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Romantic Period in British Literature

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Paulina Bounds

on 16 September 2013

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Transcript of Romantic Period in British Literature

Romantic Literature
Themes:
dreams and visions
pantheism
the Self
Emotion and Feeling
emphasizes inner, or "dream" world of the individual
use of visionary, fantastic or drug-induced imagery
pantheism (God is part of the Universe, rather than separate from it)
feeling and emotion viewed as superior to logic and analysis
poetry highest form of literature, novels lesser
Two waves of writers:
First generation:
William Blake
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
William Wordsworth
Second generation:
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Lord Byron
John Keats
Mary Shelley
Social and Political Backgrounds
Gothic Literature
Romantic writers often had a strong interest in the Gothic and the supernatural
the word Gothic comes from the name of the Germanic tribe, the Goths, who overwhelmed the Roman empire in the fifth century CE
it was next used to define a style of medieval church, with soaring arches and flying buttresses
finally the word went on to signify the mysteries that accompanied the dim, superstitious medieval world
Gothic literature deals with the passionate, the mysterious, the horrific and the supernatural
popular in Britain between 1760 and 1820
the setting of such literature was picturesque ruins, foreign countries, windswept wilderness and dark forests
Mary Shelley
1797-1851
grew up exposed to the literary and political ideas swirling around her parents
home was a "salon" of radical ideas visited by the important intellectuals of the time
met Percy Shelley (who was an admirer of her father)
she was 16, he 21, and already married
they met at Mary's mother's grave for reading, conversation and more
by the summer of 1814, Mary was pregnant
lovers declared their erotic freedom and ran away to France for a six week adventure
infant was born premature and died
pair married at the end of 1816 after the suicide of Shelley's first wife
although she had several exciting and event filled years with Percy Shelley her life was not an easy one
by 1822 she was just 25 years old, had had 6 children, only one of whom survived, and was a widow
Frankenstein
Romantic
Literature

1789 - 1832
Romantics believed in the natural goodness of humans this natural goodness is hindered by urban life and civilization
knowledge is gained through intuition rather than deduction
stressed the awe of nature in art and language and the experience of the
sublime
through a connection with nature
Romantics often elevated the achievements of the misunderstood, heroic individual outcast
the savage is noble, childhood is good
fascination with the ancient, the exotic, and the supernatural
individualistic, idealistic and anti-establishment
Changes in the social, economic, and political climate affected and were affected by Romantic ideas
The era marked an extreme shift in ideas about the structure and purpose of society and humanity's place in the universe
Emphasis shifted from the importance of religion and tradition to the primacy of the individual experience
Romanticism is in part a reaction against the scientific and rational ideals of the "Enlightenment" - last half of the 18th century
Age of Revolution
French Revolution began in 1789
American Revolution - 1776
spread of interest in democracy and socialism throughout Europe
overthrow of monarchy
King Louis XVI of France executed 1789
conditions in France prior to the revolution were very bleak for the common people
Revolution not a clean success
10 years of terror
by 1799, France was a military dictatorship
Romantic intellectuals were thrilled by notion of revolutionaries rising up and demanding rights
Decline of Religion
Official church "Church of England" (Anglican)
church had lost touch with population
people are corrupted or not engaged, often focused on own material and physical pleasures
vast urban population unserved
Church attendance declining
rejected established religion in search of other kinds of spiritualism
rise of interest in doctrines that were less traditional, more emotional, that stressed Nature as a manifestation of God
Unitarian
Methodist
Industrial Revolution
1750-1890
invention of "machinery of production" = factories
textile mills rather than individual weavers in cottages
ironworks rather than blacksmiths
child labour, pollution, unsanitary housing
population growth = workers for factories and market for finished goods
improved transportation
poor conditions for the working class in cities
Romanticism was a reaction against the dehumanizing effects of the Industrial Revolution
Changing Attitudes to Slavery
and the Poor
The Rise of the
Individual
Big Ideas
Science and Technology
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise?
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
many recent advances in medicine, astronomy, physics
these advances in science underpinned the Industrial Revolution
Rationalists believed that man’s sheer intellectual power alone was sufficient to understand every aspect of nature
electromagnetism (Benjamin Franklin)
Romantics felt that an emphasis on rational thought through deductive reasoning had created an approach to science that was too cold and that attempted to control nature, rather than to peacefully co-exist with nature
opposition to slave trade growing in Britain
Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade founded in 1787
Many writers of the period were supporters of the cause
success in this cause was achieved in 1833 when slavery was abolished in the British Empire
intellectuals also had an interest in the everyday lives of the ordinary people
Although most writers came from middle class or aristocratic backgrounds, many used their poetry and prose to draw attention to the plight of the poor
focus on individual experience as opposed to collective morality and public concerns
interest in solitude
non conformists, assumed their own moral authority
American Revolution contributed to the romantic concept of individualism
Declaration of Independence:
"all men are created equal and independent and have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"

William Blake
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
William Wordsworth
Lord Byron
John Keats
Percy Bysshe Shelley
The Sublime: "realm of experience beyond the measurable, that is beyond rational thought, that arises chiefly from awe-inspiring natural phenomena"
poet, painter, print maker
early Romantic
religious, but hostile to the church
visionary, creative, imaginative
at the time many thought he was mad
The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
planned to emigrate to the new world and set up a commune on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania
addicted to opium (laudanum)
many of his poems said to be written under the influence of opium
Most Famous poem:
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
friend of Coleridge
experience traveling on the continent during the time of the French Revolution brought about a strong sympathy for the life, troubles and speech of the common man
many poems focus on the beauty and power of nature
Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The World is Too Much With Us

by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
true "romantic figure"
suffered hardships with the death of his father when he was 8 and mother 6 years later
friends with Percy Shelley and Wordsworth
died of Tuberculosis at the age of 25
This Living Hand
by John Keats

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed--see here it is--
I hold it towards you.

George Gordon
Flamboyant and notorious playboy
most famous and fashionable poet of his day
aristocrat with aristocratic excesses
huge debts, numerous love affairs
rumors of a scandalous incestuous liaison with his half-sister
self-imposed exile in Italy
speculation that he suffered from bipolar disorder
friends with Shelley and Keats
became ill and died at the age of 36 while fighting with the Greeks for independence from the Ottoman Empire
William Godwin
one of the leading political writers of the 1790s
social critic who called for radical reform
proposed anarchy as an alternative the the evils and corruptions of existing institutions
felt rational people could self-govern
no need for law religion, marriage, and private property
attracted the attention of young, radical disciples such as Percy Shelley and Lord Byron
Mary Wollstonecraft
first modern feminist
exposed the neglect of women's rights by many of the famous supporters of the French Revolution
scandalous reputation
lived on her own in London!
published under her own name!
passionate affairs and a child out of wedlock
2 attempted suicides
pregnant with Mary before her marriage to Godwin
horrific death from septic poisoning 10 days after daughter Mary's birth
was in line to inherit his grandfathers large estate and a seat in parliament
while in university he began to write poetry, novels and pamphlets which expressed socialist and atheistic ideas
expelled from University for his ideas
estranged from his family
married Mary Shelley after his first wife's suicide
drowned at the age of 29 in a storm while sailing his schooner
1792 - 1822
1788 -1824
1795 -1821
1770 - 1850
1772 -1834
1757 -1827
Mary Shelley started writing the story when she was nineteen, in 1816
In May 1816 Mary and Percy Shelley went to stay on the shores Lake Geneva
they were accompanied by Lord Byron, and some other literary friends
they discussed poetry and other topics, including ghosts and spirits, into the night
during one of these ghostly "seances," Byron proposed that each person present should write a ghost story
Mary's contribution to the contest became the novel Frankenstein
the finished novel was published when Mary was 21
good example of Romantic and Gothic literature
also seen as the very first Science Fiction novel
the novel almost immediately became popular
some originally believed that it had been written by Percy Shelley
first published under the name "Anonymous"
second publication used Mary's real name
has survived through the years as perhaps the most famous novel ever written
The Tables Turned
By William Wordsworth
1798


Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
Women
Up until then, women were able to get only limited schooling, no real legal rights
However, the new ideas of nationalism brought women new opportunities to define their role
Women entered the sphere of authorship
Nature poetry
Using nature as a reflection of the human soul
The descriptions of nature were not put in just for the sake of it, but to suggest the feelings of the speaker
Glorification of the ordinary
Authors started on simple treatment of simple subjects
Poets took ordinary life and showcased it in an extraordinary way through emotions
Publish, publish, publish
Technology and changes in the society allowed for many more people to read
Publishing was cheaper
More people were reading
New breed of writers has been established - critics
They were deciding what is art and what is not
Is there anything else except for poetry?
Prose
: a more personal essays that showcase emotions and focus on the experiences of the speaker
Drama:
censorship prevented a lot of plays from being staged. Mostly pantomimes and melodramas were produced, because "legitimate" (spoken) dramas could only be performed on royal stage
Novel
: very popular but not yet respected, because it did not have a rigid rules, and as such allowed for many different people to be authors, women included.
Only when the authors started to use realism and histor in their writing, the novel begun to establish its role in the Romantic Literature
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