Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature

Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature

by M. H. Abrams


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393006094
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 08/17/1973
Series: Norton Library Series
Pages: 552
Sales rank: 723,488
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.40(d)
Lexile: 1600L (what's this?)

About the Author

M. H. Abrams (1912—2015) was Class of 1916 Professor of English, Emeritus at Cornell University. He received the Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Prize for The Mirror and the Lamp and the MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize for Natural Supernaturalism. He is also the author of The Milk of Paradise, A Glossary of Literary Terms, The Correspondent Breeze, and Doing Things with Texts. He is the recipient of Guggenheim, Ford Foundation, and Rockefeller Postwar fellowships, the Award in Humanistic Studies from the Academy of Arts and Sciences (1984), the Distinguished Scholar Award by the Keats-Shelley Society (1987), and the Award for Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1990). In 1999 The Mirror and the Lamp was ranked twenty-fifth among the Modern Library's "100 best nonfiction books written in English during the twentieth century."

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Natural Supernaturalism : Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
dmsteyn on LibraryThing 10 months ago
After reading Abrams¿s The Mirror and the Lamp, I was eager to read more works by him. As our library had Natural Supernaturalism available, I borrowed the book a few months ago, but only got around to reading it last month. This book is just as good as The Mirror and the Lamp, if not better. It displays Abrams¿s tremendous erudition, but it seems more original than The Mirror and the Lamp, as Abrams does not quote quite as extensively in this book as in the previous one. Although this is definitely an academic book, it refrains from unnecessary jargon ¿ yes, there are some complicated terms, but Abrams always explains things that could be difficult to grasp. The book covers most of the English Romantic poets (with the exception of Byron), with whom I am fairly familiar. Abrams also deals with Romanticism as it was constellated in the German states, an aspect of the book with which I was much less familiar. Abrams also pulls his argument through to modern times (well, the 1970¿s) and looks at the influence of Romanticism on some modern writers.It would be difficult to go through everything this book covers, but I will attempt to explicate the main points of the book (as I remember them from one reading). As an overarching structure for his argument, Abrams refers constantly to Wordsworth¿s program for poetry, as set out in the `Prospectus¿ part of the preface to his The Excursion. As Abrams says in his preface, the `title, Natural Supernaturalism, indicates that his recurrent, but far from exclusive, concern will be with the secularization of inherited theological ideas and ways of thinking.¿ Abrams¿s argument is that the Romantics in both England and Germany ¿ strongly Protestant states ¿ adopted and reworked Biblical exegesis and theodicy into a secular understanding of humanity and Nature. This, although a sudden break with tradition, had a long period of fruition, as Abrams proves by going back to the Biblical text, and then following this development through time. On the way, Abrams discusses Christian psycho-biography (e.g. Augustine¿s Confessions), the influence of pagan and Christian neoplatonism, and the Western esoteric tradition. All of these traditions lead, according to Abrams, to the new conception of man and nature found in the writings of the Romantics.I enjoyed all of these excursions into Western intellectual history. I did, however, find the section on German Romanticism hard-going. This is mostly because I have not read any of the poets even in translation ¿ these include Schiller, Hölderlin, Goethe, and Novalis. I am going to read Goethe¿s Faust next year, but for now, these poets are an undiscovered country to me. I have, however, read some Hegel before ¿ unfortunately. He is obviously a very original philosopher, but the obscurity of his style would give James Joyce in finest fettle a run for his money. Even Abrams cannot make him seem worthwhile to me: it still seems like a lot of philoso-babble to me, and I did not enjoy this part of the book.I was on firmer ground with the next part of the book, which deals with the changing Romantic movement in English literature, starting with William Blake and ending with D.H. Lawrence. Abrams focuses on what he calls `The Circuitous Journey¿ in these writers¿ works ¿ the idea that a journey has to be made in order to return to where one started, but with greater insight and on a higher level. This is often represented by the Ouroboros: a snake with its tail in its mouth. Obviously, I am simplifying Abrams¿s argument greatly ¿ he has three sections of the book dedicated to this topic. It was very interesting to see how Abrams traces his argument from Blake¿s mystical writings to Eliot¿s recurring moments in the Four Quartets. These moments are further examined in section on Wordsworth¿s so-called `spots of time¿, where Abrams moves from the Romantics all the way to the Modernists, including Joyce, and even further, up to the Beatniks.This book, although not written