Romanticism and After
Unconstrained by the inhibiting logic of realist fiction, nineteenth-century poetry—and especially Romantic poetry—routinely concerns itself with distant cultures and questions of empire. In lyric poetry, this predilection reverses the classical separation of the form from public affairs. Though the connection between literature and empire is not surprisingly strongest in England and France, it is a continent-wide phenomenon that assumes distinctive guises outside the two great metropolitan powers. One is the experience of victimization—oppression by another European power. The other is a tendency toward abstraction: if one’s country lacks colonial possessions, the turn to non-European civilization aids in reflection on apparently unrelated issues. These concerns are evident across Europe but especially in the poetry of Pushkin, Mickiewicz, and Leopardi.
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