The concept of Romanticism in literary history
Wellek begins by discussing the characteristics of Romantic literature
throughout Europe which had the same conceptions and poetic style,
with the use of imagery, symbolism and myth as a distinct difference
from that of eighteenth century neoclassicism.
From that explanation, Wellek moves on to the poets of the English
Romantic Movement who formed a coherent group, by sharing the same
views of poetry, conceptions of imagination and the same views of nature
and mind, therefore they basically shared the same poetic style. Wellek
states that this conclusion is reached by three standards in the practice
-Imagination for the view of poetry
-Nature for the view of the world
-Symbolism and myth for poetic style
- Blake considers all nature to be imagination itself. Imagination is not
merely the power of visualization, but a creative power by which the
mind ' gains insight into reality, reads nature as a symbol of something
behind or within nature not ordinarily perceived'
- The concept of imagination in Wordsworth is the same.
- Coleridge's theory of primary and secondary imagination is based on a
fanciful etymology of the German.
- Shelley's conceptions were almost the same as Coleridge. Imagination is
the principle of synthesis; therefore poetry may be defined as the
expression of the imagination. To Shelley, imagination is creative and the
poet's imagination is an instrument of knowledge of the real.
- Keats' had more of the sensationalist vocabulary than either Coleridge
or Shelley, but he also said 'what the imagination seizes as beauty must
be truth whether it existed before or not'
* A summary of the theories of imagination of all romantic poets is:
Such is the power of creative imagination, a seeing, reconciling,
combining force that seizes the old, penetrates beneath its surface,
disengages the truth slumbering there, and building afresh, bodies forth a
new a reconstructed universe in fair forms of artistic power and beauty.
Wellek states that there are individual differences between the
great romantic poets concerning the conceptions of nature, but they share
one common view by considering nature as an organic whole with an
objection to the mechanistic universe of the eighteenth century.
- Blake violently objects to the eighteenth century cosmology by Newton
and his writings are full of condemnations of Locke and Bacon, atomism,
deism, and natural religion.
- Wordsworth conceptions of nature were influenced by Christianity.
- Coleridge, Wordsworth and Shelley shared the same concept 'the sprit of
- Keats was less affected by the romantic conceptions of nature because
he was a student of medicine.
Symbolism and mythology:
- Blake's mythology draws in an obscure way on some Celtic mythology
or rather names, but it's considered as an original creation.
- Most of Wordsworth interests were in Greek mythology in terms of
- In Coleridge a theory of symbolism is central, his first works were
affected by Christian mythology, but later on he became more interested
in Greek mythology.
- Shelley is a symbolist and mythologist, his poetry is fully metaphorical,
but he aspires to create a new myth of the redemption of the earth which
uses classical materials very freely.
- Keats is also a mythologist.