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Reading and Studying Literature - Compare and Contrast - Essay Example

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Write an essay of 1,500 words in which you compare and contrast the depiction of the Romantic autobiographer evoked in the two passages below. Throughout history, writers have developed numerous ways of constructing an idealized artistic persona, which can then be presented to the reader in the form of a first person narrative…
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Reading and Studying Literature - Compare and Contrast
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Download file to see previous pages Wordsworth’s extract from the Prelude, and de Quincey’s extract from Confessions of an English Opium Eater have one feature in common: they both demonstrate a truly romantic sensibility. Beyond this central similarity, however, there are some major differences such as genre, national/international perspective, and proposed levels of social and moral behaviour which the “autobiographer” persona claims to embody. The Romantic movement was essentially a continental European phenomenon when it first emerged, through the works in French and German by writers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe(1749-1832). In Britain it flourished in literature first, and then later spread to music and other arts. It is seen in connection with some important developments in European history such as the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on scientific discovery, and the use of logic and reason to make sense of the world, and the Industrial Revolution, which saw a widespread move of populations from rural areas to the cities in search of work in factories which had begun to spring up. The French Revolution of 1789 was evidence of great changes in political understanding also. In some ways the Romantic movement was a reaction to these seismic events: a key characteristic of this period is that writers began to focus on “the powers and terrors of the inner imaginative life” (Watson, in Watson and Towheed, 2011, p. 3) In the Wordsworth text, the power of the inner imaginative life of the author is presented as something positive, sweet and pleasant, citing “visionary things, and lovely forms/And sweet sensations…” (Wordsworth, ll. 61-62). He speaks of the power of his own former years, (Wordsworth, l. 51) and depicts the task of capturing them in writing as a form of “honourable toil” (Wordsworth, l. 53). Wordsworth’s early life is presented as an idyllic scene, painted for the reader under a shining sun, evoking strong emotions for their edification and enjoyment, in a timeless English countryside. De Quincey also aims to arouse the emotions of the reader, but in his text the emotions that he evokes are somewhat more extreme, and tinged with danger and excitement, since he mentions for example that be might “shock” his readers with the revelations that are to come. Both personas are presented as something out of the ordinary, in order to captivate the interest of the reader, and this also is a feature of the Romantic sensibility: “The idea of the writer as an original genius, an exceptional man ahead of his time, possessed by inexplicable, spontaneous, visionary inspiration, first became dominant in the Romantic period.” (Watson, in Watson and Towheed, 2011, p. 7) Both men introduce themselves to the reader as older, wiser individuals who have retired from their busy life to devote themselves to inner contemplation and recording their innermost thoughts about their own experiences. Wordsworth displays his academic credentials through lofty abstract terms such as “inquiry” (l. 55), “knowledge” (l. 57), and “judgements” (L. 59) while de Quincey finds it necessary to spell out the fact that he has been reading various very academic writers, and that he is “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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