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The Call of Classical Literature in the Romantic Age$
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K. P. Van Anglen and James Engell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474429641

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474429641.001.0001

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Introduction: The Call of Classical Literature in the Romantic Age

Introduction: The Call of Classical Literature in the Romantic Age

(p.1) Introduction: The Call of Classical Literature in the Romantic Age
The Call of Classical Literature in the Romantic Age

K. P. Van Anglen

James Engell

Edinburgh University Press

Many writers in the earlier nineteenth century—major and canonical, well recognized, and minor—love and employ classical literature in order to transform and enliven their own work. They do not follow earlier attitudes and practices regarding ancient texts, though neither do they consider what they are doing to be a “romantic” abjuration in opposition to THE “classical.” Using the inheritance of a broad classicism rather than a narrowed neo-classicism often found in the previous century, they assume a Janus-like stance. These writers do not call themselves romantics and do not name their own era “Romanticism,” a literary period designation that emerges close to the twentieth century. Instead, critics consider contemporaneous writers in schools (e.g., Byronic, Lake, Cockney). The more that one looks on both sides of the Atlantic, the more one sees classical texts employed not as objects of strict imitation but as inspirations and as transformative inheritances used to address, among other topics, slavery and abolition, public rhetoric and politics, the creation of new mythologies, revivification of epic and lyric, personal psychology, the particular course of a writer’s life, aesthetic values such as the picturesque, even environmental concerns. Classical texts no longer determine fixed genres; they enliven experimentation with them. Hebrew, freely called a “classical language,” joins Latin and Greek and adds new dimensions to cultural discourse, poetic innovation, and aesthetic values.

Keywords:   Romanticism, classics, classicism, genres, period designations, aesthetic values, Janus-like, Great Britain, America

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