Unit 2: The American Reniassance, The Dark Romantics
The AmericanRenaissance The ‘Dark’ Romantics
A Quote with a View:“I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half- pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.”Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”
Who were they?• The Dark Romantics were a group of nineteenth- century writers who explored the dark side of human nature.• Dark Romantic writers explored the human potential for evil, including the psychological effects of guilt, sin, and madness.• The Dark Romantic view countered the optimism of the Transcendentalist writers of the time.
Major differences between theTranscendentalists and Dark RomanticsTranscendentalists: Dark Romantics:• Saw divine goodness • Believed spiritual truths and beauty beneath may be ugly or everyday reality frightening• Embraced the mystical • Reintroduced the dark and idealistic elements side of Puritan beliefs: of Puritan thought the idea of Original Sin and the human potential for evil
Major similarities between theTranscendentalists and Dark RomanticsBoth believed that…• True reality is spiritual.• Intuition is superior to logic or reason.• Human events contain signs and symbols of spiritual truths.
Nathaniel Hawthorne 1804-1864• Born July 4, 1804 in Salem, MA• Father died when Hawthorne was four• years old; Sent to private school once his relatives discovered his storytelling abilities• Sent to Bowdoin College in Maine; classmates with Franklin Pierce (future president) and Henry Longfellow (poet)• Published some early works, which he renounced and later burned• Editor for The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge in 1836• Later joined the writing circles of Thoreau, Emerson, and Louisa May Alcott.• Influenced by his Puritan family background, belief in the existence of Hell and the Devil, and the theory of determinism
Portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne by Charles Osgood, 1841 (Peabody Essex Museum)
Hawthorne’s short stories and novels reflect Dark Romantic views of humanity:• •In “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” four people drink a magical elixir and choose the foolishness of false youth over the wisdom of age and experience.• In “The Minister’s Black Veil,” a Puritan minister decides to wear a black veil for the rest of his life to represent the universality of sorrow and secret sin.• The novel The Scarlet Letter tells a story of sin and redemption and explores the evil of hypocrisy.
Herman Melville 1819-1891• Born in New York to bankrupt family which fell apart and so he dropped out of school• Began various voyages at sea• Became friends with Nathaniel Hawthorne• Wrote several different novels about experiences on the open ocean• Eventually “sold out” to write popular fiction, even though he hated it, in order to make enough money to live on• Moby Dick and other novels not successful at time of publishing, but became widely acclaimed after his death
Herman Melville’s short stories and novelsalso reflect a Dark Romantic view of nature and humanity:• In the novel Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab doubts whether there is any real truth or meaning behind the appearances of nature.• In “Bartleby the Scrivener,” a lawyer watches his copyist withdraw completely from the material world.
Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849• born in Boston, mother died shortly after separation from his father in 1811• All three siblings separated after her death• Went to school in England for 5 years, beginning at age 6• Later returned to school in America, attended the University of Virginia at age 17• Father never sent him enough money, fell into debt and drank heavily and quit school a year in• Joined the army at age 18; successful enough to be accepted into West Point, but was dismissed for breaking rules and ignoring his duties• Went to New York, published some poems, but had no friends or money• Married his 13 year old cousin, Virginia Clemm, who died young• Worked for a newspaper, but never made enough to be comfortable• Found rambling on the street, taken to the hospital where he died; no records survive, but many believed he died of alcoholism, so his death is still – fittingly – a mystery.
Poe’s masterful short stories told tales of madness, revenge, and tragic fate:• In “The Cask of Amontillado,” the mad narrator takes deadly revenge on a man who insulted him.• In the classic horror tale “The Pit and the Pendulum,” the narrator barely escapes a horrible death in a dark dungeon.• In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a man commits murder and is driven to confess by the imaginary beating of the dead man’s heart.
The Dark Romantic Legacy:Dark Romantic themes still appear in stories, books,movies, TV shows, and comic books:• Present-day horror stories and movies borrow images and themes from the original master of horror, Edgar Allan Poe.• The conflict between good and evil and the effects of guilt and sin are major themes in current literature, popular writing, and television.