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Prof.ssa A.








"Liberty leading the People" by Eugène Delacroix

and the event is given the ominous title of "the Perterloo Massacre.The French Revolution(1789-1814) � Romantic poets and others in England at first embrace the democratic uprising. � In 1819. local militia kill several unarmed demonstrators at Saint Peter's Fields. � In Great Britain." 4 . react harshly toward urban working­class demonstrators. fearing French­style revolution. � Napoleon is finally defeated in 1814 at Waterloo and exiled to the Island of Saint Helena. the Tory governments of Wellington and others. but his menace lives on in the reactionary policies of British and European leaders determined not to let revolution trouble them again. but later react against it when the French engage in extreme violence and try to "export" their revolution.

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hierarchical ties that once kept British society together. Romantic poets like Blake and Wordsworth respond sharply to England's changing landscapes and human relationships. Thomas Carlyle will write that "the Cash Nexus" has already replaced the feudal. 6 . "Nature" is no longer simply God's gift.The Industrial Revolution � It begins in England. � In the 1830s. � Writing at "ground zero" of this titanic change in human affairs. though the Continent will experience it some decades later. � Urbanization intensifies ­along with urban poverty and class dissatisfaction. as previous generations might have thought. some Romantic poets see nature­and the human sources of happiness they believe it nourishes­as threatened with extinction.

Other important events were: � The abolition of slavery in 1833 � The introduction of a system of national education � The Factory Acts (1833). A Catholic Emancipation Act was passed which enabled Catholics to sit in Parliament.The Beginning of the laissez-faire � The 1820s initiated a period of social reform under King George IV. � The process of gradual reforms continued under the reign of William IV. by which the employement of children under nine was forbidden by law. This extended the right to vote to those who had a fixed income. were against any interference of the State in economic matters. They supported the Greeks in their struggle for independence. The Tories then in power. and a First Reform Bill was passed in 1832. 7 . and were in favour of the Risorgimento and the Italian struggle for freedom.

� The widespread discontent in the working classes led these workers to the first meetings of British trade unions.TRADE UNIONS � While the middle classes of manufacturers and traders saw their riches multiplied. which had gone on meeting secretly despite the risk of heavy punishment. In 1799 the Combination Acts made meetings of workers illegal. wages and hours of work. The Government responded with a repressive legislation. however. now called TRADE UNIONS. as in the infamous 1819 “Peterloo massacre” in Manchester. the large majority of the population could not enjoy the immediate benefits of the new capitalistic economy. the situation improved. were entirely free from any supervision by the State and there were no precise regulations regarding conditions. and any reform demonstration was repressed by force. thanks to the “laissez-faire” theory”. 8 . Peter’s field. in which eleven peaceful demonstrators were killed in St. and Combinations of workers. The workers. were finally legalized in 1825­26. � Little by little.

a collection of poems published in 1798 by Wordsworth and Coleridge. revolutionary in France.THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT � Romanticism was a European phenomenon which developed in different ways and times according to the cultural. patriotic in Italy and literary in England. social and political situations of each country. It proved essentially philosophical in Germany. In Germany it was anticipated by the Sturm und Drang movement of the 1770s. � The second edition of 1800 contained a Preface by Wordsworth which is usually regarded as the Manifesto of English Romantic poetry. 9 . in England it begins with the Lyrical Ballads .

10 . Equality and Fraternity”.Romanticism and its Historical Context � Certain historical events such as the American and the French Revolution. isolated imagination as the reaction to massive social problems. But the period of the Terror in France left many disillusioned and eventually turned them into conservatives. � Raymond Williams' Culture and Society sees Romanticism as a reaction to or corollary of the Industrial Revolution. fostered the growth of Romanticism. � At first. and to the French fight for “Liberty. with their emphasis on freedom and democratisation. almost every English man of letters was strongly sympathetic to the democratic ideals coming from America. Romanticism stresses the individual and his solipsistic.

LITERARY BACKGROUND OF ROMANTICISM IN BRITAIN � The cultural background of the Romantic movement is formed by: � The philosophy of J. � They both emphasized the value of the individual. 11 . revolted against the dependence of literature on ancient Classical canons and advocated a return to Nature.J. Rousseau. opposed the rationalism of the Enlightenment. � The German literary movement called “Sturm und Drang”.

an immanent God. according to which nature was moved by a Mighty Power. Schelling had a deep impact on romantic ideas with his philosophy of Art as the supreme moment when man can grasp the truth behind reality. 12 . sharing man’s feelings. or rather Renaissance Neoplatonism. Pantheism.Romanticism and Philosophy � The Romantic conception of Nature was influenced by three � � � � philosophical theories: Platonism. German Idealism. whose presence is manifest in every stone and tree. with the three great philosophers Fichte. which saw the world as an image of the metaphysical world. and his conception of Nature as something alive. since both are driven by the same animating principle. Schelling and Hegel.

a prophet divinely inspired. the Italian terza rima. since it was in poetry that the new imagination and feelings found its ideal vehicle. enjoying the same freedom as God himself in the act of creation. the sonnet. interest in � The language was affected by new ideas of simplicity. ottava rima and the lyric poems. 13 . In verse forms there was a return to past forms such as the ballad. � The Poet comes to be seen as someone unique in his creative faculty. free from external rules imposed on his creative genius. As a prophet he was convinced that his mission was to convey truth to mankind.ROMANTIC POETRY � The English Romantic period was dominated above all by Poetry. a kind of language really spoken by ordinary people.

Romantic poetry is essentially a meditation upon the self. especially in the Middle Ages. It conveyed a new sense of intimate communion between nature and man. All poets turned to � � � � � Nature as a counterpart to the sordid ugliness of the industrial towns. whereas adulthood represents painful detachment and alienation. of his feelings. The exaltation of the irrational and mystic aspect of life with a concern with the supernatural. In all Romantic poets childhood is looked at as the idealized phase of human life in which the feeling of oneness with the world was still strong. The poet spoke of himself. his melancholy. 14 . Love for the strange. his passions and rebellions. Imagination was the highest and noblest gift of the poet who was able to modify and re­create the world around him. and a new interest in history. two different but inseparable parts of the same universe. Individualism and egotism.Features and Themes of British Romanticism � Nature became the main source of inspiration. exotic and distant.

TWO GENERATIONS OF POETS � The great English Romantic poets are usually grouped into two generations: � the first generation.T. � the poets of the second generation were George Gordon Byron. often called “the Lake Poets” included William Wordsworth and S. Coleridge. 15 . Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.

also known as Wanderer Above the Mist) is an oil painting composed in 1818 by the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich.Wanderer above the Sea of Fog. 16 .

17 . first inspired by French Revolution. They traversed the same path in politics and in poetry.Lake District Poets The poets Wordsworth. Coleridge and Southey lived in the Lake District. later they turned into more conservative ideas.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH � PREFACE TO LYRICAL BALLADS: THE MANIFESTO OF � � � � � ENGLISH ROMANTICISM Everyday situations as the subject of poetry : “incidents and situations from common life” throwing over them “ a certain colouring of imagination”. Use of the language of common people purified by the poet “ a selection of language really used by men” Poetry as the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings Poetry has its origin from “emotion recollected in tranquillity”. The poet is a man speaking to men but he has a greater sensibility. Feelings recreated by the subjectivity of memory. 18 .

� Didactic role of poetry: the poet as a moral teacher. in particular sight and hearing � The poet moves from the perception of nature to develop a philosophical reflection.WILLIAM WORDSWORTH : THEMES OF HIS POETRY � The relationship between man and nature they are one entity: a Pantheistic view of nature � Imagination: its capacity of “colouring”. 19 . modifying the objects observed so as to present them “in an unusual aspect” � Nature as a guide and consolation � Importance of childhood and memory � Importance of the senses.

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and. and above all. proposed in these Poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life. and further. at the same time. throughout. truly though not ostentatiously. to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them. then. as far as was possible in a selection of language really used by men. to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination. the primary laws of our nature…” 21 . whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspect.William Wordsworth : Preface to the Lyrical Ballads” � “The principal object. and to relate or describe them.

WORDSWORTH The poetic process Sensory experience Poet Emotion Object Memory = Recollection In tranquillity Emotion Reader Poem Kindred emotion 22 .

io quello Infinito silenzio a questa voce Vo comparando: e mi sovvien l'eterno. so that in this immensity my thoughts are drowned. E come il vento Odo stormir tra queste piante. e il suon di lei.GIACOMO LEOPARDI � The Infinite (XII) It was always dear to me. E le morte stagioni. When I hear the wind. from so much of the ultimate horizon. Translated by A. that closes off my view. and watching here. Kline © 2003 All Rights Reserved 23 . and I remember the eternal and the dead seasons. � � XII ­ L'INFINITO Sempre caro mi fu quest'ermo colle. e profondissima quiete Io nel pensier mi fingo. where the heart barely fails to terrify. and its sound. I create interminable spaces. ove per poco Il cor non si spaura. E questa siepe. But sitting here. S. e sovrumani Silenzi. Ma sedendo e mirando. che da tanta parte Dell'ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude. and deepest quiet. and shipwreck seems sweet to me in this sea. blowing among these leaves. and the living present. and this hedgerow here. e la presente E viva. greater than human silences. I go on to compare that infinite silence with this voice. in thought. this solitary hill. interminati Spazi di là da quella. Così tra questa Immensità s'annega il pensier mio: E il naufragar m'è dolce in questo mare.

despite its beauty. Leopardi's concept of nature was extremely pessimistic. there are significant differences. it appeared to be indifferent to the sufferings for all living things. nature was seldom a source of consolation as it was for Wordsworth. However. followed as inevitable by disillusion as the child grows into an adult. For him. � Both believed that recollection was essential to poetry and Wordsworth's statement that poetry is the recollection of emotions can be compared to Leopardi's statement that 'la rimembranza è essenziale e principale al sentimento poetico'. He called it 'natura matrigna‘ since. 24 . � Nature was also central to their poetic inspiration. but also revealed important differences. as well as youth.LEOPARDI AND WORDSWORTH Leopardi and Wordsworth were two great contemporary poets of the age who shared important similarities. seen as a period of hope and illusion.

� The Middle Ages or Exoticism : ballad structure and themes. repetition. 25 . Abissynia). in order to create the unreal atmosphere of his best poems. devices such as alliteration. medieval setting (The Rime. internal rhyme. � Mystery and supernatural � Musical/Sound elements: He makes use of special sounds. Christabel). onomatopoeia. Gothic elements.Samuel Taylor Coleridge � Theory of imagination � Primary imagination: power of perception � Secondary imagination: re­creates or creates new worlds (the poet has it) � Fancy: a mode of memory. distant places (Xanadu. assonance.

the journey is always a metaphor for an inner quest. as well as underground caves and subterranean stream (as in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan). But the theme of the journey recurs in a large number of Romantic poems. the direction of the Romantics’ quest is always downward. The primordial chaos of unconsciousness is entrusted to water imagery.THE QUEST POEM � Romantic poetry is essentially a meditation upon the self. Whether it is by sea or land. an exploration of the unconscious powers of the mind. This is the case. � Being a search into the self’s depth. This meditation often takes the shape of a journey (sometimes made necessary by an exile). in complete solitude. on which the protagonist generally embarks by himself. a pilgrimage. 26 . or a fantastic escape to some distant land. particularly sea and ocean. but rather an indication of the ego’s descent into the psyche’s depths. a return to one’s hometown. or a search. or Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. of quest poems like Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Much of the Romantic imagery features abysses. The Romantics’ passion for remote countries is no mere homage to the exotic fashion of the day. for example.

Kubla Khan does possess the quality of a dream. which he tried to write down on his awakening. � Whether or not we believe Coleridge’s account of the miraculous conception of the poem. The actual text is thus the result of some vague recollection of the vision. While reading a book about Kubla Khan’s palace. A Fragment � Written in the autumn of 1797 but published only in 1816. Kubla Khan is first a poem about the poetic process itself and the inadequacy of language to represent the images arising from the depths of man’s soul. Coleridge fell asleep after taking opium. in which the cause­effect logic is cancelled and apparently unrelated images juxtapose in defamiliarized contexts. this poem invites a suspension of the rational activity of the mind and highlights the workings of the creative subconscious. in the “unknown” within the psyche. � The poem’s exotic atmosphere (Xanadu. 27 . as it is typical of dreams. In an opium­induced dream he composed “from two to three hundred lines”. the unconscious. Like a dream or a vision. unknown parts of our self. Having been deterred from that task by an unwanted visitor. this poem is prefaced by a short narrative reporting the circumstances of its genesis.KUBLA KHAN or. The description of the Khan’s palace and its surroundings is quite confusing. the author found himself unable to remember the whole composition. A Vision in a Dream. a “fragment” which survived in the author’s mind. the Abyssinian girl) reflects Coleridge preference for supernatural settings and fantastic characters. however. They work as metaphors for the mysterious. that is.

� a visionary poet: there is no didactic aim in his poetry. 28 . � The love for the exotic/exoticism: Distant places and times. � SUPERNATURAL: Pantheistic Nature and Neoplatonism. Unlike Wordsworth he does not find consolation and happiness in Nature.SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE: THEMES OF HIS POETRY � “The willing suspension of disbelief”: Coleridge suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale. the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.

“BRIGHT STAR” 29 .John Keats .

a sonnet � Bright Star Bright star.
 vorrei riposare sul guanciale del puro seno del mio amore. sempre il suo respiro attenuato. The moving waters at their priestlike task Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores. Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast. insonne eremita. sempre senza mutamento. fossi ferro come tu lo sei 
ma non in solitario splendore sospeso alto nella notte. And so live ever–or else swoon to death. Or gazing on the new soft­fallen mask Of snow upon the mountains and the moors– No–yet still stedfast. sleepless Eremite. Awake for ever in a sweet unrest.
 sentirne per sempre la discesa dolce dell’onda e il sollevarsi. con le palpebre rimosse in eterno. Still.Bright Star .
 e così vivere in eterno ­ o se no venir meno nella morte”. still unchangeable. still to hear her tender­taken breath.
 No ­ pure sempre fermo.
 come paziente di natura. 
a vegliare. would I were stedfast as thou art– Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night And watching. 30 .
 le mobili acque al loro dovere sacerdotale
 di puro lavacro intorno a rive umane. To feel for ever its soft fall and swell. with eternal lids apart.
 oppure guardare la nuova maschera dolcemente caduta
 della neve sopra i monti e le pianure. � Stella Luminosa “Stella luminosa.
 sempre desto in una dolce inquietudine
a udire sempre. Like nature’s patient.

BRIGHT STAR – A SONNET (1819) � The poem came to be forever associated with the "Bright Star" Fanny Brawne – the woman Keats was in love with . It was given as "a declaration of his love. The use of the star imagery is unusual in that Keats dismisses many of its more apparent qualities. occurring after the octave. 31 . � Addressed to a star (perhaps Polaris. the sonnet expresses the poet's wish to be as constant as the star while he presses against his sleeping love. focusing on the star's steadfast and passively watchful nature. around which the heavens appear to wheel). or turn in the train of thought. � The poem is punctuated as a single sentence and uses the rhyme form of the Shakespearean sonnet (ababcdcdefefgg) with the customary volta.

JOHN KEATS ­ themes � The clash between the Ideal and the Real � The classical world as a source of inspiration (Greece. 32 . the Middle Ages) � The cult of Beauty as a way to truth � The relationship between Life. � Art as consolation � Importance given to all the senses and (negative capability). Time/Eternity and Art.

on 21 December 1817. In a letter to his brothers. when a man is capable of being in uncertainties. doubts.he thought. who . and to reject those who tried to formulate theories or categorical knowledge. mysteries. Keats used the phrase negative capability for the first and only time. that is. sought knowledge over beauty: “I mean Negative Capability. George and Thomas Keats. He did so in criticism of Coleridge.NEGATIVE CAPABILITY John Keats used the term negative capability to describe the artist's receptiveness to the world and its natural marvel. without any irritable reaching after fact and reason…” 33 .

ODE ON A GRECIAN URN � Published in January 1820. to mention only a few. or the Apollonian and the Dyonisiac – in the unifying symbol of the urn. it is supposed to be based rather on a selection of a number of visual suggestions as depicted in works exhibited in the British Museum. the idealistic and the materialistic. Art outlasts the individual’s mortal existence. Spencer. 34 . as well as Yeats in the 20th century.Keats offers his own interpretation on this much­ exploited theme. a theme as old as poetry itself. nevertheless they are steeped in a dynamic sensuality which only living creatures possess. but is deprived of the vital lymph of life. by denying those things like youth. This paradox sets the tone of the entire poem. beauty. Shakespeare. In fact. which is not a mystical contemplation of an artwork. The figures on the vase are necessarily static. but rather a response to the sensual appeal of the urn. a year before his death. � The poem’s central theme is the relationship between life and art. physical love. this Ode records the poet’s meditations occasioned by a work of art. which give us pleasure but which do not last long. they assert that eternity can only be achieved at the expense of life itself. Each in his own way. but they also seem to be excluded from the physical joys of ordinary mortals. no Greek vase has been found which corresponds to Keats’ description. � In his Ode the immutable marble figures on the urn cannot be spoiled by time. The urn reunites the opposite pole of Death and Life which is rendered eternal through poetry. explored the dichotomy of eternal ideals and the transience of the physical world. The poet’s effort here is to reconcile man’s apparently conflicting impulses – the spiritual and the sensual.

the femme fatale. inexplicable tears. � The main source of the poem. with languid flowers. 35 . Chaucer. The mysterious female figure that lures men to their death. far from being antithetical.JOHN KEATS: LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI A ballad � The title of this ballad (meaning “the beautiful lady without pity”) echoes that of a 15th century French work translated into English by G. dreamy atmosphere. pale faces. represents the Romantic embodiment of the classical pair Eros and Thanatos (Love and Death). seems to be Spenser. however. � The poem as been regarded as a prototype of Pre­ Raphaelite sensuous decorativism. which. are inextricably linked in man’s experience: pleasure at its highest cannot be separated from death.

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