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Victorian vs Romantic, Essay Example

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Essay

It may be that there has been no more striking contrast in one nation’s cultural evolution than that of the Romantic Period’s giving way to the Victorian Era.   The former emphasized spirituality and a distance from material concerns; the latter was all about acquisition and progress, and a focus on mankind on identifying itself through what it creates.  What is interesting here, then, is that the shift in ideologies was still an evolution.  More exactly, the seeds of what was to come were within what it replaced, and this particular evolution then seems to reveal how cyclical human belief may be.  In the Romantic years, symbol was everything, and this attachment to symbolism allowed for a kind of disregard of practical matters.  Faith in universality of being and feeling was the keynote.  Religious faith, however, very much a part of this Romantic ideology, began to fall apart in the Victorian Era (Eagleton  20).  That this occurred with the rise of industrialization and the expansion of the Empire is also not likely a coincidence, so the pragmatism of the Victorian Era arose to address the inadequacies of the Romantic in so changing a world.

This enormous contrast may be seen clearly in how the writers of each era expressed themselves or, more exactly, conveyed their own beliefs.  Blake is definitively Romantic: “We who dwell on Earth can do nothing of ourselves; everything is conducted by Spirits, no less than Digestion or Sleep” (Greenblatt), blatantly exalting spirituality as the governing force over all.  The Victorian Dickens saw a different world, if one he did not admire, as in his description of the new railroads: “Louder and louder yet, it shrieks and cries as it comes tearing on”  (Greenblatt).  This single comparison may serve as a basic metaphor for the entire shift.  The insistence on the spiritual of the Romantic Era was set aside by the industry and progress, and reaction to the industry and progress, of the Victorians.

Works Cited

Eagleton, T.  Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,  2008.  Print.

Greenblatt, S.  The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th Ed., Vol. 2.  New York: W. W.  Norton and Company, 2012.  Web.   <http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/noa/alpha.htm#b>

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