Romanticism at the end of history

•December 4, 2012 • 11 Comments

On our last day of class (12/6), students will write a reflective comment to Billy Bibbit’s blog post, titled “Blake, Byron, Madness, & The Ancient of Days”:

http://luckdial.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/blake-byron-madness-the-ancient-of-days/

This blogger provides a very concise summary of Romanticism that places Byron and Blake in a contemporary context (see my comment to his post).  In class, students will write a comment to this post that underscores the timely historical relevance of British Romantic writers today based on an important insight gained from having taken this course.

Lord Byron’s “Darkness” in performative adaptations

•November 27, 2012 • 9 Comments

Due for next Tuesday (12/4): which ONE of the three YouTube videos below best represents the mood and tone of Lord Byron’s poem “Darkness”?  Because this assignment will not be graded (but required as part of your participation grade), there is no need to write a full blog post for this prompt.  Instead, provide a brief explanation for your choice in the comment box below (click on title above). 

clip #1:

clip #2:

clip #3:

Greece – Past and Present Revised

•November 15, 2012 • 1 Comment

Evadne, in The Last Man, is Shelley’s representation of a fallen Greece. While many Romantic writers and poets wrote about the fall of Greece and the Grecian ideals, Evadne shows the ramifications in that she is desperate and poor. This is most commonly seen in the theme of loneliness or isolation that Evadne exhibits. When Evadne prophesies her own death in an apocalyptic vision, the terror and isolation is overwhelming, and there is no hope for a better future, only inevitable violence and destruction. Like many of the females in this novel, Evadne is a mirror for the Romantics’ obsession with death and the apocalypse.

Acting as mirrors and reflecting the feelings and thoughts that the Romantics had and felt imbues the female characters in this novel with strength and purpose. Evadne’s spoken prophecy of the apocalypse was what many Romantic artists tried to portray through their own mediums. By prophesying the apocalypse, Evadne becomes a poet.

Evadne is very different from the Abssydian maid in Kubla Khan. While this maid was nameless, without a large storyline, and seemingly purposeless, the maid was a source of happiness. She played on her dulcimer; she was not despondent or isolated. The Absyddian maid was celebrating the great pleasure dome and brought pleasure and delight to those who listened.

While Evadne and the Abssydian maid were at first glance very different, both Evadne and the Abssydian maid were inspirational and muse-like sources of creativity, whether they created this inspiration through their prophesying or through their music.

An Ideal Thwarted [Revision]

•November 15, 2012 • 1 Comment

Evadne Zaimi seems to resemble Moneta of Keats’ Fall of Hyperion and the Abyssinian woman of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, however, it is difficult to connect Evadne to previous females that we have read because she represents an amalgamation of ideals connected to the Greek Past. She is a character rich with symbolism towards the Greek past and other women that we have studied throughout the semester, yet she appears to be the only symbolic woman (of the many) that has a tragic ending.

Evadne is portrayed as an utterly pathetic creature in Shelley’s The Last Man being located in a “dwelling of want” (109) discovered by Raymond (who wishes to return her to her greatness), a contrast to the lavish National Gallery that she has designed. She is teeming with idealized imagery as she is described with “dark hair…braided…in thick knots like the headdress of a Grecian statue” (109) and having a disposition comparable to a “model of grace” (109)–symbols suited to Greek ruins rediscovered. Her description of misery and likeness to that of a Grecian statue recalls Moneta from Keats’ Fall of Hyperion. Moneta is described as a figure of sadness standing about the Greek ruins of Saturn’s temple–”Sole priestess of desolation”–as the poet wanders upon her (a striking similarity). Yet, Moneta at least has a beacon of hope in the form of Hyperion rising in the end of the work–a possibility–but the fragmented nature of the work does not resolve the fate of the goddess of memory.

The Abyssinian woman of another fragment, Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, shares the poetic and creative ideals of Evadne the artist. Evadne continually churns out works of complete beauty yet “faulty” (107) in design, a contrast to the Abyssinian woman’s “symphony and song” that would grant the listener the ability to create the perfect “dome of pleasure” in Kubla Khan. Evadne, the daughter of Greece, rich with ideal description was perfect but is now tarnished by shattered dreams–”behold the proud Evadne in her tatters!…the beggar-princess” (112). Her tragic ending in her failed life and loss of will to continue living separates her from the women we have studied, she approaches perfection but her dreams are never truly realized as evidenced by her tragic state–This is the end of love!–Yet not the end!”–and frenzy lent her strength as she cast her arm up to heaven: “there is the end! we meet again. Many living deaths have I borne for thee, O Raymond, and now I expire, thy victim!” (181). In her death, she becomes a ruin; yet she calls upon a plague to wipe out her former lover in her rage: “Fire, and war, and plague, unite for thy destruction” (181). Evadne’s energy summoning this plague evokes the image of a Greek past, or any romantic ideal, destroying the Romantic hero–in essence, anger from failed ideals.

Evadne’s history and character tie in with the woeful tone of Shelley’s work; that ideals cannot reside in reality. She represents, instead, Shelley’s disenchantment with the Romantic ideal: the revolutionary zeal of change and progress that was present in the contemporaries of her youth is nonexistent here. Essentially, Evadne is symbolic of lost causes, an ideal with high expectations (a Greek princess of a cultured state) but unfortunately fails to realize her dreams and is instead a victim of Love, poverty, and the apparently obsolete ideals of reclaiming a Hellenistic past–a failure that manifests itself in the rage of plague that destroys Romantic heroes.

fall of hyperion revisited

•November 15, 2012 • 1 Comment

“The sound of the coming tempest” is an image that contrasts life with destruction (315). Darkness is given a pessimistic nature here. It is not often that life is shown in such negative portrait. Shelley’s ‘The Last Man’ is not too different from the image from the trip . Solitutde is representative of darkness and it is indeed a disaster for fear to stretch on” (414). That does away with hope altogether.

What a misfortune this tale turned to be! 

fall of hyperion revisited

•November 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment

“The sound of the coming tempest” is an image that contrasts life with destruction (315). Darkness is given a pessimistic nature here. It is not often that life is shown in such negative portrait. Shelley’s ‘The Last Man’ is not too different from the image from the trip . Solitutde is representative of darkness and it is indeed a disaster for fear to stretch on” (414). That does away with hope altogether.

What a misfortune this tale turned to be! 

Fighting For the Lost Glory of Greece…remix

•November 15, 2012 • 1 Comment

Evadne represents the greatness of the golden age of Greece and Greek culture. She is from Greece and her hair is compared to that “of a Grecian Statue” (The Last Man 109). Her degraded state reflects that of Greece at the time, which was in a war for its independence from Turkey. The walls of her apartment are “ragged and bare” (109) and her general condition is described as “drear and heart sickening poverty” (109). Such was Greece’s lot in the early 1800s. Greece had fallen into poverty and its great culture was in a corrupted state. Greece had once been great, but, to protect itself from destruction and ruin, had agreed to join the Roman Empire. This is reflected in Evadne’s arranged marriage to “a wealthy Greek merchant settled at Constantinople” (111). The choice of Constantinople here is not without purpose. Constantinople was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which ruled over Greece. The Roman Empire, however, fell, leaving Greece unprotected, just as the ruin of Evadne’s husband left her unprotected. Evadne’s condition in chapter eight is precisely that of her homeland: degraded and impoverished, yet fiercely proud. Her attitude towards her poverty sounds like a rousing call for Greeks to battle for their independence against the Turks. She asks “Shall I bow my head before them, and with servile gesture sell my nobility for life?” (111-112). The answer, for Greece and for Evadne, is a resounding no.

I think that Evadne is different from the other mythic female figures that we have examined in Romantic poetry so far. Evadne, while certainly admirable, seems to, at least at the moment that we see her here, lack the agency and power of the other female figures.  While Evadne’s poverty is detailed by Shelley, the Abyssinian maid of “Kubla Khan” seems exalted and the only description of her is her music. She plays a dulcimer and sings a song so beautiful that it ignites in the speaker an intense desire to “build [Kubla’s pleasure] dome in air” (“Kubla Khan” 46). Most of the mythic female figures that we have studied have fulfilled a similar role. They are creative forces of inspiration that imbue the world with beauty and complexity. Evadne also does this through her work for the national gallery, but, because of her ruined condition, we can imagine how much more she is capable of. The Abyssinian maid is not in the same degraded circumstances as Evadne and can sing her sweetest songs. Evadne’s impoverished condition serves as a battle cry to restore all of the former wonder and grandeur of Greece so that Greece can once again sing songs as beautiful as that of the Abyssinian maid.

Evadne’s situation can also be seen as representing that of the prospective future of England. Shelley wrote “The Last Man” at a time when the major second generation poets of the Romantic period had mostly died off and the first generation was aging or dead as well. Evadne’s state (and thus that of Greece) is perhaps reflective of what Shelley feared may be coming for England. She may have feared that England would fall into similar ruin once the last of the Romantics were gone. The idealistic fervor of the Romantics began to wane with the failure of the French Revolution and ultimately would die with them. Shelley feared that the future of England would bring a “Farewell to the giant powers of man” (321), such as art and science. These anxieties are shown in the Evadne’s prophecy.

In her prophecy, Evadne says “I have sold myself to death, with the sole condition that [Raymond] shoul[d] follow me” (181). I think that this link between Evadne and Raymond’s deaths is the most telling idea contained in the prophecy. With the death of the former glory of Greece, Raymond dies too. Raymond is analogous to Lord Byron who seems to be abstracted into a representation of the glory of Romanticism, here depicted as similar to classical Greece as a cultural pinnacle of mankind. This link between the deaths of the two characters seems to suggest that if the English allow the glory of classical Greece to die, the death of their own glory will be guaranteed. In the degraded state of Greece, the Romantics can see the reflection of their own harrowing future. To allow the glories of Greece to die would be to allow their own culture’s triumphs of human spirit to die.