Display a transparency of the Romanticism Statements, and as you read through them, have students indicate on a sheet of paper whether they personally agree or disagree with each statement by recording "A" for agree or "D" for disagree. After all students have read and responded to the questions, ask them to total all of their As and Ds. Then have students determine how "Romantic" they are by sharing the following key: 3 or fewer As = "not Romantic" 4 or 5 As = "sort of Romantic" 6 or 7 As = "highly Romantic" 8-10 As = "extremely Romantic"
Théodore Géricault: the painting represents the plight of the passengers and crew of the ill-fated French ship Medusa in 1816 The Méduse was a 40-gun Pallas-class frigate of the French Navy, launched in 1810. She took part the Napoleonic wars, namely in the late stages of the Mauritius campaign of 1809–1811 and in raids in the Caribbean. After the Bourbon Restauration, she was armed en flûte to ferry French officials to Saint-Louis, in Senegal, for the handover of the colony. Through inept navigation of her captain, an émigré given command for political reasons but incompetent as a naval officer, Méduse struck the Bank of Arguin and became a total loss. In the immediate aftermath of the wreckage, passagers and crew attempted to evacuate the ship on an improvised raft and became helpless when the frigate's launches gave up towing them. Only a handful of the shipwrecked survived the ordeal. The scenes on the raft instilled considerable public emotion, making Méduse one of the most infamous shipwrecks of the Age of Sail. It was definitely immortalised when Théodore Géricault painted his Raft of the Medusa, which became an icon of French Romanticism. INTERACTIVE STUDENT SITE: http://interactives.mped.org/view_interactive.aspx?id=782&title= A "pyramid of hope" is created in the center of the painting by dead figures at the bottom, dying figures in the middle, and a topmost figure waving a rag at the top. A large wave in the mid-left side of the painting threatens to break on the raft. Rays of sunlight breaking on the horizon at the top of the painting. On the right side a tiny image of a rescue ship can be seen on the distant horizon. In the far right hand corner of the raft is a bloodstained axe.
Historical context, characteristics, ideas, and poets
Statements that Embody or Suggest Romanticism
The answers to life’s most puzzling questions can be found through discussions with a simple
person who lives in the country close to nature—not with a sophisticated, well-educated person
from the city.
The answer to life’s most puzzling questions can be found through a connection with nature.
The use of one’s imagination is more important than rational thought.
Subjectivity is more important than objectivity.
Knowledge is gained through gut reactions and subjective hunches rather than level-headed,
objective, deductive thought.
Nature is more important than art.
Experimental trial and error is a better process than the conventional scientific method.
Poetry should be spontaneous and full of emotion, not planned and straightforward.
Sensitivity, feelings, and spontaneity are more important than intellectualism.
“Dare to be” is a better battle-cry than “dare to know.”
Periods in British Literature
450-1066: Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) Period (Beowulf)
1066-1500: Middle English Period (Geoffrey Chaucer)
1500-1660: The Renaissance (William Shakespeare; John Donne, John Milton)
1660-1785: The Neoclassical Period
1785-1830: The Romantic Period (William Blake, William
Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Mary Shelley,
Percy Bysshe Shelley)
1837-1901: The Victorian Period (Charles Dickens)
1914-1939: The Modern Period
1945-present: The Postmodern Period (George Orwell, Mark Haddon, Bryce Courtenay,
Tsitsi Dangarembga and more!)
1785-1830: The Romantic Period
In France: Revolution, Reign of Terror, Napoleon
Industrialization and Enclosure Acts shifted population to
cities, changed landscape
Shift in power from landholding aristocracy to
Population increasingly polarized into rich and poor,
capital and labor
Reaction against Enlightenment, which placed an
emphasis on reason and science CounterEnlightenment
“The Spirit of the Age”
Writers of the time didn’t call
themselves Romantic, but many
felt there was something
distinctive about their time, a new
literary spirit that accompanied
social and political revolution.
Most leading British writers
ardently supported the French
Revolution at first and were
disappointed by the Reign of
But, filled with the spirit of
revolution, they still felt everything
was possible by discarding
inherited ideas and outworn
The Storming of the Bastille (1789),
Wordsworth and Coleridge:
Lyrical Ballads, 1798
Wordsworth’s Preface: announced new poetry in
opposition to the previous century’s artificial
Wordsworth: Poetry is “the spontaneous overflow
of powerful feelings”
Coleridge used an organic metaphor—a poem
begins as a seed in the poet’s imagination
Wordsworth: “What is a Poet?… He is a man
speaking to men; a man, it is true, endowed with
more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and
tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of
human nature, and a more comprehensive soul,
than are supposed to be common among
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Characteristics of Romantic Poetry
Lyric poem—a poem that
expresses the emotions of a firstperson speaker (and in Romantic
poetry, that speaker is often quite
similar to the poet)
Intuition over reason
The pastoral over the urban
Focus on NATURE (Nature is
expressive, personified, sometimes
Focus on intense EMOTIONS
(including horror and awe => THE
“The Wanderer Above the Sea of
Clouds” (1818), Caspar David Friedrich
More Characteristics of Romantic Poetry:
Importance of the power of
RUINS and nostalgia for all
things medieval and gothic
Interest in the EXOTIC
Glorification of the
Interest in DREAMS and
ALTERED STATES (opium)
Emphasis on SOLITUDE
John Constable, “The Haywain” (1821)