dissabte, 14 de gener de 2012


The changing landscape of Britain brought about by the steam engine has two major outcomes:
- the boom of industrialism with the expansion of the city,
- and the consequent depopulation of the countryside as a result of the enclosures, or privatisation of pastures. Most peasants poured into the city to work in the new factories.
This abrupt change is revealed by the change of meaning in five key words:
1. industry (once meaning "creativity"),
2. democracy (once disparagingly used as "mob rule"),
3. class (from now also used with a social connotation),
4. art (once just meaning "craft"),
5. culture (once only belonging to farming).
But the poor condition of workers, the new class-conflicts and the pollution of the environment causes a reaction to urbanism and industrialisation prompting poets to rediscover the beauty and value of nature:
- Mother earth is seen as the only source of wisdom, the only solution to the ugliness caused by machines.
The superiority of nature and instinct over civilisation had been preached by Jean Jacques Rousseau and his message was picked by almost all European poets.
The first in England were the Lake Poets.
- a small group of friends including.
· William Wordsworth
· and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
- These early Romantic Poets brought a new emotionalism and introspection,
- and their emergence is marked by the first romantic Manifesto in English literature, the "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads":
· This collection was mostly contributed by Wordsworth, although Coleridge must be credited for his long and impressive Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a tragic ballad about the survival of one sailor through a series of supernatural events on his voyage through the south seas which involves the slaying of an albatross, the death of the rest of the crew, a visit from Death and his mate, Life-in-Death, and the eventual redemption of the Mariner.
· Coleridge and Wordsworth, however, understood romanticism in two entirely different ways:
1) while Coleridge sought to make the supernatural "real" (much like sci-fi movies use special effects to make unlikely plots believable),
2) Wordsworth sought to stir the imagination of readers through his down-to-earth characters taken from real life (for eg. in "The Idiot Boy"), or the beauty of the Lake District that largely inspired his production (as in "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey").
The "Second generation" of Romantic poets includes:
- Lord Byron,
- Percy Bysshe Shelley,
- Mary Shelley
- and John Keats.
- Byron, however, was still influenced by 18th-century satirists and was, perhaps the least 'romantic' of the three:
· His amours with a number of prominent but married ladies was also a way to voice his dissent on the hypocrisy of a high society that was only apparently religious but in fact largely libertine, the same that had derided him for being physically impaired.
· His first trip to Europe resulted in the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, a mock-heroic epic of a young man's adventures in Europe but also a sharp satire against London society.
· Despite Childe Harold's success on his return to England, accompanied by the publication of The Giaour and The Corsair his alleged incestuous affair with his half-sister Augusta Leigh in 1816 actually forced him to leave England for good and seek asylum on the continent.
· Here he joined Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary, with his secretary Dr. John Polidori on the shores of Lake Geneva during the 'year without a summer' of 1816.
· Although his is just a short story, Polidori must be credited for introducing The Vampyre, conceived from the same competition which spawned Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, to English literature.
· Percy Shelley, like Mary, had much in common with Byron:
1) he was an aristocrat from a famous and ancient family, had embraced atheism and free-thinking and, like him, was fleeing from scandal in England.
2) Shelley had been expelled from college for openly declaring his atheism.
3) He had married a 16-year-old girl, Harriet Westbrook whom he had abandoned soon after for Mary (Harriet took her own life after that):
1- Harriet did not embrace his ideals of free love and anarchism, and was not as educated as to contribute to literary debate.
2- Mary was different: the daughter of philosopher and revolutionary William Godwin, she was intellectually more of an equal, shared some of his ideals and was a feminist like her late mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, author of Vindication of the Rights of Women.
· One of Percy Shelley's most prominent works is the Ode to the West Wind. Despite his apparent refusal to believe in God, this poem is considered a homage to pantheism, the recognition of a spiritual presence in nature.