‘From Sail to Steam: How Ship Technology Changed English Romaticism (Joel Found)

Joel’s presentation, gave examples of how Romanticism dealt with evolving naval technology. He took us through “Rime of the Ancyent Marinere” (1798) by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, where we saw evidence of the Romantic Sublime and Coleridge’s ideas of humans’ place in nature. Coleridge depicts the transition from ships powered through the use of sails to the new ship technology that was being developed (such as steam powered ships). Coleridge depicted this transition as the demise of naval culture as he knew it. Created at a later date than “Rime of the Ancyent Marinere,” J.M.W. Turner’s paintings “The Fighting Temeraire” (1839) and “Snow Storm: Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth” (1842) are both in their own way an interesting contrast of beauty and utilitarianism. “The Fighting Temeraire” asks of its viewer some interesting questions about the feelings held by Turner towards this new technology, while “Snow Storm” debunks the idea that the new technology is stronger than nature. Finally, Joel brought us through a selection of shorter poems by Herman Melville: “The Portent” (1859), “The Temeraire” (1883), and “A Utilitarian View of the Monitor’s Fight” (1866). These poems show Melville’s mixed feelings towards the shift from sail to steam.


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