Chapter

English Romantic, Moral and Aesthetic Criticism

Gary Day

in Literary Criticism

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780748615636
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652099 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748615636.003.0006
English Romantic, Moral and Aesthetic Criticism

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In the nineteenth century, mechanistic conceptions of man and nature, social divisions, the growth of public opinion, and the challenge to religious faith all have an impact on the nature of criticism. The decline of religious faith affects perceptions of art. The spiritual character of art changes the nature of criticism. The very term ‘romantic poetry’ is misleading because it assumes that poets as different as Coleridge and Keats all shared a common agenda. Poetry aims at innovation, while criticism cleaves to tradition and approved standards. Ruskin's discussion of the pathetic fallacy is presented. Ruskin thought that poets should see things clearly, but Arnold thought they should ‘begin with an Idea of the world in order not to be prevailed over by the world's multitudinousness’. Bagehot's comparative study of Laurence Sterne and William Makepeace Thackeray is then evaluated. It offers a discussion of criticism by Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde.

Keywords: English romantic criticism; moral criticism; aesthetic criticism; romantic poetry; Coleridge; Keats; Ruskin; Bagehot; Walter Pater; Oscar Wilde

Chapter.  25067 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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