Romanticism at the end of history

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”:

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.


~ by hgarcia13 on December 4, 2012.

11 Responses to “Romanticism at the end of history”

  1. Byron’s incendiary quote (“What I get by my brains – I will spend on my bollocks!”) to me is striking evidence of the prevailing self-awareness of the Romantics. Byron knew that he had a particular reputation, but he didn’t seem to let that reputation hinder the creativity of his work.

    Taking this class on the Romantics has made me increasingly aware of how inappropriate it is to approach these poets at a distance. As we’ve seen in the recent doomsday prophecies, apocalyptic predictions are alive and well, continuing to influence and inspire modern-day authors and audiences alike. But, for some reason, my first inclination in reading the Romantics has been to approach them like some kind of ancient artifact that I have to “translate” then leave in the classroom. The Romantics are perhaps some of the MOST applicable and personal of poets simply because of this self-awareness of their own personalities and reputations that permeate their works, providing them with a sense of realism (albeit often exaggerated) and creative connections with their audiences.

  2. Byron and Blake, while using different mediums, both convey a very distinct sense of self-awareness in their artwork. The romantic era depicted emotion and feeling; this true feeling that colored their work was almost dangerous in that it really opened these artists and poets to the world, exposing their thoughts and ideas. In fact, many of the Romantic poets came to embody in their everyday lives, the physical representation of their intellectual and mental passions. For them, if they were truly going to portray and create a dramatic event, the best way to help communicate this would be to first feel the event. It is very difficult to describe the amount of feeling written by the poets and maintain a sense of authenticity unless they truly did not live their own work. The Romantic poets LIVED their own poetry every day, for them, the eccentricity and abnormality of their lives in comparison to others during this period was a necessity.

  3. In class, we have often discussed the cyclical nature of time, and the recurrance of interests, fears, and ideals from the past in the present. I think you really capture this concept in your assessment of Blake, when you address “his strange blend of progressive ideals and hybrid, age-old spiritualism”. Much like the Romantics, the many people today struggle with the dichotomy between keeping up with modern advancements (techonology, for instance) and maintaining the values and nostalgia of years past. Beyond that, modern society also seems to have a fascination with the future – searching for some way to make concrete unknowns that cannot be understood – much like the romantic poets and their search for the sublime experience, a nebulous concept based on achieving a complete understanding of the world in the past, present, and future all as one. Blake, and many of the other romantics as well, also seemed to struggle with reaching an equilibrium – some sort of satisfactory balance between the reality of their world during the time period and the revolutionary one they idealized for the future.

  4. One of my personal favorite instances of Romanticism writers demonstrating relevance in modern literature is in Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia. This play takes place in two different time eras, one in which Byron exists and is present on scene, the other in which a character is studying Byron some hundred years later.

    Byron is more of a minor character in this work, used to serve as a link between the two eras. However, he remains the subject of one of my favorite quotes from the play. Hannah, a girl skeptical of Bernard (the one studying Byron), is dubious of Bernard’s hypothesis on the events of Byron’s life at a certain point in time. I do not have the actual quote in front of me, but Hannah asks something like, “Who would do such ridiculous things” (such as killing someone for love right after autographing a book only to flee the country the next day). Bernard’s response is, of course, “Lord Byron would!”

    I bring this play up because it illustrates how the personalities of these Romantic authors resonates through contemporary times. Not only their works, which are widely spread and canonical in English literature (from Shelley’s Frankenstein to Byron’s Don Juan to Wordsworth’s Prelude), but their attitudes, egocentric-isms, and unique outlooks on life still inspire creativity, awe, and wonder – the same sort of creativity, awe, and wonder their works inspire. It’s an age and group of people that I very much doubt will ever fade in relevance due to its nature as a temporal and attitudinal outlier.

  5. Great post. I was most intrigued by your statement that Blake’s “strange blend of progressive ideals and hybrid, age-old spiritualism seems to have anticipated our secular world fissured with postmodern pluralism,” and I feel that there’s definitely a lot of truth to this. Blake’s hybrid spiritualism seems almost “new-age”, if we think of him in modern terms. Sadly, I imagine Blake would be disappointed with the lack of such spiritualism in the mainstream, which (I think Blake would agree) remains dominated by the shackles of cold reason and logic. Thanks for a great post!

  6. Billy Bibbit I really enjoyed your post. Your text whittles away at the foreign nature of the Romantic giving a bare glimpse of the enduring ideas the more well-known poets embody. This isn’t to say that you humanize them as the raucous rapports of Lord Byron from many historians is enough to do that, but you successfully make their ideas which were a product of that humanity comparable with contemporary times. Specifically, I enjoy how you successfully contrast the Romantics’ idiosyncrasies with a more grounded synopsis of their legacy. You do this especially well with Lord Byron when you make mention of his, “maiden speech to the House of Lords in which he eloquently condemned that same society’s immoral, callous disregard for impoverished, desperate workers”. Such ideas have not faded and we can see how his appeal for these individuals can be used even in today’s society.

  7. I particularly appreciated your exposure of Byron’s behavior that is not intimidated in textbooks. This knowledge of his character provides a more well-rounded perspective on not only Byron himself, but also his role of importance in the Romantic era of literature. But how is his licentious behavior attributed to his works? This is something I would have liked to see you discuss. Perhaps his personal life had as much to do with his works as did his literary influences and contemporaries, such as Blake, Wordsworth and others whom you’ve mentioned. As our class finished the semester with his “Darkness,” it is not difficult to imagine that his own perspective of the apocalyptic vision emerges in the poem, especially in the lines“The world was void, / The populous and the powerful–was a lump, / Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless – A lump of death–a chaos of hard clay.” Similar to your views in this post, Byron’s “Darkness” is not only exemplary of Romantic ideology and fear of the ultimate end, but also of the poet’s inner musings, and even his lifestyle.

  8. Lovely post! I think the beauty (and perhaps confusion) of British Romantic literature is how it is created and who it is that creates it. This post details quite a bit about Lord Byron and how he was someone who ‘pushed boundaries,’ and well, was that really the case? Or was he just someone who exposed that we have created boundaries that never really existed before our imagination and societal thoughts? And then we have Wordsworth or Keats, the self-observing Romantics who blessed the world with hundreds of pages about themselves and their philosophies, and in turn, encouraged the reader to experience his or her own life in that way. But then we have figures like Blake, a creature that composes what he experiences and paints apocalyptic imagery in his own literature. It is as if Romantic poetry and verse has no requirements for what it must entail, except for one: to convey in whatever way that which was experienced and can be experienced by any other member of society. It is the translation of the poetry into our own lives.

  9. Billy Bibbit –

    Isn’t it amazing how the Romantic writers have transcended time to manifest themselves so clearly in our modern-day reality? Yet I suppose that is exactly what these men believed: their verse would survive the end of time, past the apocalyptic moments that they so perceptively foreshadowed (think Wordsworth’s Dream of the Arab). I, too, have found myself particularly fascinated wtih Lord Byron, especially in his multiple personas. All at once, he was a lady-killer, a sexually bicurious adventurer, and a prophet of doomsday (doesn’t his “Darkness” seem almost out of character for his rockstar self??) Even through these multiple personas, we are able to surmise a general understanding of who is man was: a modern-day revolutionary. I think it says something that we can so easily slip him into the mold of modern terminology: it proves that the romantic poet was not, and is not, a thing of the past; rather, in his own day, he was a prophet, able to forsee the future through his apocalyptic moments.

    Like you, I am still stunned by their ability to insert themselves so effortlessly in our daily life; never did I think I would be able to relate to a high, sexual deviant of the Romantic era. Thank you for crafting such an interesting post…it just reminds me that the Romantic movement and, in turn, the apocalyptic visions that they foresaw, are always with us.

  10. Billy Bibbit–

    I would just like to let you know that you are in good company with the class on Romanticism! You have provided an excellent summary of key Romantic poets.

    It is incredible to find a surprising amount of depth in Romantic writers and so many applicable comments to modern times. Tracing different authors the Romantic movement clearly demonstrates their awareness of the times and their quest to find effective solutions in their poetry. Their bravery to maintain their reputations parallel their radical political ideals. Even in the face of the greatest adversity they maintained their stances as correct. This is the effect of their legacy that lives on today.

    I wanted to direct you to another blog of Professor Garcia on William Blake:

    I think that this would enlighten your views of Blake much further and that you would really enjoy it (in case you haven’t already seen it). I just wanted to add a critique to your portrait of the Ancient of Days. The figure that Blake depicts is a key member of his mythos: Urizen. Urizen is meant to represent structure and is a godlike figure, but in the worst sense to Blake. He represents a very limiting and repressive God that doesnt allow access tto the Poetic Genuis. Spend some more time on this blog and let yourself experience all (or most) of Blake’s richness. Happy hunting!

  11. This website is pretty cool! How did you make it .

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