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Romanticism. Romanticism The complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement of 18th century in Western Europe. Roots of Romanticism. A revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature.

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The complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement of 18th century in Western Europe

Roots of romanticism

Roots of Romanticism

  • A revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature.

  • The Enlightenment was less a set of ideas than it was a set of values. At its core was a critical and scientific questioning and rationalisation of traditional institutions, customs, and morals.

  • Also movement is rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, which prized intuition and emotion over rationalism and is characterised by angst and intensity.

Distinctly human

Distinctly Human

  • The distinctly human nature of romanticism was in conflict with the great technological and scientific change, discovery and development of the late 18th and early 19thC.

  • Romantics saw the social and economic change of the Industrial Revolution as dehumanising and the cause of mounting social ills such as poverty, over crowding and poor working conditions.

  • Intellectual and artistic hostility towards the new industrialisation developed into the Romantic Movement.

Character of romanticism

Character of Romanticism

  • An earlier definition comes from Charles Baudelaire: "Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling."

  • Romanticism emphasized intuition, imagination, and feeling, to a point that has led to some Romantic thinkers being accused of irrationalism.

Values of romanticism

Values of Romanticism

  • The movement validated strong emotion as an authentic source of experience to help understand the unknown.

  • Valued intensity of emotions as trepidation, horror and terror and awe—especially when experienced in confronting the sublimity and power of untamed nature

  • Nature is often rendered as vast and overwhelming: humbling and destroying man as well as enriching him and giving strength and insight.

  • Romantics harnessed the power of the imagination to envision and to escape.

  • The modern sense of a romantic character may be expressed in the ideals of a gifted, perhaps misunderstood loner, creatively following the dictates of his inspiration rather than society.

The individual

The individual

  • As a moral philosophy, Romanticism was neither logical nor systemized. It exalted feeling over reason, individual expression over the restraints of law and custom.

  • In America, it gave rise to Transcendentalism appealed to those who disdained the harsh God of their Puritan ancestors, and it appealed to those who scorned the pale deity of New England Unitarianism...They spoke for cultural rejuvenation and against the materialism of American society. They believed in the transcendence of the "Oversoul", an all-pervading power for goodness from which all things come and of which all things are parts.

Ineffability and the unknown

Ineffability and the Unknown

  • Romantics were, then, concerned with an exploration of man and the natural world

  • One element of Romanticism was its exploration of Ineffability.

  • Ineffability is concerned with ideas that cannot or should not be expressed in spoken words . This property is commonly associated with philosophy, aspects of existence, and similar concepts that are inherently "too great", complex, or abstract to be adequately communicated; The inexplicable

  • Romanticism was concerned with this idea that it was only through the senses and feeling that we came close to an understanding of the unknown– a concept at odds with the rationale of Enlightenment.

From the direction of home, behind the red flashes of lightning

There come clouds,

But Father and Mother are long dead;

No one there knows me anymore.

How soon, ah, how soon will that quiet time come,

When I too shall rest,

And over me the beautiful forest's loneliness shall rustle,

And no one here shall know me anymore.


ArtIn visual art and literature, Romanticism found recurrent themes in the heroic isolation of the artist or narrator, and respect for a new, wilder, and "pure" nature

Nature was envisioned as both destructive and humbling as well as evocative and haunting

Nature was envisioned as both destructive and humbling as well as evocative and haunting.


Thomas Cole's paintings feature strong narratives as in The Voyage of Life series painted in the early 1840s that depict man trying to survive amidst an awesome and immense nature, from the cradle to the grave.


In Xanadu did Kubla KhanA stately pleasure-dome decree:Where Alph, the sacred river, ranThrough caverns measureless to manDown to a sunless sea.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slantedDown the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!A savage place! as holy and enchantedAs e'er beneath a waning moon was hauntedBy woman wailing for her demon-lover!And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,

A mighty fountain momently was forced:Amid whose swift half-intermitted burstHuge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and everIt flung up momently the sacred river.Five miles meandering with a mazy motionThrough wood and dale the sacred river ran,Then reached the caverns measureless to man,And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from farAncestral voices prophesying war!

PoetryRomantic poets found voice in powerful and evocative imagination that embraced the exotic and the unknownKubla Khan – Samuel Coleridge


The Romantic composers of the 19thC represent the Golden Age of classical music, famous for such men as Beethoven, Wagner and Tchaikovsky.

The Romantic movement gave rise to music with rich emotional expression that explored conflict, trauma, passion, freedom, liberty and transcendence.

An expression and exploration of the spirit of both the individual and mankind as a whole to suffer, struggle, endure, strive and triumph.

Deep, passionate and sometimes introspective exploration glorification of man and the natural world.

What mood, words or concepts might we attach to the following excerpts taken from Romantic period? Beethoven 5 Beeth. Beethoven Tchaikovsky Piano Brahms 2 Bruch Tchai vio lElgar


Gothic fiction

Gothic fiction

  • Gothic fiction is regarded as a part of the greater Romantic movement.

  • The darker aspects of the Romantic experience, the isolation, shadows and death, touch upon the gothic experience

  • The Romantic’s emphasis on fancy and imagination is closely linked to Gothic Literature’s fascination with mystery, even the grotesque, in which the imagination is stretched to its limits with bizarre characters and events.

  • Frankenstein is product and representation of these cultural forces.

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