Understanding the the Romantic Imagination with Ramond, Wordsworth and Shelley

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Understanding the the Romantic Imagination with Ramond, Wordsworth and Shelley

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"The way to find the 'real' world is not merely to measure and observe what is

outside us, but to discover our own inner ground…. This 'ground', this 'world'

where I am mysteriously present at once to myself and to the freedoms of other men,

is not a visible, objective and determined structure…It is a living

and self creating mystery of which I am myself a part, to

which I am myself my own unique door."

(Thomas Merton in Finley 45)

We have spent a good deal of this semester concentrating on the sublime. We have asked what (in nature) is sublime, how is the sublime described and how do different writers interpret the sublime. A sublime experience is recognizable by key words such as 'awe', 'astonishment' and 'terror', feelings of insignificance, fractured syntax and the general inability to describe what is being experienced. Perception and interpretation of the sublime are directly linked to personal circumstance and suffering, to spiritual beliefs and even expectation (consider Wordsworth's disappointment at Mont Blanc). It has become evident that there is a transition space between what a traveler experiences and what he writes; a place wherein words often fail but the experience is intensified, even understood by the traveler. This space, as I have understood it, is the imagination. In his quest for spiritual identity Thomas Merton offers the above quotation to illustrate what he calls 'interpenetration' between the self and the world. As travel writers engage nature through their imagination, Merton's description of the 'inner ground' is an appropriate one for the Romantic conception of the imagination. ...

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...here are similar aspects to each writer's experience. Engaging the imagination, Ramond, Wordsworth and Shelley have experienced a kind of unity; conscious of the self as the soul they are simultaneously aware of 'freedoms of other men'. I suggested in the introduction that the imagination is a transition place wherein words often fail but the experience is intensified, even understood by the traveler. For all three writers the nature of the imagination has, amazingly, been communicable. Ramond and Wordsworth are able to come to an articulate conclusion about the effects imagination has on their perceptions of nature. Shelley, however, remains skeptical about the power of the imaginative process. Nonetheless, Shelley's experience is as real, as intense as that of Ramond and Wordsworth.

Notes

1. Duncan Wu's foot note, page 403.

2 "Tintern Abbey". Line 97.

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