Open-Book Essay

Part III: Open-book essay (35 points)

"The coming-to-consciousness of Romanticism is not itself the content of Romantic belief; rather, it is the ground on which Romantics arrived at their often conflicting assessments of the world they experienced. It is the grammar, not the text of their thinking" (Marshall Brown, "Romanticism and Enlightenment," in The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism. Ed. Stuart Curran. Cambridge University Press, 1993: 41).

"Romantic esteem for joining the real and the ideal, Garry Wills notes, gave fresh emphasis to images of liminal space, land or water that has a loose and flowing horizon. The shifting, evanescent boundaries of wetlands naturally suggested relations between actual and imagined, surface and depth." (William Howarth, New Literary History 30.3, page 525).

"A poem is stored energy, a formal turbulence, a living thing, swirling in the flow.
Poems are part of the energy pathways which sustain life. Poems are a verbal equivalent of fossil fuel (stored energy), but they are a renewable source of energy, coming, as they do, from those ever generative twin matrices, language and imagination" (William Rueckert, "Literature and Ecology," in The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press, 1996: 108).

Here are three passages from professional critics of Romanticism and of ecocriticism. I liked them for what each has to offer in the way of insights about the period and its writers; I also valued them because they demonstrate how the period invites a multitude of interpretations and emphases. I invite you now to write your own interpretation and to place your own emphasis on  Romanticism. Choose ONE of the three quoted passages above as your lens. Using your text(s) from our readings this semester, find the Romantic work that best speaks to you and that best proves or disproves the claims of the author whose passage you choose. Write a short essay in which you state whether you agree or disagree with the emphasis the critic has placed, and in which you explain how, why, and where the Romantic work you’ve selected speaks to you.