Monday, January 25, 2010

"Christabel" by Coleridge

My first reaction was that the poem seemed unfinished. At first I thought Coleridge was portraying homosexuality to be evil, but I think what he was really portraying as evil are women and their powers of deception and persuasion. This poem had many themes, that at times seemed unrelated, and many elements of foreshadowing and metaphors.

Christabel seems “Christ like”, innocent at heart, religious, pure, sexless, a “perfect woman” in Coleridge’s eyes. Whereas Geraldine seems very masculine, a body of a woman and a mind of a man. She is self-aware sexually and acts more like a man would. Even after learning that Christabel is betrothed to another, she is not hesitant to take her virginity, much like you would expect a man to do. In fact it seems to have been part of Geraldine’s greater plan to “ruin” Christabel in order to ultimately ruin her father.

There are many elements of protection of guarding angels and how easily their protection can be taken away. When Christabel meets Geraldine she is prone to think of her as “good” because she is beautiful. She then takes Geraldine to her chamber and in and effort to help her, gives her the wine that her mother has made. Since Christabel’s mother died giving birth, the wine is only meant for Christabel to drink. When Geraldine drinks it, she immediately gains access to Christabel’s heart, soul, and mind. Christabel’s mother said that her daughter’s wedding night would be at midnight, which is when the events are taking place. Christabel’s mother is her guarding angel, but is powerless to protect her from Geraldine and Geraldine is aware of that “off, woman, off! This hour is mine…’tis given to me” Geraldine is the ulitimate evil because she does not care for Christabel, their union is not one of love, but merely a necessary step in Geraldine’s evil plan. Geraldine acts like a man when taking Christabel’s virginity, she even speaks like a man in “low voice”.

It is not the homosexual union that is evil in the poem, but Geraldine. Even after it is over, you still feel empathy for Christabel. Has Coleridge been trying to show homosexuality as evil, I think he would make the reader feel different about Christabel. But you still feel the same about her, and still feel negative towards Geraldine, not because she seems to be a lesbian, but because she is an eery character and it feels like there is more evil to see from her still.

I also got the feeling that Christabel’s father, Sir Leoline is also gay. Geraldine is the daughter of his friend from childhood, Lord Roland. Yet something happened to break the friendship, could it be the union between the two, or a confession of feelings?

When Leoline learns that Geraldine is Roland’s daughter, he is automatically empathetic towards her and welcomes her as his own child. This is where Geraldine is evil, because she seems to be counting on that fact. Leoline then immediately forgets his quarrel with Roland and his feelings of friendship toward him are immediately evoked again “For since that evil hour hath flown…never found I [Leoline] a friend again like Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine”

There seems to be direct correlation between the “evil hour” referring to Leoline’s and Roland’s friendship and the “hour” that Geraldine and Christabel share, which is why this makes me think that Leoline has romantic feelings towards Roland.

It is ironic that Leoline is betrayed by Roland, and it is Roland’s daughter that ruins Christabel. However, the ultimate theme to me is the evil of women. Geraldine represents the evil that women have in Coleridge’s eyes. They have powers of persuasion and sexuality and become evil when they chose to use them with negative intent (like Geraldine) He proves that an evil woman can demolish the soul of not only men but women as well. And as long as a woman is beautiful, no one will ever think her capable of evil deeds. Could Coleridge have been rejected or betrayed by a woman he loved?

At each wild word to feel within...

Although Coleridge’s poem Christabel is long, appearing in two parts, the rhyme and rhythm of the work make it easy to read. In addition, the poem tells a story which draws the reader in.
Despite the fact that the poem exists in stanzas of varying length, the rhyme scheme remains the same throughout with a simple aabb.

As an example of romanticism, the poem draws on a more fantastical approach to exhibiting experience and emotion. After having just read Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience as a representation of the contrasting pre-revolution and post-revolution outlooks, I see a similar perspective in Christabel. The contrast of innocence and experience is first seen in Christabel and Geraldine. Christabel is found praying beneath a tree, unaware of the danger presented by the stranger and unable to detect the warning signs in Geraldine’s character.
The second contrast is found in the presentation of Christabel in the beginning and her appearance toward the end. Even the atmosphere of the poem in the beginning is lighter, when Coleridge says that “The night is chilly but not dark”. By the end of the poem, however, Christabel remains captured by a spell and sunk into dejection, cast off by her father.

The poem also shows a different side of romanticism, a side that the depressed Coleridge was famous for – the gothic romanticism. The typical dark and foreboding gothic castle is featured in the poem, and the horrific tale brings out a darker side of romanticism. In fact, our text says that when Christabel was first introduced it was met with controversy and disgust.

The poem appears unfinished. While Sir Leoline’s rejection of his daughter for Geraldine is certainly a climax, there is no resolution to Geraldine’s role in the castle. The second part of the poem starts off with an ominous foreshadowing with the lines

“Each matin bell, the Baron saith,
Knells us back to a world of death.
These words Sir Leoline first said,
When he rose and found his lady dead:
These words Sir Leoline will say,
Many a morn to his dying day.”

These lines seem to suggest a disastrous ending to Geraldine’s assault on Christabel. In addition, Geraldine’s appearance as a snake to Christabel after her description of Christabel’s fate in the hands of a snake leaves the reader with a sense of additional harm for Christabel at the hand of Geraldine. The end of the poem leaves the reader slightly unsatisfied and anxious as to the fate of the characters.

The conclusions to both parts take a different tone from their adjoining pieces of the poem. The conclusion to the first part shows the transformation of Christabel from an innocent and lovely maiden, to the more experienced and sorrowful character we see in the second half. Like 290 says "A star hath set, a star hat risen/ O Geraldine!..." Stars are usually associated with bright and peaceful images, similar to that of Christabel's innocence. A contrast is presented, however, when Geraldine's "star" rises to shine.
It is interesting to note that the devil in Christianity was known as Lucifer, the morning star, prior to being cast from Heaven. The shining "star" of Christabel's innocence and loveliness is setting, but the light of Geraldine's influence has now come into play.

Poetry is certainly not my strong suit, and as more of a literal reader it is difficult for me to see past the story presented and draw additional conclusions. I enjoyed reading this poem though. I also enjoyed the footnotes of Coleridge's notes from the margin of his text. It helped to see his insight as he wrote the piece.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Just some thoughts
English writers of the romantic period have been influenced by French and German writers and philosophers. They have shared common ideas and often we can find common themes in their literature. After a class on Thursday I decided to find out the central idea E. Kant‘s philosophy and his influence on English writers of the romantic period. Kant’s famous transcendental idealism and empirical realism ideas are:
Reason itself is structured with forms of experience and categories that give a phenomenal and logical structure to any possible object of empirical experience. These categories cannot be circumvented to get at a mind-independent world, but they are necessary for experience of spatio-temporal objects with their causal behavior and logical properties.
I have read “from the Preface from the Lyrical Ballads” by William Wordsworth. I believe that his “Preface” is like an instruction manual for his poetry to the future readers. To be able to understand his poetry we should understand his philosophical ideas and also consider historical events of the romantic period. We can find influence of Kant’s philosophy in his work. Wordsworth wrote:” I might be suspected of having been principally influenced by the selfish and foolish hope of reasoning him (the Reader) into an approbation of these particular Poems…” I think what he meant is that the interpretation of his poetry is possible through the experience of it.
Throughout the “Preface” the ideas of innovation, imagination and excitement are constantly repeated. For Wordsworth poet is a man “who has a greater knowledge of human nature.” I have got an impression that a poet for Wordsworth is not an ordinary man, it is a man who is able to see and hear what nobody else can and a poet’s mind is able to overrule any rules of society and come up with something extraordinary in an unusual way. For Wordsworth, poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.
Wordsworth’s “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” reminds me of Blake’s songs of Innocence and Experience (Lamb and Tiger).Nature is very important for the writer as well is spiritual connection with it. Perception of nature from the point of view of an adult, an experienced man, but it is clear from the poem that he is familiar with a landscape. Nostalgia and memories of life inspire the author.
Overall I think that the writer's WORDS really WORTH a lot.:)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

G.H Hartman "Romanticism and Anti-Self-Consciousness"

I have just finished reading Geoffrey H. Hartman’s “Romanticism and Anti-Self-Consciousness”. I thought it was fascinating, especially the first couple of pages where he referenced the importance of the fall from Eden and how man perceives himself.

I thought it was much like Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. They all share the ironic, paradoxical, and very fascinating themes.

For example, Hartman writes that the Romantics believed that “every increase in consciousness is accompanied by an increase in self-consciousness” At first this seems like a contradicting thought. However, it is true. The more intelligent and observant a person gets the more aware they become of their surroundings and of themselves. With knowledge come questions of all topics, especially when your environment is constantly changing. The Romantics lived in a time when many historical and scientific break thous were being made. Therefore it is only natural for them to question the purpose of their existence, to constantly strive for perfection, and to question man’s affection for nature when they are witnessing severe exploitation of it.

It is also not surprising that they would turn to the Bible as well in their quest for answers. The fall from Eden is especially important to them because it signifies the point when man lost his pureness and innocence. To the Romantics, most men have become corrupt and overcome with materialistic and superficial things. Hartman quotes Kleist “…to return to the state of innocence we must eat once more of the tree of knowledge” I think this is a very significant quote. To me, Kleist means that man has gone so far beyond the point of return that the only option is to strive for more knowledge in order to understand what he has lost. However, the ultimate knowledge belongs to God and therefore “…the hand that inflicts the wound is also the hand that heals it”

This quote reminded me of the affection that the victim can sometimes have toward their abuser. Hostages for example, sometimes after their rescue they refuse to give any information about their abuser because they have developed feelings toward them. God has punished man and sent him to Earth, but man still wants to go back to Heaven and does everything in his power to do so. It is because Eden is the most pure and corrupt free place in the eyes of the Romantics.

I also liked the reference to the “Rhyme of an Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge. I think that the Romantics view most men as “mariners” They have had the chance to explore the world, and sail across the seas, and see all the wonders of the world. Instead of enjoying them, however, they have become obsessed and power hungry, making every action destructive. They have destroyed nature (much like the albatross that has been killed) perhaps without knowledge of consequences. Ironically their tries to better themselves end up being more destructive and now they are paying the price. It seems that the Romantics are puzzled with man’s ability to lose humanity. That makes them self-conscious but the fact that they are trying to answer that question makes them conscious.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Close Reading of "Songs"

Poetry has never been a strong point of mine as far as identifying symbols and meanings and looking at the use of the words and the syntax of each of the lines in order to find the bigger more meaningful picture. Romantic poetry is then even more challenging for me because of the language it is written in and all the words and phrases that in this time period, mean very little to me. With that being said, one thing I find very useful in helping me to bring some sort of intelligence to discussions and a greater understanding of the poetry is reading different literary criticisms and critical essays about the works of literature that I am struggling to pick apart myself. I also enjoy other's perspectives about meaning and symbols and sometimes it can open the eyes to themes or ideas that you otherwise may have looked over.

After reading "Songs of Innocence and of Experience" by William Blake, I felt as if I would go to class right then, I would have no comment to make about the poems other than, "Yes I enjoyed them" or "No I did not." Thinking back to our first class and thinking about one of our main objectives in the class being, "close reading," I realized that if I was going to succeed in understanding the time period and what Blake was trying to portray through his poetry that I should do some outside research to better help me understand.

One poem that I thoroughly enjoyed was, "The Chimney Sweeper" and I decided to start my research there, stumbling across a critical essay by Harriet Kramer Linkin entitled "The Language of Speakers in Songs of Innocence and Experience". As I was reading "Innocence and Experience" I was trying to understand which one seemed to have more childlike wonder (Innocence) and the poems of "Experience" did not. It was unclear to me the use of words and their meanings and how it was playing a role in the way that each of the poems are perceived and read and how the two different "versions," meaning "Innocence" and "Experience" were alike but also different.

Linkin makes a great point in of stating why "Innocence" is perceived as being more childlike, by saying that "Blake correlates syntactic structures with patterns of thinking," which immediately struck interest in me on the idea of "close reading." After reading further, Linkin explains that Blake's use of "conjunctions" really classifies the writing between the two different versions as being childlike and more mature. Linkin goes on to say, "Like many young children, the narrator systematically employs a great number of conjunctions: in addition to using "and" fifteen times within six stanzas, he also connects his clauses with "so," "thought," "for," "if," "when," "then," and "while."

This is a great example of the difference between the "Innocence" and the "Experience" poems and how the meanings of words and their use can be interpreted. Although I would never have picked up on this on my own, now my knowledge is a little bit more advanced and I understand not only the meaning of "The Chimney Sweeper" more but also between some of the other poems in each of the versions.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Deep In Thought Over "The Construction..."

"The Construction of 'The Romantic Movement' as a Literary Classification" to me was a very interesting article. Before having read this article and before our class on Tuesday, I had no real knowledge about what the "Romantic Movement" was or even what Romanticism was, who it involved, and how it affected me and my life today in present times.

This article was filled with a ton of different material, a lot if being factual; dates, names, work titles, while other parts of it were filled with ideas from the author and others about the basis of "The Romantic Movement." I couldn't help but turn my focus from the factual information to the bigger ideas of the movement itself.

What I took away from this article, what I thought of to be the main idea of Romanticism during this time was that all of these authors were affected by a common influence, during a common time, and they all had common feelings. David Perkins states that the authors are "citing the manners, institutions, beliefs and historical experiences of the society that produced it" (133). This statement among others spurred my thinking about the present time and how people my age are affected by things going on around us, the new "green" movement, if you will, the election of America's first black president, the role technology plays in our lives and the way that we all communicate with each other.

True there may not be a political revolution happening, but there is change all around us. Could there be a Facebook Movement happening? There is contradiction between the environment that we need between it's resources that we want and destroy for our industries. Are these things happening now affecting the future writers, poets, artists and how will they later affect us just like the artists of the "Romantic Movement?" What will our movement be called? Perkins states himself that, "periodization is currently under searching question." So does this mean that since the times of before, our times now, our generation's times are not making statements? What about slam-poetry, could that be an example of the way that our generation is moving in its art and literature? Although I cannot think of any Authors right now that are really making a difference or a statement, I can think of musicians and photographers that have made art that is helping define our times and inspiring the people around them.

I may be completely off on this idea, but I couldn't help but thinking it while reading this article and thinking about how still hundreds of years later we are sitting and studying the literature of that time period, hoping only that someday, someone will be studying the literature and the art of our time reflecting upon the changes and movements of our time.

BENG 411 Course Objectives

English 411 is intended to engage you in a detailed and thoughtful analysis of some major British literary works of the Romantic period of the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Our analysis of literature will include analysis of the cultural forces and values that influenced the authors and their productions. Because such a task is prohibitively large, we will narrow our inquiry to focus on texts that engage the theme of performance and role-playing. More exactly, we will be considering how a range of British authors complicate the notion of a unified or knowable "essence" of individual identity, and instead explore the extent to which all of our knowledge of "self" is rooted in performance. In taking this as our theme, we will consider the relationship between the themes of Romanticism and the limits of language to convey truth or reality. We will analyze the primary texts alongside a range of secondary texts, some of which will provide historical context, and others which will cover linguistic theory, gender studies, and literary criticism. Throughout the semester, we will be looking at literature a both an artistic production that can tell us something about how generic conventions are used to convey a range of meaning, and as historical artifact that can tell us something about the culture that produced it.