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Explore the Relationship Between Literature and Politics In the Work of Romantic Authors.

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Introduction

EXPLORE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LITERATURE AND POLITICS IN THE WORK OF ROMANTIC AUTHORS. Much of the writing of the Romantic period was intrinsically bound up with the politics of the time. First and second generation writers commented on and reacted to the political events which were occurring in the world especially in France, America and Britain. It was an age of political upheaval, which had witnessed insurrection in both France and America during the French Revolution and the American War of Independence, revolt in Ireland and riots in Britain, a time when 'all the romantic poets found themselves carried along on movements of social change'.1 This essay will discuss the relationship between literature and politics through the works of William Wordsworth, a first generation poet and two second generation poets, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Each of these poets shared a political awareness and expressed their political views through their poetry. Nowadays people tend to think of Wordsworth as a nature poet or autobiographical poet, but he also wrote poetry which voiced his political thinking. Wordsworth, who was born in 1770 first became involved with politics while on a visit to France at the beginning of the French Revolution. His experiences in France caused him to become committed to the republican cause and he brought these sympathies for the oppressed with him when he returned to England in 1792. Britain's towns at this time were suffering the effects of the Industrial Revolution, while in the countryside the enclosure of land, (small communities were being denied the use of communal land which was being sold to landowners), was also causing unemployment and hardship to the lowest sectors of society. An example of Wordsworth's early poetry which demonstrates his criticism of Britain's political system is The Last of the Flock which was composed in 1798 and published in Lyrical Ballads, an experimental collection of poetry by Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. ...read more.

Middle

Its reference to cannibalism appeared to some as sacrilegious as it was after eating Pedrillo, who is licensed to carry out religious rites, it is those 'who have dined on Pedrillo who go insane, implying that religious belief is a type of madness'.37 Byron unlike some of his contemporaries did not limit his political activity to poetry. Byron told his friends that 'poetry should only occupy the idle'38 while he preferred 'the talents of action'.39 'Later he grew to see more self-consciously the power of literature 'not as an end, but as a means, to obtain that influence over men's minds which is power in itself and in its consequences''.40 His political principles were also channelled through action, while in Italy he allowed the revolutionary Carbonari to store arms in his cellar. His choice of action is also shown by his death in 1824 when he caught a chill and died from fever while fighting for Greek independence. Like Byron, Shelley also developed a taste for radical politics at school. He was expelled from Oxford because he refused to answer questions concerning a pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism which questioned the existence of God. At one time Shelley was mistakenly viewed as no more than a disciple of William Godwin, whose political ideas he supposedly translated into poetry'41. In reality Shelley adapted 'Godwin's anarchist philosophy to meet the requirements of new political problems and to accommodate his own political insights'.42 Shelley also regarded Wordsworth as 'a traitor to his earlier radicalism'43 but he too was greatly influenced by Wordsworth's poetry, 'Wordsworth had been the principal poetical inspiration behind Alastor',44 a poem which describes the river journey of the central character towards the sea but who 'is also engaged on another kind of journey towards the origins and longings of the human imagination'.45 Shelley though he greatly admired Wordsworth's early work also resented the later change in his political outlook and it was his feelings of betrayal that motivated him to write the poem To Wordsworth. ...read more.

Conclusion

199. 25 P.M.S Dawson, Poetry in an Age of Revolution 49. 26 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 752. 27 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 753. 28 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 753. 29 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 806. 30 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 820. 31 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 684. 32 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 663. 33 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 754. 34 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 754. 35 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 754. 36 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 754. 37 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 665. 38 J.J McGann Byron and the Force of Circumstances (Offprint no.28774) 6. 39 J.J McGann Byron and the Force of Circumstances 6. 40 J.J McGann Byron and the Force of Circumstances 6. 41 M.H Scrivener Radical Shelley xi. 42 M.H Scrivener Radical Shelley xi. 43 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 820. 44 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 820. 45 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 819. 46 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 823. 47 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 823. 48 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 823. 49 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 823. 50 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 821. 51 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 821. 52 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 930. 53 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 930. 54 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 931. 55 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 931. 56 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 940. 57 M.H Scrivener Radical Shelley 208. 58 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 821. 59 P.M.S Dawson The Unacknowledged Legislator 194. 60 P.M.S Dawson The Unacknowledged Legislator 206. 61 P.M.S Dawson The Unacknowledged Legislator 204. 62 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 821. 63 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 940. 64 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 940. 65 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 940. 66 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 374. 67 Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism an Anthology 940. 2 ...read more.

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