06 Nov Romanticism
Romanticism (also the Romantic era or the Romantic period) was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution,the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature.It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography,education,and the natural sciences.It had a significant and complex effect on politics, and while for much of the Romantic period it was associated with liberalism and radicalism, its long-term effect on the growth of nationalism was perhaps more significant.
The movement emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe—especially that experienced in confronting the new aesthetic categories of the sublimity and beauty of nature. It considered folk art and ancient custom to be noble statuses, but also valued spontaneity, as in the musical impromptu. In contrast to the rational and Classicist ideal models, Romanticism revived medievalism and elements of art and narrative perceived as authentically medieval in an attempt to escape population growth, early urban sprawl, and industrialism.
Although the movement was rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, which preferred intuition and emotion to the rationalism of the Enlightenment, the events and ideologies of the French Revolution were also proximate factors. Romanticism assigned a high value to the achievements of “heroic” individualists and artists, whose examples, it maintained, would raise the quality of society. It also promoted the individual imagination as a critical authority allowed of freedom from classical notions of form in art. There was a strong recourse to historical and natural inevitability, a Zeitgeist, in the representation of its ideas. In the second half of the 19th century, Realism was offered as a polar opposite to Romanticism. The decline of Romanticism during this time was associated with multiple processes, including social and political changes and the spread of nationalism.
Philosophical Romanticism holds that the universe is a single unified and interconnected whole, and full of values, tendencies and life, not merely objective lifeless matter. The Romantic view is that reason, objectivity and analysis radically falsify reality by breaking it up into disconnected lifeless entities, and the best way of perceiving reality is through some subjective feeling or intuition, through which we participate in the subject of our knowledge, instead of viewing it from the outside. Nature is an experience, and not an object for manipulation and study, and, once experienced, the individual becomes in tune with his feelings and this is what helps him to create moral values.
The roots of Philosophical Romanticism can be found in the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. Rousseau, (who is credited with the idea of the “noble savage”, uncorrupted by artifice and society), thought that civilization fills Man with unnatural wants and seduces him away from his true nature and original freedom. Kant’s theory of Transcendental Idealism (see the section on Idealism) posited that we do not directly see “things-in-themselves”; we only understand the world through our human point of view, an idea developed by the American Transcendentalism of the mid-19th Century.
The German Idealists who followed on from Kant and adapted and expanded his work with their own interpretations of Idealism, can all be considered Romanticists in their outlook. Among these the most important were Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and (arguably) Arthur Schopenhauer. Hegel was perhaps the most influential of the German Idealist philosophers, and his idea that each person’s individual consciousness or mind is really part of the Absolute Mind (Absolute Idealism) had far-reaching affects. After his death, however, the Hegelians were split between the “Old Hegelians” who uncritically accepted Hegel’s Romantic views, and the “Young Hegelians” who wanted to continue the revolution of ideas using his concept of dialectics.
Defining the nature of Romanticism may be approached from the starting point of the primary importance of the free expression of the feelings of the artist. The importance the Romantics placed on emotion is summed up in the remark of the German painter Caspar David Friedrich that “the artist’s feeling is his law”.To William Wordsworth, poetry should begin as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” which the poet then “recollect[s] in tranquility,” evoking a new but corresponding emotion the poet can then mould into art.To express these feelings, it was considered that the content of the art had to come from the imagination of the artist, with as little interference as possible from “artificial” rules that dictated what a work should consist of. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and others believed there were natural laws that the imagination—at least of a good creative artist—would unconsciously follow through artistic inspiration if left alone.As well as rules, the influence of models from other works was considered to impede the creator’s own imagination, so that originality was essential. The concept of the genius, or artist who was able to produce his own original work through this process of creation from nothingness, is key to Romanticism, and to be derivative was the worst sin. This idea is often called “romantic originality.”
Not essential to Romanticism, but so widespread as to be normative, was a strong belief and interest in the importance of nature. However, this is particularly in the effect of nature upon the artist when he is surrounded by it, preferably alone. In contrast to the usually very social art of the Enlightenment, Romantics were distrustful of the human world, and tended to believe that a close connection with nature was mentally and morally healthy. Romantic art addressed its audiences with what was intended to be felt as the personal voice of the artist. So, in literature, “much of romantic poetry invited the reader to identify the protagonists with the poets themselves”.
According to Isaiah Berlin, Romanticism embodied “a new and restless spirit, seeking violently to burst through old and cramping forms, a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness, a longing for the unbounded and the indefinable, for perpetual movement and change, an effort to return to the forgotten sources of life, a passionate effort at self-assertion both individual and collective, a search after means of expressing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals.”
Sources: en.wikipedia & http://www.philosophybasics.com/movements_romanticism.html