to live up to expectations, most English intellectuals renounced the Revolution However, the Romantic vision had taken forms other than the political, and these continued to develop Romanticism emphasized. . . Individualism Creativity Revolutionary political ideas The use of the imagination over reason Reverence for nature Mystery Transcendence Synthesis Universality The beginnings of Romantic Poetry In Lyrical Ballads (1798 and 1800), William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge presented and illustrated a liberating aesthetic: poetry should express, in genuine language, experience as filtered through personal emotion and imagination; the truest experience was to be found in nature. The concept of the sublime strengthened this turn to nature; in wild country sides, the power of the sublime could be felt most immediately. British Romantic poets tend to. . . Show exuberance and optimism--at times revolutionary optimism--about the prospects for changing the individual and society Explore divisions within the human psyche (between self and others and self and nature) Strive after the infinite, not after limited perfection British Romantic poets tend to. . . See the poet as “the rock of defense for human nature” (Wordsworth); the poet has the power to reunite a fragmented self and society Stress creative imagination as the source of art; the mind at least partially creates what we call “the world” Cultivate theories of “poetic genius” Revere and explore the subjective nature of memory British Romantic poets tend to. . . Emphasize the emotional, or “passionate,” element in human beings Reject the neoclassical emphasis on decorum, restraint, imitation of “general nature,” and previous poets Are obsessed with “originality” and “authority”: they must “create a system,” or be “enslav'd by another man’s” (Blake) The “canon” of British Romantic poets: ◦ First Generation Romantic Poets William Blake (1757-1827) William Wordsworth (1770-1850) Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) ◦ Second Generation Romantic Poets George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) John Keats (1795-1821) William Blake (1757-1827) A printmaker and painter as well as a poet Relatively unknown during his own time Considered a madman by some A mystic and a visionary A believer in racial and sexual equality A critic of conventional religion ◦ Focus on Innocence vs. Experience INNOCENCE for Blake is A State of: ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ Naïve acceptance of authority Blind faith and trust Love of humankind Willingness to submit EXPERIENCE for Blake is A State of: ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ Awareness of cruelty Doubt Sorrow Loss of Faith A THIRD STATE for Blake is Organized Innocence: an individual’s sense of the divinity of humanity coexists with oppression and injustice, though involving continued recognition of and active opposition to them Blake’s illustration for his poem “London” William Wordsworth (1770-1850) With Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he helped launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their 1798 joint publication, Lyrical Ballads Revolutionary as a young man Was England's Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death William Wordsworth (1770-1850) Wordsworth’s Preface to the Lyrical Ballads is considered a central work of Romantic literary theory. In it, he discusses what he sees as the elements of a new type of poetry, one based on the "real language of men" and which avoids the poetic diction of much eighteenth-century poetry. Wordsworth also gives his famous definition of poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings from emotions recollected in tranquility." “What is a Poet? . . .” “He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the Universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them.” “. . . poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquility gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. . . .” Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) Poet, critic, philosopher With William Wordsworth, one of the founders of the Romantic Movement in England and one of the “Lake Poets” Best known for his poems “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan,” as well as his major prose work, Biographia Literaria Attacked for political radicalism Coleridge was influenced by the philosopher William Godwin Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) and further Literary Connections Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Godwin’s daughter, recalled hiding behind the sofa as a child to hear Coleridge recite “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Mary Godwin eventually became Mary Shelley, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley She mentions “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” twice in her novel Frankenstein Some of the descriptions in the novel echo the poem indirectly Lord Byron (1788-1824) Lady Caroline Lamb called him “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” Of the six poets, he was the only “best seller” during his lifetime, mainly because he was a celebrity He was famous for his sexual attractiveness, charisma, extravagant living, numerous and scandalous love affairs, debts, separation from his wife, and allegations of incest and what was then called “sodomy” He was a national hero to the Greeks because he fought in their War of Independence Lord Byron (1788-1824) Byron falls into the period of Romantic poetry, but much of his work looks back to the satiric tradition of Pope and Dryden. In Canto III of Don Juan, he expresses his detestation for poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, who disappointed the younger generation of Romantic poets. Byron was known for his creation of the Byronic Hero, whose attributes include Great talent Great passion Sexual attractiveness Contempt for society and social institutions Contempt for rank and privilege Being thwarted in love by social constraint or death Byronic Hero (continued) Rebellion Exile An unsavory and hidden past Arrogance Overconfidence Lack of foresight Self-destruction In short, a man much like Lord Byron himself. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) An idealist and advocate for social justice A strong skeptic A notorious and denigrated figure in his life (he was a political radical, and he abandoned his pregnant wife and his child) The idol of the next two or three generations of poets Famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron His writing significantly influenced the American Revolution John Keats (1795-1821) His work was critical attacked in the periodicals of the day His posthumous influence on poets such as Alfred Tennyson was immense His poetry is characterized by elaborate word choice and sensual imagery Keats's letters, which expound on his aesthetic theory of “negative capability,” are almost as famous today as his poetry “Negative Capability” In a letter he wrote in December of 1817, Keats stated, “. . . it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously--I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.