What exactly are
you rebelling against?
What do ya
What is Romanticism anywho?
• The expression Romantic gained currency
• Certain ideas and attitudes arose, gained
currency and in most areas of intellectual
endeavor, became dominant.
• Expression was perhaps everything to them --
expression in art, music, poetry, drama,
literature and philosophy.
• Romantic ideas arose both as implicit and
explicit criticisms of 18th century Enlightenment
– These ideas were generated by a sense of
inadequacy with the dominant ideals
Philosphes v. Romantics
• The philosophes were too objective -- they chose to see human
nature as something uniform.
• The philosophes had also attacked the Church because it blocked
• The Romantics attacked the Enlightenment because it blocked the
free play of the emotions and creativity.
• The philosophe had turned man into a soulless, thinking machine --
• Christianity had formed a matrix into which medieval man situated
• The Enlightenment replaced the Christian matrix with the
mechanical matrix of Newtonian natural philosophy.
• For the Romantic, the result was nothing less than the demotion of
• Imagination, sensitivity, feelings, spontaneity and freedom were
stifled -- choked to death. Man must liberate himself from these
The Romantic Period
Social, political, and economic changes in
– England as industrialized, urban.
– English navy dominates – defining colonies,
“ports of trade”
– Constitutional monarchy established.
• Urbanization = city squalor
• Industrialists lack paternal
interest in common people.
• Farmers displaced
• Poverty increases.
• Hierarchy no longer just,
Rage Against the Machine
• Enlightenment philosophes: individual has
• 1789: Storming of Bastille
• Natural poetry
• Poems endowed the landscape with
human life, passion, and expressiveness.
– Middle 18C poets – picturesque scenes as
backdrop to meditations, feelings.
– Turn-of-the-century-poets – put themselves
above the scene, surveying vista below with
terror, melancholy, and nostalgia.
– New poets – close up to Nature: subject is the
flower, the animal, the tree.
• Re-creation of sensations
• Arouse immediate feeling in
• Power of imagination as
joyful, active, and creative in
connection with Nature
• New images combining,
reordering sensations, return
• Major theme: poet’s lament
that imagination is lost,
• Through exploration of
imagination, poet studies self
• Through self, truth of human
condition is made apparent
(“aeolian harp” syndrome)
• Nature poetry linked to idealization of the natural
scene as a site where the individual finds
freedom from social laws.
• First hippies: wrote in folk song, ballad – lyric
• Primary mode: the lyric.
– 1st person, present tense, “I see, I hear, I feel”
• Secondary mode: ode
– Encompassed more complex, ambitious expressions
• Third mode: narrative poem
– Mythical characters, visionary situations
– Many lost focus, less unified, most not finished
The Gothic Novel
Gothic novelists delved into a pre-modern,
pre-rational past as a means of exploring
the nature of power, supernatural.
– Romance, horror interwoven
– Set in remotes times, distant places
– Not realistic scenes necessarily
– Dark castles, gloomy dungeons, etc
– Spirits come back to haunt living
– Byronic heroes
– Theme: philosophical concerns