Question: How does Eagleton evaluate the Romantics? Discuss.
Terry Eagleton (1943- ) in his “The Rise of English” represents that the modern sense of the word “Literature” started in the nineteenth century. The Romantic period (1798-1832) was the mark of transition or change that is why the true definition of literature began to develop in this period.
The implementor of modern English literature
In the third part of the essay, the essayist has upheld the modern sense of literature. According to him, “literature is a historically recent phenomenon: it was invented sometime around the turn of the eighteen century and would have thought extremely strange by Chaucer (1343-1400) and even Pope (1688-1744)”. By this Eagleton means to say that the modernity of English literature started in the middle English period by the hand of Geoffrey Chaucer who is considered to be the father of English poetry but it was really incomplete and Chaucer was only the seeder of modernity. By the second part of the modern sense of literature, Eagleton implies that the true modern sense of English literature started positively in the eighteen Century but this time was also incomplete, but better than that of Chaucer, as creative or imaginative literary work was so-called. So, till the final decades of the eighteen-century, a truly modern sense of literature was not completed.
The violator of the tradition with creativity
He points out that the final decades of the eighteen Century witness a new division and demarcation or indication of limitation of discourses. He mentions that English society got reorganized from the discursive or chaotic formation. Poetry comes to mean a good deal more than a verse when “Defence of Poetry”, composed by P. B. Shelley (1792-1821), was published in 1821. “Defence of Poetry” signifies a concept of human creativity that is radically opposite to the utilitarian ideology of early industrial capitalist England. This means that literature began to be synonymous with the imaginative that means to violate the tradition of poetry writing.
Visionary and inventive thinker
Eagleton then illustrates that the term imaginative does not mean literary untrue. It actually means visionary and inventive thinking and creative power that is really scientific. He asserts that the imaginative vision of the Romantics is above the merely prosaic discourses. He also reminds us that only factual dramatic events cannot be the subject – matter for poetry or the creative one. Therefore, poetry which meant imagination in the Romantic Period was obviously over prose or ‘hard fact’.
The introducer of aesthetic experience
He considers the Romantics to be the introducer of the ideas of the symbol and aesthetic experience in modern English literature. He mentions the name of Coleridge side by side with Kant Hegel, Schiller, and others. Eagleton also mentions that the over-emphasis on aesthetic form and imaginative vision runs the risk of making literature a little isolated from social life. Thus, though literature gained its modern look for the first time in the Romantic Period, it also got alienated from the realistic traits of the social events.
From the light of the above discussion, it is out and out neat and clean that Terry Eagleton evaluates the Romantics as the first complete modernists in the history of English literature.