19Th Century Romanticism In Europe- Term Paper

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19th Century Romanticism in Europe-

Romanticism began in the early 19th century and radically

changed the way people perceived themselves and the state of nature

around them. Unlike Classicism, which stood for order and established

the foundation for architecture, literature, painting and music,

Romanticism allowed people to get away from the constricted, rational

views of life and concentrate on an emotional and sentimental side of

humanity. This not only influenced political doctrines and ideology,

but was also a sharp contrast from ideas and harmony featured during

the Enlightenment. The Romantic era grew alongside the Enlightenment,

but concentrated on human diversity and looking at life in a new way.

It was the combination of modern Science and Classicism that gave

birth to Romanticism and introduced a new outlook on life that

embraced emotion before rationality.

Romanticism was a reactionary period of history when its seeds

became planted in poetry, artwork and literature. The Romantics turned

to the poet before the scientist to harbor their convictions (they

found that the orderly, mechanistic universe that the Science thrived

under was too narrow-minded, systematic and downright heartless in

terms of feeling or emotional thought) and it was men such as Johann

Wolfgang von Goethe in Germany who wrote "The Sorrows of Young

Werther" which epitomized what Romanticism stood for. His character

expressed feelings from the heart and gave way to a new trend of

expressing emotions through individuality as opposed to collectivism.

In England, there was a resurgence into Shakespearean drama since many

Romantics believed that Shakespeare had not been fully appreciated

during the 18th century. His style of drama and expression had been

downplayed and ignored by the Enlightenment's narrow classical view of

drama. Friedrich von Schlegel and Samuel Taylorleridge (from Germany

and England respectively) were two critics of literature who believed

that because of the Enlightenment's suppression of individual emotion

as being free and imaginative, Shakespeare who have never written his

material in the 19th century as opposed to the 18th century. The

perception that the Enlightenment was destroying the natural human

soul and substituting it with the mechanical, artificial heart was

becoming prevalent across Europe.

The Lyrical Ballads, published in 1798, was a series of poems

that examined the beauty of nature and explored the actions of people

in natural settings. Written by William Woodsworth, this form of

poetry was free, expressive and without constraint as evident by this


"If this belief from heaven be sent, If such be Nature's holy plan,

Have I not reason to lament, What man has made of man?"

Such passages from his work indicates that poetry and literature was

also used as a form of rebellion or distaste for political

institutions or social conditions during the 19th century. However,

since most poets thrived on the emotional and irrational abstract that

they were writing about, there was no specific category that this mode

of thinking could fall into. This was a strength since the freedom to

explore nature was infinite and without any restriction based on

rules, law or doctrine. This invariably led to a re-introduction into

religion and mysticism; people wanted to explore the unknown. The

Genius of Christianity, written by Rene de Chateaubriand, offered a

contrast to Science. He found Christianity to be "the most poetic,

most human, the most conducive to freedom, to arts and literature..."

of all the religions and deduced that Science was lacking this element

which could benefit mankind.

The middle ages were regarded as a creative period when humans

lived close to the soil and were unblemished with the effects of

industrialization or urbanization. Romanticism began to show the

people that the Enlightenment had overstayed its welcome by leading

the people to a future that offered a vision of mankind as being part

of a group rather than an individual. G. W. F. Hegel, a German

philosopher, rejected the rational philosophy of the 18th century

because he believed in "Idealism". This involved looking at life in

terms of the importance of ideas, not thought the narrow tunnel of

materialism and wealth. By advocating Idealism, Hegel concluded that

mankind could be led by his spirit, his soul, rather than the

establishment or the status quo. Although Romanticism was perhaps

conservative in nature, every participant of this swift and silent

movement could relish in his own free and glorious vision of nature.

Romanticism was not a political movement or a reformist package

offered by a group of dissidents; Romanticism was a time when mankind

could restructure his outlook on life so that he was able to reach new

heights of intellectual and political awareness. In the process of

doing so, he found answers to practical problems by simply using his

heart and searching his soul.

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