Identify and discuss the elements of Romanticism as given expression in John Keats’ poem Lamia and William Wordsworth’s excerpt from The Excursion. The term ‘romanticism’ is used to describe the aesthetic movement during the period from about 1776-1834. It was a revolutionary movement because it focused on ideals which in stark contrast to the ‘Classical’ movement, The Enlightenment, which preceded it. More importantly however is the fact that it reflected the social climate of the period which with the development of the French Revolution was in itself revolutionary. Rationalism, empiricism, materialism and mechanism were the central were the central philosophies of The Enlightenment and was therefore a period in literature that focused on the precision of the form and content of the piece rather than its inspiration (******). In contrast, Romanticism brought the attention back to the individual. The era of reason was replaced with a new passion for mystery and the supernatural, freedom of thought and expression, an idealisation and pantheistic belief in nature, and the affirmation of the creative (and divine) powers of the imagination. Truth could be arrived at through imagination and emotional faculties rather than reason.(Kitson, 1996).
Romanticism can therefore be viewed as a reaction of emotion against reason, nature against artificiality, simplicity against complexity, faith against skepticism (lecture 10/3/00). Rene Wellek beautifully and succinctly describes the spirit of Romanticism in his assertion, Imagination for the view of poetry, nature for the view of the world, and the symbol and myth for poetic style (lectures, 2000). The catchcry for the period therefore shifted from I think therefore I am (Descartes) to I imagine therefore I am human. The value placed upon expression of these notions in the works of those such as John Keats and William Wordworth, effectively marked their poetic contributions as part of the ‘voice’ of the Romantic movement.