Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature

Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature

Paperback Norton Library (Paperback)

By (author) M. H. Abrams

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  • Publisher: WW Norton & Co
  • Format: Paperback | 552 pages
  • Dimensions: 129mm x 196mm x 27mm | 898g
  • Publication date: 17 August 1973
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0393006093
  • ISBN 13: 9780393006094
  • Sales rank: 316,119

Product description

In this remarkable new book, M. H. Abrams definitively studies the Romantic Age (1789-1835)-the age in which Shelley claimed that "the literature of England has arisen as it were from a new birth." Abrams shows that the major poets of the age had in common important themes, modes of expression, and ways of feeling and imagining; that the writings of these poets were an integral part of a comprehensive intellectual tendency which manifested itself in philosophy as well as poetry, in England and in Germany; and that this tendency was causally related to drastic political and social changes of the age. But Abrams offers more than a work of scholarship, for he ranges before and after, to place the age in Western culture. he reveals what is traditional and what is revolutionary in the period, providing insights into those same two forces in the ideas of today. He shows that central Romantic ideas and forms of imagination were secularized versions of traditional theological concepts, imagery, and design, and that modern literature participates in the same process. Our comprehension of this age and of our own time is deepened by a work astonishing in its learning, vision, and humane understanding.

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Author information

M. H. Abrams (Ph.D. Harvard) is Class of 1916 Professor of English, Emeritus at Cornell University. He received the Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Prize for The Mirror and the Lamp and the MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize for Natural Supernaturalism. He is also the author of The Milk of Paradise, A Glossary of Literary Terms, The Correspondent Breeze, and Doing Things with Texts. He is the recipient of Guggenheim, Ford Foundation, and Rockefeller Postwar fellowships, the Award in Humanistic Studies from the Academy of Arts and Sciences (1984), the Distinguished Scholar Award by the Keats-Shelley Society (1987), and the Award for Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1990). In 1999 The Mirror and the Lamp was ranked twenty-fifth among the Modern Library's "100 best nonfiction books written in English during the twentieth century."

Editorial reviews

Romanticism began with Rousseau and ended with American Transcendentalism, it came crashing through the salons of neo-classicism with the cry of revolutionary idealism and sank into respectability with the Boston Brahmins. Professor Abrams fixes the dates at 1789 to 1835; others, more liberally, suggest 1756 to 1848. No matter: the subject is wide, complex, and variegated, the most important cultural movement of recent history, and Professor Abrams has risen to the challenge with his colors flying. It is a remarkable work, the best since Mario Praz's The Romantic Agony, though humane and optimistic where Praz's classic was dark and Freudian-oriented: "Both read the Bible day and night/ But thou readst black where I read white." The essential point is that Romanticism was an "endeavor to salvage traditional experience and values by accommodating them to premises tenable to a later age." Thus Abrams concentrates on the transformation of traditional religious concepts, especially Christian mysticism, into a new poetics celebrating Love and Nature, as well as showing how Biblical eschatology influenced Hegelian philosophy and the social and political crises which followed in its wake. "In effect these poets cry out for a transformation of history from the shape of eternal recurrence to the shape of apocalyptic prophecy, in which history reaches its highest point and then stops." This has contemporary overtones and Abrams is not averse to drawing pungent parallels between the past and the present day. He is much too generous with Wordworth, who was not "one of the great masters of complex poetic structure," but his enthusiasm is attractive, his erudition sublime. A superior study. (Kirkus Reviews)