Book Review – M.H. Abram’s Natural Supernaturalism
A comprehensive study of what is traditionally defined by historians as “the Romantic period” (1798 – 1832), Natural Supernaturalism proposes that romanticism, as tough to define a term as it might be, was a movement in whose major authors had certain constructs internalized as given. Setting Wordsworth as the major figure of the Romantic movement Abrams looks at the kind of “circular” or “cyclical” poetic rhetoric used by Wordsworth and looks at how other prominent Romantic writers used said cyclical structures. Wider in scope than other works of Romantic criticism, Abrams uses closed readings of specific passages to make his case.
Although the book is a must read for any student of Romanticism, this text’s major flaw is that it does not take into account any of the women writers and completely ignores Byron – something that could be overlooked when looking at topic-specific criticism or when doing systematic search for meaning in specific texts of specific authors, but that is completely unforgivable when trying to pin down a general theory of romanticism. The fact that it has survived the wave of newer romantic criticism despite this Achilles’ heel and is still considered required reading for any student of Romanticism is a testament to the brilliance of Abram’s work.