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Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson - Essay Example

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The 19th century was characterized by a variety of unique cultural characteristics that had a significant influence on the literature written during this period. The poem “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, written in this century is representative of the characteristics of this period in history…
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Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson
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Download file to see previous pages Ulysses was the king of Ethaca, in Greece and this poem is an account of his statements as he is preparing to embark on one of his voyages. The poet conveys through the words of his protagonist that the great king has been involved in a number of great battles and has gathered a huge store of experience. He has travelled to far and wide lands, explored new places, fought hard battles with his enemies and has conquered new lands for his kingdom. Now, as he prepares to leave on another sea voyage he is heard reminiscing about all his earlier experiences. Lord Tennyson has combined the characteristics of old Classical Greek literature with the new philosophical ideals of the 19th century to create a timeless literary work. (Tennyson) A new kind of literature began to be produced during the 19th century which generated a feel of pleasant melancholiness. This was the idea of Romanticism which revolutionized the social and cultural lifestyles of that period. This new “romantic literature” was different from the existing school of classical literature. The romantic philosophy believed in the inherent goodness of man. It advocated that man would behave well as long as he stayed close to his natural surroundings but could not always do so as he was bound by the restrictions of civilization. Man’s natural emotions coupled with his inherent innocence stirs up the feelings of elation in his heart. The romantic poets always gave precedence to emotions over rationale or logic; their hearts ruled their minds. Accordingly, their literary works also reflected their ideals in life. William Wordsworth in his Lyrical Ballads (1800) declares that “all good poetry is a spontaneous overflow of feelings” which aptly underlines the Romantic poets’ affinity towards emotions (Waugh, 2006, p. 53). During the late 19th century, European art and literature was significantly influenced by another important cultural characteristic called “Aestheticism”. This philosophy advocated that the various artistic forms can be created only for glorifying beauty, it need not serve any other social, political or cultural purpose. In the 18th century Immanuel Kant laid the philosophical foundations of this ideal when he declared that aesthetic standards were a complete independent ideal by their own, separate from the ideals of virtuosity, utility and pleasure. Actually, the industrial revolution during the late 18th century had ushered in a period of mechanical life and monotonous living which in turn had given rise to some utilitarian social philosophies in that age. The Aesthetic movement had started as a reaction to these prevailing social features. In England, the ideals of aestheticism were espoused by the romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle, in Germany they were popularized by J.W. von Goethe, J.L Tieck and others while in France it was spread by Madame, de Stael, Theophile Gautier and Victor Cousin. In fact, it was philosopher Victor Cousin who invented the famous phrase “art for art’s sake” which explicitly expressed the philosophy of aestheticism (Beebe 1964). During the early 19th century, European political, social and cultural life was influenced by the ideals of radical liberalism. This was essentially a social theory, which also had a huge impact on the creative expressions of that period. This philosophy believed in six basic theoretical ideals which included “pluralism, developmental individualism, solidarity, egalitarianism, participatory democracy and social transformation.” (Lichtenstein, 1984, p.1). Actually radical liberalism is often considered to describe a specific form of liberal social theory. This philosophy ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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