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An introduction to American Romanticism

Colleen Davis

on 24 September 2016

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Transcript of Romanticism

Schools of thought that value feeling and intuition over reason. In American literature, this was the dominant literary movement in the mid-1800s
Poetry was the highest, most sublime embodiment of imagination.
Contemplation of the natural world reveals underlying beauty and affords an emotional and intellectual awakening
Reaction against rationalism because rationalism (age of reason) brought about the industrial revolution, resulting in squalid cities and wretched working conditions. While the Romantics did not reject logical thought for all purposes, they believed art should spring from intuitive, “felt” experience.
Romantics saw the city as a place of moral ambiguity, corruption and death.
Exotic settings from the more “natural” past or in a world far removed from the grimy, noisy industrial age. Supernatural realms, folklore and legends offered idealized settings
The Gothic novel is known for its wild, haunted landscapes, supernatural events, and mysterious medieval castles. America did not have places old enough to establish a gothic literature, but American writers were drawn to the exotic, otherworldly trappings of the Gothic. American Gothic took a turn toward the psychological exploration of the human mind (dark romantics).
Values feeling and intuition over reason
Places faith in the power of the imagination
Characteristics of the Romantic Hero
Champions individual freedom and the worth of the individual
Contemplates nature’s beauty as a path to spiritual and moral development
Distrusts progress
Finds beauty and truth in the supernatural realm and in the imagination
Quests for higher truth in the natural world (loves nature and avoids town life)
Transcendentalism was a movement within Romanticism. Transcendental comes from Immanuel Kant and refers to the idea that in determining the ultimate reality of God, the universe, the self, and other important matters, one must transcend, or go beyond everyday human experience in the physical world. Intuition is an important tool for discovering truth.
Transcendentalism= idealism= true reality involves ideas rather than the world as perceived by the senses. Idealists seek a permanent reality that transcends physical realities. Belief in human perfectability.

Emerson believed fundamental truths resided in the “Over-Soul…a universal and benign omnipresence…a God known to men only in moments of mystic enthusiasm, whose visitations leave them altered, self-reliant, and purified of petty aims.”

For Emerson: God is good, is found directly in nature, and works through nature.By trusting ourselves and relying on intuition, we have the power to know God directly. By trusting ourselves and knowing God, we come to realize that each of us is also part of the Divine Soul, the Over-Soul, or the source of all good.
Edgar Allen Poe
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Fireside Poets: Incredibly popular in their time and in classrooms afterwards; they celebrated American people and events; they described the landscape; explored and developed American folk themes
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Fireside Poet
Dark Romantics: used symbolism extensively in writings; exploring conflicts between good and evil, the madness of the human psyche, and the effects of guilt and sin
The development of the American novel coincided with westward expansion, with the growth of the nationalist spirit, and with the rapid spread of cities. A “geography of the imagination” developed in which town, country, and frontier would play a powerful role in American literature and life. Frontier emerged as an idealized life—uncorrupted and unspoiled
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Fireside Poet
John Greenleaf Whittier
Herman Melville

Dark Romantic
Henry David Thoreau

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Walt Whitman (some say)
Seeks unspoiled nature; cities are considered artificial and places of corruption and immorality
Is young or possesses youthful qualities
Is innocent and pure of purpose
Has a knowledge of people and of life based on deep, intuitive understanding, not formal learning
Loves nature and avoids town life
Has a sense of honor based on some higher principle rather than society's rules
Basic Tenets of Romanticism
Fireside Poet
Dark Romantic Writers
Henry David Thoreau
Full transcript