Commenced in late 18th century as a consequence of dynamic social change culminating in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era
Romanticism was an intellectual orientation that was instilled in many works of literature, painting, music etc. in Western civilization between the 1790’s and 1840’s
It was a rejection of the precepts of order, calm, physical materialism, and 18th century rationalism
Instead it was a celebration of the power of the imagination, the development of nationalistic pride, the individual, the emotional and the transcendental.
It embraced human emotion and passion before rationality
A celebration of nature, of the creative relationship between the human heart and the natural world and of the desire to exhibit highest human potential
Romanticism changed the perceptions people held of nature, of the importance of spiritual and imaginative enlightenment and allowed people to remove themselves from the rational views of life, to focus on an emotional side of humanity.
What beliefs did they hold about the nature of the world?
The Neoclassicist poets that preceded the Romantic Movement were obsessed with reason and commonsense. They believed everything was ordered, logical and correct, which was reflected in their highly structured poetry and their use of satire and wit to comment on life.
In reaction, Anti-intellectualism emerged – belief that everything could not be rationalized. Nature was seen was the ultimate wonder, not to study but to be appreciated and enjoyed.
Writers of the Romantic Age reacted strongly to the events of their time:
o The city became synonymous with pain and hardship, from the poor conditions for the proletariat during the early stages of Industrial Revolution.
o Supporters of the French Revolution, who had envisioned a new age of democracy and equality in Britain, were left in a state of bitter disappointment, esp. after its decline into “The Terror”.
Nature, the literal opposite of the industrial city offered new perspectives on the world, became a symbol of good against the evil that was industralisation and its negative consequences.
The emphasized and deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature was believed to inspire
Nature was the medium through which one could express their emotions (a major element of Romanticism) for it was seen as raw and without confinement, without formality of any kind. This was reflected in work of Romantic poets, who often wrote in blank verse, without stresses or rhyming rules.
What beliefs did they hold of humanity?
The Romantics were not against progress but feared the effects of Industrialisation and new technology on society.
The romantics admired rural communities and country life; the industrial revolution ended the textiles “cottage industry” and forced many working classes to move to the city, where people became deformed by machinery and women and children get most jobs because they were cheaper labour. city-life was repressive, filthy and unnaturally ugly -> cities of the Industrial Revolution were often without infrastructure (i.e. sewage) and the working class lived in slums, 1 family/room
They believed that man could create a better world without materialism and he can do so by turning to Nature.
The Romantics were against the Enlightenment, with its vision of mankind as being part of a group rather than an individual -> they embraced Individualism and human diversity
Romantics believed in the revitalising of humankind by the encouragement of the relationship of the heart and the natural world.
What beliefs did they hold of religion?
As it was “God” who created nature, loving and connecting with nature was seen as spiritual enlightenment and a method of being closer to god.
Rather than idolizing a God with a face and personality, the Romantics saw “God” as a transcendent force that could be seen in everything.
The result of pre-French Revolution society was Primitivism – belief that man was born inherently good but became evil through the influence of society. This went against the traditional teachings of the Church, who claimed that man was inherently evil.
Nevertheless, the Romantics believed Christianity to be “the most poetic, most human, the most conducive to freedom, to arts and literature…” of all religions, as written by Rene de Chateaubriand in “The Genius of Christianity”.
The Romantics believed that science was lacking this element that could benefit humanity. They saw science as too systematic, narrow-minded and downright heartless.