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Although the analogy of art as a mirror was still used, M. Abrams reports that the early Romantics suggested that the mirror was turned inward to reflect the poet's state of mind, rather than outward to reflect external reality.William Hazlitt in his “On Poetry in General” (1818) addressed the changes in this analogy “by combining the mirror with a lamp, in order to demonstrate that a poet reflects a world already bathed in an emotional light he has himself projected,” according to Abrams.
The Romantic poet/critic thus began to produce criticism that explained and justified not only creativity itself, but also his own creative practices, even his own poetry. Cantor, in his study of twentieth-century attacks on Romantic criticism, acknowledges the self-serving quality of the image put forth by Romantic poets who saw themselves as isolated and inspired geniuses possessed of special gifts unavailable to the masses. and Cleanth Brooks “the primitive, the naïve, the directly passionate, the natural spoken word.” Wordsworth argued that there should be no difference between the language of prose and that of poetry, thus defending his use, within the Lyrical Ballads, of the everyday language of the middle and lower classes.
According to this image, explains Cantor, “the artist stands above society as a prophetic visionary, leading it into the future, while free of its past and not engaged in its present activities (in the sense of being essentially unaffected and above all uncorrupted by them.)” In addition to the primacy of the poet, the aesthetic theories associated with Wordsworth and Coleridge in particular, were critical of earlier poets' “poetic diction,” which to the Romantics, was affected and artificial. Wimsatt and Brooks write that “Wordsworth's primitivism was part of a general reaction, setting in well before his own day, against the aristocratic side of neo-classicism.” But where Wordsworth associated poetic diction with artifice and aristocracy and his own poetic language with nature and democracy, Coleridge saw the issue differently.
According to Eagleton: “Criticism was now explicitly, unabashedly political: the journals tended to select for review only those works on which they could loosely peg lengthy ideological pieces, and their literary judgements, [sic] buttressed by the authority of anonymity, were rigorously subordinated to their politics.” John O.
Hayden reports that reviews were tainted not only by politics, but by “malicious allusions to the private lives of the authors,” and concedes that “the critical values of the reviewers were neither uniform nor well established.” Coleridge's unhappiness with the vicious, opinionated reviews in the periodicals prompted his attempt to devise a critical method that would supplant mere opinions with reviews based on a set of sound literary principles.
Romantic Literary Criticism English literary criticism of the Romantic era is most closely associated with the writings of William Wordsworth in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his Biographia Literaria (1817).
Modern critics disagree on whether the work of Wordsworth and Coleridge constituted a major break with the criticism of their predecessors or if it should more properly be characterized as a continuation of the aesthetic theories of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century German and English writers.
for Coleridge, as for Derrida, relations and oppositions form the substances of experience.” Wheeler also suggests that the work of several German Romanticists, whose writings were well known to Coleridge, is also directly related to Derridean deconstruction.
“These ironists [Ludwig Tieck, Karl Solger, Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis, Jean Paul, and others] developed concepts of criticism as play, destructive creativity (= deconstruction), language as essentially about itself, an aesthetics of incomprehensibility, the reader as creative author, ideas about the unity of poetry and philosophy, literature and criticism, and criticism as art,” according to Wheeler.
Abrams makes a similar claim for John Keble's Lectures on Poetry (1844), insisting that they “broach views of the source, the function, and the effect of literature, and of the methods by which literature is appropriately read and criticized, which, when they occur in the writings of critics schooled by Freud, are still reckoned to be the most subversive to the established values and principles of literary criticism.” Despite efforts to position the English Romantics within a continuum of criticism extending from Plato and Aristotle to Jacques Derrida and the post-structuralists, several literary scholars still insist that the theories of Wordsworth and Coleridge were radically different from their predecessors.
Patrick Parrinder claims that their poetry and criticism constituted nothing less than a cultural revolution.