The following academic paper highlights the up-to-date issues and questions of Romanticism Literature Examples. This sample provides just some ideas on how this topic can be analyzed and discussed.
The Sublime is one of the significant notions in the aesthetics of eighteenth century Romantic literature. Critics’ examine the sublime as elevated thought inspired by awe of the majesty of nature. It is important to realise that the idea of the sublime was not created by the Romantics and although the Romantics did not always agree in the particulars of philosophies and theories, the Sublime was generally agreed to be an attractive aesthetic. It is using hindsight that critics analyse what can be described as the Sublime and so I will assess sources and examine the overall trends.
Tintern Abbey (Wordsworth, 1798) is the poet’s reflection on the sublimity of nature whilst on a visit to the abbey. The poem represents the peak of Wordsworth’s first era of artistic output and heralds much of the poetry that follows. Like The Prelude themes of pantheism appear as he acknowledges the sublime and nature as dominating mankind fashioning himself as a “worshipper of Nature”. Wordsworth directly references “a sense sublime” almost portraying it as an awareness of some spiritual consciousness.
He is not able to find harmony in mankind and so approaches nature almost with religious awe. Wordsworth wants Dorothy to remember how much he loved his visit to Tintern Abbey, and so Nature acts as a mechanism for two people to reminisce. This supports Wordsworth’s ideals that appreciating nature can raise mankind to a height of sublime in a way that society cannot. The poem is written in structured blank verse, and comprises of paragraphs rather than stanzas and it is here we see the development of the conversation poem thought to be invented by Coleridge and Wordsworth.
The Romantics Literature
The imagery and language remain consistent through Wordsworth’s poetry when considering the sublime, adhering to rules he set out in the 1802 preface to the Lyrical Ballads. In this he argued that poetry should be written in the native language of common dialogue rather than the traditional lyrical or poetic dictions of the era. By removing egotistical elements he can offer access to the emotions contained in this particular memory therefore offering a gateway to the sublime.
Wordsworth’s (1805) The Prelude contains further develops theories on the growth of the poetic intellect, whilst also exploring the ideas of the power of nature coexisting with the sublime. Its focus presents a fundamental step into the Romantic Sublime as he examines in his poetry that “From Nature doth emotion come”, that is why nature can convey moments of serenity or exhilaration. Wordsworth is interested in something that is transcendental and surpasses the senses, this is his understanding of the Sublime.
Themes of humanism and pantheism crop up in The Prelude as he acknowledges the natural realm for teaching him to recognise the primacy of mankind. Although it could be argued that a humanist emphasis would make the sublime secondary, it helps to explain his idea that Nature does not possess false or “vain conceits” but is something to admire for its pureness and “meekness”. Wordsworth finds everything above a level of mist illuminated by the moon during his climb of Snowdon. He views the mist as a vast expanse of sea and how this replaces the “real sea” which shows the ability of the mind to dominate over the actual reality.
The reformation of the reality into an image shows the creative capacity which puts Wordsworth in touch with the Sublime. Like Wordsworth, Coleridge uses blank verse in The Lime-Tree Bower my Prison (1798) to emphasise the conversational characteristics of the poem which allow for fluctuations in tone. Coleridge is separated from his friends yet is able to relax and accept his lonely situation as it is of a physical not mental condition. The “solitary humble bee” represents Coleridge working in serene synchronisation with Nature as he appreciates the sublime at work.
According to Coleridge, in order for an object to be sublime, it must be considered in its greater context not just as an independent item. It is useful to consider Coleridge’s opinions on the sublime, as he believed that Nature was only occasionally sublime as there are few entities in nature that are illimitable for instance the sky or the sea. However objects such as mountains, viewed by many romantic scholars as subliminal, are not endless. So it is more of a case in the poem that he focuses on the metaphysical aspect of the sublime found between sky and earth and the aspect of eternity.
Alongside Coleridge and Wordsworth, Nature was an important aspect for Shelley in his prose and poetry. As we can see, Romanticist writers believed that nature inspired a terrifying feeling that nature was more significant than mankind could comprehend. The terror came from the realisation that nature was supremely powerful. Mont Blanc (1817:1999) gradually illustrates this and ultimately in the fourth stanza reveals how these emotions work to teach mankind to respect the majesty of nature thus a two sided connotation evoking both awe and terror.
Shelley identifies some of the features of nature that combine to reflect the sublime for instance “the fields, the lakes, the forests, and the streams”. To support the idea that the sublime is elevated over human comprehension, Shelley specifically does not openly mention mankind in his list. As far as Shelley is concerned, humans are irrelevant compared to the power of the sublime. It is interesting to note that Shelley uses enjambment to guarantee that living beings only get a split second thought as the reader must instantaneously continue onto the next line. Living things” are placed between “Ocean” and “daedal earth” as if to reiterate that mankind is insignificant compared to the majesty of nature. Mont Blanc is a supreme example of the Sublime because Shelley shows that the man could be expunged from the earth in comparison to the “everlasting universe”. Aidan Day’s Romanticism (1996) contains a chapter entitled Gender and the Sublime which is a good introduction to the topic of the Sublime. Day reviews shifting opinions of Romanticism whilst placing writers such as Wordsworth’s work in to the context of philosophical thinkers such as Edmund Burke.
Initially this chapter it presents us with a definition of the sublime as “an experience of a power that exceeds the quantifiable and usable” (Burke, 1757). The chapter contains excerpts from Burke’s theories accompanied by Day summarising each of these points. He then goes on to find similarities among Burke’s ideas with Wordsworth’s The Prelude which enables us to see Burke’s philosophies put into practice. He quotes extensively from all of his sources meaning it is easy to reference to the primary sources included.
The chapter is not a description of the sublime rather a study into the differing opinions surrounding this topic. This makes it a useful start in researching the social and historical context surrounding this aspect of Romanticism. A key element in the romantic sublime is gender portrayal. Anne K Mellor’s Romanticism and Gender (1993) is a good source to consider the gender conflicts within Romanticism. Mellor discusses the sublime in terms of gender with regards to the masculine and feminine aspects. She notes that traditional feminine qualities are taken over by “masculine” Romanticism.
For instance, typically feminine qualities such as love, mercy and compassion are appropriated by the masculine poets. By Nature being female, the “female” is erased, she does not have a voice thus does not exist. The tradition of the feminine sublime is found in those women writers who grew up enclosed by immense mountainous backdrops that were openly observed as sublime by Romantic writers. Mellor comments that whilst male protagonists respond to the sublime with a loss of self, women represent it as a blissful experience of shared experience in a nature they gender as female.
For the female author, nature is a companion with whom they can share their experiences, as opposed to the male version being distinctly elevated above mankind. Modiana’s Coleridge’s Conception of the Sublime (1985) provides a broad study of how Coleridge regarded nature and how he criticised the theoretical and aesthetic vocabularies accessible to him. She also shows how Coleridge strove to bring his idea of the metaphysics of nature in line with his Christian theology.
Whilst other writers may have the opinion that Coleridge viewed nature as of little importance compared to Wordsworth, Modiana tries to correct this view. For instance, the German Sublime openly describes the authority of the mind over nature. However even though Coleridge preferred Kant’s sublime to Burke’s sublime, he was “not as eager to abandon nature as Kant” or to use a “confrontation with nature” as an egotistical means to affirm the mind’s power. Thus is a useful chapter to gain a beneficial understanding of Coleridge’s subtle adjustments of Kant’s aesthetic theory in relation to the sublime in Romantic poetry.
Whilst not mentioning the sublime directly, Wimsatt examines the imagery in Nature presented by eighteenth century Romantic Poets in his essay The Structure of Romantic Nature Imagery (1960). He questions whether romantic nature poetry exhibits any imaginative structure that is a specific “counterpart of the subject” and by trying to answer this helps us view the sublime in an eighteenth century context rather than modern day. Wimsatt picks up on the theme of Pantheistic Naturalism in Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey then considers that God is not mentioned within the poem yet is the text is profound and concerns the spiritual.
According to Wimsatt it was a “common feat” of nature poets to read meanings into the landscapes and beckon profound spiritual experiences without explicit religious statements. It is curious to note that he states Romantic Poetry had fallen out of favour among “advanced critics” at the time of writing however does not expand on this statement. This is unfortunate as it would be a useful viewpoint on the opinions across the years of the romantic sublime and its contexts.