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OU on the BBC: Romantics - Programme Summary - Nature

Updated Thursday 8th December 2005

This programme in the BBC/OU's Romantics series examines the birth of the modern notion of nature.

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Actors portraying the Romantics and Peter Ackroyd Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

The Industrial Revolution sought to dominate Nature as a means to create profit. Romantic artists would seek to replace this relationship of domination with one of reverence and understanding.

The poet John Clare sought freedom in exploring the countryside around him. But the lands he loved were increasingly seen as units of production. When such lands were officially enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1809, the freedom to roam the countryside was curtailed.

This shift in attitudes drove John Clare insane. It drove William Blake to write works of protest, such as the raging, tempestuous 'Jerusalem'.

Both William Blake and Samuel Taylor Coleridge sought to understand man's true relation to nature by returning to the source - by observing and writing about the innocence of children. Others sought to reconnect themselves to Nature more directly - such as William Wordsworth, who wrote of his travels to the Alps, the Lake District and the Wye Valley.

The ideas of the child, nature and scientific progress would collide in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. This book is a Romantic manifesto - a warning that nature is not to be trifled with, that children are sacred, and science can corrupt our world. It is also a work of prophecy, still relevant in the 21st century.

First broadcast: Saturday 21 Jan 2006 on BBC TWO

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