Individuality and Transcendence in Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Joyce
The development of the scientific method started a revolution in thought
that changed how people viewed the world. Scientists tested theories by
creating experiments and carefully observing the results. The importance
of scientific discoveries raised questions about the role of the observer.
According to Ralph Koster, the importance of observation in science led to
the rise of the individual and an awareness of subjectivity. Society
realized that the individual could determine the outcome of an experiment
and that people could interpret events differently depending on prior
In addition to changing the role of the individual, science also changed
people's views on religion. By contemplating experimental results,
scientists created rules for how the universe operated. Nature became a
knowable force that scientists described in a logical collection of laws.
Thus, science took away much of the world's mystery and changed how people
viewed God. If the universe operated by rules, it wasn't necessary for God
to be involved every moment. God became a clockmaker who started the
universe and sat back to let it run.
The rise of individuality and changing views on religion resulted in
insecurity and isolation. Before the Romantic era, achieving oneness was
often thought of as an act of grace given in mysterious moments. God was
ineffable, but just. Because science encouraged the clockmaker view of
God, people became uncertain that God cared about them, and as God's ways
became known, the sense of mystery in religion was lost. As people began
to experience reality as subjective, they became more isolated, and they
longed to connect with others. Transcendence shifted away from grace to a
process of joining with something outside of the self (Koster). In order
to experience God, people had to break through their own individuality.
Transcending the self became a central question for writers in the
Romantic, Victorian, and Modern eras. As they worked, their writing did
not advance in a linear progression, but more like a loop, traveling
forward and backward. As the loop traveled in reverse, writers drew from
the past, and as it went forward writers incorporated new ideas. New ideas
were needed, for as time progressed society became more complex.
During the Romantic era science and technology were expanding rapidly, but
did not dominate. Discoveries in electricity and mechanics made it
possible for the Industrial Revolution to begin...