History of Literature: Extended Writing Task Essay Example

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Section 1: Introduction

Literature was first produced in England because of the introduction of old English by the Anglo-Saxons who were there from the 5th century up to date. There are also other people who cannot be forgotten since they have also contributed to English literature; these are the Scottish and Irish authors (Vijay, 64). The period traces back from 450 to 1066 when there was the famous Norman-French conquest of England. There were Germanic tribes which came from Europe and dominated England in the 5th century. This was after the Romans had withdrawn. The Germanic societies came with the Old English also known as Anglo-Saxon language which has been referred to as the basis for Modern English. A specific poetic tradition was also introduced and remained dominant until the Norman-French rule was terminated six centuries later. Even with the removal of the Norman-French, poetry and prose continued to thrive (McGann, 94). In order to better understand the following narrative text, it is important to review the history of English Literature since the originality of the language will form the basis for the narrative text. This paper examines the context and also the literary values of Romanticism and it will rely heavily on the first generation authors who may have written on this period to illustrate how Romanticism was important not only in America and England but also in the whole of Europe.

The Context

Romanticism (1780-1830) was a period that started in Germany and England in the 1770s but had occupied the whole of Europe by 1820s.It was characterized by a revolutionary spirit especially because of the politics of that time. The Romantics were guided by four core values; individualism, simplicity, spontaneity and equality. The Romantic Movement came after the Enlightenment movement. The major authors of the first generation British Romantics include William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Mary Wollstonecraft. Edmund Burke will also be focused on in this portfolio. The Romantic period was majorly a reaction to the Enlightenment period that had dominated most of the European politics, art and philosophy from mid-17th century up to the end of the 18th century. Romantics valued emotion, individuality and passion while the Enlightenment thinkers appreciated reason, rationality and reason (McGann 1994). Although the Romantic writers have been criticized for overemphasizing these values, their contribution to English literature cannot be ignored.

In order to better understand the literary values of Romanticism, it is imperative to know the three motifs of Romanticism. It is while discussing these motifs that the literary values of Romanticism come out clearly. As it will be noted, the values of individualism, nature and imagination will each be present in the discussions. The sublime, heroic artist and nature and industry will be discussed and a story given following the literary values.


The two love birds cuddled under the moonlight naked, each busy chewing on a piece of sugarcane. To Henry, this was the most romantic thing that had ever happened to his life. It was as if they were in a world of their own, sited on the side of the small pond that he had come to know as his place of refuge as it was far from civilization. He had a feeling that he now had replaced his father and in the process fallen in love with Hudson’s daughter, who had minutes ago broken the news to Henry that he was pregnant. He was excited that his plans were falling into place and that the girl of his dreams who from childhood; Melissa had helped him in recovering from his parent’s death and even gone to the extent of bearing a child for him. To him he believed that having this child would unite him with his dad even though he was now in heaven. He was sure that his late dad would be proud of him for restoring the family’s honor. It had all started after his father’s death when he was still a young boy. In the days when his father was alive, he used to look up to him as he was a very hard working man and always had time set aside to spend with Henry and his mother. He would take them outing during weekends and he was always there to help him with his homework every evening after school. His father like most of the men in the town worked in the local sugarcane plantation, which was the centre of the town’s economy. The sugar plantation was owned by Mr. Hudson, who had put his father in charge of the other men and used to visit their home during the weekends as they had built a good relationship with his father. Henry looked up to Hudson as a second dad even though they were not close, Henry’s family like most of the plantation workers had their home inside the plantation but Hudson lived in the town which was a few miles from the plantation.

Henry’s father and Hudson had grown together as children and were the best of friends, had gone to the same school despite coming from different backgrounds. His grandfather worked for Hudson’s dad and he used to take his father with him to the older Hudson’s house whenever he went to brief him on the plantation’s progress. That is how the two became friends and when the older Hudson died from old age, and Hudson took over his father’s plantation, he hired Henry’s father as the supervisor of the plantation. Hudson only had one child; a daughter whom Henry had only met a few times but had secretly wished that they had become better acquainted even though both their parents seemed reluctant on them even meeting. Henrys father was a devoted Christian and always taught him to be righteous and avoid committing sin. “Son, always be respectful to your elders and avoid stealing and all the other evils so that you will go to heaven.” his father one day told him. “Where do thieves and people who lack respect go to dad?” Henry asked. His dad replied, “To hell, where the devil resides, they will burn for eternity and no one will ever come to their rescue.” From the day Henry had that conversation with his dad he did everything right and avoided all the things that he considered evil including stealing and disobeying his elders. One day Henry’s dad promised him that he would take him camping for a whole weekend if he passed his exams in school. This made him to work hard in his school work as camping was one of the things that he liked to do with his dad.

He would wake up early in the morning and rush to school so that he could do some reading before the other students came into class and he was also the last one to leave the class in order to finish his assignments before he went home. He wanted to finish his assignments so that he could have an extra hour when he reached at home for his father to tutor him. His mother used to tease him in those days that he worked as busy as a bee and was also very proud of him. Both his parents encouraged him to continue working hard and also advised him that he should continue to do that even when he was an adult so that he could be as rich as Mr. Hudson. This motivation from his parents made him work hard and as a result passed his exams with flying colors when the results came in. after he learnt of the results, Henry rushed home that evening and announced to his parents that he had passed his exams and was the leading student in his class. His parents were as proud as peacocks with their son and his father assured him that he would keep his promise and take him camping the following weekend. Father and son were very proud when planning for the camping which was to take place a few miles out of town in a place where no people lived and people rarely went to. His father was also very happy when his friend ad boss Mr. Hudson gave him the weekend off to take his son camping. He did not know that this was the end of their long time friendship and also relationship as boss and employee. That Friday afternoon, father and son set out for the trip to start their camping together. They arrived at the camping site safely and set up everything that they needed. When night was approaching, the two decided to cook some supper so that they could eat and go to bed early as they were very tired and had a long Saturday lo look forward to the next morning. That is when they realized that they had left home in a hurry and forgot to pack most of their beddings.

His father was very concerned about them sleeping in a tent that had no beddings as it was a very chilly evening and he loved his son so much that he could not let him sleep under such circumstances. There was also the risk of snakes as that area was one infested with snakes, even though they had not realized this earlier even when his father had surveyed the site. His father suggested that they go home and look plan for a better camping trip next weekend. Even though Henry was displeased about it, he did not object to his father as he was taught to obey his elders and also trusted his father so much. Henry was also very afraid of snakes and this made him to agree to going back home and re scheduling for next time. when they were near their home, Henry noted to his father that the lights to his mothers bedroom was still on but his father waved his concerns away by claiming that maybe she was praying before she went to sleep as this was normally the time that they recited their prayer. When they reached at their door they did not see the need to knock on the door as they assumed that she was praying, they just went in without knocking. What they saw shocked them to the roots of their existence and was never to leave Henry’s mind for the rest of his life. There on their sofa set, where they normally sat as a family lay his mother on her back with blood all around her. She did not move and looked as though she had been there the whole day. There was what looked like far on her back that had mixed with the blood. Henry stood on the spot and only wished that the world would open up and swallow him alive.

He looked to his father for comfort but his father was even in a worse condition than he. Tears had started flowing down his cheeks and he sobbed like a hungry child. His father rushed to where his mother lay and hugged her tightly not minding all the blood that was around the seat. He was now screaming and calling out her name all that time not letting go of her, as if she was still alive. This scene was too much for young Henry and he could no longer hold it any more. He went to where his parents were and cuddled together with them, crying profusely. They were both screaming her name and this alerted the neighbors who hurriedly came thinking that there was a burglary going on. As the neighbors tried to separate the dead woman from the two of them, Henry felt as if they were the ones that were taking his mother from him, not realizing that she had left him the moment that she died. The authorities were called in and after investigations they said that a jackal had entered their house without the knowledge of his mother and attacked her from behind. This made his father to be guilty because he felt that had he been in the house, he would have killed the jackal and it wouldn’t have killed her. He saw himself as being responsible for her death and even stopped working in Hudson’s plantation even after Hudson tried to re assure him that it was not his fault that his wife had passed away. Henry’s father was no longer able to take care of him and Hudson offered to stay with him as he was the closest they had to family. His father allowed him to go and stay with Hudson and spent all his days locked up in his bedroom, which he had shared with his wife crying the whole time and eating or drinking barely anything. The death of his mother had hit Henry hard but he mostly concentrated on the well being of his father. He had to be a man and make sure that everything that his father required was readily available for him.

Despite all this effort to make sure that his father was comfortable, things went from bad to worse when a few days after his mother’s funeral; his father was found dead in his room after committing suicide. He had left a note for Henry urging him not to let the family down and that he had killed himself because he no longer had anything to live for as by losing his wife, he did not see how he could ever be happy again. He further told him that had he opted to continue living, he would have only made Henry’s life more painful. He also reminded him that he loved him and had only committed suicide to avoid being an embarrassment to the family. He further told him to make sure that he was respectful to Hudson and that he would go on to live a good life and later revive the family’s name by having his own family with children and a wife. At first Henry felt angered and disappointed by his father but the love he had for him made him to take his advise into consideration and decided that he would be a good child to Hudson and also to study hard in his education to ensure that he was successful and that he would take good care of his family the moment he got one. After his father’s death, he moved in with the Hudson’s who took him in as part of the family and helped him in everything that he wanted including emotionally, as they acted as his parents whenever he required one.

In the Hudson household, Henry had the opportunity to meet their daughter Melissa whom he fell in love with at first sight even though he did not make his intentions known to anyone including the girl herself. He hid his feelings for her as he did not want to interfere with his education and was also careful on what his new dad would say about the relationship as he was now considered a part of the family. During weekends when he remembered his father the most as this were the times that they spent together mostly when he was alive, Henry took walks to the outskirt of the town where he would go in a thick forest where there was a pond, in this pond he would swim the whole day and then go home late in the evening. It is this trips that got the attention of Melissa and she started noticing him and they started spending time together after she had started enquiring where he spent his weekends. Henry saw this as an opportunity to get to know her well and for that reason he accepted to go and show her where he spent his days during the weekend. On one of those days after they had finished swimming, Henry told her how he felt about her and why he had hesitated to make a move on her for all that time. The reaction that Melissa gave was shocking to Henry for she told him that she had the same feeling for him and that she was afraid of approaching him for fear that he would think that she was only doing so because of the sympathy she had on him concerning the death of his parents.

After they had talked about how they were feeling for each other, Henry took her in his arms and slowly undressed her and made love to her. This was the first time in his life that Henry had made love to a girl and he felt that this was the girl he wanted to marry. At that moment he was not even thinking about how Hudson would react, all he cared for was that he was in love with this girl and he was sure that it would make his father happy when he looked at him from heaven. Henry always believed that his father had gone to heaven as he had not seen him do anything wrong his entire lifetime. He did not consider wrong the fact that his father had committed suicide. After the first time they made love on the pond side, Henry and Melissa made it a habit to come to that same spot that they considered theirs as there were no other people around and spend time on their own. Henry felt like the old times when his parents were alive when Melissa told him that she was pregnant. He did not have an idea on what to tell Hudson concerning his daughter but he had hope that things would work out in his favor and would one day make him understand that he was in love with her and was also fulfilling his father’s wishes. For now, that was all that mattered.

Section 2: Research Proposal

As explained above, this period was characterized by a radical fortitude as a result of the politics, art, and philosophy of the Enlightenment period. It has also been established that the Romantics appreciated emotion, individuality and passion while the Enlightenment thinkers appreciated reason, and rationality (McGann 1994).

Focus of Portfolio

The focus of this essay is on the 1780-1830 Romanticism period. This essay specifically concentrates on the authors of the British Romantics such as William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Edmund Burke. The framework used to categorize the 1780-1830 Romanticism literature is Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. In order to ensure a fair representation of the authors, there was a random selection of the authors from each category. To represent the fiction category of the Romanticism literature, Horace Walpole, William Beckford, Ann Radcliffe and Mathew G. Lewis was selected. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, Edmund Burke and Mary Wollstonecraft represented the Poetry literature. This was also referred to as the Revolution Debate literature.

The drama category could not be considered since it could be further subdivided into smaller categories. The drama category could be subdivided into Aesthetic Form, Print Culture, Romantic Historicism or Romantic Ideology, the Gothic, and Sentimentalism. Authors such as M.H Abrams, Stuart Curran, Susan Wolfson, and Jerome McGann literal works can categorized as the Aesthetic form. Some of the authors in the print culture include Jon, Klancher, Clifford Siskin, Barbara M. Benedict, and William St. Clair. Some of the authors whose literal work can be categorized as Romantic Historicism (also known as Romantic Ideology) include David Simpson and Jerome McGann. The Gothic category includes literal works of Robert Miles, Michael Gamer, and Deirdre Lynch. Some of Jerome McGann’s literature can also be categorized as Sentimentalism. Other authors in this category include Susan Manning and Ann Weird Rowland (Durrant, 24).

Authors and Literature Review

Information for analysis will be obtained from literature works done by the above named authors. At most two books will be analyzed for each author. The above named authors have written a number of literal work so it is important to randomly select their literal work. For example, William Blake authored revolutionary debate books such as All Religions are One, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Auguries of Innocence, The Mental Traveler, and The Crystal Cabinet among other literal works. The book analyzed in this portfolio authored by William Blake is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Burke, 56).

Samuel Taylor Coleridge has authored a number of literal works such as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Nightingale, Frost at Midnight, This Lime-Tree Bower my Prison, Dejection: an Ode, Christabel, Kubla Khan, To a Gentleman, and Ne Plus Ultra. The literal work considered for research is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

William Wordsworth’s literal works include Tintern Abbey, Michael, The Ruined Cottage, Prospects to the Excursion, Nutting, My Heart Leaps up when I Behold, The Solitary Reaper, Elegiac Stazas, The Old Cumberland Beggar, Resolution and Independence, and The World is too Much with Us among others. For this research, the two books that were considered are The Ruined Cottage and The Old Cumberland Beggar.

Most of Mary Wollstonecraft’s literal works can be categorized as Fiction novels. Some of her literature includes Mary and Maria, and Wrongs of Woman. Both of her books were considered in the analysis. A France philosopher by the name Edmund Burke did literal work mainly as a poet writing on revolutionary debate. Edmund Burke’s book by the name Reflections on the Revolution in France will be used in the analysis of this portfolio.

Authors such as Horace Walpole, William Bechford, Ann Rascliffe, and Mathew Lewis did there literal work in the fiction category. Horace wrote a book by the title Castle of Ontranto, William Beckford wrote The Vathek. Ann Radcliff wrote The Mysteries of Udolpho or Italian, while Mathew Lewis authored The Monk.

William Blake books Review

Ones regarded as a brilliant eccentric whose works skirted the outer fringes of English art and literature, William Blake is today recognized as a major poet, a profound thinker and one of the most original and exciting English artists. Nowhere is his glorious poetic and pictorial legacy more evident than in his book “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” This literal work is considered his most inspiring and original work. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is both a humorous satire on religion and morality (Vassiliadis, 17). The book concisely expresses Blake’s essential wisdom and philosophy. It is not exactly known when the literal work was written. However, it is assumed that this book was written in London between 1790 and 1793. This period was marked by political conflict arising after the French and American Revolutions. In the midst of the revolutions, William Blakes book was written explaining the theory that apparent evil, such as war, is only energy working against the established order. He came up with this new perception of truth and all his problems seemed solved by it. Apart from the opening Argument and the song of liberty, the entire book is written in prose (Gunderson, 41).

Samuel Taylor Book Review

Samuel Taylor Coleridge did not have a bright future since his career as a poet and philosopher of the romantic period was eclipsed by his closest friend William Wordsworth. Coleridge’s greatest achievement was his notebooks. This notebook attracted extraordinary attention, portraying his image of complex and restless mind. Despite this achievement, Coleridge is not adored by the common reader, but is viewed as the author of a few poems such as Kubla Khan and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It is believed that the poem was inspired by the second long voyage of James Cook, a mutual friend with William Wordsworth.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was the longest poem Coleridge ever composed around the year 1797 and 1798. This poem may have started off the British romantic literature. A poem of seven parts, each part containing approximately 21 verses, this was said to be the longest poem of its time (Coleridge, 14). The Rime of the Ancient Mariner talks of a sailor returning from a long voyage from the sea. The sailor meets an impatient person headed to a wedding and starts to tell him a story. The piece of literature employs the styles of repetition and personification to create an emotion such as danger, serenity, melancholy, and the supernatural.

William Wordsworth Book Review

Until his death, Romantic poet William Wordsworth was considered Britains lyricist Laureate. He started his career as a poet in 1791in France. In his poem, “The Old Cumberland Beggar,” William Wordsworth tells of a beggar who he grew up seeing and establishes the relationship of this scenario with nature. The beggar was looked down upon by the society and yet the least understood and appreciated. Despite all this perception of the society towards the beggar, he does not know how he is perceived. In this poem, William Wordsworth bring out the aspect of sublime by increasing his self awareness through watching and trying to understand the life of the beggar. William Wordsworth also portrays sympathy and melancholy in this poem by outlining the hardships this beggar goes through (Wordsworth, 13).

Part 3: Reflective Statement

From this essay, it has been established that the literal works of the Romanticism period were characterized by appreciation for emotion, passion and individualism, unlike the Enlightenment period where literature was characterized by motive and rationality. The Enlightenment period, which flourished from 1650 to 1770 had four motifs. The four motifs are Divine power in physical forces, Transformation and Practical Science, The Rational Society, and The Scientist as a Hero. The main basis of Enlightenment may have been as a result of empiricism and a rationalistic doctrine of natural rights. The empiricist school of thought believed that best ideas should be based on past experience. This school of thought also held a rationalist approach to individual rights. They believed that individuals rights were determined by examination of the human conscience (Crouter, 26).

The main purpose of the Enlightenment age was to reorganize the society using rationality, advance knowledge through science and dispute the faith and tradition held among the society. In general, the Enlightenment age of between 1650-1770 promoted scientific reasoning, intellectual interchange, and uncertainty. Some of the philosophers of this period include Isaac Newton, Voltaire, John Locke, Pierre Bayle, and Baruch Spinoza. Since the Enlightenment advocated for equality and assumed that all individuals are rational, this meant every human being had the right to liberty, life, and happiness. This principle was exercised by Montesquieu and Charles-Louis de Secondat in France. Montesquieu developed a theory of separation of power among the legislature, executive and judiciary arms of the government so as to ensure internal check and balance of power in the government. In accordance to individual rights, Montesquieu and other philosophers advocated for the abolishment of slave trade in France (Wu, 19). This ideology did not take effect immideatly especially in the United states until much later after the American Revolution

It was during the period of Enlightenment that there were scientific discoveries. This scientific discovery can be closely linked to the questioning aspect and emphasis on rationality of the Enlightenment period. The Enlightenment age reversed many customary ideas and theories. This resulted in the introduction of a new perception of the environment and man’s place in it. Although this period came to an end, its impact is long term can still be experienced up to this day (Wallace, 37). The effects of the Enlightenment period are broad, affecting the society’s culture, governance and politics. The American Revolution, the United States Bill of Rights, American Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of the Rights of Men and of the Citizen, and the Polish-Lithuanian Constitution is some of the modern-day results of the Enlightenment period. By the year 1800, the Enlightenment period was fading and giving way to Romanticism. This depicts that the society was changing from a rationalized and individualistic society to an emotion-driven, simple, and spontaneous society. In general, it can be established that Romanticism was a response to the Enlightenment period. It is evident that the romantics were more liberal than the Enlightened since they lived an unrestrained world. The Enlightened insisted of reason and rationalism while Romanticism depicted imagination, freedom and enjoyment. It is also evident that the Romantics never used mathematical or scientific explanations, just like the period before the Enlightenment (Donnachie & Lavin, 47). It may seem like a fall back to un-industrialization, which is the period before the Enlightenment period. The only difference between the Romanticism period and the period before Enlightenment is that the romantics emphasized on the creativity of the individual mind. The Enlightenment also emphasized on creativity, but of the whole society based on scientific explanation and logic intellect. Romanticism was more about improving an individual than improving the whole society contrary to the enlightenment era.

There may also be some similarity between the Enlightenment period and the Romanticism. The first similarity is that both Enlightenment and Romanticism were ways of thinking about the wourld and how individuals interact with it. In both periods, it is evident that there was need to liberate oneself. The two periods of modernism recorgnized that the individual was the starting point. The difference came in on how to liberate oneself, either through emotion or reason. Rousseau upheld equality over liberty, making him a romantic writer. On the other hand, the enlightenment writer Locke advocated for rationality so as to arrive at passion. His argument was that there should be liberty for there to be creation of property by labor. According to the romantic writer William Blake, an individual is not set free by finding reality by rationality. The writer suggested that emotion upon the genuine feelings an individual experiences are the ones that liberate an individual.

Review of The Romantics Authors

When reviewing the literal works of the 1780-1830 romanticism authors, it is evident that they emphasized more on emotions. For instance, William Blake uses the title “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” which shows the coming together of two opposite forces. This creates a mental picture of satire and humor in literature.

William Wordsworth also employs the principles of romanticism in his poem “The Old Cumberland Beggar,” where he brings out nature and its relationship with a man, in this case a beggar. He also uses the tenet of sublime. William Wordsworth also portrays sympathy and melancholy.


The romanticism period of 1780-1830 is often viewed as irrational and responsible for the end of the enlightenment period. However, there was a smooth transition from enlightenment to romanticism, with Neo-classicism period in between. It has also been established that romanticism was as a response to enlightenment ideology (Blake, 24). In summary, romanticism can be explained as an expression of individual emotions rather than seek for the truth. The romantics also had a special regard and appreciation for nature as explained by William Wordsworth poem The Old Cumberland Beggar.” Therefore, in the romanticism literature, emphasis was placed on emotions such as sadness, happiness, rather than intelligence.

Works Cited

Punter, D. The literature of Terror:a history of Gothic fictions from 1765 to the presentday. London: Longmans, 1980. Print

Vijay, M.The gothic sublime. New york: State University of New York Press, 1994. Print.

Wordsworth, W. The Prelude: Or Growth of a Poet’s Mind.Ed. Ernest De Selincourt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926. Print.

Burke, E. A Philosophical Enquiry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

Coleridge. Christabel. London: Read books,2008. Print.

McGann, J. The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Print.

Blake W. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: In full color. New York: Dover Publications Inc, 1994. Print.

Vassiliadis S. An Analysis of William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” Norderstedt: Grin Verlag, 2006. Print.

Donnachie, I. & Lavin C. From Enlightenment to Romanticism: Anthology II. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004. Print.

Crouter R. Friedrich Scheiermacher: Between Enlightenment and Romanticsim. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004. Print.

Wallace M. Enlightening Romanticism, Romancing the Enlightenment: British Novels from 1750-1832. Farnham: Ashagate Publishing Limited. 2009. Print.

Durrant G. William Wordsworth. London: Cambridge University Press. 1969. Print.

Wilson J., & Hanns P. Encyclopedia of Enlightenment. New York: Book Builders, 2004. Print.

Gunderson J. Romanticism. Minnesota: Creative Education, 2009. Print.

Wu D. Romanticism: An Anthology. London: Wiley Blackwell. 2012. Print.