John Milton, Wordsmith and others’ model for poetry, is a prime source of such “anxiety. 18) Poetry does not so much “delight and teach” (both neoclassical requirements) as help the reader undergo a poetic/spiritual experience 19) Attempt to forge a secular scripture; to overcome “fallen” or “alienated” language: how can we overcome the effects of Babel? How rediscover Pentecost (Acts 2)? 20) defiance of ordinary moral codes, the “behavioral categories” of ordinary society Counter-statements and Complications: 1) Materialist (I. E.
Marxist) reading derived from Raymond Williams’ Culture and Society: The Romantics’ claims about the vital importance of poetry and the poet omen into being Just at the point when European culture is beginning to marginality both, to subordinate art to the status of one commodity among others and to construe the poet as the equivalent of a tradesman or specialist: butcher, baker, poetry-maker. Who, then, is going to acknowledge the claims of Wordsmith and Shelley, those “unacknowledged legislators of the world”? This question is bound to provoke a crisis of poetic authority.Order now
In essence, the Romantics can overcome “alienation” only through “division of labor”-which is what their specialized poetic acts amount to. The poet, as the Romantics may at times suspect, has by the Industrial Revolution become a specialist, a producer of linguistic commodities. The conditions of production in the Industrial capitalist age work against lyric utterance. By claiming status as “poets,” by aggrandize art as the only solution to profound economic and social problems, the Romantics repeat the very problem they are trying to address.
In sum, Williams sees Romanticism as a reaction to or corollary of the Industrial Revolution. It is necessary, he says, to deal with the emergence of Romanticism in its historical context. We cannot describe Romanticism purely in arms of an old-fashioned “history of ideas” that assumes the existence and permutation of “ideas” in the absence of historical events. (As Marx would say, “life is not determined by consciousness; consciousness is determined by life. ” Our ideas, at base, are a product of our economic and social environment. We cannot, in other words, say only that when Kant cautiously overcame David Hum’s extreme skepticism about humankind’s ability to “know” the outside world, he provided later, fully “Romantic” thinkers with the means to posit a satisfying degree of creative activity for the imagination. Neither is it enough to add that because Kant also created some philosophical problems for these same thinkers, their poetry centered self-reflexively on the concept of “subjectivity. ” Such accounts may be helpful, but in themselves they do not satisfactorily trace the origins of a complex movement like English Romanticism. 2) According to M.
H. Abram and others, Manfred (the subject of Manfred was an obsession with the Romantics) amounts to the colonization of the Christian model of subjectivity, which centers around loss and alienation. The lost unity between subject and object may be recaptured in a lyrical moment, in incest, ND so on. In this sense, Marx, Wagner, and Freud might serve as models of romanticism. All three authors describe a fall from a primal unity or moment through some kind of trauma. 3) Romanticism stresses the private individual and his solipsistic (I. E. Isolated) imagination as the solution to massive social problems.
With their heavy emphasis upon “imagination,” the Romantic poets are not so much rebelling against neoclassical art and society as inadvertently furthering the aims of a rising middle class bent upon making “individualism” and “ liberty” the measure of all things. They are fighting fire with oil. 4) The Romantics, at their most insightful, severely question their allegedly “organists” and “expressive” poetic theories; the best moments in their poems come when they recognize that they have failed to do what they set out to do: Shelley cannot sing like the skylark, etc.
The essence of Romantic art is failure, and the Romantics themselves know it. 5) Those critics who remain engrossed in the Romantics’ own self-constructions-their optimistic emphasis on the individual, the exalted imagination, the organic, the ability of language to “express” unman emotions or to recover some lost unity-are either fabricating such self- deceiving preoccupations wholesale or perpetuating them for less than innocent reasons.
In other words, it may be the modern critics themselves who continually reinvent “Romanticism” and who are ultimately “Romantics” and aesthetic escapists. One might argue that Abram himself has a vested interest in the Romantic idea that poetry (the “aesthetic”) offers valid solutions to social problems. 6) The Romantics, perhaps more agonizingly than those who preceded them, are conscious that they write in the shadow of Million’s Paradise Lost. They seem compelled both to stand in awe of Milton and to “wage eternal war irreconcilable” with his all-embracing poetic legacy and subject matter.