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Title: 'When tuneful bards awak'd the song sublime' : the bardic sublime in romantic poetry, 1750-1825
Author: Fender, Katherine Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 7959 9860
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis introduces my conception of the "bardic sublime" in the poetry of Thomas Gray, William Blake, William Wordsworth and Felicia Hemans. I present the bardic sublime as a form of poetic rhetoric: one which foregrounds the affective qualities associated with the ancient Welsh bard - a figure revived in Gray's poetry - who is depicted as the prototype of the modern bard or poet in Romantic verse. While nationalistic discourse of the early eighteenth century encouraged interest in antiquarian activity, the emphasis of my thesis is upon imaginative engagement with ideas of the bardic, framed in the rhetoric of the sublime, to articulate the wider poetics of each writer upon whom I focus. My thesis spans the period 1750-1825. The earliest major texts considered are Thomas Gray's "The Bard: A Pindaric Ode" - composed between 1754 and 1757 - which was published in 1757, the same year that Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful appeared in print. The last major texts considered are Hemans' Welsh Melodies, published in 1821, and Wordsworth's "Composed among the Ruins of a Castle in North Wales", which was composed in September 1824, the year of Wordsworth's last visit to Wales. I consider four generations of poetry which engage with the bardic sublime. Chapter One considers the origins of the bardic sublime in the verse of Thomas Gray, affording specific attention to the "The Bard": the text which is most commonly echoed in the writings of Blake, Wordsworth and Hemans, and which thrust the ancient bard to the forefront of the eighteenth-century literary stage. Chapter Two turns to the visual art and poetry of William Blake, exploring how visual responses to Gray's Bard - including Blake's own watercolour illustrations of Gray's poems - served to shape the poetry that followed. I start in the 1790s with Blake's Songs before turning to his prophetic books. In Chapter Three, I consider the works of William Wordsworth, emphasising the significance of the natural - as opposed to Blake's psychological - landscape in his model of the bardic sublime. I assess his idea of the bard as an intermediary between human and landscape. Finally, in Chapter Four, I consider a female response to the ostensibly masculine categories of the bardic and the sublime in the work of Felicia Hemans. I demonstrate how Hemans' affinity to the bardic and to the Welsh landscape as depicted in verse is - while in some ways similar to that of Wordsworth's poetry - one which is ultimately predicated upon her own longstanding and personal attachment to Wales and to the figure of the ancient bard.
Supervisor: McAlpine, Erica Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Wales in literature ; Poetry ; Long eighteenth century ; The Romantic period ; Romantic literature ; Wales ; Edmund Burke ; Thomas Gray ; Welsh ; William Blake ; Romantic art ; Eighteenth-century poetry ; The sublime ; Eighteenth-century literature ; William Wordsworth ; Felicia Hemans ; Druids ; Cultural memory ; Romantic poetry ; Bards ; Romanticism ; Celticism ; Eighteenth-century art ; Eighteenth-century ; Landscape