Egotistical Sublime versus Self-Doubt





Egotistical Sublime versus Self-Doubt

The aspect of egotism seems to be rather evident in literature spanning from the Romantic Period to the Modern age of writing. Regardless of different times in the world of literature, most writers seem to be predisposed against impersonal thinking. The works of John Keats and Arthur Rimbaud are examined to bring this assertion to light. Despite living in disparate periods, the poems written by Keats and Rimbaud reflect similar thematic relationships based largely on self-centeredness. An illustration of this is evident in Rimbaud’s poem, Letter of the Seer (Letter to Paul Demeny) in which the author expresses feelings of self-loathing and self-doubt. Alternately, inclination towards the impersonal is rather present in Keats’ Ode to Melancholy, which seems him focus more on the audience rather than his own self. Furthermore, assessing the relationship between these two different authors involves understanding the tenet of egotistical sublime according to Keats versus Rimbaud’s facet of self-doubt in most of his writings.

Keats’ opposition against egotism in literature is evident in his establishment of the egotistical sublime. For him, poets should not focus on their personal aspects; instead, much of the direction should be aimed at rational and objective subjects. For the poet, indulgence in subjectivity only impinges on the writer’s creative identity. This assertion alludes directly to Keats’ egotistical sublime. By utilizing the works of William Wordsworth as an illustration, Keats showed that an autobiographical or personal approach restricts the poet from exploiting his particular personality. Hence, the poet assumed that a poet should be inclined to impersonality in order to be capable of abandoning egotism while within the confines of writing. After assuming the anonymity, the writer can transcend all things consistently by being able to embrace all forms of challenges and oppositions. Simply, he can change and occupy any form of personality depending on the circumstance.

However, these thoughts on the egotistical sublime are quickly repudiated by Rimbaud’s assertions on the embodiment of the poet. Rimbaud’s deviation from Keats’ perspectives is evident in his work, Letter of the Seer (Letter to Paul Demeny) (Rimbaud 1574). For the author, the poet utilizes all his senses in order to designate himself as a seer. By becoming personal through exploration of the poisons, as well as the essence inside him, he becomes the renowned scholar regardless of whether he is for or against the world. Hence, for Rimbaud, the poet “becomes, more than anyone, the great sick one, the great criminal, the great accursed one – and the great Learned One!” (Rimbaud 1575). Different from Keats, Rimbaud expresses inwardness and self-evaluation as the fundamentals towards becoming an exemplary poet. Aside from this, the author establishes the denial of one’s self as a crucial factor in setting apart the poet from the overall audience.

Nonetheless, in comparison, Keats’ views reject interest. In the poetry from the Romantic period, the poet attempts to establish a less selfish position as a substitute to the Wordsworth-based egotistical models especially in works connecting intangible poetic apprehensions to interpersonal sentiments and emotions. In an Ode to Melancholy, Keats indicates this by discussing emotional concepts through a process of objectivity. Throughout his composition, Keats relays his sentiments in the third person by addressing an external audience. In addition to this, he refuses to draw his elucidations from his personality; rather, he uses certain aspects of his external setting by stating that, “when the melancholy fit shall fall…then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose.” (Keats 762). His advice regarding depression to the audience further functions as an illustration of his deviation from the egotistical sublime as evidenced in most of the poems written by William Wordsworth.

Interestingly, Keats’ Ode to Melancholy seems to correspond with Rimbaud’s allegations in Letter of the Seer. Judging by the content the former focuses on, it may be rational to perceive Keats’ contradiction based on impersonality. On one hand, Keats tries overly to illustrate this impersonality by addressing the audience in a third-person manner. However, his discussion of an innate human emotion such as depression contradicts this. This is because discussing such a subject and providing ways on how to handle it requires a first-hand experience concerning it. Since this is not a prescription on curing melancholy, Keats’ illustrations seem to be more predisposed towards the inner side of a human being. In comparison, Keats bears similarity to Rimbaud in terms of this claim. In Letter of the Seer, Rimbaud accentuates on a derangement of sagacity. This involves a distortion of one’s personality in order to be efficient and proficient as a poet.

Still on the subject of Rimbaud’s poem, the process of alienating one’s self allows a person to observe his personal disintegration. Through this, the poet is capable of liberating himself in order to establish or destroy anything at his own disposal. Additionally, by “a long, immense and reasoned derangement of all the senses,” the poet’s mind becomes inclined towards disorder and chaos (Rimbaud 1575). Hence, in an effort to understand the unknown, self-doubt is imperative in ensuring that the visual and visionary poet gains the ability to access superhuman poetical authority at the behest of his own personal destruction. Even though this may seem rather impersonal, Rimbaud’s focus on his emotions and senses further illustrates his correspondence to the contradictions expressed by Keats, especially in his work, Ode to Melancholy.

In conclusion, it is evident that Arthur Rimbaud attempted to deviate farther from romanticism based on his tenets regarding derangement of the human senses in Letter of the Seer. His unfamiliar insistence on self-doubt, however, resonates with romantic allusions in poetry, which tend to focus intimately in subjectivity rather than objectivity. Alternately, Keats’ views on impersonality via the tenet of egotistical sublime contradict his work as evidenced within the Ode to Melancholy. As much as he tries to seem objective unlike Wordsworth, Keats is unable to avoid this based on his discussion on the facet of melancholy. Moreover, his attempts at viewing it as an emotion influence him to draw answers from his personal experiences based on control and subjugation of the sentiment. Hence, both writers seem to contradict their own works in relation to their thoughts on egotistical sublime and self-doubt respectively.




















Works Cited:

Keats, John. “Ode to Melancholy”. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature: Volume 2. Ed. Sarah N. Lawall. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. 762-763. Print.

Rimbaud, Arthur. “Letter of the Seer [Letter to Paul Demeny] (French)”. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature: Volume 2. Ed. Sarah N. Lawall. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. 1574-1576. Print.

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