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Romanticism: Blake and others

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Helen Hatton

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ENG202Y1 Week 21
-up until now, writing was mainly defined through political movements; eg. Tudors,
Enlightenment era, etc.
-> however, in late 1700s-early 1800s, sensibilities change
-Defoe: his politics look to individualism, modern capitalism, etc. -> forward-looking;
embodiment of Protestant work ethic
-Swift: residual ideology – backward looking; articulates ideas that were more popular
before his time (and are dwindling)
-modern conservatism -> Edmund Burke -> age of chivalry is gone; sophisters,
economists + calculators now dominate; defended traditions, private property, sceptical
of politics based on abstractions such as rights
-> Rousseau ->man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains -> society destroys
individual authenticity experienced in “state of nature ->noble savage -> gov needs to
protet individual freedom.
-politics based on “general will
-Romanticism looks to freedom of individual spirit (not politically conservatism) but also
has some of Burke’s ideas
-look to past for inspiration to wisdom (but not the same past as Pope or swift; Swift ->
church + ritual, Pope -> literary mov) -> but look to LOCAL PAST (history, folkore, or a
particular region)
-travellers – going to Alps
-> travel to find more intense relationships to nature in wilderness
-transcendence – mind-altering drugs, culture of young children, nature
-revolutionaries – against ancient regime + alienating/explotive nature of modernity
House of Hanover
-parliament makes biggest decisions – succession, etc.
-British navy, England -> major part of slave trade
-literature (eg. Rape of the Lock) was originally written for aristocratic circles, but books
now cater to wider audience – Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, etc.
-prose fiction + novel are more accessible to ppl (don’t need insider knowledge of court,
mythology, etc.)
-subject matter = society, bonds btwn ppl, difficulty of consensus, necessity of mutual
-> novels demonstrate exchange of ideas in public sphere -> use public language
-everyday world, nature – “The Cult of Sensibility”
Literary Terms
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-literature btwn Augustan (Pope, Swift) + pure Romantics
-Sensibility: 18th concept derived from moral philosophy stressing the importance of
empathy + compassion in social relations. A reaction to the emphasis on reason
characteristic of earlier 18th c.
-> elegance of feeling, to be moved by work of art
-eg. Jane Austen: Sense + Sensibility
-unlike satire (which is FIXED bc it confidentally makes fun of universal +
unchanging principals), sensibility is fluid and constantly responsive to outer world
-> later on, leads to political changes based on empathy (eg. Abolition)
-Ballad measure: alternating lines of iambic pentameter + iambic trimester
-Blank verse: unrhymed iambic pentameter
Barbauld – “The Mouse’s Petition”
-sensibility: writes from perspective of a mouse about to be experimented on
-does not attack science -> but urges him to temper his drive for knowledge w humanistic
-mouse: why would you take the little life left in me? If scientist spares life of mouse,
then maybe greater being (angel?) will do good things for scientist too
-romanticism still prevalent in modern world
-second half of poem: more philosophical; 1st half = represented as political prisoner
->..Let not thy strong oppression force, a freeborn mouse, detain”
Women Sensibility
-ideology of separate sphere:
-women are NOT better/less than men, but belong in different domain ; each should stay
within own world
-scientific thought:women are fundamentally diff -> more empathetic, less rational, etc.
-excluded from public + politics
-eg. Mary Wollstonecraft – founder of modern feminism -> radical life
-women writers usually associated with reform rather than revolution; not taken seriously
after death until recently
-interest in sciences -> attending academies for “dissenters -> students of diff, particular
religious conviction
-advocate for women, abolition, criticisms of British political [policy
p. 37 – Washing Day
-questions readers
-much political criticism
1st part: 1-32:
Muses have turned gossips. They have lost language of the gods.”
mock-epic poem -> uses traditional epic in quotidian terms
while Pope’s tone is quite sardonic, Barbauld’s
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