Saturday, July 22, 2006

Romantic Notes 2 Podcast Transcription


Beth Ritter-Guth
Hi, this is Beth Ritter-Guth. I teach English 211, Brit Lit II, for Lehigh Carbon Community College.

This is the second podcast of notes for the Romantic period. We're going to be talking about some pretty cool people, and I hope you will agree that they were pretty cool.

You'll notice that I went a little bit out of order on the wiki. I did that on purpose because I think that too often we study the authors in chronological order and sometimes it's better to look at the founding fathers last, to see how far the movement came from when they started it. So, I like to play around with the order of things, and so I put the two founding fathers, William Blake and William Wordsworth, at the end of the segment on the Romantics.

In this section, we're going to be talking about Percy Shelley, the husband of Mary Shelley. You'll read different things, but just some things to point out -- Percy Shelley was more famous than Mary Shelley in his time because he was like that cool guy that became like the "I wrote for the future generations," especially the Praetorians.

He's known as a lyric poet. A lyric poet is a little bit different than an epic poet because they don't intend to tell a story, but instead, it's more confessional; it's more of a personal nature. It addresses the reader directly; it's writing between the poet and the reader and it portrays personal feelings or emotions, ideas, thoughts about what's going on. Percy Shelley was noted for that. It's interesting that now people will more readily recognize Mary Shelley than Percy Shelley, because of course, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 19 years old, if you can even believe it!

The story goes that they were sitting around a campfire and Lord Byron had asked her to tell a ghost story and Mary Shelley started the seed of "Frankenstein" then. I suspect that everybody added to it a little bit, but collaborative writing, that's coming back in style now, was also very popular then, so that wouldn't have been unusual. She took that seed and developed "Frankenstein" from it.

Of course, "Frankenstein" isn't about a guy with bolts in his neck and is green; Frankenstein is actually the name of the doctor, not the character. The character doesn't have a name, which speaks to a lot of different things. A lot of people think that "Frankenstein" was a way for Mary Shelley to work out the motherless-ness that she felt in her life, the difficulties she had with pregnancy and with death that went on around her, and that she was working out her thoughts in connection to the monster. There is a lot of that criticism out there. It's a fascinating study; in your free time you might want to check it out in the resources available to you.

Percy Shelley had a very unconventional life. He was an idealist, and he didn't compromises his idealism. He was sort of the skeptical voice of the age, and because of that he was notorious. He had a little bit of fame as the wild boy -- sort of the anarchist. It's cool, we think about these guys as old and dead and predominantly white; there's not a whole lot of diversity in the English writers of the time. We think of them as boring because their language is so different from what we're used to in modern English, but he was a pretty revolutionary guy. He was pretty hip and cool for the time in which they lived. In a sense, these are the rabble-rousers; this is the Howard Stern of the Romantic period. We don't really hear too much about Percy Shelley these days, more Mary, but certainly, he was an important figure for the time.

Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin are the parents of Mary Shelley. Mary Wollstonecraft was a feminist; she wrote a book called "A Vindication of the Rights of Women." William Godwin, her father, was a well-known anarchist philosopher and journalist. He was a proclaimed atheist, which of course, can you imagine that in those times! They actually believe in a philosophy called free love, which we heard about in the 60s, but it was much more radical in the time of Wollstonecraft and Godwin. They lived together without being married for a long time, then they got married and Mary was born. Ten days after she was born, Wollstonecraft died; probably from complications from the birth and Mary Shelley always live with that guilt.

It's interesting, for as much as Godwin was this anarchist, philosopher, atheist and into the free love movement, he didn't apply that concept to his daughter, Mary, and refused to talk to her for two years when she started going out with Percy Shelley. That's kind of incredible -- do as I say, not as I do -- it was hypocritical of him. I don't know, I think a lot of his stuff is trumped up garbage anyway. I think he was saying it just to sound cool. I think he was jealous of Percy Shelley, to be honest, because Percy was getting the sort of recognition that he wanted. That's just my personal spin, but I have a feeling there was a little bit of animosity and jealousy going on there.

Next here we talk about Wordsworth and Blake, both Williams, these were like the defining members of the Romantic Movement. Wordsworth had a deep love of nature and love of simplicity. He wasn't as wild and crazy as Byron or Shelley, but he was certainly popular in his lifetime.

William Blake was not. He was a poet, painter, visionary, mystic, and professionally, he was an engraver. He proclaimed the supremacy of the imagination over rationalism and materialism. Now remember, this was the Industrial Revolution, so everybody's a materialist. He was considered eccentric in his time and didn't celebrate a whole lot of popularity during his lifetime, but he did some pretty incredible work. I don't remember all of things that he engraved, but if I remember right, he did something with Dante's Inferno, which was incredible. His engraving was just incredible. There were a lot of engravers because that was a very popular art form, so he had a lot of stiff competition. He pretty much became popular after his lifetime because he was considered eccentric.

I love the Romantic period. I actually teach British Romantics for DeSales from time to time, and it's just an incredible period. You will see that we spend two weeks on it, so it must be important to me! It is probably the period I know most about in this whole section of this semester. What I love about these guys is something that I think we've lost because I definitely think we've gone back to that rationalist, scientific approach. Not that science is bad or that rationalism is bad, but I think we've lost the celebration of the imagination, and that's sad because the terrain is beautiful. I just think that these guys to us are old and their stuff is boring, but the lives they led! Byron and Shelley, there were out there! They were crazy and were doing really controversial stuff -- Mary Shelley shacking up with this guy and her father hates him. Her father, this super liberal guy, hates Percy because he's jealous of him and refuses to see her -- that's a pretty big deal. This is cool stuff; these are crazy, crazy people, and I love this period and I hope you do too.

That's all I have to say really, but it's a great period. Enjoy the readings, especially "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience, " they're beautiful.

All right, that's it for me!

Transcription by CastingWords


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