3. Victorian poetry and poets

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romanticm in english literature


1. English literature and romaticm……………………....5
2. Romanticism and Writing Style…………...……….….15

3. Victorian poetry and poets…………………………….19

The literature written during Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901) has been given the name Victorian. The basic characteristics of the period, however, would have been the same with or without Queen Victoria. Many great changes took place in the first half of the 19th century. Intellectual rebellions, such as those of Byron and Shelley, gave place to balance and adjustment. Individualism began to be replaced by social and governmental restraints. More and more people were gaining comfort and prosperity. Great Britain changed from a provincial nation to a worldwide empire. This progress brought its problems. Often men had to choose between ideals and material gain.Science made rapid strides in the 19th century. The theory of evolution gave new insight into the biological sciences. Technical progress transformed Britain into a land of mechanical and industrial activity, but science also created doubts. Old ideas of faith and religion were put to serious tests by the new attitudes brought about by scientific progress. There was a reemphasis--oftentimes stuffy and pompous--of moral and religious beliefs. Literature, said some, should show people how to be good.Nevertheless, many people in England were still poor--badly housed, undernourished, and sick. Progress, obviously, would not come by itself--it had to be earned. Freedom had to be guarded zealously. Would the spirit of man be destroyed by the machine? Would people become slaves to industry and the pursuit of wealth? Would art be replaced by skills and crafts? These were the questions that troubled Englishmen in the age of Queen Victoria.The transition from the late Romantic to the Victorian period is best understood in the figure of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). His life spanned the years of Romantic excitement and Victorian achievement. Carlyle thoroughly repudiated the Romanticists. To him the universe seemed the "living garment of God." In 'Sartor Resartus' (1833-34) he counseled that the way out of the "Everlasting Nay," or negative denial, was first to find what one could do; then to give all one's energies to it. The effort of the moral will, he said, would bring freedom from despair. (See also Carlyle.)“The modern spirit,” Matthew Arnold observed in 1865, “is now awake.” In 1859 Charles Darwin had published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Historians, philosophers, and scientists were all beginning to apply the idea of evolution to new areas of study of the human experience. Traditional conceptions of man’s nature and place in the world were, as a consequence, under threat. Walter Pater summed up the process, in 1866, by stating that “Modern thought is distinguished from ancient by its cultivation of the ‘relative’ spirit in place of the ‘absolute.’ ” The economic crisis of the 1840s was long past. But the fierce political debates that led first to the Second Reform Act of 1867 and then to the battles for the enfranchisement of women were accompanied by a deepening crisis of belief. Late Victorian fiction may express doubts and uncertainties, but in aesthetic terms it displays a new sophistication and self-confidence. The expatriate American novelist Henry James wrote in 1884 that until recently the English novel had “had no air of having a theory, a conviction, a consciousness of itself behind it.” Its acquisition of these things was due in no small part to Mary Ann Evans, better known as George Eliot. Initially a critic and translator, she was influenced, after the loss of her Christian faith, by the ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach and Auguste Comte. Her advanced intellectual interests combined with her sophisticated sense of the novel form to shape her remarkable fiction. Her early novels—Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861)—are closely observed studies of English rural life that offer, at the same time, complex contemporary ideas and a subtle tracing of moral issues. Her masterpiece, Middlemarch (1871–72), is an unprecedentedly full study of the life of a provincial town, focused on the thwarted idealism of her two principal characters. George Eliot is a realist, but her realism involves a scientific analysis of the interior processes of social and personal existence. Her fellow realist Anthony Trollope published his first novel in 1847 but only established his distinctive manner with The Warden (1855), the first of a series of six novels set in the fictional county of Barsetshire and completed in 1867. This sequence was followed by a further series, the six-volume Palliser group (1864–80), set in the world of British parliamentary politics. Trollope published an astonishing total of 47 novels, and his Autobiography (1883) is a uniquely candid account of the working life of a Victorian writer.The third major novelist of the 1870s was George Meredith, who also worked as a poet, a journalist, and a publisher’s reader. His prose style is eccentric and his achievement uneven. His greatest work of fiction, The Egoist (1879), however, is an incisive comic novel that embodies the distinctive theory of the corrective and therapeutic powers of laughter expressed in his lecture “The Idea of Comedy” (1877).In the 1880s the three-volume novel, with its panoramic vistas and proliferating subplots, began to give way to more narrowly focused one-volume novels. At the same time, a gap started to open between popular fiction and the “literary” or “art” novel. The flowering of realist fiction was also accompanied, perhaps inevitably, by a revival of its opposite, the romance. The 1860s had produced a new subgenre, the sensation novel, seen at its best in the work of Wilkie Collins. Gothic novels and romances by Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Morris, and Oscar Wilde; utopian fiction by Morris and Samuel Butler; and the early science fiction of H.G. Wells make it possible to speak of a full-scale romance revival.Realism continued to flourish, however, sometimes encouraged by the example of European realist and naturalist novelists. Both George Moore and George Gissing were influenced by Émile Zola, though both also reacted against him. The 1890s saw intense concern with the social role of women, reflected in the New Woman fiction of Grant Allen (The Woman Who Did, 1895), Sarah Grand (The Heavenly Twins, 1893), and George Egerton (Keynotes, 1893). The heroines of such texts breach conventional assumptions by supporting woman suffrage, smoking, adopting “rational” dress, and rejecting traditional double standards in sexual behaviour.1

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