As I already announced in my last entries I will try to formulate more questions so that not all of you have to answer the same thing.
In our last two sessions we talked about the influences and historical backgrounds to Romanticism and due to our lack of time and the number of students there still are many things which need to be reconsidered.
We touched upon the terminologies of the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque and the following quote by Thomas Cole gives you an idea of the sublime as it is invoked in the author watching Niagara Falls.
Thomas Cole in “Essay on American Scenery”: “In gazing on [Niagara Falls], we feel as though a great void had been filled in our minds – our conceptions expand – we become a part of what we behold! At our feet the floods of a thousand rivers are poured out – the contents of vast inland seas. In its volume we conceive immensity; in its course, everlasting duration; in its impetuosity, uncontrollable power. These are the elements of its sublimity.” (quoted by Foster, 14-5)
How does Cole manage to establish sublimity in this quote? What is sublimity according to his perception? And can you find examples by other Romantic writers concerning the sublime, the beautiful or the picturesque? Name them and their quotations and try to compare their approach to these concepts with that by Cole, Burke, and Kant (whom we talked about in our seminar).
Additionally, the following quote by Perry Miller offers us an example of criticism on the above named terms.
Perry Miller (“Nature and the National Ego”, “The Romantic Dilemma in American Nationalism and the Concept of Nature”): “The sublimity of the natural backdrop not only relieved us of having to apologize for a deficiency of picturesque ruins and hoary legends: It demonstrated how the vast reservoirs of our august temple furnish the guarantee that we shall never be contaminated by artificiality.” (quoted by Foster, xii)
What does Miller mean by “the sublimity of the natural backrop” and “august temple”? And why would America be saved from artificiality? Isn’t this a contradictory statement considering the fact that picturesque landscape painting was extremely popular during the Romantic movement? What does the picturesque have in common with painting and why would William Gilpin argue that the picturesque is ‘that peculiar kind of beauty which is agreeable in a picture’ (Gilpin quoted by Trott) ?
As we will be talking about William Blake in our next session I will concentrate on the female Romantic writers. I already asked you to find out what the term “bluestocking” means. How can this be applied to the female authors of Romanticism? Who were the so-called “nine living muses of great Britain”? Where does this term come from? And how did these women influence Romantic thinking? Or did they influence it at all? Particularly during an epoch like Romanticism the question occurs as to the appreciation of female writing.
Foster, Edward Halsey. The Civilized Wilderness. NY: The Free Press, 1975.
Trott, Nicola. “The Picturesque, the Beautiful and the Sublime.” A Companion to Romanticism. Wu, Duncan (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 1999. Blackwell Reference Online. 25 August 2009 http://www.blackwellreference.com/subscriber/tocnode?id=g9780631198529_chunk_g97806311985299
Besides: Try to upload you entries a little earlier than the date they are due so that I have enough time to comment on them. Again: Chose only one aspect of the set of questions and try to react on the blog entries of your fellow bloggers.