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Romanticism and its response to Enlightened thought. ENGL 3363 Derived from Origins . Mediaeval romance and tales of adventure C onnotations  fictitious and fantastic / folklore and legend / dazzling and rugged sights of nature

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Romanticism and its response to Enlightened thought

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Romanticism and its response to enlightened thought l.jpg

Romanticism and its response to Enlightened thought

ENGL 3363

Derived from

Origins l.jpg


  • Mediaeval romance and tales of adventure

  • Connotations  fictitious and fantastic / folklore and legend / dazzling and rugged sights of nature

  • Broad intellectual and artistic disposition  end of the eighteenth century

  • Intense focus on human subjectivity and its expression

  • Exaltation of nature which was seen as a vast repository of symbols

  • of childhood and spontaneity,

  • of primitive forms of society,

  • of human passion and emotion,

  • of the poet, of the sublime, and

  • of imagination as a more comprehensive and inclusive faculty than reason

  • SIGNIFICANCE of IRONY  welcome conflicting world perspectives

  • Somewhat Kantian/Horatian views:

  • Artistic autonomy

  • Worthwhile to escape moralistic and utilitarian constraints

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  • Takes shape in philosophy and literature

  • Broad response to Enlightenment, neo-Classical and French Revolutionary ideals

  • Major upheaveals:

  • French Revolution

  • the Industrial Revolutions

  • the revolutions of 1830 and 1848

  • along with the growth of nationalism

  • Impelled the bourgeois classes toward political, economic, cultural and ideological hegemony

  • Rationalist, empiricist, individualist, utilitarian, and economically liberal

  • PRE-EXISTS Socialism, anarchism, cults of irrationalism and revivals of tradition and religion

  • These movements respond to Romanticism, but the inverse doesn’t apply

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How Enlightenment Anticipates Romanticism

  • Romanticism and bourgeois world-views

  • Not just a straightforward reaction against the prevalent bourgeois way of life

  • Initial hope for French Revolution

  • Schiller and Goethe struggle for human freedom and mastery of knowledge

  • Shelley, Byron, Heine, George Sand and Victor Hugo  justice and liberation from oppressive social conventions and political regimes

  • Intense individualism based on the authority of experience

  • Broadly democratic orientation

  • Optimistic and sometimes utopian belief in progress

  • Moreover, the Romantics shared Enlightenment notions of the

  • infinite possibility of human achievement

  • the belief that human nature as intrinsically good

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More Continuities; Hints of Distinctions

  • Repudiate Classical objectivity in favor of subjectivity

  • Subject and object, self and world  mutually constructive processes

  • Active human perception over passive impression reception

  • Uniqueness, originality, novelty, and exploration experience over tradition/historical convention

  • Self = exalted, not viewed as an atomistic (and economic) unit

  • A profounder, more authentic ego lying beneath the layers of social convention,

  • attempts through principles such as irony to integrate the increasingly fragmented elements of the bourgeois world into a vision of unity

  • Poets made this vision possible: elevate human perception towards unity, transcending class distinctions

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Ambivalent Connections

  • Unifying power of imagination to achieve sensation and reason

  • Not displacing Enlightenment “reason” with emotion, instinct, spontaneity and imagination

  • Kant’s vision of the imagination

  • Meditating principle  unites sensation and understanding

  • Not dismissing logic and reason: just wanting to place these within a more embracing scheme of perception

  • Hence the relation between Romanticism and the mainstreams of bourgeois thought, which had risen to hegemony on the waves of the Enlightenment, the French and Industrial Revolutions, was deeply ambivalent. Our own era is profoundly pervaded by this ambivalent heritage

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