The Romantic Conflict

The Romantic Conflict

The Romantic Conflict

The Romantic Conflict

Excerpt

The present study of English romantic poetry argues that romanticism is more profitably approached as the product of a particular period than as the product of a particular kind of personality. Such an approach is inevitably somewhat sociological, but it does not thereby reduce romanticism, in this work, to the outworn fashion of a buried age. On the contrary, it turns out to emphasise the fact that, no matter how sociological some of the causes may have been, the main insights of the romantic movement were deeply psychological, and therefore comparatively permanent.

Two consequences follow from this approach. Firstly, any simple definition of 'romanticism' is precluded, because the reaction against 'Reason' is taken to be really not against reasoning but against a type of society - but it did have non-rational, psychological consequences. So 'romanticism' becomes a complex rather than a creed. The 'Romantic Conflict' of the title must be taken to have both an outward and an inward aspect; to indicate conflict between the poets and their society as well as conflict within the poets themselves. Secondly, the book moves from very general background studies to detailed discussion of individual poets and poems.

Part I, then, attempts to assign romanticism to a time and place - on grounds of critical utility; to show why English romanticism should have come when it did and been what it was; to give evidence of social pressures not existing before or after the romantic period (thus accounting for the outward aspect of the conflict); and finally to indicate the creative dilemma (the inward aspect) which this situation put the English romantics into.

Part II, the main body of the book, contains analyses of the work of the most notable romantic poets writing before the French Revolution, and those - subject to greater pressures - who wrote, and wrote better, during and after it. The predicament of these later writers is profitably, if crudely, conceivable as a conflict between material realities and spiritual ideals. And this seems . . .

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