Romantic English Literature

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Romantic English Literature: 

Romantic English Literature

1. Historical background : 

1. Historical background Romanticism – a revolt of the English imagination against the neoclassicism reason French Revolution --- the storming of Bastille --- Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity --- Jean-Jacques Rousseau: glorify human nature; claim for social democracy --- response in Britain Edmund Burke: denounce the revolution Thomas Paine: fight against tyranny


French Revolution




Population shifts Industrial revolution --- increasing merchanization; development of industry --- economic depression --- disparity between the rich and the poor --- Luddite riots: workers’ disturbances The Reform Bill (1832)

2. Cultural background: 

2. Cultural background The Romantic Movement: negative attitude towards the existing social and political conditions. Core --- reaction against neoclassicism Time --- 1798~1832 1798: Lyrical Ballads (William Wordsworth, S.T. Coleridge) 1832: the death of Sir Walter Scott; the passage of the Reform Bill Manifesto --- Lyrical Ballads

Characteristics of Romanticism: 

Characteristics of Romanticism Imagination Idealization of Nature Individualism Glorification of the commonplace The lure of the exotic


Imagination Man is all imagination, God is man and exists in us and we in him…All things exist in the human imagination. (William Blake) Imagination: the supreme faculty of the mind (dynamic and active) Imagination can change and create Imagination can unify different elements into a complex whole.


Let us go then, you and I. When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table;…” (T.S.Eliot) 让我们一道去吧,你和我, 当黄昏迎天伸展 像个麻醉在手术桌上的病号;


Example: Kubla Khan (Coleridge) It is about a dream the poet had one evening. Kublan Khan is the great emperor in the Yuan Dynasty. Suggested poems: William Blake: “The Tyger” S. T. Coleridge: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”


Nature Yet having felt the power of nature, by the gentle agency of natural objects, led me on to feel the passions that were not my own. (Wordsworth) Different perspectives about nature: -- a healing power; -- a source of subject and image; -- a refuge from the artificial constructs of civilization. Describing natural phenomena Capturing “sensuous nuance” Nature poetry: one of meditation

Example: “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”: 

Example: “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils, Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. 独自漫游似浮云, 青山翠谷上飘荡; 一刹那瞥见一丛丛、 一簇簇水仙金黄; 树荫下,明湖边, 和风吹拂舞翩跹。


For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils. 兀自倚榻憩息, 岑寂,悠然冥想; 目地花影闪心扉, 蓦处方能神往; 衷心喜悦洋溢, 伴水仙,舞不息。


Suggested poem: William Wordsworth: “Tintern Abbey”


Individualism I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man’s. (William Blake) Middle ages: emphasize on God; man lived chiefly for the future world Renaissance period: man is the center of all concern; emphasized on the dignity of man and the importance of the present life Enlightenment: saw man as social man; the general or universal characteristics of human behavior were more suitable subject matter


Romanticism: Saw man as an individual in the solitary state Emphasized the special qualities of each individual’s mind “I am not made like anyone I have seen; I dare believe that I am not made like anyone in existence. If I am not superior, at least I am different.” (Rousseau) Value the exploration and evaluation of the inner self  


A prominence of first-person lyric poem “I” – the direct person of the poet example: Prelude (Wordsworth) A change of direction from attention to the outer world of social civilization to the inner world of the human spirit Suggested poems: Wordsworth: Prelude Byron: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

Glorification of the commonplace: 

Glorification of the commonplace I have wished to keep the Reader in the company of flesh and blood. (Wordsworth) Materials: the commonplace, the natural, the simple Common incidents and situations Natural diction and language Suggested poem: Wordsworth: “The Solitary Reaper”

The Lure of the Exotic: 

The Lure of the Exotic Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey: lived by the riverside Byron and Shelley: self-imposed exile Expanded the imaginary horizons spatially and chronologically: -- the Middle Ages -- images of distant places Allow free play to the supernatural


Suggested poems: Byron: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Keats: “The Eve of St. Agnes” Coleridge: Kubla Khan

3. Literary features: 

3. Literary features English Romanticism: 1798 Lyrical Ballads ~~ 1832 the death of Walter Scott Poetry --- Lakers (the first generation): Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey --- Revolutionary poets (the second generation) Byron, Shelley, Keats


Wordsworth --- the world of simple, natural things, in the countryside or among the people Coleridge --- the strange, the exotic, the mysterious


Byron --- revolt against society --- a prototype of romantic hero, “Byronic hero” Shelley --- the external tyranny is the main enemy --- inherent human goodness will eliminate evil from the world and usher in an eternal reign of love Keats --- a response to sensuous impressions --- love of nature and art, a compassion for humanity


Lyrical Ballads Walter Scott


Novel --- Jane Austen: love and marriage --- Walter Scott: historical novels Prose --- newspapers, magazines, and periodicals --- Lamb, Hazlitt, De Quincey


Pride and Prejudice

William Wordsworth: 

William Wordsworth ---“All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” ---Wordsworth “endeavored to bring language near to the real language of man”.


According to the subject matters, Wordsworth’s short poems can be divided into two groups: the poems of nature and the poems about human life. He is a poet of nature and a master hand in searching and revealing the feelings of the common people. “a worshipper of nature” Common life --- the only subject of literary interest

Poetic career: 

Poetic career Lyrical Ballads --- simple language --- sympathy with the poor --- fusion of natural description with expressions of inward states of mind “Lucy” poems --- harmony between humanity and nature The Prelude --- spiritual record of his mind and his philosophy of life

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud: 

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud “And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.”


I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils: Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.   Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dances.


The waves beside them danced; but they Outdid the sparkling waves in glee; A poet could not but be gay; In such a jocund company; I gazed-and gazed-but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:   For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.


Glossary Vales:valleys Flutter:move up and down or form side to side Twinkle:shine form bright to faint Sprightly:cheerful, active Glee:delight Jocund:merry, cheerful Oft:often Vacant:thoughtless pensive:melancholic, sadly thoughtful


Summary The speaker says that, wandering like a cloud floating above hills and valleys, he encountered a field of daffodils beside a lake. The dancing, fluttering flowers stretched endlessly along the shore, and though the waves of the lake danced beside the flowers, the daffodils outdid the water in glee. The speaker says that a poet could not help but be happy in such a joyful company of flowers. He says that he stared and stared, but did not realize what wealth the scene would bring him. For now, whenever he feels "vacant" or "pensive," the memory flashes upon "that inward eye / That is the bliss of solitude," and his heart fills with pleasure, "and dances with the daffodils."


Questions 1. What is the recurrent central image in this poem? 2. What does the persona feel at the end of the poem? 3. Write in a few sentences your understanding of “What wealth the show to me had brought”. 4. Explain in a few words “that inward eye/Which is the bliss of solitude”. 5. This poem is considered by many the most anthologized poem in English literature, and one that takes us to the core of Wordsworth’s poetic beliefs. How is the core manifested? 6. What is the relation between man and nature?

George Gordon Byron: 

George Gordon Byron “One shade the more , one ray the less, Had half impaired the nameless grace”

Literary career: 

Literary career On the whole, Byron’s poetry is one of experience. His literary career was closely linked with the struggle and progressive movements of his age. His chief contribution is the creation of the “Byronic hero”--- a proud, mysterious rebel figure of noble origin. Important works: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Don Juan

She Walks in Beauty: 

She Walks in Beauty She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that’s best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes: Thus mellowed to that tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies.   One shade the more, one ray the less, Had half impaired the nameless grace Which waves in every raven tress Or softly lightens o’er her face; Where thoughts serenely sweet express How pure, how dear their dwelling place.  


And on that cheek, and o’er that brow, So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, The smiles that win, the tints that glow, But tell of days in goodness spent, A mind at peace with all below, A heart whose love is innocent!


Glossary Climes:climate aspect:face, countenance Gaudy:bright-colored and showy Impair:damage, make …worse Raven tress:long black hair Serenely:peacefully Tints:variety of colors Goodness:virtue,excellence All below:everything in the world


Summary Byron wrote this poem the morning after he had met his beautiful young cousin by marriage, Mrs. Robert John Wilmot, who wore a black mourning gown brightened with spangles. The poet admires the woman’s eyes, black hair, brow, cheek, coloring and smile. With dark hair and fair face, the lady is mingling of various light and shades, comparable to the light and darkness of a night sky with stars. He praises her pure thoughts, good actions, serene mind, and innocent love.


Questions 1.This poem was written to sing praise of the beauty of a lady the poet met. Two types of beauty, external and internal, are shown in this poem. Tell what they are and how they are supported by the details. 2.What are the similes used to describe this lady?