Romanticism


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Summary of Romanticism

The English government and aristocracy started enclosing land claiming it would allow for better raising of crops and animals particularly sheep for their wool. They claimed that large fields could be farmed more efficiently than individual plots allotted from common land -- and the profit could be kept by the aristocrats who now owned the legally confiscated land.

Some claim this was the beginning of commercial farming. Poor people had no way of subsistence apart from working for the land owners. It brought about more poverty and poor people drifted from the countryside to the cities, where the Industrial Revolution had begun, based on the steam engine and the creation of factories where poor people were employed in bad working conditions, pollution, criminality and corruption.

The paradox was that more and more people moved into the cities when they all had terrible living conditions. Nature became idealized as life in the country was more virtuous. Romantic poets did not talk about cities but realists did. There was a regeneration of human life destroyed by cities, an idealized vision of nature : they were looking for a renewed humanity. Wordsworth and Coleridge left the city for the Lake District.

In America, transcendentalists such as Emerson or Thoreau did the same. Thoreau went out in the wilderness to Walden Pond to write Walden in They discovered the American identity : the civilization was European. There is a kind of individualism that refuses every kind of moral convention who you really are and pantheism belief that Nature is divine and has a soul.

What is Romanticism?

Nature was not only peaceful and meditative but also stormy, tempestuous and too big for man sublime. In Shelley's Ode to the West Wind , the poet starts by identifying himself with the wind : he wants to have the same power and the same liberty.

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As such, it can be considered a political poem. The "west wind" is the wind from America, from the Revolution. The romantic world is a dynamic world of change. When there is beauty, it's always ephemeral. What creates the changes are the elemental forces storm, power etc.


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Energy can come from human beings too. Romanticism is the emphasis of feelings, passions and intuitions. It differs from the 18th century, which was based on reason and reflection. Reason is universal, everyone uses the same logic : it is not personal. On the other hand, feelings, passion and intuition are what make people different from each other; it is very individualistic and selfish. Passion is one of the dynamic elements of romanticism, it's a factor of change for the individual and a factor of historical change as Hegel once said "nothing great was accomplished in history without passion".

Passion is also extremely changing : nothing is closer to love than hate. It alternates between exaltation and melancholy, between nostalgia and optimism. The lover is killed by Isabella's brothers. She digs his grave, cuts his head and hides it in a pot of basil with a flower in it.

As she cries everyday, it turns to a beautiful flower. Contrasts, dichotomies can be seen on all levels between reason and emotion, beautiful and sublime, reality and imagination.

A Brief Guide to Romanticism

Dialectics are the dynamic principle behind everything and could be seen as a rational monism the antonym of "pluralism" with the religious revival and the visionary style. Wuthering Heights takes place in Yorkshire moors. Catherine Earnshaw hesitates between Heathcliff and Edgar Linton. She chooses Edgar but Heathcliff comes back rich. There is a conflict between what men represent and what places represent. It's the conflict of "the children of calm, the children of the storm".

The dualism is a cosmic matter between calm and quietness, storm and passion. It's the idea of homo duplex : man is double in a "double simultaneous postulation". There is a rediscovery of history and exoticism through local colour : few details to show you are not at home for instance, if you write about Asia, add some geishas in kimonos.

Romanticism - Wikipedia

With romanticism, there is an outburst of cultural nationalism : German romanticism was a flowering of vernacular literatures. The vernacular is the language spoken by the people; it's different from the language spoken by the cultural elite French, Latin. It was good enough to produce good literature. There was also a going back to folklore, legends, and fairy tales. His oil sketch Images of wild, unbridled animals evoked primal states that stirred the Romantic imagination. Along with plumbing emotional and behavioral extremes, Romantic artists expanded the repertoire of subject matter, rejecting the didacticism of Neoclassical history painting in favor of imaginary and exotic subjects.

Orientalism and the worlds of literature stimulated new dialogues with the past as well as the present. In , Delacroix journeyed to Morocco, and his trip to North Africa prompted other artists to follow. Literature offered an alternative form of escapism. The novels of Sir Walter Scott, the poetry of Lord Byron, and the drama of Shakespeare transported art to other worlds and eras.

In its stylistic diversity and range of subjects, Romanticism defies simple categorization. Galitz, Kathryn Calley. Brookner, Anita. Romanticism and Its Discontents.

Visual arts

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Academy of American Poets Educator Newsletter.


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The 19th Century : Romanticism in Art and Literature

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