nature and Romanticism

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

We’ve jumped into discussions of nature in British Literature and talked a lot about the opposition of civilization and nature and connected this to certain associations of value. Isaiah’s response to Blake in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell goes directly to this notion of value–the tossing off of “culture and sophistication” for a purer approach. In the course we do a lot of back and forth between the 18th century and the present and “look for” Blake in the present. But it isn’t an easy thing to do because of the complexity of rhetorical analysis, media, and the assumptions we make about truth, belief, and reason.

For example, a reader on Time’s Person of the Year issue writes

Bush’s determination and steadfast personality are what makes this President special. There is no pretense or sophistication about him. He is authentic.

“Authenticity” is associated with non-sophistication. The translation is President Bush is “closer” to his “nature” than the cityslickers who are corrupted by society, those overcome by pretense, sophisticated coffees, athiesm, and the chains that Rousseau referred to. This is, regardless of politics, a powerful image, a fixture of Americanism and the tendencies we’ve been discussing.

The subject is not what is real or what is truth here, but what we buy.


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