Expressions of the Human Mind in Romantic Literature

Powerful Essays
While the brewing revolutions which influenced Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Blake differed from the political radicalism experienced by Percy Bysshe Shelley, the social restrictions enforced in Jane Austen’s time provoked her critical writings. In ‘Kubla Khan’ and ‘Frost at Midnight’, Coleridge champions the natural world and the human imagination as a vehicle with the capacity to metaphysically transport the individual to a new world, while in ‘Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’, Shelley reveres the individual’s potential imaginings when exposing the futility of the imagination. Blake in ‘’The Tiger’ and ‘London’ explores the inherent binary between good and evil, while condemning man-made institutions, while in Northanger Abbey, Austen critiques the power of untutored imagination in transforming one’s reality by satirising the Gothic heroine. The Romantics believed that the human imagination transcends physical boundaries, allowing access to the elusive ‘sublime’. As a Romantic, Coleridge perceives the human mind as a powerful contributor to the creative process, and a vehicle capable of transporting man to a transcendent realm. In ‘Kubla Khan’, the paradoxically imagined “stately pleasure dome” immediately highlights the embellished reality, as the man-made physically constructed dome ironically contains a natural and organic thriving paradise. The “fertile ground”, by evoking connotations of creation, metaphorically serves as the landscape of the poetic mind, enacting Coleridge’s theory described in Biographia Literaria of the primary imagination as an impulse of creativity. Thus, Coleridge elucidates the poet’s transcendence above the mortal and the finite, mirroring Burke’s theory of the sublime, as a “mixture of horror ... ... middle of paper ... ...istocratic hierarchies in oppressing the individual. Texts through time are influenced by one’s context and the ways of thinking inherent in differing social milieus. Hence, when composers voice the concerns of their time, while engaging audiences through universal concerns, texts can ensure an enduring relevance. While Coleridge celebrates the natural world and the elusive sublime, as well as the imagination as a unique instrument in enabling transcendence, Shelley explores the potential of the individual’s human mind, and the fleeting nature of the imagination. By examining the corruption in man-made institutions and the binary between good and evil, Blake communicates to the individual despite contextual shifts. In contrast, Austen critiques the excessive imagination and its creation of a fictitious world in proposing a balance between reason and imagination.
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