Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

British Romantic Poetry and Drama.

T h e  R o m a n t i c  P o e t r y

W .  W o r d s w o r t h ’ s  “ A d v e r t i s e m e n t ”:

= in the 2nd ed. of the Lyrical Ballads as a “Preface”

- a critical manifesto, statement of poetic principles, organising isolated ideas into a coherent theory based on explicit critical principles

- opposed the 18th c. lit. tradition of John Dryden (1631 – 1700) and Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744), who imposed on poetry artificial conventions and distorted its free and natural expression

- S. T. Coleridge agreed with W. Wordsworth x but: corrected some of his statements in Biographia Literaria (1817)

P o e t r y  a n d  t h e  P o e t :

- 18th c. theorists: poetry = ‘a mirror held up to nature’ x W. Wordsworth: poetry = ‘the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’

- source of a poem = not in the outer world x but: in the individual poet > emphasis on the mind, emotions, and imagination of the poet

- subject = not external objects x but: the inner feelings of the author, or external objects transformed by the author’s feelings

- form = esp. the lyric poem in the 1st person bearing traits of the poet’s own personality: W. Wordsworth’s Prelude, a poem of epic length conc. with the growth of the poet’s own mind

- speaker = a ‘Bard’, a poet-prophet < modelled on John Milton (1608 – 74) and the prophets in the Bible: W. Wordsworth’s Prelude; the visionary poets W. Blake, early S. T. Coleridge, and P. B. Shelley

- central lit. form = a long work about the formation of the self, an interior journey in quest of one’s true identity: W. Wordsworth’s Prelude, W. Blake’s Milton, P. B. Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, J. Keat’s Endymion and The Fall of Hyperion + autobiog. presented as fact in S. T. Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria; and E. Barrett-Browning’s Aurora Leigh

P o e t i c  S p o n t a n e i t y  a n d  F r e e d o m :

- W. Wordsworth: the composition of a poem orig. from ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity’, may be preceded and followed by reflection x but: the immediate act of composition must be spontaneous, free from all rules and manipulation to foreseen ends

x W. Blake: claims to write from ‘Inspiration and Vision’, his long ‘prophetic’ poem Milton was given to him by an agency not himself and ‘produced without Labour or Study’

R o m a n t i c  ‘ N a t u r e  P o e t r y ’ :

- W. Wordsworth: the necessity of looking steadily at one’s subject => a sensuous poetry with natural phenomena described with an accuracy of observation with no earlier match

- Romantic poetry = nature poetry? x W. Wordsworth: to observe and describe objects accurately not at all a sufficient condition for poetry

- nature = a stimulus to thinking! > meditative poetry: W. Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey and Ode: Intimations of Immortality; S. T. Coleridge’s Frost at Midnight and Dejection; P. B. Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind; and J. Keats’s Nightingale

- landscape endowed with human life, passion, and expressiveness > natural objects correspond to an inner or a spiritual world > tendency to write a symbolist poetry with objects endowed with a significance beyond themselves: W. Blake, P. B. Shelley, & oth.

T h e  O r d i n a r y  a n d  t h e  O u t c a s t :

- W. Hazlitt on W. Wordsworth: W. transl. the political changes into poetical experiments > W. = the lit. equivalent of the Fr. Rev.

- W. Wordsworth on Lyrical Ballads:

> form = ‘to choose incidents and situations from common life’ and to use a ‘language really spoken by men’, the source and model being ‘humble and rustic life’: <=> R. Burns

> subject = ‘peasants, peddlers, and village barbers’, even the ignominious, the outcast, the delinquent, i.e. ‘convicts, F vagrants, gypsies, idiot boys, and mad mothers’ x G. G. Byron the only to maintain his lit. allegiance to aristocratic proprieties and to traditional poetic decorum

> aim = not simply to repres. the world as it is x but: to present ‘ordinary things in an unusual aspect’; to refresh our sense of wonder and divinity in the everyday, the commonplace, the trivial, and the lowly > to awaken the child’s sense of wonder, the ‘freshness of sensation’ in the repres. of ‘familiar objects’

T h e  S u p e r n a t u r a l :

- wonder in the familiar: W. Wordsworth and S. T. Coleridge

- wonder achieved by violation of natural laws and the ordinary course of events in poems incl. supernatural ‘incidents and agents’: S. T. Colerige’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel, and Kubla Khan

- modern adaptations of old ballad and romance forms: J. Keats’s La Belle Dame sans Merci and The Eve of St. Agnes

- ballad imitations: W. Scott’s verse tales and historical novels

=> a medieval revival

- typical setting in a distant past or faraway places, or both: S. T. Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, set in the Middle Ages and the Orient

- unusual modes of experience > ‘addition of strangeness to beauty’ (W. Pater)

(a) visionary states: W. Blake, W. Wordsworth, and S. T. Coleridge

(b) hypnotism: S. T. Coleridge

(c) dreams and nightmares: S. T. Coleridge (< addicted to opium)

(d) satanic hero: G. G. Byron

(e) ambivalence of pleasure and pain, destructive aspects of sexuality, longing for death: J. Keats

=> anticipated the Gothic fiction of 18th c., and the Eur. decadence of the late 19th c.

I n d i v i d u a l i s m ,  I n f i n i t e  S t r i v i n g , a n d

 N o n c o n f o r m i t y :

- 18th c.: humans = limited beings in a strictly ordered world; the mind = a mirrorlike recipient of a universe already created x Romanticism: emphasis on individualism, on human potentialities and powers; the mind = an active creator of the universe it perceives

- human refuses to submit to limitations > ceaseless activity, a striving for the infinite (< Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Faust): P. B. Shelley’s Alastor, J. Keats’s Endymion, and G. G. Byron’s Manfred

(a) writers deliberately isolated from society to give scope to their individual vision: W. Wordsworth’s masterwork The Recluse

(b) a solitary protagonist separated from society because he has rejected it, or because it has rejected him > the theme of exile, of the disinherited mind unable to find a spiritual home anywhere: G. G. Byron, P. B. Shelley, and to a certain extend S. T. Coleridge

(c) a solitary protagonist as a great sinner (a) made realise and expiate his sin: S. T. Colerige’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and W. Wordsworth’s Guilt and Sorrow and Peter Bell x (b) remains proudly unrepentant: G. G. Byron’s Manfred, and P. B. Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound

- new forms:

> W. Blake’s symbolic lyrics and visionary ‘prophetic’ poems

> S. T. Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a haunting ballad narrative

> W. Wordsworth’s The Prelude, an epic-like spiritual autobiog.

> P. B. Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, a cosmic symbolic drama

> J. Keats’s sequence of odes conc. with the conflict in basic human desires

> G. G. Byron’s Don Juan, a satiric survey of Eur. civilisation

M i l l e n n i a l  E x p e c t a t i o n s :

- enthusiasm with the Fr. Rev. = hope of humanity and the regeneration of the human race, modelled on biblical prophecy

- the Bible’s concl. = the book of “Revelation”, i.e. the Apocalypse and return to the Edenic felicity; symbolised by a marriage btw the New Jerusalem and Christ the Lamb: W. Blake’s The French Revolution (1791) and America, a Prophecy (1793)

- disenchantment by the Fr. Rev. = political rev. > spiritual rev. = new ways of seeing

- regarded as the restoration of a lost earlier way of seeing; symbolised by the marriage btw the mind and the external world: S. T. Coleridge’s Dejection: An Ode, W. Wordsworth’s Prospectus to The Recluse, P. B. Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, and Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus

=> apocalypse = not a change of the world x but: a change of the worldview

T h e  R o m a n t i c  D r a m a

< William Shakespeare = the idolised example

> P. B. Shelley = the most capable dramatist

(−) licensing to 1843 > only the Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres allowed to produce spoken drama

(−) the Romantic genius ill adapted to the theatre

(a) stage drama:

> G. G. Byron’s exhibitions of various aspects of the Byronic hero, readable x but: weaker on stage

> S. T. Coleridge’s Remorse, a tragedy, a minor hit

> P. B. Shelley’s The Cenci (1819), a true story of the It. Renaissance, a monstrous father violates his daughter, she murders him

(b) closet drama: G. G. Byron’s Manfred and P. B. Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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