UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Principles of interaction between romantic poems and reader. Furberg, Jon


The thesis undertakes to examine the dimensions of involvement that may exist between the reader and the Romantic poem. The introductory chapter briefly explores some of the grounds for the mis-conception and denigration of Romantic poetry. Some of the problems in differentiating between Romantic modes of conception and the "normal" results of discursive reasoning as applied to Romantic poetry are introduced. Romantic conception points to an order of interaction with the world that is beyond the capacity of ordinary linear thinking. This chapter suggests the primary significance of the experience of Romantic poets as informing their thought. It also stresses the relation that exists between the "subject" matter of Romantic poems and metaphysical doctrines not usually connected with "historical" Romanticism. The active principles that initiate both Romantic poems and Romantic thought are the same principles that inform the reading experience. The introduction concludes by suggesting the "formal" similarity between the original experience of the poet and the response which a reader may have in any given poem. The reader is often carried beyond what a linear conception of the poem would indicate. The second chapter picks up the theme of detachment from normal, pre-defined codes of awareness, as this occurs in the historical context of the Romantic movement. Mainly, the chapter explores the existential implications of the Romantic withdrawal from the Enlightenment cultural and intellectual milieu. The condition of vulnerability, which disorientation from conventional values engendered in the poets, becomes the central construct for the ensuing pages. For it is believed that vulnerability initiates the possibility of openness, and that it is from this ground of receptivity that the poets emerge as discoverers. The real dynamics of human life and awareness are not to be found in the world of conceptual thinking, but in the immediate relations a man has with the concrete things in the environment. The discovery of things, in a state of total receptivity, leads to a dramatic new conception of being, as well as to a new poetic presentation of those dynamics. But it is in a particular culture that these trans-cultural ideas are fostered. It is the impetus of an entire cultural milieu which compels the re-valuation of conceptual and non-conceptual experience that we know as Romanticism. Chapter Three contains a discussion of the theoretical relation of a reader to Blake's THE SICK ROSE, in order to illustrate the requirement of a suspension of disbelief. The central idea here is that the search for the "meaning"of a poem must begin, and does begin, in the very experience a reader "has" while he is engaged in the poem. The principles of the reader's engagement in the activity of the poem are paralleled with the principles of the poet's original discovery of certain energies. The reader actually repeats the Romantic disorientation, and thus comes to make the Romantic discovery. The chapter stresses the necessity of a high degree of involvement with any Romantic poem before the full dimensions of the poem's meaning can be truly comprehended. The reader's involvement is fundamentally characterized by a disruption of one's ordinary anticipation of both language and experience. The fourth chapter is an illustration of the physical aspects of disorientation, mainly in terms of the reader. Using the analogy of music, the chapter argues the concept of "surprise" as a signal of engagement in the stimulus, be it poem or drums. The fact that physical involvement in the new stimulus can be demonstrated to precede conceptualizing indicates that sense perception actuates new physical orientations even without consultation with logical reflection. This brief interlude prepares for the following chapters by pointing to the fact of physical immediacy in the act of dislocation from a conventional context of response and entrance into the world dictated by the energies of the present stimulus. The next chapter deals with the "ideas" of some Romantic poets in terms of the ground from which they emerge, The emphasishere is on the fact that a certain order of non-conceptual experience is necessary before linear conception is capable of entertaining ideas such as those found throughout Romantic writing. Perception precedes conception. But perception— powerful, direct—also stops conception. In Romantic poetry and prose we find that a process of "negative capability" is pre-requisite to any direct perception. Negative capability is a conceptual construct for the process through which the poet gradually, sometimes swiftly, is opened to the things in his immediate environment. Whether that environment be the life of external or internal phenomena does not alter the process, however much the resultant poem may be influenced. The stress which most Romantics give to negative capability and its resulting theodicy, justifies critical attention upon the experiences realized in "spots of time." These experiences are a major source of Romantic concepts of the mind. At the same time, the inherent form of these experiences gives rise to the mythic, multi-dimensional ideas of Romantic thought. Chapters Six and Seven deal with the formal principles of some Romantic poetry—that poetry in which the full dimensions implicit in a spot of time are expressed. Chapter Six employs Charles Olson's theory of "projective" verse in order to grasp the formal dynamics of Romantic verse. Olson's work is used because his conception of the "projective" act issues from the same ground that gives birth to the most comprehensive vision of Romanticism—the synthesis of the contraries in a direct apprehension of unity. The last chapter demonstrates some precise ways in which the formal properties of certain Romantic poems compel the reader to act in certain ways. Here, the concern is primarily with the dimensions of experience that the unfolding poem is capable of initiating in the 'negatively capable' reader. In conclusion, the formal activity of certain Romantic poems can be shown to have emerged from a complex experiential matrix, and to have rendered the energies of that matrix to a receptive reader. This transference is the prime "legislative" act of Romantic poetry.

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