Revolutions in Romantic Literature essay

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Thompson "Disenchantment or Default?: A Lay Sermon," The Romantics.

In the article "Disenchantment or Default?: A Lay Sermon," author E.P. Thompson explores the restoration of literary works by Wordsworth and Coleridge. Specifically, Thompson is interested in the moment when the poet became politically aware and disenchanted with the environs around him, turning his distaste into pieces of literature. While making his argument, Thompson delves heavily into the possible psychological profile of the author and his break with Godwinism. By doing this however, Thompson makes a critical mistake which all literary scholars and critics are meant to watch out for: that is confusing the narrator of the literature with the author himself.

Remarkably, Thompson determines that the change in Wordsworth's writings came at a time when he stopped writing towards an ideal and instead directed his writings at a real person. He writes, "It signaled also -- a central theme of the Prelude -- a turning toward real men and away from an abstracted man" (Thompson 34). Here, Thompson is doing what he claims of Wordsworth but in reverse in that, although he is using historical information about the author, he is still daring to presume that he understands the psychology and intention of a man who is long since dead and can therefore never confirm nor deny whether his arguments have any veracity.

Thompson's article is not a good example of literary discourse because although he attempts to make a psychological reading of the letters of these two authors, he makes too many assertions from opinion. This is proved when he writes "[Wordsworth and Coleridge] were champions of the French Revolution and they were sickened by its course" (Thompson 37). He dismisses some writings without purpose and is unexceptional in his analysis.

Marilyn Butler, Introduction. Burke, Paine, Godwin, and the Revolution Controversy.

Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. 1-17.

Marilyn Butler discusses in the introduction to the book Burke, Paine, Godwin, and the Revolution Controversy a brief historical record of the revolutionary writings of the persons named in the title and of the British and then French Revolutions. Her approach in this essay is a decidedly Historicist one in the she provides not only the facts of the time but the cultural climate in which the events were occurring. This perspective changes to one of a single rebellious character which serves to take the reader into the mind of a potential revolutionary and experience the sensations and inflammations of feeling that must have led to his actions against the king and crown.

The radical that she creates in this portion of her essay is unnamed and he is not given many characteristics to associate with. This, at the same time, makes him a more universal and thus identifiable character. Before war began, any man who was writing about revolution was in serious danger of retribution and so the reader is made to understand that taking up a pen under such circumstances had to be a last resort for a man or men who saw their lives being destroyed by an unfit governmental system. "Typically, then, the radical criticizes the monarch, the aristocracy, or both, and represents the institutions as encroaching upon the populace or upon its preserve, the House of Commons" (Butler 4). Each revolutionary will take similar steps so that he endears himself to the people and gets them to agree with his perception of the world. Butler's perspective is apparent that the revolutionary writer makes himself a character within the story, although it is non-fiction. By taking a stand, he is being heroic and brave and thus by posturing in this manner, more easily wins over supporters to his political philosophy.

Harriet Guest, "Modern Love: Feminism and Sensibility in 1796," Small Change: Women,

Leaning and Patriotism, 1750-1810.

Mary Wollstonecraft and her use of language is the subject of Harriet Guest's essay "Modern Love: Feminism and Sensibility in 1796." She argues that in 1796, the laws of England had changed and that writing politically charged pieces could result in much harsher penalties than had they been written but a few years earlier. Many scholars have noted the change in Wollstonecraft's language without also considering this very important historical aspect. Guest writes that it is "important to recognize the extent to which Wollstonecraft's use of language of sensibility in her later works builds on the way that language had transformed by its uses in women's writings in the 1770s and 1780s." (290). The reason that Wollstonecraft's language changes so considerably has nothing to do with a weakness of her mind or a dulling of senses, but instead was a way of concealing highly political or sexual discourse in the guise of simpering feminine letters full of sensibility.

In this period in history it was unseemly to even consider that women might have sexual appetites, but Godwin applies sensibility to a feeling of sensuality as well. Women were also not supposed to work if they could help it and keep themselves to the domestic sphere. The language that Wollstonecraft uses, it is presumed is thus not only holding potential political secrets, but feminine secrets which would be highly inappropriate to state conclusively. A woman's only commodity was her body and her virtue and, by extension, the language she uses would also be commodified because the content of her discourse would be highly suggestive of her value as a person. Women would have become aware of this aspect of their societies and thus the writing style, particularly of women, evolved into what would be expected of them.

Kevin Gilmartin, "A Rhetoric of Radical Opposition," Print Politics

According to Kevin Gilmartin's article "A Rhetoric of Radical Opposition," those who were writing subversive materials during rigid and antagonistic regimes had to be very careful of the language that they used. Radicals were trying to incite change in their society because they felt that some aspect of that society was wrong. In order to create that change without alienating supporters or giving those in power the means to thwart their endeavors, the rebels in a political revolution have to be some of the most literate, erudite, and precise men who have ever taken pen to paper. This essay is thus one in which Gilmartin analyses propaganda and rhetoric through the psychological and historical perspectives.

Most often rebellions occurred because of situations where one group would have far too much power and another faction would have far too little. For those who have the power, it is easy to subvert protest either through force or violence. Those in positions of power will also have more extensive access to media and are better able to release their own message. To be a rebel against such an auspicious opponent, the leader of the opposition must be as carefully selected as the language that is chosen to express the views to the rest of the population. "Popular radical discourse wanted to represent the illegitimate authority of corruption as well as the legitimate authority of the people" (Gilmartin 53). Gilmartin's main argument is that the best weapon that the rebels in the Revolutionary times had was their appeal to the masses that they were fighting on behalf of the people.

Revolutionaries, by clearly aligning themselves with the majority population were able to effectively use rhetoric in order to turn that majority against the government. In the American, British, and French Revolutions, it was the power of words that swayed people to take up arms.

Priya Joshi, "The Poetical Economy of Consumption," In Another Country

Priya Joshi's article "The Poetical Economy of Consumption" is a companion piece to a work of analysis conducted to determine which books were most read in England in the 18th century. Joshi is more interested in the indoctrination of Indian culture with English novels following colonization. Instead of…[continue]

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