In England, the Romantic movement ushered in a golden age of poetry.
Shelley, Keats, and Wordsworth loom large in the pantheon of lyrical poets. The dashing Lord Byron may have been “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” but his narrative poems, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” and “Don Juan,” earned him a permanent place among England’s greats.
But the Romantic era also brought dislocation and profound change. Factories and mines were altering the face of the countryside and the fates of thousands. The theme of rural England as a lost Eden appears in the great art as well as the literature of the period.
You sense it in Constable’s poignant painting of his father’s Suffolk farm, and in Turner’s blurry image of a train speeding through the rain and pushing nature (and a barely visible hare) aside.
In his third lecture on Landscape and the Romantic Imagination, James Reel will discuss the English contributions and the birth of a new literary genre. The program begins at 2:30 p.m. Thursday (May 18) in the ASA Great Room.
A fascination with ancient relics and the supernatural runs through Romantic art and literature, but England gave it a different twist. In 1764, Horace Walpole’s tongue-in-cheek tale, “The Castle of Otranto,” takes the reader into a terrifying Italian castle and is credited as the first Gothic novel.
Ann Radcliffe upped the horror with “The Mysteries of Udolpho” (1784), also set in a castle, where the villain threatens the virginal Emily with an unspeakable fate. Mary Shelley’s Gothic monster “Frankenstein” (1818) never dies. It is resurrected over and over again in science fiction and contemporary film.
Reel is classical music director of Arizona Public Media and a popular arts lecturer at the Arizona Senior Academy. His last talk in the series will center on the Romantic movement in America (May 25).
Written by Caroline Bates, Academy Village Volunteer