Saturday, June 23, 2007

18th Century Poets

This represents #24 on our Reading List: Oliver Goldsmith, William Collins, James Thomson & Thomas Gray. Here's the STUDY GUIDE. Haven't anything really profound, so please comment & enlighten me!

Queries & Notes
  • The first thing I'm curious about is how we define satire, which of course is the predominant mode of Pope, Dryden and Swift and the heritage of the #24 poets. Goldsmith in particular is interested in social commentary, which sometimes borders on the realm of satire. So my first question is to what extent is he satiric and to what degree is he more lyric?
  • Most of these poems seems to consider empire and as this is the beginning of the British expansion, how are these poets considering "the other"? Even the other within Europe (i.e. Goldsmith). How too does the abolitionist movement figure in? Goldsmith deplores the slavery that results from Empire, while Thomson feels that in bringing civilization to the "savage," all men are being truly enlightened. How do these messages fit with the poet's overall conception of poetry, too, as a medium which effects social change?
  • Poetic forms - odes, elegies -- obviously important! How is form adapted, played with and developed? Princeton suggests that in the 18th century, the Ode helped to express the sublime and that Gray and Collins create a "crisis poem that reflects the rivalry of modern lyric with teh great poets and genres of the past." As the Ode was usually used for grand, public events, this would suggest that the poets felt the state of poetry was a public and not an elite concern.
  • Somebody talk about sublimity and the representation of Nature as I haven't had time to look it up!

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