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American Romanticism. 1800-1855. Celebrating the Individual.

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celebrating the individual
Celebrating the Individual
  • Patriotic and individualistic, urban and untamed, wealthy and enslaved---Americans in the first half of the 19th century embodied a host of contradictions. Struggling to make sense of their complex, inconsistent society, writers of the period turned inward for a sense of truth. Their movement, known as romanticism, explored the glories of the individual spirit, the beauty of nature, and the possibilities of the imagination.
romanticism historical context
Romanticism: Historical Context
  • The Spirit of Exploration
    • Westward Expansion
      • Louisiana doubled the country’s size
      • Westward exploration further and further west
        • Displacement of the Native Americans
    • Manifest Destiny
      • It was the destiny of the United States to expand to the Pacific Ocean and into Mexican territory
      • Mexico disagreed: Mexican-American War
historical context cont
Historical Context cont…
  • Growth of Industry
    • An enormous shift in the attitudes and working habits of many Americans
    • War of 1812 forced Americans to make items previously imported
    • Industrial Revolution
      • Changed country from agrarian economy to industrial powerhouse
      • Changed way of life for many Americans, but not necessarily for the better
        • Textile mills- long hours; poor wages
cultural influences
Cultural Influences
  • The Tragedy of Slavery
    • 1793-1860 cotton production rose greatly
      • Cotton gin and farming equipment
    • Growth in slavery
      • Brutal living conditions
      • Tension between the North and South over issue
  • Call for Social Reform
    • American joined together in mid-19th century to fight slavery
      • Abolitionist movement
      • William Cullen Bryant and James Russell Lowell prominent abolitionists
ideas of the age
Ideas of the Age
  • Nationalism vs. Sectionalism
    • Nationalism: the belief that national interests should be placed ahead of regional concerns
      • National pride and optimism of Americans
      • Our own writers with a distinctly American “accent”
      • Issue of slavery brought about a rift in Nationalism
      • South relied on North for manufactured goods; made the North rich at the South’s expense
ideas continued
Ideas continued…
  • Sectionalism: placing the interest of one’s own region ahead of the nation as a whole
    • Took hold in the South
    • Reaction to the North’s growing wealth and influence
romantic literature
Romantic Literature
  • The Early Romantics
    • Romanticism emerged from Europe in the late 18th Century
    • Romantics look to nature for inspiration
    • Romantics celebrate emotions and the imagination
    • Writers in America reacting to the strict doctrines of the Puritans
      • Attempted to capture the energy and character of growing nation
      • Celebrated the glories of the individual spirit, the emotions, imagination basic to human nature
early romantics
Early Romantics
  • William Cullen Bryant
    • “Thanatopsis” established romanticism as a force in mid-19th Century literature
    • Celebrated nature
  • Washington Irving
    • Pioneered the short story as a literary form
    • Put America on the “literary map”
    • Influenced Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • James Fenimore Cooper
    • Wrote the first truly original American novel
    • The Last of the Mohicans
the fireside poets
The Fireside Poets
  • Group of New England Poets whose work was morally uplifting and romantically engaging
    • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
      • Stressed individualism and an appreciation of nature
      • Only American poet recognized with a plaque in the Poets’ corner of Westminster Abbey
    • James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes and John Greenleaf Whittier
      • Committed to social reform
      • Championed the common person
  • Beliefs:
    • People, nature and God are interconnected
    • Stress on individualism and self-reliance
    • Intuition can lead to knowledge
    • Faith in the inherent goodness of people
    • Celebration of emotions and the imagination
the transcendentalists
The Transcendentalists
  • A philosophical and literary movement that emphasized living a simple life and celebrating truth found in nature and in personal emotion and imagination.
    • Stressed: optimism, freedom, and self-reliance
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
    • The individual is capable of discovering a higher truth on his or her own, through intuition
    • People are inherently good and should follow their own truths
transcendentalists cont
Transcendentalists cont…
  • Henry David Thoreau
    • Major target the Puritan heritage
    • Stressed spiritual well-being
      • Achieved through intellectual activity and a close relationship with nature
      • He lived in the woods by Walden Pond for two years writing and studying nature.
american gothic the brooding romantics
American Gothic: The “Brooding” Romantics
  • Anti-transcendentalists
    • Edgar Allan Poe
    • Nathaniel Hawthorne
    • Herman Melville
      • Philosophy filled with dark currents and a deep awareness of human capacity for evil.
      • Probe the inner life of their characters
      • Are romantic in their emphasis on emotion, nature, the individual, and the unusual.