British Romanticism

“On the Discrimination of Romanticisms” by: Arthur O. Lovejoy

Synopsis:

The main point that Lovejoy is addressing is that Romanticism comprises of so many different authors, ideologies and theories that it is almost impossible to have a clear-cut definition of what the movement was; if there is a definition at all. Romanticism means so many different things that it has become quite diluted and can be argued that it means nothing at all. Many different artists viewpoints at the time often contradicted the very premise of  Romanticism. Lovejoy proposes in this piece that we should talk about the different Romanticisms (stresses the ‘s’), that way we can differentiate the many types and breeds of Romanticism and Romantic thought.

Commentary:

While I think that it is sometimes important to talk generally about a certain subject matter, I also think that it is not conducive. No two artists are alike no matter what time period they have in common. They might have some of the same ideologies but it’s not 100% the same. Renoir is not Degas, Degas is not Renoir. While they are both Impressionist painters, they are also very different. Malcolm X is not Martin Luther King Jr. although they were both trailblazers in the Civil Rights Movements. Their ideologies are extremely different. Authors are different as well and bundling them together in one time period and country for that matter does the author a huge injustice. When discussing the different realms and strains of Romanticism, it must be identified which type is being discussed. I completely and whole-heartedly agree with Lovejoy’s stance on this specific subject matter.

“The Structure of Romantic Nature Imagery” by: W.K. Wimsatt

Synopsis:

W.K. Wimsatt is arguing in “The Structure of Romantic Nature Imagery” that Romantic nature poetry uses images of nature that are altered by the imagination to ultimately gain insight to a larger meaning. This grand movement was all about the sensory experience and the emotions nature created rather than the work of the previous neoclassical period which solely focused on intellectual thought and finding definite answers. Though Romantic and neoclassical poetry find quite different places on the spectrum from “sensory” to “rational,” the good poetry of each mode achieves a type of fusion as Wimsatt explains.

Commentary:

I am a firm believer that one’s imagination knows no bounds and I think that is one of the reasons I am enjoying British Romantic Poetry because the imagination at that time period knew no bounds. Moreover, I think that it is truly amazing that these Romantic poets used their imagination as a means of symbolizing something so much greater than the words on the page. So much so that one must really read between the lines and question what the writers are saying just like one would question neoclassical thought. The difference is there doesn’t have to be one definitive answer because if there were an answer, then the writer would be satiated and as well all know, the Romantic thinker is never satiated.

“The Correspondent Breeze: A Romantic Metaphor” by: M.H. Abrams

Synopsis:

M.H. Abrams, “The Correspondent Breeze: A Romantic Metaphor” gives insight into the use of wind in Romantic poetry. The metaphor of using wind not only in an elemental sense but characterizing it as a renewal of life and emotion was not a new concept during the Romantic era. The metaphor dates back thousands of years before the Romantic time period but it was still a prominent symbol and prompted inspiration. He mainly covers Coleridge, Wordsworth and Shelley and goes into great detail about how each uses the wind as a “literal attribute of landscape but also a metaphor for change in a poet’s mind.” In Coleride’s Dejection, the wind harp foretells a literal and personal storm that the speaker awaits and the reader sees the strong parallel between passion and power. When covering Wordsworth, Abrams explains the various themes that the wind metaphorically represents such as the relationship of life, mind and imagination to nature and how the “spring-like revival” of the spirit after winter is parallel to the revival of the poetic inspiration. With Shelley the “west wind is the destroyer and the preserver” tearing down the dead leaves in autumn and then planting and reviving the seeds in the spring. All of the poems Abrams speaks of explicitly parallel change in the inner state of the speaker and the outer winds of nature.

Commentary:

I was most interested to read that these images of nature directly correspond with the emotional state of these writers and how it is not only associated with the Romantic era and Romantic thought. I immediately thought of the first piece we read by Arthur Lovejoy, “On the Discrimination of Romanticisms.” Abrams proves to a certain point that this concept of the “correspondent breeze” has been around for ages and bridging different genres and time periods together by finding that similarity is extremely fascinating to me.

“A Feminist Introduction to Romanticism” by: Elizabeth Fay

Synopsis:

Fay’s “A Feminist Introduction to Romantic Studies,” focuses on many different aspects of feminism in the Romantic era. The beloved writers of the time were Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Byron, et cetera, but the female work of the time is most interesting. Critical tradition has viewed Romantic poetry as a product of two ways of looking at the world: sincere and darkly ironic. According to Wordsworth, the sincere aspect of Romantic poetry is that which acknowledges beauty in the universe, that which looks at the world in a spirit of love. The ironic element of this is the exact opposite; the dark and chaotic version, including satiric attacks on party politics and social corruption. On the contrary, according to Austen, female Romantic poetry critiques both dark irony and sincerity that’s corrective rather than despairing and vituperative. She completely omits party politics and values to assess more important human values and beliefs. The most important forms of Romantic work written by women at the time were done through critique of the patriarchal society and the work of male Romantic writers. Fay also touches on the concept of gynetopia, the female’s power over the entire universe.

Commentary:

What I found most interesting was that females were used as a huge inspiration to most male Romantic writers. Throughout the ages, females have always been a source of artistic inspiration for most male artists and some female artists for that matter. So why is it that poets like Wordsworth didn’t think that females were worthy enough for transcendence? Why is it that even today women are sexualized in every art form (music, media, art, writing) but they are not equal to men or not worthy of transcendence? Why are females looked down upon as the inferior sex when we are the ones that drive these men crazy, crazy enough that we are the main subjects of their most revered and applauded works? I think that this would be an extremely interesting and possibly fulfilling topic to write a research paper on. Loved this article, very insightful.

“On the Poetry of Eastern Nations” by: William Jones

Synopsis:

In Jones’ love letter to the East, he is romanticizing the countries of Persia and India. His basic purpose was to make a connection between the languages of the East and West and argue that these languages and civilizations have evolved over time but they are indeed connected. This essay was so momentous for the time period because of his very radical notion that Eastern nations have so much to offer to Western thought. His idea that languages connect us in a romantic way was very problematic to the time period because it led to two clashing ideologies: Imperialism and Equality. While this ideology seemed like it was very forward thinking, it was also very problematic. Because he is romanticizing Eastern thought, he is therefore aiding the establishment of the British Empire through imperializing literature.

Commentary:

I will admit that after reading this the first time through, I thought to myself, “Wow this guy was really radical romanticizing the Eastern culture. It sounds like such a beautiful place!” I wanted to travel East. After class discussion, I realized I had fallen victim to the beautiful picture Jones was painting just like the large majority of Brits during the era of the Imperial Project. Yes, this was a monumental piece at the time, yes, this was very radical but it bolstered the British takeover at a pivotal time of expansion of the Western empire. By romanticizing the inherent mysticism of the Eastern land, culture, religion and language through this beautifully written love letter, it served as a form of literary imperialism which contributed to the eventual fall of the Eastern nations that Jones loved so much. So badly that there is still wars being fought over land that was divided which displaced people, corrupted religions and wreaked havoc in this once prosperous land all for the sake of expanding the Western empire and sustaining the despicable white male patriarchy.

The 3rd Anniversary Discourse on the Hindus” by: William Jones

Synopsis:

This essay focuses on the value of Eastern thought and how it could not only be advantageous in the Western world but also beneficial to Western thought. Jones goes into detail about the direct parallels between the Eastern and Western language and cultures and elaborated on how there is a inherent interconnectedness between the two societies. He really stresses that the Eastern countries, specifically India, are not as otherworldly as people have been led to believe.

Commentary:

As previously stated in my aforementioned commentary on William Jones’ first piece, the language in this piece is so beautiful and artfully crafted. He sheds significant light on these Eastern Nations implying that in ancient times, these nations were far more advanced than the Western world. That sounds great, right? Not so fast. Considering that this was written during the Romantic era, it’s almost like a slap in the face to the Eastern culture. By stating that these countries were once more advanced than the Western world in ancient times, hints that at the time this piece was written the country wasn’t as advanced as the Western world. This lays a perfect, pearly white (no pun intended) foundation for the British to step in and take over. The second problem with this essay is that Jones’ tries to find justification of this complete takeover by painting a picture of an indigenous Brahmin priest thanking the British for coming to preserve their laws. The British may view this in a positive light, but through a local’s standpoint, he was no savior. After all, the locals would eventually be the ones brutalized and exploited.

 

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