From neoclassicism to romanticism

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Testo

Neoclassicism
Romanticism
reason
feelings and passion
wit, elegance
simple, clear and easy style
realism
imagination, mystery
exploitation of nature
nature as a source of inspiration
high style
innovation of form
objective point of view
Subjective point of view
intellect
childhood
From Neoclassicism to Romanticism
The period from 1760 to 1830 it’s a period of transition from Neoclassicism to Romanticism, marked by two important revolutions: the Industrial one that influences social and political aspects of life in England, and the French one that diffuses its ideas of freedom and equality all over Europe. In this period new tendencies appear; in literature a new sensibility and the attention paid to feelings and passion become a new tendency called Romanticism. It’s a reaction against the faith in reason of the previous age and it’s based on feelings, passion, introspection, emotionalism and nostalgia. So reason is replaced by imagination, literature begin to be marked by mystery and style, theme, and source of inspiration change. The concept of Nature especially changes: during Neoclassicism only city life was considered, so the nature was exploited by man; now there’s a growing interest in humble and everyday life (country, farmers, humble people) and the contact with natural environment become fundamental because nature begin to be regarded as a source of inspiration. For this reason great attention is paid to the country as a place where man’s relationship with nature is still intact.
Middle age become the theme (except for some romantics) so there’s a new taste for the love of ruins (such as ancient castles and abbeys), the wild, the irrational, the horrific and the supernatural.
Feelings and imagination are expressed by the poet that has the desire to use simple words in an easy, clear style more understandable by humble people. A great sense of musicality and the use of symbols characterize literature (particularly Blake). A lot of importance is given to childhood because in a romantic mind a child’s uncorrupted sensitiveness brought him closer to God and he also is more near imagination. The romantics (Shelley, Byron, Keats, and Coleridge) exalt the outcast, the rebel and regard society as an evil force. The current of thought is represented by Rousseau that encourage a “natural” behaviour in opposite to behaviour which is governed by reason; his theories also influence the “cult of exotic” which is the interest in the remotest parts of Europe and the Near East that represents something far away in space and time.

Industrial Revolution
With the Industrial Revolution Britain undergo enormous changes and turns from a farming country to an industrial one; at the end of 18th century there’s an increase of population and consequently an increase in demand for more pots, beer and clothes that need a faster production. The most important inventions are machinery for cloth-making such as “spinning-jenny” and “water frame”; those machineries let one man do what was previously done by many. But the need for more energy brought the development of steam-power: Watt patents an engine which is more powerful and waste less fuel. There’s an improvement of transports with new waterways and road that made the economic success possible. There are also changes in agriculture with the use of technological inventions, the enclosure of open fields and common land and the improvements in farming techniques. Small towns, called mushroom towns are constructed to house the workers near the industries. The Industrial Revolution proved a period of unhappiness for many: woman and children are exploited because they can be paid less and were easy to control, the environment is polluted by smoke and filth and the workers living conditions are bad so there’s the diffusion of diseases and heavy drinking to bear fatigue and alienation.

Lyrical ballads
It’s a collection of poems, written by Wordsworth and Coleridge, that’s the Manifesto of English Romanticism. Wordsworth write on the beauty of nature and ordinary things with the aim of making them interesting for the reader and Coleridge deals with visionary topics, the supernatural and mystery. Wordsworth in his Preface of the 2nd edition stated that poetry should deal with everyday situations and ordinary people, especially humble and rural; so the language should be simple and the objects called by their ordinary names because in low and rustic life man is more direct, nearer to his own purer passions.

Wordsworth
Wordsworth is interested in the relationship between the natural world and the human consciousness so in his poetry there’s the interaction between man and nature and the influences, emotions and sensations which arise from this contact. For Wordsworth man and nature are inseparable: man could not exist outside the natural world and nature comforts man in sorrow, it’s a source of joy and pleasure and teaches man how to love and act in a moral way.
Importance of sense and memory
Nature means the world of perceptions, which Wordsworth explores with hearing and sight. He looks at childhood as a moment when there are a lot of experiences that are necessary to grow up and believes that our moral character develops during this period. He’s more interested in the growth of his relationship with nature and in the ways it influenced him at different points in his life; he also consider memory as the major force in the process of growth of the poet’s mind and as something that gives poetry his life and power.
Recollection in tranquillity
Every poetry is based on an emotion that the poet lived in the past: everything starts from a past experience that returns to the poet’s mind in a state of tranquillity. The process starts from the object of inspiration that through the sensory experience provokes emotion in the poet; then, in a moment of tranquillity, memory provokes in the poet a kindred emotion, he writes the poem that has the aim to provoke a similar emotion in the reader.
Poet’s task and style
The poet has a lot of sensibility, he can understand deeper than other people and he has the ability to reach the heart of things. The power of imagination enables him to communicate his knowledge so he can teach to see thing in a deepest way trying to improve a moral being (so he has a didactic aim). He thinks that simplicity and humble are the best human conditions because life it’s not corrupted. He uses blank verse with short line and simple rhymes.

A certain colouring of Imagination (Lyrical Ballads)
Daffodils
Sonnet

Coleridge
He distinguishes primary and secondary imagination: primary is a fusion of perception and the human individual power to produce images and the ability to give chaos an order; secondary it’s the poet faculty to built new worlds. Imagination is more important than fancy, which is based on the power of association of material already provided and subject to the rational law of judgement. In The Rime of an Ancient Mariner he uses several details that have impressed him during his readings. Fancy is the skill to blend various elements into beautiful images. Differently from Wordsworth, Coleridge doesn’t view nature as a moral guide or a source of consolation and happiness: his contemplation of it is always accompanied by awareness of the presence of the ideal in the real. His Christianity doesn’t allow him to identify nature with the divine in Wordsworth’s pantheism form; he sees nature and the material world in a neo Platonic interpretation, as a reflection of the perfect world of ideas.
The Rime of an Ancient Mariner
Is a ballad made up of seven parts and is set in a boundless sea with days of pitiless sun and nights lit by the moon. It begins with an argument that contains a short summary of the whole poem and consists in two narratives, one that introduces the protagonist and his listener and the other that’s the poem itself.
The ballad consists in a tale that an ancient mariner tells a wedding guest: he talks about a voyage, which he made with his crew on a ship. In the 1st part he narrates of how they reach the equator and the polar region after a terrible storm and a few days later they see an albatross (that’s a bird of good omen) so things seems to be good, but after the mariner kills him. Coleridge don’t say why the mariner kills the albatross and what’s the motive, underlining the irrationality of the crime; he only shows that the killing is an action against nature and breaks a sacred law of life. In the 2nd part the mariner begins to suffer his punishment for what he has done: the ship doesn’t move, it’s stopped in the middle of the sea and the sailors suffers thirst; the only moving things are some slimy creatures in the sea. In the 3rd part the mariner becomes conscious of what he has done and there’s the apparition of a phantom ship on which there are two creatures, Death an Life-in-Death, that are casting dice to decide the fate of mariners. At the end Death wins the mariner’s fellow (who all die) and Life-in-Death wins the mariner’s life. In the 4th part the mariner is lonely but a night he see a beautiful water snakes and he begin to reestablish his relationship with nature. In the 5th part the mariner’s redemption continues: the ship begins to move and celestial spirits appear near the corpses of dead men. At the end of the story the mariner gains the wedding guest’s sympathy but Coleridge doesn’t give any other information so he lets the reader suppose that the mariner’s sense of guilt will end only with his death.

Characteristics of the ballad
The atmosphere is charged with mystery because of the use of the supernatural and the commonplace. The poem contains the main features of the medieval ballad: musicality through the use of repetitions and refrain, alliteration, onomatopoeias, rhyme, use of archaism, the theme of travel, the tragic story, combination of dialogue and narration, the four-line stanza, and presence of supernatural elements.
The presence of the moral at the end makes this a romantic ballad.

The killing of the Albatross(The rime of the Ancient Mariner)

Blake
He was a poet, an artist, a prophet and a political freethinker. He was interested in social problems of his time, supporting the abolition of slavery and shared the ideas of equality spread by French Revolution.
He was influenced by Michelangelo and Raffaello in his illustrations; he draws the monuments in the old churches of London, especially in Westminster Abbey. He loved Gothic Style and identified it with an ideal of spiritual and living art in contrast with the mechanical art of the materialistic classical world. He created his own style and made illuminated printing that combined picture and poetic text (“The Tyger”). He rejected neoclassical literary style and themes and he believed that ideal forms should be created not from observation of nature but from inner visions. He wrote Songs of Innocence (the imagery of the poems is full of lambs, flowers and children playing, it deals with childhood as the symbol of innocence, a state of soul connected with happiness, freedom and imagination) and Songs of Experience (deal with experience, identified with adulthood, and contain a more pessimistic view of life.
Blake created his own mythology and invented his own symbolic characters that he expressed in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
Complementary opposites
Blake had his personal vision of a spiritual world, his Christianity wasn’t based on liturgy or moral, because he regarded at church as a responsible for the fragmentation of consciousness characterising man’s life. So, he didn’t accept a vision based on the contraries but he created a theory called “complementary opposites” in which he said that without contraries there wasn’t progression, love and hate, good and evil must be present at the same time because they were necessary to human life.
Imagination
Blake considered imagination as the means through which man could know the world; it consist on a deepest vision of material reality, into the life of things. God, the child and the poet share this skill and the poet particularly must also try to warn man of the evils of society.
Style
He present a simple structure and an individual use of symbols. He use especially the child, the father and Christ representing the state of innocence, experience and a higher innocence. His verse is linear and rhythmical, there’s the use of repetition and a close relationship between sound and meaning is showed.

London
The Lamb
The Tyger

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