Discuss the context of "space- sweeping soul" in Bronte's "The Philosopher."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As with so much that Bronte has composed, much can be found in the smallest of details.  The line " space- sweeping soul" is one such element.  For Bronte, there is a desire to construct something free and expansive out of a reality that is constrictive.  The first stanza develops the idea that the traditional exercise of philosophy is a challenging element.  It restricts instead of expanding.  This is seen in the opening of the poem with ideas such as "unlightened" to describe the philosphical exploits, as well as the "chamber drear."

To offset this reality of restrictive thought and discourse, Bronte invokes the "space- sweeping soul."  For Bronte, this is where freedom exists, a condition of being that is not limited and not constrained.  To a great extent, this can tie into Bronte's own love of the moors and "open fields" that physically embraced her own subjective condition.  Bronte seeks to expand her being in the world, to go past the limiting elements of what is in front of her and into a world where there is more freedom.  She wishes to create a realm where the "space- sweeping soul" can be appreciated and not limited.  It is in this context where the line is used to critique the lack of space and lack of freedom that the individual requires.

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