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Romanticism

ROMANTICISM (1776-1837)

HISTORY:

  • Continuous development of the British Empire;
  • The War with France: dominion over world markets and trade routes.

ECONOMY AND SOCIETY:

Three social classes:

  • Landowners and aristocracy;
  • Businessmen and industrialists;
  • Masses.

The Agricultural and Industrial revolutions transform Britain into a highly industrialized urban society;

The colonies became source of cheap raw materials;

Most people lived and worked in dreadful conditions. The idyllic world of nature in fantasy, depicted in literature, became an antidote to the reality of life in the city.

IDEOLOGY AND CULTURE:

  • Romanticism is regarded as a reaction against the scientific and rational Age of the Enlightenment;
  • Triumph against classicism:
Traits of RomanticismTraits of Classicism
Imagination
Spontaneity
Originality
Emotional self-expression
Order
Restraint
Objectivity
  • Announced by the Pre-Romanticism of the 18th century:
  • The Gothic novel (exploration of the irrational);
  • J.J Rousseau (philosopher): questions reason and exalts man’s emotions and imagination;
  • Kant ( philosopher): questions the validity of science;
  • “Sturm un Drang”- German literary movement which revolted against literary conventions, believed in the cult of the genius, and regarded nature as man’s spiritual environment.

LITERATURE:

The manifesto of British Romanticism was the preface to “Lyrical Ballads” by William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge. Principles highlighted in the preface:

  • The language of poetry should be simple “the real language used by men”;
  • The subject of poetry should be “incidents and situations from common life”;
  • The poet’s imagination can reveal the inner truth of common things;
  • Poetry is considered: “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility” (W. Wordsworth).

Literary themes:

  • Nature;
  • Imagination;
  • Love;
  • Childhood;
  • The past.

POETRY:

The 1st generation of poets

  • William Blake – rebelled against the rationalist philosophy of the 18th century;
  • William Wordsworth – celebrated nature and childhood;
  • Samuel T. Coleridge – dealt with the mysterious and the supernatural.

The second generation of poets

  • Percy Bysshe Shelley – revolutionary, non-conformist, rebellious;
  • George Gordon Byron – defied social conventions;
  • John Keats – celebrated love and imagination.

FICTION:

  • Walter Scott – the historical novel;
  • Mary Shelley – the Gothic novel;
  • Jane Austen – the novel of manners.