George Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning & Matthew Arnold:Responses to the Condition of England.

All art, at its heart tries to rectify the destructive conditions of existence on this planet. In the words of the Australian poet A.D. Hope: Poetry

Arguably, the writers and artists of the 19th Century were all, in their own way, attempting to maintain “the frame and order of the world”, trying to resolve the huge human problems that were being faced at the height of the industrial revolution and in the period of colonial expansion.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1857 was one voice lamenting the way that poets, writers, artists often tried to resolve these problems by turning their back on contemporary life spending their imaginative energies revisiting times in the ancient past for their subject matter. They needed – she argued- to see the life in all that was immediately around them in this world: “this live, throbbing age, \That brawls, cheats, maddens, calculates, aspires, \And spends more passion, more heroic heat, \Betwixt the mirrors of its drawing-rooms, \Than Roland with his knights at Roncesvalles.” So what was Elizabeth hoping this focus on the immediate present might produce?  Well she says it very emphatically in her last lines: “this is living art,\ Which thus presents and thus records true life.”

Maybe the art of our times that achieves this aim is the modern cinema? Is that where all the brawling, cheating, calculating, aspiring… etc finds expression? And does this recording of “true life” help us to see the issues, local and global, that we are all having to face?

Here comes a Blog Topic:

I would be interested to hear whether you believe this to be the case, that the modern cinema is the place where our best artistic energies are going in the attempt to resolve human problems? I can think of one recent film – David Attenborough’s Barrier Reef Series- which was a poetic/ scientific/ attempt to stir the consciences of our politicians. I can think of another film Apocalypse Now which takes a hard, devastating look at our behaviour in an effort to wise us up to our destructiveness.  Do you have other examples worth talking about? Do you agree with this view of the artistic value of contemporary cinema?

Here is another Blog Topic:

Find out what you can about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s verse novel Aurora Leigh – from which we read today. What reception did this novel get on its publication in England?


Last Blog Topic for this week: 

Compose your own poem or prose passage beginning with the line:

To flinch from modern varnish is fatal,- foolish too. 

Then please remember you are always permitted to create your own topic if none of these suit the bill!


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