Shifts in Sensibility

Shifts in Sensibility

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     During the end of the seventeenth century and early eighteenth century a socio-political shift occurred. Sensibilities transferred from the logic of the Enlightenment, or Neo-classical Period, to those feelings and emotions of the Romantic Age.
     During the Enlightenment authors such as Moliére & Swift used reason and rational to present their ideas. They address broad socio-political issues with their writings. Moliére in his satirical work, Tartuffe, focuses upon hypocrisy within the clergy. He uses Cléante to voice his argument of logic against Tartuffe throughout the play. Swift, in A Modest Proposal, uses shock therapy to motivate people into action with anger and wrath. Swift still uses the philosophy of the Enlightenment; his narrator provides sound, well-considered arguments and logic in sharing his proposal. And Swift, himself, provides us with an actual list of proposed solutions under disguise. Both authors attempted to bring about a change in society by reasoning with their audience.
     When the Enlightenment ended and the Romantics took hold, logic gave way to emotions. The Romantic Poets relied upon their feelings and were driven by their passions. They were inspired by nature and by the imagination. They focused upon the uniqueness of the individual, not broad socio-political issues. Rousseau’s Confessions perfectly exemplifies the change in sensibilities. The piece focuses directly upon is unique, individual life. He relies completely on his feelings. His thoughts and longings center around his whims and fancy, not upon logic. He states that it is only objects for which he yearns which tempt and sometimes lead him to thievery. He would not consider stealing actual money, which he could use to purchase the desired items. He prefers to let the impetuous passion guide his actions. He makes tracks for Paris which he “had heard so much praised” without any money or means of support or even any real plan for such (674). Rousseau claims that he is unable to simply sit and write what comes to mind, the train of thought process. He states that his writings under such circumstances result in dense and verbose ramblings of which “[his] meaning is difficult to make out” (672). He finds it tough to organize his thoughts and opinions without adequate time to arrange his mind. Another prime example of Romantic ideals is William Woodsworth Lines Composed Above Tintern Abbey. Woodsworth delightfully captures for the reader the beloved place of his youth. Only with the reflection of age does he realize that the natural beauty lied within his imagination and the warmth of his memories.

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