Introduction to Romanticism Late 18th Century – Mid 19th Century (1780-1850 AD) Romanticism emerged as a reaction to the rationalism of the Enlightenment. Emotions and non-rational aspects were central to the movement, as well as the power of the individual. Romantics wanted to escape the Enlightenment thought. Some looked back to the gothic past, some to religion (Second Great Awakening), or the supernatural, while others tried to find it in Nature.
The French Revolution Lasted from 1789-1799 AD. France divided into three estates: first (clergy), second (nobility), and third (commoners, 98% of the population). The people of France were tired of having no say in the government and revolted. They stormed the Bastille, which symbolized the absolute monarchy that had oppressed France, and the rebellions began. The people executed their feeble king, Louis XVI and a radical leader of the people, Robespierre, took power of the newly reformed France. He was a terrible ruler, who guillotined thousands of people who were suspected to be against the revolution, without a fair trial. The people overthrew Robespierre, and adopted a new constitution with new ideas and gave them rights for every man. After many reforms, the revolution was a success and new ideas such as nationalism, citizenship, and rights for every man were put in place.
Impact of the French Revolution on Art & Literature Due to the overturned monarchy it allowed people to express themselves in ways they never have before. The new style of expressing the nature of man through emotion was known as romanticism. The separation between the people was disappearing, along with the social standings that confined literature and expression. They broke away from the forms of the past to see society and humanity in a different perspective. The drastic changes in society and rush of emotions and human nature inspired writers, poets, and artists. Rousseau’s philosophy - the outlook that man is good by nature but corrupted by society – and his praise of nature had heavy impacts as well. These influences, with the spirit of the revolution and republicanism, even brought the return of William Wordsworth to England. No stones were left unturned as feeling and imagination were explored, and reason, logic, and science were overpowered. Lengthy fast moving plots in literature and varying arts of nature quickly became popular.
A Tale of Two Cities This book was written by Charles Dickens, in 1859, that takes place in London and Paris during the French Revolution. It discussed the oppression of the absolute monarchy and the brutality of the radical’s acts during the French Revolution.
“Fears in Solitude” This poem was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in 1798, when France threatened to invade Great Britain during the French Revolution. Coleridge was opposed to the British government, however this poem sympathized with the British people.
The Industrial Revolution Lasted from 1820-1870 AD. Massive changes in industry had a profound impact on the economy and society. Britain transitioned from using manual labor to machine-based manufacturing, which dramatically changed the rate of production. This design spread across Western Europe and eventually the world. Inventions like the steam boat and the steam locomotive revolutionized how fast and how far people could travel. However, the Industrial Revolution brought about a dangerous lifestyle for the average worker, who had to deal with harsh conditions in the factory, as well as an increase in child labor.
Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Art & Literature The industrial revolution bettered the painting market, and brought an awareness of peoples daily lives. Carefree, happy art styles of impressionism and romanticism were popular, and helped individuals escape from depression of the factories, and look at more beautiful things. They reminded the people of the nature they missed – happy country sides with farms, fields of grass, and open skies. Many artists mirrored society and its changes. Artists such as Picasso show the effects of urbanism on society and on individuals. Popular artists of this time included Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. Whose paintings made people happy and forget the hard times. Much of the literature concerned living standards affected by the industrial revolution. Many literature types and genres focused on the growth of technology and cultural changes that accompanied “the machine.”Writers argued that the machine threatened culture and individual freedom, and was a cause for social problems. Even Wordsworth stated that technology’s rise ruined the mind. Others, however, found new technology indispensable. Thomas Jefferson was one to support the machine.
Many other famous writers and philosophers had opposing views as well. Emerson and Whitman saw unity and democracy in technological progressions, while Hawthorne, Melville, and Twain critiqued the materialism of industrialism through their works.
Frankenstein Written by Mary Shelley in 1818. The novel served as a warning against the expansion of modern man during the Industrial Revolution and symbolized many aspects of the revolutionary spirit in the early 19th century. It was also one of the first literary works to include gothic elements and inspired a genre of horror stories.
War of 1812 Due to the ongoing war with France, the British restricted American trade with France. The British attacked US shipping vessels and impressed thousands of American sailors into the service with the British navy . Finally, the US declared war on Britain on July 18, 1812. The war quickly turned into a “Second War of Independence” for most Americans, feeling like Britain never truly gave up thinking of America as a “lost colony” that should be punished. To many Americans, this served as a reaffirmation of American independence from the British. Both sides were weary of the cost of the war and signed the “Treaty of Ghent” which resulted in a stalemate.
Impact of War of 1812 on Art & Literature
Second Great Awakening Lasted from 1790-1850 AD. The Second Great Awakening was a period of religious revival that swept through the United States, and continued to spread through Europe. The movement brought around prison reform, abolitionism (end of slave trade, emancipated slaves), and temperance (against alcohol use). Lyman Beecher, leader of the movement in the US.
Transcendentalism Lasted from early to middle 19th Century. Transcendentalism affirmed Immanuel Kant's principle of innate knowledge not derived from the senses. Rejected organized religion and emphasized the divinity in each human being. Figures like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller dominated this movement in their writings. They advocated reforms in church, state, and society – which contributed to the rise of free religion and the abolition movement in New England and the United States. Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Nature” Essay written by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1836. First work to contain transcendental ideas, and influenced others to think without influence from the senses.
Gothic History and Romanticism Many people were fascinated with the past and a revival of gothic and medieval things came into style. In architecture, a neo-gothic style was fashionable in the nineteenth century. Especially churches were built with gothic facades, to remind of the Age of Faith. Gothic literature became popular, and an important author was Ann Radcliffe, who was maybe the most influential and popular gothic writer Gothic literature often consisted of landscapes of horror and deterioration, with a protagonist as the epitome of isolation and a villain as the epitome of evil. The main character often succumbs to the evils of the villain, and either struggles to break free or perishes. The themes dealt with the sublime and supernatural, but also tied into the life of man, with his dark natures and encounters and his sin The dark self expression in gothic writing appealed to one’s sense of awe, yet it was misunderstood and even viewed by some as un-academic, and eventually died down. Still it was an important style that influenced arts and later famous writers such as Poe. Gothic art was seen mostly in architecture, which favored classic tall buildings or cathedrals with intricate designs, stained glass, and slanted roofs.
Dracula Written by 1897 by Bram Stoker. Inspired by Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, early in the 19th century, Stoker used gothic elements to create a realistic horror narrative.
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