Romanticism

Romanticism

The term Romanticism was first used in Germany in the late 1700s when critics August and Friedrich Schlegel wrote about romantische Poesie or romantic poetry. Friedrich Schlegel, also a German poet, described literature of the Romantic Period as

Literature depicting emotional matter in an imaginative form.

Romanticism, a movement in art and literature during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, emerged in response to the Neoclassical traditions of earlier centuries. Its main idea is to focus on emotions, individualism and nature. It rebelled against formalism and classical norms across various fields such as literature, philosophy, art, religion, and politics. Victor Hugo’s phrase “liberalism in literature” reflects this norm, which aimed to liberate artists and writers from constraints and rules while promoting individualism, and supporting revolutionary political ideas.

Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poems written by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798, is traditionally regarded as the birthplace of Romanticism. And Sir Walter Scott‘s death in 1832 marked the end of this era for many literary scholars because he was one of the last major figures associated with the Romantic Movement. However, its duration extended beyond the lifespan of a single individual.

Referring to the Romantic Age, in 1793, William Blake said, “a new heaven is begun,” suggesting a fresh start for the world. Later, P. B. Shelley also commented on a similar idea with his statement, “The world’s age begins anew.” During this time, new ideas became important, especially the idea of freedom, which had always been valued in England. This idea started to apply to all aspects of life. In England, Romanticism was most influential in poetry, although novelists also used its themes. However, Romanticism was not only limited to England, in America, Romanticism started later, around 1830, and was popular until the Civil War. Unlike in England, American Romanticism was mainly expressed through novels.

The Romantic Movement in English literature, was a time of great diversity in writing style, themes, and topics. Many people felt a strong sense of the “spirit of the age,” believing that there was a surge of creative energy happening alongside political and social changes. It was seen as a time of new beginnings and endless opportunities. For example, poets like William Wordsworth wrote about the beauty of nature, while authors like Mary Shelley explored themes of science and the supernatural in novels like Frankenstein. Overall, the Romantic period was a time of excitement and innovation in literature.

The Romantic period was marked by significant and often violent changes, influenced by major political, social and industrial revolutions. It was greatly influenced by so many Revolutions that affected its substance and form. The two important political revolutions in America (1776) and France (1789) as well as the Industrial revolution played a great role in shaping the ideas of Romanticism. These revolutions brought a lot of energy and creativity. Artists and writers of the Romantic Age reacted to these changes by emphasizing emotions, nature, and individual freedom.

The American Revolution significantly influenced Romanticism by embodying ideals of freedom, individualism, and rebellion against oppression. As a successful fight for independence, it became a powerful symbol of hope and democratic possibility, resonating deeply with Romantic thinkers who valued personal liberty and self-expression. The revolution’s emphasis on individual agency and rejection of traditional authority inspired Romantic literature and art, which often featured themes of rebellion and celebrated heroic figures. Additionally, the revolution catalyzed other movements, such as the French Revolution, and facilitated an intellectual exchange across Europe and America.

The French Revolution initially inspired many Romantic poets, with its ideals of liberty, fraternity, and equality and the hope for a new and just society. It sparked creative energy and revolutionary fervour in literature and art. However, the later violence, especially during the Reign of Terror (under Robespierre), caused disappointment and led them to view the revolution’s ideals more critically.

The Romantic Age is also a reaction against the Industrial revolution which drastically altered agrarian lifestyles and the scientific rationalization of nature. The Industrial Revolution brought technological and societal changes, including new machinery, energy sources, transportation, and communication developments. These changes also led to urban growth, working-class movements, and shifts in social and cultural norms, though women’s rights remained largely ignored. Women of all classes were regarded as inferior to men, were undereducated, had limited vocational opportunities, were subject to a strict code of sexual behaviour, and had almost no legal rights.

Romantic poets like Blake and Wordsworth responded to these changes by highlighting the threatened state of nature and human happiness.

In a nutshell, Romanticism emerged as a powerful cultural movement that celebrated emotions, individual freedom, and nature. It emerged in response to the strict rules of Neoclassicism and the major changes brought by the American, French, and Industrial Revolutions. The movement celebrated personal freedom, creativity, and the beauty of the natural world. It had a lasting impact on literature and art. Although it started in Europe, Romanticism’s influence spread worldwide, having a significant impact in America and other regions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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