Romantic Period is from 1798-1832.
The American Revolution (1776-1783): The beginning of the end of the worldwide British Empire started with the revolt of the 13 American Colonies. This defeat caused a huge economic blow for GB, leaving the country with massive war debts and w/o the American revenue which had been enriching the British economy. The loss was also a psychological blow to Eng.
French Rev./Age of Napoleon (1789-1815): In July 1789, an angry crowd of Frenchmen stormed the Bastille, a prison in Paris, to protest the oppressive policies of the French monarchy. This even marked the 1st step in a long series of violent political upheavals and radical changes in the French national gov. These revolutionary experiments, which introduced "Liberty, fraternity and equality" into French society, instead often resulted in a loss of freedom, civility and safety. Events such as the massacre of the clergy and nobility in Sept. 1792 and the execution of King Louis XVI in 1793 and finally the rise of power of Napoleon dashed the hopes of British liberals and strengthened the conservative side. British liberals and initially looked to the rev. in France for new models of political freedom, but now rich and powerful GB conservatives could point a figure at French excesses to justify their repressive policies.
Industrial Rev. in Eng.: With the invention of efficient machines to do work that was do by hand, 19th C Eng. began moving away from an agrarian society to an urbanized/industrial state. Masses of landless people now had no choice but to move to crowded cities and work in squalid dangerous factories for low wages. The wealthy owners of these factories/mills embraced the hands off economic theory of Laissez Faire to justify doing nothing to improve terrible conditions for the labor force. This approach was even applied to rationalize the use of young children of the poor for back breaking labor
Lyrical Ballads (, with a Few Other Poems)- Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Coleridge) and Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey (Wordsworth) are among the most important poems in English literature. Lyrical Ballads marks the beginning of the Romantic Period (1798).
Turbulent Times, Bitter Realities:
Could say Romantic period started with French Rev. of 1789 and ended with the Parliamentary reforms of 1832 that laid the political foundations for modern GB. Era is most often identified with 6 poets. 3 (William Blake, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge) were born before the period and lived through or most of all of it. The other 3 ("2nd generation" Percy Bysshe Shelly, John Keats and George Gordon Lord Bryon) began their short careers in the second decade of the new century but died before 1825. It was a turbulent, revolutionary age, one in which Eng changes from agrarian to Industrial nation with large/restless working class concentrated in towns. Starting with USA rev. in 1776, an age of revolution swept across western Europe, releasing political, economic and social forces that produced, during the next century, some of the most radical changes experienced in human life.
The more radical rev. that started on July 14th 1789 after the prison Bastille was taken over. This represented the English ruling class' worst fear: overthrow of an anointed king by a democratic mob. To English conservatives, this meant the triumph of radical principles and they feared that the revolutionary fever would spread across the channel.
Democratic idealists/liberals like Wordsworth felt exhilarated by the events in France. During the revs first years they even made trips to France to view the new regime firsthand. Even Wordsworth became disillusioned, however, when in 1792 the Sept. Massacre took place in France. Hundreds of the French aristocrats/some clergy had their heads severed from their bodies by the guillotine. In 1793, Fra/Eng declared war on each other. Many Eng liberals like Wordsworth and Coleridge turned against France. In the midst of blood/turmoil and calls from France for worldwide rev. the control of the French gov fell into Napoleon's hands, becoming dictator by 1804. Napoleon became a ruthless tyrant.
Conservatives clamp down:
The bewildering changes in Western Europe made conservatives in England more rigid than ever. Eng instituted severe repressive measures: outlawed collective bargaining and kept suspected spies/agitators in prison w/o trials. After a brief peace b/w 1802-3 Eng began a long war against France. Eng beat Napoleon's navy at the battle of Trafalgar and in 1815 at Waterloo. The conservatives in Eng felt that they had saved their nation from a tyrant and chaos. The early supporters of the rev felt betrayed, for them, Waterloo was simply the defeat of one tyrant by another. Still Romantics clung to the hope of dawn of a new era through peaceful change - hope provoked and shaped by upheavals in English life brought by the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Rev. Finds a Foothold:
Eng. was the first nation in the world to experience the effect of the industrial Rev. Production switched to factories where machines worked many times faster than humans could by hand. City populations increased, resulting in desperate living conditions. Communal land once shared by small farmers was taken by individual owners, some of these rich owners turning the fields into vast private parks, generously stocked with deer for hunting. Others divide the land into privately held fields, land was no longer communally owned. This forced the landless mass of unemployed people to do to the cities to search for work, or rely on forms of charity of the time, the poorhouse/begging.
Tyranny of Laissez Faire:
Economic policy that kept this misery going was laissez faire-let the people do as they please. According to this, economic forces should be allowed to operate freely from gov. This resulted in the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. The system had its most tragic effects on kids. Small kids were often used as beasts of burden. Especially in coal pits.
Rebellion of Romantic Poets:
The 6 romantic poets were deeply aware of their revolutionary times and dedicated to bringing about change. They had no illusions about their very limited political power, but they believed in the power of literature. Frustrated by Eng's resistance to political/social change that would improve conditions, the Romantic poets turned from the formal, public verse of 18thc Augustans to a more private, spontaneous lyric poetry. These lyrics expressed the Romantic's belief that imagination, rather than mere reason was the best response to the forces of change.
Romantic comes from romance, one of the more popular genres of medieval literature. Later Romantic writers used elements of romance to go back beyond the refinements of neoclassical literature to older types of writing that they saw as more genuine. The romance genre also allowed writers to explore new, more psychological and mysterious aspects of human experience. 3 main meanings: 1) Child sense of wonder (fascination with youth/innocence, particularly the freshness of a child's perception of the world-resembling age's sense of a new dawn) 2) Social idealism (people need to question tradition and authority in order to imagine better ways to live. Romantic in this sense is associated with idealism) 3) Adaptation to change (ability to adapt to change-an acceptance of change rather than a rigid rejection of it
A New Kind of Poetry:
Lyrical ballads did not remain unnoticed or anonymous for long. Poetry changed from satire/persuasion or argumentative to the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. Poetry should use simple, unadorned language to deal with commonplace subjects. Its form is often lyric that lends itself to spontaneity, immediacy, a quick burst of emotion and self revelation. Wordsworth focused on rural life instead of city life. A permanent bond b/w human mind nature.
Mystery of Imagination:
Romantics were mind poets who sought a deeper understanding of the bond b/w human beings and the world of the senses. Their search led them to a third, more mysterious element present in both the mind and nature. This "something" is a creative power that makes things happen. The romantics identified this power as imagination, a faculty superior to human reasoning. Each romantic had their own view of the imagination, but all agreed that it could by stimulated by both mind/nature. They had a strong sense of nature's mysterious forces, which both inspire the poet and hint at the causes of the great changes taking place in the world. Romantic poems usually present imaginative experiences as powerful/moving. This suggests that the human imagination is also a kind of desire - a motive that drives the mind to discover things that it cannot learn by rational or logical thinking.
The Romantic Poet:
The poet is special. endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, a greater knowledge of human nature and a more comprehensive soul than are supposed to be common among mankind (for Wordsworth). For Blake, the poet was a bard, an inspired revealer/teacher. Coleridge believed the poet brought the whole soul into activity by employing the magical power of imagination. Shelley called poets legislators of the world. Keats wrote that a poet is a physician to all of mankind. The poet in sum, is someone humans and society can not do without
"The World is Too Much With Us" (1804)
Topic- Speaker is angry at the modern age losing its connection with nature. People have lost their creativity and sense of nature. We ignore even the seas and winds. Speaker wishes he were a pagan to have a different view of the world to see Proteus and Triton to cheer him.
Occasion- Wordsworth was counteracting criticism from conservative reviewers. Written when he realized his imaginative powers were failing.
Theme- essence of human nature is nature and they should return to it and re-establish this connection
Progressive- first part discusses that we are out of touch. Second is his "solution" of wishing that he were raised as a pagan so he could see the gods in action of nature so he could gain spiritual solace.
Expository- shows great feeling/emotion
Meter- Iambic pentameter
Form- Petrarch sonnet
Humans are too preoccupied with material and have lost touch with the spiritual/natural world. Wordsworth theme of communion with nature and how far away 19th C is from the Wordsworth ideal.
"Composed Upon Westminster Bridge"
Topic- Westminster Bridge and the sleeping/majestic city of London
Occasion- Wordsworth is under the bridge, encaptured by its magnificence
Theme- Everything has a romantic and natural beauty to it
Descriptive- describes the beauty of London/scene/bridge
Repetitive- continuously describing the beauty of the scene
Meter- loose iambic pentameter
Form- Petrarch sonnet
Human structures can be romantic, beauty is everywhere
"Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey"
Topic- memory, specifically childhood memories of communion with natural beauty, remembering the first visit and restoring it
Occasion- Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, went on a vigorous walking tour in southern Wales and Wordsworth composed the poem about revisiting the valley.
Theme- that the memory of pure communion with nature in childhood works upon the mind even in adulthood (nature still has an effect on adults). Imagination creates a connection with nature.
5 years have passed since Wordsworth has been in the valley. Nature has a restoring, tranquil, healing effect. He has a bittersweet memory of the last time he came and hopes this visit can provide happy memories. He has also changed from his youth, which is when nature meant everything to him. However, he still loves nature. He says the memory of this experience will heal his sister in the future.
Blank Verse/iambic pentameter/monologue
"Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
Emotions: Sailors were at first furious with the Mariner killing the Albatross, but were later happy when the fog disappeared. Then angry at him agin when they were stranded and seeing visions. Guest becomes afraid after the mentioning of death and life in death, but the mariner reassurees him that he is a man and has not died. Guest becomes afraid when the mariner says the sailors came back to life, but is reassured that they were inhabited by beloved spirits. The Mariner was loaded aboard the Pilot's ship, and the Pilot's boy, mad with terror, laughed hysterically and declared that the devil knows how to row
Symbols: Albatross-good omen/christ/cross
eye=soul. Curse falls when he prays to snakes, respects nature, curse falls because he learns to love the creations of God. Hermit is a preist-Mariner hopes he can be absolved. Mariner told his tale to the hermit and was relieved of his guilt. However, it returns over time until the mariner selects someone by fate to tell it to.
Form- written in loose ballad stanzas, a literary ballad. A narrative.
Theme- the idea that Redemption and grace fit together.
The reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) is described as prudish, repressed, and old fashioned. Additionally, this era is a complex, paradoxical second English renaissance. There is a great expansion of wealth/power/culture.
Science/technology- modern notion of invention: one can create solutions to problems, that man can create new means of bettering himself and his environment.
Religion: great age of doubt, the first that question the institution of Christianity
Literature/other arts- combination of the romantic emphases upon self, emotion and imagination with neoclassical ones upon the public role of art and a corollary responsibility of the artist
In ideology, politics and society there is innovation and change: democracy, feminism, unionization of workers, socialism, Marxism, and other modern movements. The works and philosophies of Darwin, Marx and Freud emerge
What makes Victorians Victorian is their sense of social responsibility.
Victorian literature: underlying tone of unrest which pervades so much that is generally taken as typical of the period. Victorian literature was predominantly a literature of ideas, and of ideas, furthermore, brought into direct relation with the daily concerns of the reading public. Their writings, inspired by a whole hearted hostility to the progress of industrial culture, locate the centers of authority not in the existing social order but within the resources of individual being. As a result, there is recognition in their work, but a kind of tension originating in the serious writer's traditional desire to communicate, but to do so without betraying the purity of his creative motive even in the face of a public little disposed to undergo the rigors of aesthetic experience. Even when, as was too often the case, their love for fame overcame their artistic restraint, traces of the initiating conflict remain embedded in that they wrote; and it is these constantly recurring evidences of a twofold awareness which, perhaps more than any other trait, gave its distinctive quality to the writing of the Victorian age. In criticizing Victorian poetry it is necessary to keep this ambivalence in mind; and this especially true for Tennyson, Browning and Arnold, the poets who touched their period at the greatest number of points. The history of the 19th C English poetry records a gradual, but radical shift in the relationship of the artist to his public with the three poets just mentioned occupying a position at dead center of the forces which were in opposition. The Victorian writer, of course, had to acclimate himself to a reading public vastly bigger in size and more diverse/unpredictable in its literary requirements than any other that had existed hitherto. Despite the great humor of Dickens and Thackeray, the whimsy of the Victorian burlesque and pantomime and sometimes Pythonesque humor of the magazine Punch, we think of the Victorians as earnest. The age that gave us Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland also gave us Tennyson's in Memoriam. The Victorian poets were essentially 3rd generation Romantics, Tennyson being a disciple of Keats and Browning of Shelley. Like their mentors, they grappled with religious/social issues for they regarded the artist as society's conscience.
Reform bill of 1832 gave the vote to all males who owned property to a certain amount
Reform bill of 1867 gave the vote to all working class males except farmers
Economic policy- free trade with other European countries brought economic prosperity to upper classes
Middle class Victorian society was characterized by its elaborate code of respectability, decorum and morality. Idea that life would be better if it were more refined, more rationally organized/better policed.
Highest purpose of any writer was to get the reader to get a connection b/w earth/heaven, body/soul and/or material/ideal.