Light in Literature: Special Issue of Romanticism


Peter Vilhelm Ilsted 'Woman Reading by Candlelight' 1908, via Plum Leaves (reproduced under CC BY 2.0 licence).

Peter Vilhelm Ilsted ‘Woman Reading by Candlelight’ 1908, via Plum Leaves (reproduced under CC BY 2.0 licence).

A new issue of the journal Romanticism explores imaginative representations of light in English literature from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Edited by Dr Sarah Wootton, the journal derives from a 2013 symposium on light sponsored by Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study and organised by the Romantic Dialogues and Legacies Research Group.

In her introduction to the issue, Sarah Wootton suggests that light is particularly a focus for “Romantic and post-Romantic ambivalence: about the value of enlightenment; about the nature of beauty and truth; about the significance of artistic representation; about the process of perception.” Light can suggest goodness, but also illusion, a theme represented in the poetry of Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley. These concerns radiate into later writing. Post-Romantic writers covered include Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Brontë, and John Ruskin. Writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are examined too, including W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, Christopher Isherwood, and Wallace Stevens.

The Romanticism journal is available to subscribers only. However, Sarah Wootton’s essay on Emily Bronte’s Darkling Tales is freely available; this essay examines light and dark as coalescing and contradictory ‘opposites’ in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. You can also access pre-publication versions of Mark Sandy’s ‘Lines of Light’ : Poetic Variations in Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelley, Peter Garratt’s Romantic Refractions: Light Effects in Ruskin’s Poetry, and Chris Murray’s Coleridge, Isherwood and Hindu Light via Durham Research Online.

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