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Romanticism (1770 - 1850)

I feel, therefore I am.

"What is Classical is healthy; what is Romantic is sick." --Goethe

Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement of the late 18th century and the early to mid 19th century that stressed strong emotion, imagination, freedom from classical correctness in art forms, and rebellion against social conventions and the rationalization of nature by the Enlightenment. In the mid-19th century, it was gradually replaced by Realism and Modernism, but it lived on in the Decadent and Symbolist movements, Surrealism and Existentialism. [Dec 2006]

Romanticism was one of the first artistic movements to reappraise "low culture", when previously maligned medieval romances and national folklores started to influence literary fiction. [Apr 2006]

Industrial Revolution: Concurrent with the industrial revolution there developed an intellectual and artistic hostility towards the new industrialisation known as the Romantic Movement. Its major exponents included the artist and poet William Blake, and poets William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats and Shelley. The movement stressed the importance of "nature" in art and language, in contrast to the 'monstrous' machines and factories. In Blake's words they were the, "Dark satanic mills" of his poem And did those feet in ancient time. [May 2006]

Era: 1770s - 1780s - 1790s - 1800s - 1810s - 1820s - 1830s - 1840s - 1850s

Tropes: bohemianism - emotion - grotesque - imagination - anti-reason and irrationalism - the monstrous - nature - sensibility - sublime

Bibliography: The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1782) - Romantic Agony (1930)- Mario Praz

By region: German romanticism

People: William Blake - Lord Byron - Eugčne Delacroix - Goya - Goethe - E. T. A. Hoffmann

Novels: The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) - Goethe

Related art movements: Decadent movement - gothic novel - Symbolist movement

Precursor: French revolution - enlightenment

Followed by: modernism

The great red dragon and the woman clothed with the sun (c. 1800) - William Blake

The sleep of reason produces monsters (1797-98) - Francisco Goya
from Los Caprichos


Attitude or intellectual orientation that characterized many works of literature, painting, music, architecture, criticism, and historiography in Western civilization over a period from the late 18th to the mid-19th century. Romanticism can be seen as a rejection of the precepts of order, calm, harmony, balance, idealization, and rationality that typified Classicism in general and late 18th-century Neoclassicism in particular. It was also to some extent a reaction against the Enlightenment and against 18th-century rationalism and physical materialism in general. Romanticism emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental. --Encyclopedia Britannica [2004]

Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement in the history of ideas that originated in late 18th century Western Europe. It stressed strong emotion—which now might include trepidation, awe and horror as aesthetic experiences—the individual imagination as a critical authority—which permitted freedom within or even from classical notions of form in art—and overturning of previous social conventions, particularly the position of the aristocracy. There was a strong element of historical and natural inevitability in its ideas, stressing the importance of "nature" in art and language. Romanticism is also noted for its elevation of the achievements of what it perceived as heroic individuals and artists. It followed the Enlightenment period and was in part inspired by a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms from the previous period, as well as seeing itself as the fulfillment of the promise of that age. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanticism [Dec 2005]

Origins and precursors

The term 'Romanticism' derives ultimately from the fictional romances written during the Middle Ages ("romance" being the medieval term for works in the vernacular Romance languages rather than in Latin). These included the Arthurian cycle, and were notable for their use of magic and focus on personal characteristics of honor and valor, as well as a sense lofty idealism and a "lost world".

In English, the term 'Romantick' was often used in the 18th century to mean magical, dramatic, surprising. But it was not until the German poets, critics and brothers August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel used the term that it became a label for a wider cultural movement. For the Schlegel brothers, 'Romanticism' was a product of Christianity. The culture of the Middle Ages created a Romantic sensibility which differed from the Classical ideals embodied in the philosophy, poetry and drama of ancient Athens. While ancient culture admired clarity, health and harmony, Christian culture created a sense of struggle between the dream of heavenly perfection and the experience of human inadequacy and guilt. This sense of struggle, vision and ever-present dark forces was allegedly present in Medieval culture. The Schlegel brothers were also responsible for making Shakespeare into an internationally famous writer, translating his work into German, and promoting his plays as the epitome of the Romantic sensibility. Many later Romantic dramatists sought to imitate Shakespeare and to reject Classical models for drama.

While this view partly explains Romantic fascination with the Middle Ages, the actual causes of the Romantic movement itself correspond to the sense of rapid, dynamic social change that culminated in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era. However, Romantic literature in Germany preceded these crucial historical events. The 'Sturm und Drang' (Storm and Stress) movement in German drama was associated with Friedrich Schiller, and the early work of Goethe, in particular his play "Goetz von Berlichingen", about a Medieval knight who resists submission to any authority beyond himself. Goethe's novel "The Sufferings of Young Werther" (1774) had huge international success. This too concerned an individual who felt a strong contradiction between his own internal world of intense feeling, and the external world that failed to correspond to it. Werther eventually commits suicide. In later works Goethe rejected Romanticism in favour of a new sense of classical harmony, integrating internal and external states. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanticism#Origins_and_precursors [Dec 2004]

The Romantic Quest

THE notion that marriage is the proper outcome of the close personal preoccupation which we ambiguously call "love" is of course a modern one. I can still remember the astonishment which I felt, at about the age of twenty, when I first learned that this conception had never existed in any other period of history and that it was confined, for all practical purposes, to Britain and the United States. At about the same time I became aware of Romanticism as a literary movement: if I had been asked to define Romanticism I should have done so, I expect, in terms of its lyrical quality and I should certainly have made some reference to the braving of physical dangers in order to win the hand of a fair lady. But why a rather short-lived literary fashion should have given rise, a century later, to a convention affecting actual behaviour, I had no idea. Nor could I have said why the word "romantic" was applied to it. The word "romancing" is sometimes used to mean fabricating stories which are untrue, and the implication is that they are wish-fantasies; so presumably a romantic marriage is the sort of successful love-match which we should all like to have but which few of us do. However, at this date, the idea that marrying for love and living happily ever after was not a thoroughly feasible proposition had scarcely entered my head; and the sinister suspicion that what I called "love" might be something which endured only as long as desire was frustrated had never occurred to me.

Such are the defects of a system of education in which literary movements are discussed solely in terms of "historical influences" and with no reference to the general psychological and social trends of the time; and in which all reference to specifically sexual attitudes is rigidly excluded. This is a book about sexual attitudes and love makes only incidental appearances in it, but it is necessary to pay some attention to romanticism because it reflects a psychological shift of attitude of just the sort which we have been discussing. It represents, in fact, a movement towards matrism; a rather abortive movement, it is true, since it occurred at a time when the majority of persons, after a chaotic period in which little introjection had taken place, were moving towards patrism.

[B]locked of outlets, Romanticism turned more and more to fantasy: the Gothic horrors of the Castle of Otranto were succeeded by the echoing caverns of Xanadu. And since growing public Puritanism denied the frank expression of libidinal motifs, the imagery became more and more generalised and more and more allusively sexual. Nineteenth's century poetry is full of waves beating on rocks: the alternatives are an infantile pretence that babies are found under gooseberry bushes or a retreat to the unpublishably pornographic. And since we have seen how, in periods of repression, the death instinct becomes excited by the repressed libido, it is not surprising to find a prolonged Romantic Decadence. The Movement which started-out with such noble hopes, terminates in the degraded attempt to gain an extra 'frisson' from perversion. If the doctrine that one must feel powerful emotions was responsible for such incidents as Byron's trying to wreck his wife's peace of mind by insinuating that he was living incestuously with his sister, and the Princess Belgiojoso keeping the embalmed body of her lover, Gaetano Stelzi, in the cupboard, the doctrine that one must conceal them was responsible for the even more depressing flagellatory poetry of Swinburne and the appalling sadistic fancies of de Lautreamont.

Nevertheless, to the Romantics belongs the fame of having placed the ideal of romantic love within marriage on a respectable footing. It was a major achievement. --Sex in History (1954), http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/taylorgr/sxnhst/chap10.htm [Jul 2005]

see also: marriage - romanticism - Gordon Rattray Taylor

Romanticism (literature)

The Romantic movement originated in late 18th Century England, and is primarily identified with English writers such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The Romantic "craze" was well known in France, though, and certainly helped to inspire some of the French crazes that would follow.

"Romantic poetry" does not indicate goofy verses about roses, violets and hearts. Rather, it evokes the medieval literary form known as the "romance", a popular, exciting type of story that usually described the heroic and tragic adventures of ancient lovers with names like Tristan, Isolde, Floire, Blanceflor or Havelock the Dane.

The idea of a return to the literary simplicity and immediacy of medieval romances must be understood as a revolt against the modern, rational, scientific style of life in post-medieval, "enlightened" Europe. A medieval romance stressed emotion over logic, and was typically written in a vernacular language (such as Italian) rather than a classical language such as Greek or Latin. The poets of the late 18th Century and early 19th Century felt oppressed by classical influence and wanted to plumb the murky depths of human experience rather than waft upwards to intellectual or rational heights.

The romantic revolt against classicism calls to mind other artistic movements based on regression to more pleasing, less lofty forms, such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez's evocation of Guthrie-era folk in the age of "rock and roll", or Picasso and Braque's employment of African primitive art forms in their first cubist paintings.

For many decades, the Romantics were exclusively British. The first were Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, quickly followed William Blake and then by an amazingly attractive new generation of wild Romantics, Lord Byron, Percy Byshhe Shelly and Mary Shelley (the Peter, Paul and Mary of British poetry) and John Keats, all of whom became personal celebrities as well as major poets.

The boundaries of Romanticism could not be contained by England, though. Later writers known as Romantics included Victor Hugo ("Les Miserables") and Stendhal in France, Pushkin in Russia, and even Ralph Waldo Emerson and the other Transcendentalists in America. -- Levi Asher http://www.litkicks.com/BeatPages/page.jsp?what=LaBoheme

Terms sometimes taken as related

--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanticism [Dec 2004]

Terms sometimes taken as opposed

--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanticism [Dec 2004]

Romantic music

Romantic music is defined as the period of European classical music that runs roughly from the early 1800s to the first decade of the 20th century, as well as music written according to the norms and styles of that period. The Romantic period was preceded by the classical period, and was followed by the modern period.

Romantic music is related to Romantic movement in literature, art, and philosophy, though the conventional periods used in musicology are now very different from their counterparts in the other arts, which define "romantic" as running from the 1780s to the 1840s. The Romanticism movement held that not all truth could be deduced from axioms, that there were inescapable realities in the world which could only be reached through emotion, feeling and intuition. Romantic music struggled to increase emotional expression and power to describe these deeper truths, while preserving or even extending the formal structures from the classical period.

The vernacular use of the term romantic music applies to music which is thought to evoke a soft or dreamy atmosphere. This usage is rooted in the connotations of the word "romantic" that were established during the period, but not all "Romantic" pieces fit this description. Conversely, music that is "romantic" in the vernacular sense is not necessarily linked to the Romantic period. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romantic_music [Apr 2005]

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