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4 - Something Evermore About to Be: Hope in the Romantic Era

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 January 2022

Adam Potkay
Affiliation:
College of William and Mary, Virginia
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Summary

Key Romantic authors sought to salvage hope and love as virtues separable from theology and without a clear basis in faith. We find in Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, and Goethe a post-theological insistence on the absolute value of hope and love as forms of imagination that free us from the constraints of experience. For Wordsworth, hope – political, social, though ultimately transcendent – is continuous with imagination, and thus also “intellectual” or spiritual love. Shelley repeatedly sought substitutes for faith within the Christian triad he would otherwise maintain: Queen Mab advances joy, hope, and love; “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty,” love, hope, and self-esteem. Shelley yokes the re-envisioned theological virtues to the service of an erotic vision of polity, without entirely surrendering hope in individual immortality or its possible secular equivalents. Goethe concludes his masterpiece Faust with a quasi-Dantean vision of Faustus’s redemption by his sublime hopes, intermixed with few if any good deeds and many bad ones, in a heaven without God or evil. Indeterminate hope does the work of faith in Goethe’s poem, just as moral hope does in the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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