Julie Bozza's Reviews > The Cambridge Companion to British Romantic Poetry

The Cambridge Companion to British Romantic Poetry by James Chandler
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Mar 19, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: enlightenment-romantics, scholarly, keats

I must start (once more) by declaring that some of this book went over my head - but what I understood and liked, I liked very much. In any case, there was plenty about Keats and his work, so really they had me at 'hello'. I suppose I am too used to thinking about him as overshadowed by the more established Wordsworth and Coleridge, and the more flamboyant Byron and Shelley, but perhaps there are 'magic casements' through which one's focus settles naturally on Keats - and perhaps a book about British Romantic Poetry is one such window on the world.

The 'Introduction' made a very interesting point about poetry really being the spirit of the age: "... consider how elevated a position poetry had in the hierarchy of cultural practice for Britain in this period ... In Britain poetry attracted great talents that seem initially to be destined for other fields. Poetry harnessed energies that might have flowed elsewhere had British culture developed differently ... [e.g.] Blake in the visual arts, Wordsworth in law, Coleridge in the ministry, Byron in politics, Shelley in science, Keats in medicine. All came to see poetry as where the action was, even as they disagreed about what counted as poetry and what counted as action."

To be honest, I don't know that the volume as a whole really fully gets to grips with the power and the possibilities of poetry during the era - but it certainly makes a great case for the significance of this subject area and for its ongoing fruitfulness for study.

'The Living Pantheon' chapter was a terrific wider view on poets in the era, so that we learned much about female poets, and about male poets beyond The Big Six.

The chapter on 'Antiquity' was a great look at the classical influences and sources.

Andrew Elfenbein's chapter on 'The Standardization of English' was terrific - but then I am a fan of this academic, and he certainly knows how to get me all stirred up about Keats!

The chapter on 'Thinking in Verse' was very thought-provoking indeed. It supposes that thinking done via poetry is fundamentally different to other kinds of thinking, and there is plenty of thought and study (and indeed poetry-driven thinking) yet to be done. As this isn't yet a field well-studied by academics, the reflections of poets on the matter are particularly interesting.

There are also good chapters on the Romantic novel, on sexuality and gender, on nostalgia, and other fascinating things. One chapter that surprised me with its engagement was the one on 'Peripheries and Empire'.

And so, to finish where I started - I have a great respect and fondness for the Cambridge Companions to Literature. This one certainly didn't disappoint.

Recommended.
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Reading Progress

March 19, 2014 – Shelved
March 19, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
March 19, 2014 – Shelved as: enlightenment-romantics
March 19, 2014 – Shelved as: scholarly
March 19, 2014 –
page 9
2.97% "I've never met a Cambridge Companion I didn't like..."
March 27, 2014 –
page 93
30.69% "Heavens! All this talk about Keats having his way with the English language is getting me all hot and bothered!"
April 6, 2014 –
page 187
61.72% "My god, I'm even liking Southey at this point. "[With his 'The Curse of Kehama'] He had made an imaginative leap beyond British convention and, even if he could not produce an authentic representation of Hindu scripture, the hybrid that he did create demanded that British readers be moved and awed by their [own] likeness to the foreign. ... The reviewers saw what Southey was doing and hated it." Go Southey!"
Started Reading
April 15, 2014 – Shelved as: keats
April 15, 2014 – Finished Reading

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