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notes on romanticism97-2003


									         Studies of American Literature – Notes on Romanticism
Notes on Romanticism (from several sources)

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our
own hands; we will speak our own minds...A nation of men will for the first time exist, because
each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men."

      Romanticism is an international artistic and philosophical movement that redefined the
       fundamental ways in which people in Western cultures thought about themselves and about
       their world. Began in Germany , went to England, and arrived in America
           o A new form against the Neoclassics (form and structure of classics)
                    free experimentation over the "rules" of composition, genre, and decorum, and
                       they promoted the conception of the artist as "inspired" creator over that of the
                       artist as "maker" or technical master
                    new areas of exploration, new rules for writing (parallel to the new world
                       beyond the Ohio River)—broke through boundaries
                             primarily the wilderness and rural areas.
           o The Age of Reason was a revolt against the constraints of Puritanical society and Britain
                    Romanticism was a “revolt” against the literary voice of Europe
                             Need to find American voice
           o "manifest destiny"(the doctrine or belief prevalent in the 19th century that the United
               States had the God-given right to expand into and possess the whole of the North
               American continent) and there was little wilderness to explore (and exploit).
                    Turn toward artistic, metaphysical, and intellectual frontiers to recapture the
                       ecstasy of exploration and discovery
      New philosophy
           o Puritans – God over logic [faith over head]
           o Age of Reason (Nationalism) – science and logic over faith [logic over heart]
           o Romanticism - intuition over logic [instinct/feelings over logic]
                    Humans are innately good and can better themselves through their actions
                    Truth more a matter of intuition and imagination than logic and reason
                    all people had access to divine inspiration and sought and loved freedom and
                       knowledge and truth.
           o "Corpse-cold" Emerson called the previous generation of rational religion.
      The imagination is the supreme faculty of the mind, not reason
           o Imagination is an active part of the soul – creative power
           o Imagination is dynamic, an active, rather than passive power, with many functions
           o it is the faculty that helps us constitute reality,
                    we not only perceive the world around us, but also in part create it
                             Romanticism is a paradox –Intellectual intuition
                                    o Allows humans to reconcile differences and opposites in the
                                        world of appearance.
                    imagination enables us to "read" nature as a system of symbols
          Studies of American Literature – Notes on Romanticism
       Nature is important element of Romanticism
            o nature as a healing power,
            o nature as a source of subject and image,
            o nature as a refuge from the artificial constructs of civilization
            o nature as "organic," rather than, as in the scientific or rationalist view, as a system of
                "mechanical" laws
            o nature has its own emblematic language
     Natural Supernationalism
            o Thomas Carlyle conclusion that natural life itself is a miracle whose wonder is hidden
                from us by familiarity
            o Natural Supernationalism (natural==secular and Supernationalism==religion)
                      Replaces the story of the creation, fall, and redemption with a new story of
                         harmony with nature, alienation, and reintegration
     Mysticism
            o A religious attempt to achieve spiritual union with God through a purging of baser
                instincts and a transcendence of the physical world through intuition and meditation
     Poetry is a mediation of life and our connection to nature
            o Poetry is from our intuition, not rational side of thinking
            o Nature is the main subject of Romantics because Nature tells us about ourselves
     Romantic Hero
            o the importance of the individual, the unique, and even the eccentric
                      hero goes beyond the boundaries of the area
            o local color or regionalism (dialect, cultures, ideas of each individual)
            o folk tales
            o noble savage
     Romantic artists
            o Involved in society for the betterment of it (abolitionists, tax reformers, socialists)
            o Avoided society (reclusive) – nature is better
            o Individualist
   Utopian
        o An imaginary perfect world. In the early Romantic period, the American and French
           Revolutions gave political liberals and radicals great hopes that humanity was entering a new
           golden age, in which monarchies, social class hierarchy, and economic injustice would be
           replaced by democracy and socialist equality
                 Individual needs within society
                 Communes
   Transcendentalism
        o An American Romantic philosophy, flourishing in New England in the mid-nineteenth
           century. It was Idealist, holding that the natural world was a symbol of the eternal; it was
           Pantheist, believing all things that exist are part of a Supreme Mind or Over-Soul [the
           religious belief that God and the universe are one and the same]; it was Primitivist, pursuing
           a simplified and ascetic lifestyle [a preference for the simple and the natural over the
              Studies of American Literature – Notes on Romanticism
               civilized and the artificial]; it was anti-establishment, believing in self-reliance. Began from
               Hinduism and Plato
                     Humans beings are basically good (Absolute Goodness)
                             Goes beyond description
                     Humans can learn through intuition and nature what is good and can change each
                        day (contradictory)
                     The transcending, or going beyond, empiricism, and ascertaining the fundamental
                        principles of human knowledge.
                             Kant reserved the term transcendent for those entities such as God and the
                                soul, which are thought to exist outside of human experience and are
                                therefore unknowable
                             transcendental to signify a priori forms of thought, that is, innate
                                principles with which the mind gives form to its perceptions and makes
                                experience intelligible
       Over-soul
           o The all-containing soul.
           o That unity, that oversoul, within which every man's particular being is contained and made
               one with all other.

Admitting that the Over-Soul cannot be known through language, Emerson defines the Over-Soul by

clarifying what it is not, a stylistic device that he uses throughout the essay. According to him, “All

goes to show that the soul in man is not an organ . . . is not a function . . . is not a faculty . . . is not

the intellect or the will . . .” Although the soul is none of these, it uses them for its purposes. For

example, the soul is not an organ, but it animates all organs; although not a faculty, it uses all of

them; it is not the intellect or the will, but the master of them. The soul is the force that uses all of

these items for right action, but this force is not the items themselves: “Language cannot paint it

with his colors.”

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