A Companion to Romantic Poetry

A Companion to Romantic Poetry

A Companion to Romantic Poetry

A Companion to Romantic Poetry

Synopsis

Through a series of 34 essays by leading and emerging scholars, A Companion to Romantic Poetry reveals the rich diversity of Romantic poetry and shows why it continues to hold such a vital and indispensable place in the history of English literature.
  • Breaking free from the boundaries of the traditionally-studied authors, the collection takes a revitalized approach to the field and brings together some of the most exciting work being done at the present time
  • Emphasizes poetic form and technique rather than a biographical approach
  • Features essays on production and distribution and the different schools and movements of Romantic Poetry
  • Introduces contemporary contexts and perspectives, as well as the issues and debates that continue to drive scholarship in the field
  • Presents the most comprehensive and compelling collection of essays on British Romantic poetry currently available

Excerpt

“We are living through a great age for poetry,” Anne Elliot observes to Captain Benwick in the screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion (Dear 1996: 47). Although Anne (and Austen) have reservations concerning its moral efficacy, the cultural significance of poetry is never questioned. Indeed, precisely this claim is made time and again by Romantic writers – from Wordsworth and Baillie to Austen and Hazlitt, Keats and De Quincey – but perhaps nowhere with greater conviction or urgency than in Shelley’s Defence of Poetry, when he contends:

The most unfailing herald, companion, and follower of the awakening of a great people
to work a beneficial change in opinion or institution, is Poetry.… It is impossible to read
the compositions of the most celebrated writers of the present day without being startled
with the electric life which burns in their words. They measure the circumference and
sound the depths of human nature with a comprehensive and all-penetrating spirit, and
they are themselves perhaps the most sincerely astonished at its manifestations, for it is
less their spirit than the spirit of the age. (Shelley 2002: 535)

Romantic poetry – for Shelley, the “power of communicating and receiving intense and impassioned conceptions respecting man and nature,” the “words which express what [the poets] understand not” (2002: 535) – Romantic poetry is revolutionary. It is electrifying. It is dangerous, “seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely,” according to Austen (1998: 90). For Hazlitt, it “partakes of, and is carried along with, the revolutionary movement of our age” (Hazlitt 1930–4: 11. 87). The center and circumference of Romanticism, Romantic poetry is for Shelley nothing less than the spirit of the age. It delineates, as Wordsworth expresses it, “the very world which is the world / Of all of us, the place in which, in the end, / We find our happiness, or not at all” (Wordsworth 1979: 1805 Prelude x. 725–7). Romantic poetry may not necessarily define Romanticism, but it is indispensable to any definition of Romanticism.

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