Romantic Answers, Victorian Questions

Leon Chai

in A Historical Guide to Herman Melville

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780195142822
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199850297 | DOI:

Series: Historical Guides to American Authors

Romantic Answers, Victorian Questions

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Herman Melville's first few exposures to European culture took place during the 1850s, when the authority of the Romanticism movement was rarely challenged. Matthew Arnold's Essays in Criticism posed a major change in this situation, as he asserts that if Romantics had convinced themselves to read more, they would have cultivated their capability to ask more questions. It could be observed that Melville's works drew from answer to question instead of the other way around, since his works initially reflected a more hopeful outlook before he started to incorporate the notion of doubt. Melville, however, did not retain this sort of approach as he learned to return to adapting a Romantic framework in which he sought a transcendental irony. In this chapter, we explore how Romantics took on the notions of subjectivity, consciousness, and other such relevant concepts, and how these are incorporated in Romantic writings.

Keywords: Romaticism movement; Romantics; subjectivity; transcendental irony; consciousness

Chapter.  8109 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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