The Romantic Erain British Literature 1798-1832
Let’s take a step back to the Age of Reason to better understand the Romantic Era
In the Age of Reason, Writers stressed: Reason and Judgment Concern with the universal experience The value of society as a whole The value of rules In the Romantic Era, Writers stressed: Imagination and Emotion Concern with the particular experience The value of the individual human being The value of freedom Age of Reason vs. Romantic Era
For each statement, write down “A” if you agree or “D” if you disagree 1. The answers to life’s most puzzling questions can be found through discussions with a simple person who lives in the country close to nature—not with a sophisticated, well-educated person from the city. 2. The answer to life’s most puzzling questions can be found through a connection with nature. 3. The use of one’s imagination is more important than rational (based on reason or fact) thought. 4. Subjectivity (personally biased) is more important than objectivity (unbiased).
5. Knowledge is gained through gut reactions and subjective hunches rather than level-headed, objective, rational thought. 6. Nature is more important than art. 7. Experimental trial and error is a better process than the conventional scientific method. 8. Poetry should be spontaneous and full of emotion, not planned and straightforward. 9. Sensitivity, feelings, and spontaneity are more important than intellectualism. 10. “Dare to be” is a better motto than “dare to know.”
Are you Romantic? Tally up your number of As: 3 or fewer As = not romantic 4 or 5 As = sort of romantic 6 or 7 As = highly romantic 8-10 As = extremely romantic Has your idea of the word Romantic changed in any way? If so, how?
Romanticism • The words Romantic or Romance originally referred to Medieval tales of knights written in the original Roman language - Latin. These tales often included love stories between a knight and his lady - resulting in the modern meaning of romance. • When talking about the Romantic Era in literature, we are actually referring to romantic as “freely imaginative fiction” and not romantic as in “romantic love”
Definition • Contrary to what you may think, the term Romanticism is not just about romantic love (although love is sometimes the subject of romantic art). • Romanticism is an international artistic movement that re-defined the ways in which humans in Western civilization thought about themselves and their world.
Historical Considerations • Dates: • Romantic period officially beings in 1798, with the publication of LyricalBallads by Wordsworth and Coleridge • Ends in 1832 with the deaths of Sir Walter Scott and the German Romantic poet, Goethe. • Affected all of the arts (literature, music, painting, and philosophy)
“The Age of Revolutions” • Since the early Romantic period includes the American (1776) and the French (1789) revolutions, it has been called the “age of revolutions” (changes. • It was a time of massive energy (intellectual, social, artistic).
The Role of Imagination • Imagination now replaced reason as the supreme faculty of the mind—hence the flowering of creative activity in this period • For Romantic thinkers, the imagination was the ultimate “shaping,” or creative power, the approximate human equivalent to divine creative powers. • The imagination enables humans to “read” nature as a system of symbols.
Celebration of Nature • A healing power • A refuge from civilization • Viewed as “organic,” (alive) rather than “mechanical” or “rationalist” • A source of refreshment and meditation
The Everyday and the Exotic • Romantic writers embraced everyday realism (poetry of Wordsworth) • Promoted exotic ideas suggested by technology and the imagination (a beautiful soul in an ugly body, as in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
Characteristics of the Romantic Era 1. Common Man and Childhood over Urban Sophistication Romantics believed in the natural goodness of humans, which is hindered by the urban life of civilization. They believed that the savage is noble, childhood is good and the emotions inspired by both beliefs causes the heart to soar. 2. Emotions over Reason Romantics believed that knowledge is gained through intuition rather than deduction. This is best summed up by Wordsworth who stated that “all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”
3. Nature over Artificial Romantics stressed the awe of nature in art and language and the experience of sublimity through a connection with nature. Romantics rejected the ideas of the industrial revolution . 4. The Individual over Society Romantics often elevated the achievements of the misunderstood, heroic individual outcast. 5. Imagination over Logic Romantics legitimized the individual imagination as a critical authority.
Which characteristics of the Romantic Era does this painting evoke? William Turner. Arundel Castle, with Rainbow, 1824
Which characteristics of the Romantic Era does this painting evoke? William Blake, Jacob’s Ladder, 1799-1806 (English)
Which characteristics of the Romantic Era does this painting evoke? John Constable, The White Horse, 1819 (English)
To the Romantics, nature provided the pattern on which to base their creative lives. The Romantics watched as cities grew, industry prospered and farming life declined. In an effort to reclaim nature, the Romantics made it a central force in their lives and their literature. Nature was celebrated as a source of delight, an image of love, and a model of moral perfection.
What Romantic Era themes does this painting evoke? John Constable, Dedham Church and Vale, 1800
Five Major Romantic Era Poets William Wordsworth William Blake Lord Byron Percy Shelley John Keats
William Blake • Started writing poetry when he was twelve • Blake was a nonconformist who associated with some of the leading radical thinkers of his day • He rebelled against traditional poetic forms and techniques • He valued imagination over reason
Archetypes • Blake claimed that he had mystical visions which were the source of his inspiration • These visions were based on archetypes: plot patterns, character types, or ideas with emotional power and widespread appeal. • Archetypes reveal in symbolic form universal truths about humanity.
William Wordsworth • Considered the “Father of Romanticism” • Helped to launch the Romantic Age • His most famous work is The Prelude chronicles the spiritual life of the poet • Has an interest and sympathy for the life and troubles of the “common man” • He is considered the nature poet by focusing ordinary people in country settings
Journal • Write about a place that brings you comfort in times of disappointment or despair. • How does this location impact your mood? • What elements are around you there? • How do those elements provide a soothing atmosphere? • Provide an example of a time when you found solace there.
Lord Byron • Born in London to a poor but noble family (he came from a long line of handsome, but irresponsible aristocrats) • At the age of 10 he inherited his great-uncle’s title and became Lord Byron • At college he was interested in making friends, playing sports, spending money, gambling, drinking, and generally anything that wasn’t academic.
Lord Byron • At college he wrote Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which depicted a young hero not unlike himself – moody, sensitive, and reckless. He was an overnight sensation and celebrity! • “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” • Byronic hero: dark, brooding hero, impassioned by a cause, a misfit, a loner, a wanderer
Lord Byron • Led a scandalous life, with numerous affairs (with both men and women) • When his marriage broke up in 1816, the scandal drove him from England and he never returned • He settled in Italy • In 1823 he joined a group of revolutionaries in Greece. However he died of a fever not long after joining the army.
Percy Shelley • Born into the British upper class and attended the finest schools • Was a terrible student and spent most of his time wandering the countryside and performing his own scientific experiments • Published The Necessity of Atheism at college and was expelled • To avoid his father’s rage, Shelley went to London instead of going home
Percy Shelley • In London he met an unhappy schoolgirl named Harriet Westbrook who persuaded him to elope • The marriage was troubled and Percy ended up meeting and falling in love with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin • When Harriet tragically died in 1816, Shelley married Mary
Percy Shelley • His radical politics, tract about atheism, and separation from his first wife, made him an outcast in England • He and Mary settled in Italy along with another famous outcast Lord Byron • He died in a boating accident at the age of 29 • He was not famous until after his death
Types of Odes • Ode: lyric poem that pays respect to a person or thing, usually directly addressed by the speaker • Pindaric Ode: uses groups of 3 stanzas, one of which differs from the other two • Horatian Ode: contains only one type of stanza • Irregular Ode: has no set pattern
John Keats • During his life, his poems did not receive favorable reviews by the critics • The poetry of Keats is characterized by sensual imagery, most notably in his odes