Everything You Ever Need to Know About Romanticism
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When it comes to literary figures and literature students, ‘Romanticism’ is a widely respected and well-understood term. For the casual observer, though, ‘Romanticism’ simply translates into everything that is ‘romantic’. However, this is far from the truth.
, or around, the year 1832 with the deaths of Sir Walter Scott and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Love and romance are undoubtedly important aspects of the entire ‘Romanticism’ movement, but the movement in itself encapsulated much more than just poems and prose about love or romance. Romanticism was an artistic and philosophical movement that comprehensively redefined the fundamental manner in which people of that time thought about themselves and the world around them.
What is Romanticism?
He who seeks to define Romanticism is entering a hazardous occupation which has claimed many victims. – E. B. Burgum
In the simplest of terms, Romanticism, also known as the ‘Romantic Movement’, was an intellectual, cultural and literal movement which originated in Europe towards the culmination of the 18th century. This movement specifically laid emphasis on individualism, and the
emotions experienced by an individual, rather than concentrating on the existing social and cultural trends of that particular time. It also looked to exalt the individual with especial regard to the nature, and the natural environment around.
Historical Considerations and Implications of the Romantic Movement
The ‘Romantic Movement’ had its roots in two countries primarily – England and Germany. In 1798, England had its first recorded piece of romantic literature published in the form of the ‘Lyrical Ballads’ by William Wordsworth. The early poets and authors that adopted this movement in England also include romantic poets like William Blake and Robert Burns, whereas in Germany, Romanticism found stout supporters in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was another writer whose romantic works reverberated throughout Europe. As a holistic international movement which affected all the arts, Romanticism began in the 1770’s and continued well into the second half of the 19th century,
and even later in some of the arts like music and painting.
Many historians have argued that the entire Romantic Movement was a result of the ‘Industrial Revolution’ that captured the heart of Europe during that time. It can be said that the American Revolution (1776) and the French Revolution (1789) did have a major influence at the literary figures of that time, but to go as far as saying that the entire romantic movement was a result of the industrial revolution would be putting it too severely. However, we must all agree that the revolutionary energy that had grabbed people at that time was undoubtedly at the core of Romanticism, as a result of which romantic writers not only set out to transform poetry and prose, and all art, for that matter, but also the very manner in which the general populace perceived the world around them.
It is generally accepted that the Romanticism ended in
Common Characteristics of Romanticism
Following are the characteristics of Romanticism that were being adopted and followed by one and all during that period:
An exaltation of emotions over logic and reason, and senses over intellectual capabilities
A focus on the concept of the ‘Self’ with an examination of the human personality and its capabilities
An emphasis on the imagination as a path towards transcendental and spiritual awakening
A new view of artists as creators with prominence being given to their creative spirit rather than adherence to traditional rules and procedures
A heightened appreciation of the varied beauties present in nature
A major affection for the ‘genius’ or ‘hero’ with a focus on his passions and struggles
An obsession with the Medieval era, folk culture and cultural origins
A predilection for the exotic, the mysterious, the weird, the occult, and sometimes even the satanic
Satan Devouring His Son (Oil On Canvas) by Fransisco Goya
Some Prominent Writers, Poets and Painters from the Romantic Movement
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832): A noted German poet, playwright and author, Goethe’s major work, The Sorrows of Young Werther, was highly influential in creating the ideal of a passionate and sensitive main character, one of the primary characteristics that defined the Romantic Movement.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832): A famous Scottish novelist, playwright and poet, Scott’s novels always had a global appeal. Some of his notable works include Ivanhoe, The Lady of the Lake, and Waverley.
Mary Shelley (1797-1851): A prominent English novelist, short story writer, essayist and dramatist, Shelley’s groundbreaking work was Frankenstein. As a person, Shelley was a political radical who pressed for greater social co-operation between all the romantic writers and poets.
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870): A renowned author of famous historical dramas like The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and the Marie Antoinette series, Dumas was always regarded as an influential writer with a larger than life personality.
Victor Hugo (1802-1885): Perhaps the greatest and most well-known French author to have ever lived, Hugo was widely respected for his poetry and novels. Two of his best-selling novels are Les Misérables, and Notre-Dame de Paris.
William Blake (1757-1827): Although not considered a romantic poet in the classical sense, William Blake was a poet and artist who made a significant impact on the growth of Romanticism as an art form. Some of his major works include Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, The Four Zoas, and Jerusalem.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834): A much celebrated English romantic poet, Coleridge’s famous poems include The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan and Christabel, amongst many others. Coleridge is widely credited for bringing the concept of ‘German Idealism’, a very important conceptual strand of the Romantic Movement, to England the concept of German idealism.
Lord Byron (1788-1824): This handsome English romantic poet was infamous for leading a flamboyant and extravagant lifestyle. He loved travelling across the length and breadth of Europe. His famous works included Don Juan, She Walks in Beauty and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822): An English romantic poet, P.B. Shelley was a dear friend of John Keats. An out and out atheist, Shelley’s famous works include Prometheus Unbound, Queen Mab, and Adonais (which is considered to be his tribute to Keats).
John Keats (1795-1821): Arguably one of the greatest English poets of all time, his best-known works is Endymion: A Poetic Romance. Other famous poems written by him include When I Have Fears, Ode To A Nightingale, and Bright Star.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892): This American poet is known for Leaves of Grass, in which he introduced to the world a genre-defining new style of poetry. In America, Whitman was always regarded as the bridge between the two important and distinct movements of realism and transcendentalism.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886): An American female poet, Dickinson led a very secluded lifestyle. She was rumored to be clinically depressed and left a legacy of numerous short and vivid poems which often dealt with the contrasting themes of death and immortality.
William Blake (1757-1827): If truth be told, it would be unfair to just label Black as a painter only. Also, a renowned poet and mystic, Blake wrote the highly influential Songs of Innocence, and Songs of Experience. As a painter, he was famous for his morbid depictions and whimsical themes.
Francisco José de Goya (1746-1828): A Spanish romantic painter, De Goya combined the classical style of the old classical masters with a new realism and imagination.
Romanticism left an indelible mark on literature, visual arts and music, while also impacting the natural and social sciences. It had a profound effect on the political scenario of that age too with romantic writers and thinkers shedding their influence on liberalism, radicalism and nationalism.
There is no doubt that Romanticism played a crucial role in shaping not only literature, visual and performing arts, but also the manner in which we live our life even today.