Transgressive agency and the English Romantic poets

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2016-11-16

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Abstract

The theology of the Protestant Reformation, in particular, that of Calvinism, complicated the English Romantic poets’ approach to free will in diverse ways. In particular, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Gordon George Byron, and John Keats were profoundly affected by metaphysical concerns about individual agency. This thesis argues that while the Romantic poets wanted to believe in and advocate for individual liberty, their religious upbringings and subsequent development as reflective thinkers prompted a skepticism about free will and its ability to effect change for the better. In Coleridge and in Byron, individual liberty only affects chaos and, in the end, destruction. Keats, on the other hand, proved more ambivalent. Nonetheless, the critical response to his poetry, especially the long narrative poem Endymion, exposes a literary culture uncomfortable with the idea of free will effecting positive change.

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Keywords

Lord Gordon George Byron, John Calvin, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Protestantism, Religion, Romanticism

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