Unit 2: Major Literary Terms-II
After studying this unit, you will be able to:
- Know about neoclassicism, romanticism, conceit, couplet elegy and epic
- Discuss the term romanticism and music
- Explain the term conceit, metaphysical conceit and petrarchan conceit
- Know about the term couplet, elegy, epic and oral epic.
Many intellectual historians have seen Romanticism as a key movement in the Counter- Enlightenment, a reaction against the Age of Enlightenment. Whereas the thinkers of the Enlightenment emphasized the primacy of reason, Romanticism emphasized intuition, imagination, and feeling, to a point that has led to some Romantic thinkers being accused of irrationalism.
- Genius, Originality and Authorship
The Romantic movement developed the idea of the absolute originality and artistic inspiration by the individual genius, which performs a “creation from nothingness;” this is the so-called Romantic ideology of literary authorship, which created the notion of plagiarism and the guilt of a derivativeness. This idea is often called “romantic originality.” The romantic poets’ turned their beliefs on originality into “the institution of originality.” The English poet John Milton, who lived in the 17th century, was part of the origin of the concept.
This idea was in contrast with the preceding artistic tradition, in which copying had been seen as a fundamental practice of the creative process; and has been especially challenged since the beginning of the 20th century, with the boom of the modernist and postmodern movements.
- Romantic Literature
In literature, Romanticism found recurrent themes in the evocation or criticism of the past, the cult of “sensibility” with its emphasis on women and children, the heroic isolation of the artist or narrator, and respect for a new, wilder, untrammeled and “pure” nature. Furthermore, several romantic authors, such as Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, based their writings on the supernatural/occult and human psychology. Romanticism also helped in the emergence of new ideas and in the process led to the emergence of positive voices that were beneficial for the marginalized sections of the society.
The roots of romanticism in poetry go back to the time of Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Early pioneers include Joseph Warton (headmaster at Winchester College) and his brother Thomas Warton, professor of Poetry at Oxford University. Joseph maintained that invention and imagination were the chief qualities of a poet. The “poet’s poet” Thomas Chatterton is generally considered to be the first Romantic poet in English. The Scottish poet James Macpherson influenced the early development of Romanticism with the international success of his Ossian cycle of poems published in 1762, inspiring both Goethe and the young Walter Scott.
An early German influence came from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther had young men throughout Europe emulating its protagonist, a young artist
The subject of the relationship of Romanticism to nature is a vast one which can only be touched on here. There has hardly been a time since the earliest antiquity that Europeans did not celebrate nature in some form or other, but the attitudes toward nature common in the Western world today emerged mostly during the Romantic period. The Enlightenment had talked of “natural law” as the source of truth, but such law was manifest in human society and related principally to civic behavior. Unlike the Chinese and Japanese, Europeans had traditionally had little interest in natural landscapes for their own sake. Paintings of rural settings were usually extremely idealized: either well-tended gardens or tidy versions of the Arcadian myth of ancient Greece and Rome.
Here again, Rousseau is an important figure. He loved to go for long walks, Climb Mountains, and generally “commune with nature.” His last work is called Les Reveries du promeneur solitaire. Europe had become more civilized, safer, and its citizens now felt freer to travel for the simple pleasure of it. Mountain passes and deep woods were no longer merely perilous hazards to be traversed, but awesome views to be enjoyed and pondered. The violence of ocean storms came to be appreciated as an esthetic object in any number of paintings, musical tone poems, and written descriptions, as in the opening of Goethe’s Faust.
In literature, a conceit is an extended metaphor with a complex logic that governs a poetic passage or entire poem. By juxtaposing, usurping and manipulating images and ideas in surprising ways, a conceit invites the reader into a more sophisticated understanding of an object of comparison. Extended conceits in English are part of the poetic idiom of Mannerism, during the later sixteenth and early seventeenth century.
- Metaphysical Conceit
In English literature the term is generally associated with the 17th century metaphysical poets, an extension of contemporary usage. In the metaphysical conceit, metaphors have a much more purely conceptual, and thus tenuous, relationship between the things being compared. Helen Gardner observed that “a conceit is a comparison whose ingenuity is more striking than its justness” and that “a comparison becomes a conceit when we are made to concede likeness while being strongly conscious of unlikeness.” An example of the latter would be George Herbert’s “Praise,” in which the generosity of God is compared to a bottle which will take in an infinite amount of the speaker’s tears.
An often-cited example of the metaphysical conceit is the metaphor from John Donne’s “The Flea”, in which a flea that bites both the speaker and his lover becomes a conceit arguing that his lover has no reason to deny him sexually, although they are not married:
Oh stay! three lives in one flea spare
Where we almost, yea more than married are. This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage-bed and marriage-temple is.
When Sir Philip Sidney begins a sonnet with the conventional idiomatic expression “My true-love hath my heart and I have his”, but then takes the metaphor literally and teases out a number of literal possibilities and extravagantly playful conceptions in the exchange of hearts, the result is a fully formed conceit.
- Petrarchan Conceit
The Petrarchan conceit, used in love poetry, exploits a particular set of images for comparisons with the despairing lover and his unpitying but idolized mistress. For instance, the lover is a ship on a stormy sea, and his mistress “a cloud of dark disdain”; or else the lady is a sun whose beauty and virtue shine on her lover from a distance.
The paradoxical pain and pleasure of lovesickness is often described using oxymoron, for instance uniting peace and war, burning and freezing, and so forth. But images which were novel in the sonnets of Petrarch became clichés in the poetry of later imitators. Romeo uses hackneyed Petrarchan conceits when describing his love for Rosaline as “bright smoke, cold fire, sick health”.
In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead. “Elegy” may denote a type of musical work, usually of a sad or somber nature.
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form. Nonetheless, epics have been written down at least since the works of Virgil, Dante Alighieri, and John Milton. Many probably would not have survived if not written down. The first epics are known as primary, or original, epics. One such epic is the Old English story Beowulf. Epics that attempt to imitate these like Milton’s Paradise Lost are known as literary, or secondary, epics. Another type of epic poetry is epyllion, which is a brief narrative poem with a romantic or mythological theme. The term, which means ‘little epic’, came into use in the nineteenth century. It refers primarily to the erudite, shorter hexameter poems of the Hellenistic period and the similar works composed at Rome from the age of the neoterics; to a lesser degree, the term includes some poems of the English Renaissance, particularly those influenced by Ovid. The most famous example of classical epyllion is perhaps Catullus 64.
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the “classical” art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome.
Romanticism was more widespread both in its origins and influence.
In literature, Romanticism found recurrent themes in the evocation or criticism of the past, the cult of “sensibility” with its emphasis on women and children, the heroic isolation of the artist or narrator, and respect for a new, wilder, untrammeled and “pure” nature.
The subject of the relationship of Romanticism to nature is a vast one which can only be touched on here.
In literature, a conceit is an extended metaphor with a complex logic that governs a poetic passage or entire poem.
Impetus : The force or energy with which a body moves.
Usurping : Illegally or by force.
Conceit : An elaborate metaphor or artistic effect.
Opera : A dramatic work in one or more acts that is set to music for singers and instrumentalists.
Eulogy : A speech or piece of writing that praises someone highly.
- Review Questions
- Explain the term Neoclassicism.
- What are the three divisions of Neoclassicism?
- What is Romantic literature? Explain.
- Describe the relationship of Romanticism to nature.
- What do you mean by conceit in literature? Explain metaphysical conceit and petrarchan conceit.
Answers: Self Assessment
- Further Readings
A Glossary of Literary Terms — M.H.Abrams Literary Terms: a practical glossary — Brian Moon A Guide to Literary Terms — Gail Rae
A new handbook of Literary terms — David Mikics
Online links http://www.uh.edu/engines/romanticism/introduction.html http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/lit_terms/terms/Literary.Terms.html