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The Romantic Imagination (Oxford Paperbacks) [Paperback]

C.M. Bowra

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Book Description

1 Jun 1961 Oxford Paperbacks
A critical guide to the poets of the romantic period, this collection of lectures reassesses the literary value of Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Byron, Poe, Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Swinburne.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Sixth Impression edition (1 Jun 1961)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192810065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192810069
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 2.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 427,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb reassessment of the English Romantics 17 May 2007
By William Timothy Lukeman - Published on
Originally a series of lectures from 1947-48, when the Romantics were held in something less than high literary esteem, this insightful volume did much to restore them to their rightful place as major poets. The emphasis is on the importance of the Imagination: in making full use of this uniquely human power, the Romantics felt that they contributed something new & illuminating to the experience of life, rather than simply providing pretty escapism.

Bowra begins with an examination of this visionary outlook, and then turns to specific examples: Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience," Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and so on through the major Romantics & their heirs, such as Christina Rossetti & Swinburne. Each poet's work is explored with precision, empathy, intelligence, and clarity. Finally, he concludes with a finely balanced assessment of their overall achievement.

For those who love the Romantics, for those who wish to know more about them, for those who wonder why we should even care about such poetry, this book is indispensable. Most highly recommended!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring Unknown Shores 13 July 2011
By Daniel Myers - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is very tempting to turn this review into a full-flown dissertation, indeed dissertation upon dissertation, of each of the Romantic poets whom Bowra covers here and to engage him upon every point, so significant do they seem to me. Happily or regrettably, this is not possible in an Amazon review. So, here is my overview of Bowra's treatment of the English Romantic poets and their immediate successors:

One must be reminded , first of all, of the critical zeitgeist at the time when the lectures, upon which this work is based, delivered at Harvard in the late 1940's whilst Bowra was on sabbatical from his native England, were given. At the time, the "New Criticism" was all the rage and to champion the Romantic poets, at the time, was considered no less than heresy. Anyone less than an eminent Classical scholar such as Bowra would have been dismissed out of hand. Luckily, Bowra was such a Classical scholar and we thus have this marvellous survey of English Romantic poesy.

Bowra in this book, does a splendid job of explicating how the mythology of Blake was melded into the musicality of his verse without becoming bogged down in Blakean mythopoeics,and he convincingly describes Coleridge's Ancient Mariner as "a criticism of life". He is also the first writer I have read who rightfully casts Wordsworth as the tragic figure he became after losing his poetic powers, as the poet himself describes in "Intimations of Immortality".

On Shelley, he writes gloriously:

"For Shelley poetry was the only way to grasp this ultimate reality, because it must be understood not through the intellect but through the imagination....his triumph is that, through the enchantment which his poetry sets on us, we are able to explore regions of which he is the discoverer, and almost the only denizen."

He further gives a piercing reading of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and explains why, despite Keats' exquisite sensitivity to the beauty of the physical world, or perhaps because of it, he knew that "unheard music is sweeter still" and that dwelling solely on the transitory delights of this world does not achieve the transcendent.

I've given the respective reader much more than a soupçon of what to expect from this delightful overview of what the Romantics, through their poetry, achieved, endured and the light they continue to shed on mankind in the 21st Century. Please do read this engaging book to plumb the depths further.
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