Part III The Literature of Romanticism Historical Introduction Romanticism Transcendentalism
Historical Introduction • I. History of the Age • II. Literary Characteristics • 1. Romanticism • 2. Transcendentalism
I. History of the Age • 1. Growth of population • 7 million in 1800 → 31 million at the beginning of the Civil War • 2. Westward expansion and rise of the West • American pioneers had pushed the frontier line of settlement beyond the Mississippi to the Great Plaines, and the nation’s center of population had shifted westward from the eastern seaboard, across the Appalachians, Ohio. • The West had risen as a sectional power to challenge the political dominance of the East and the South. In 1828 the election of the frontier hero Andrew Jackson had brought en effect end to the “Virginia Dynasty” of American presidents.
I. History of the Age • 3. Development of democracy • By the 1840s the age of the Common Man had arrived. Voting restrictions were ceased. The Jeffersonian concept of a natural aristocracy had been replaced by the egalitarian belief that all white men were literally equal, and most were capable of political leadership.
I. History of the Age • 4. Industrialization and urbanization • Before 1860 the United States had begun to change into an industrial and urban society. With the industrial revolution came the invention of various machines and application of technology. The numbers of “millionaires” multiplied, as did the number of paupers. In the first half of the 19th century the proportion of Americans who labored on farms declined as increasing numbers left the land to work in urban businesses and factories. New York became America’s largest city, supplanting Boston and Philadelphia as the economic and cultural capital of the nation.
I. History of the Age • 5. Social reforms • -- Through the first half of the century the pursuit of simplicity, utility, and perfection remained an American characteristic. • -- Utopian communal societies flourished; • -- Transcendentalists and various sections of Christianity all offered converts (皈依者) a new path to God. Churches embarked on temperance ( 戒酒, 禁酒). • -- The Society for the Prevention of Pauperism and the American Anti-Slavery Society were established respectively in 1817 and 1883.
I. History of the Age • -- Cruel punishment for criminals and imprisonment for debt were abolished. • -- The feminist movement blazed forth with a host of notable women battling for their rights and for social reform. In 1837 the first college-level institution for women, Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, opened in Massachusetts.
I. History of the Age • 6. Development of education and culture • -- Compulsory education • By the 1850s the level of education and literacy had risen significantly. State legislatures had started to enact compulsory school attendance laws. • -- Magazines • More Americans started to read books, magazines and newspapers. By mid-century magazines were paying contributors for their works, a swarm of professional “magazinists” appeared, “quill drivers” and “inkslingers (耍笔杆子的, 职业作家)”, male and female, who strove to earn a living with a pen.
I. History of the Age • -- Literature • In the years preceding the Civil War relatively few volumes of imaginative literature were published in the United States. Fiction was a prime component of ladies’ magazines. Novels were increasingly popular, especially historical romances written by Europeans, most notably by “the monarch and master of modern fiction,” Sir Walter Scott. But as the century progressed, native American writers won increasing national and international fame. • Washington Irving, James Fennimore Cooper, William Cullen Bryant, Poe, Melville, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Emerson, • Whitman…
II. Literary Characteristics • 1. Romanticism • The attitudes of America’s writers were shaped by their New World environment and an array of ideas inherited from the romantic traditions of Europe. A new romanticism had appeared in England in the last years of the 18th century. It spread to continental Europe and then came to America early in the 19th century.
II. Literary Characteristics • Romanticism was a rebellion against the objectivity of rationalism. For romantics, the feelings, intuitions and emotions were more important than reason and common sense. They stressed the close relationship between man and nature, emphasized individualism and affirmed the inner life of the self. They cherished strong interest in the past, especially the medieval and were attracted by the wild, the irregular, the indefinite, the remote, the mysterious, and the strange.
II. Literary Characteristics • Romantics frequently shared certain general characteristics: moral enthusiasm, faith in the value of individualism and intuitive perception, and a presumption that the natural world was a source of goodness and man’s societies a source of corruption.
II. Literary Characteristics • American writers shared some common features with the English Romanticists. In most of the American writings in the period there was a new emphasis upon the imaginative and emotional qua1ities of literature. They also placed an increasing emphasis on the free expression of emotions and displayed an increasing attention to the psychic states of their character. The strong tendency to exalt the individual and the common man was almost a national religion in America.
II. Literary Characteristics • Although foreign influences were strong, American romanticism exhibited from the very outset distinct features of its own. They revealed unique characteristics of their own in their works and they grow on the native lands. They celebrated America's landscape with its virgin forests, meadows, endless prairies, streams, and vast oceans. The American Puritanism as a cultural heritage exerted great influences over American moral values.
II. Literary Characteristics • Different from their European counterparts, American romantics tended more to moralize rather than to entertain. Early American romanticism was best represented by William Cullen Bryant and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in poetry and James Fennimore Cooper and Washington Irving in fiction. • Romantic values were prominent in American politics, art, and philosophy until the Civil War. (See Textbook P.55)
II. Literary Characteristics • 2. Transcendentalism (超验主义) • Definition • Transcendentalism was intimately connected with Concord, a small New England village 32 kilometers west of Boston.Concord was the first inland settlement of the original Massachusetts Bay Colony. Surrounded by forest, it was and remains a peaceful town close enough to Boston's lectures, bookstores, and colleges to be intensely cultivated, but far enough away to be serene. Concord was the site of the first battle of the American Revolution.
II. Literary Characteristics • The phase of New England Transcendentalism is the summit of American Romanticism. It was, in essence, romanticism on Puritan soil. It was started by a group of people who were members of an informal club, i.e. the Transcendental Club headed by Ralph Waldo Emerson in New England in the 1830s.They expressed their views, published the journal, The Dial (日晷), which Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller edited at different times.
II. Literary Characteristics • Transcendentalism is difficult to define. • It is a philosophical view, a notion, a concept, an idea, a way of looking at things, a set of attitudes about man, God, and the universe, a way of how to get to the basic truth of the universe. • The representative writers of Transcendentalism are Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
II. Literary Characteristics • Transcendentalism has been defined philosophically as "the recognition in man of the capacity of knowing truth intuitively, or of attaining knowledge transcending the reach of the senses". • Other concepts that accompanied Transcendentalism include the idea that nature is ennobling and the idea that the individual is divine and, therefore, self-reliant.
II. Literary Characteristics • Transcendentalism is the view that the basic truth of the universe is beyond the knowledge one obtains from the senses, a knowledge that a transcendentalist regards as the mere appearance of things. In other words, basic truths lie beyond what your eyes and ears tell you, because you can only see and hear the appearance of things, not the truth. Physical truth is deceptive. What you can see is not always true.
II. Literary Characteristics • Basic truth can be reached only through instinct and intuition and are a matter of private experience. To arrive at the truth, man must go beyond or transcend what his eyes and ears tell him or what he can learn from books. He must listen to his inner soul. He must trust in the divinity that is in all men. • A transcendentalist is one who believes in and seeks for a higher, deeper truth than that which is revealed through the senses or by logical analysis. • The belief in the higher truth is the characteristic of all Romantic writers of America.
II. Literary Characteristics • Oversoul (超灵) by Transcendentalism • By oversoul, Emerson means God and he believes God is everywhere. He called oversoul the spiritual reality. He believed man’s individual mind is part of the spiritual reality—divinity is in all people. According to him an individual soul is part of the universal oversoul. So when he teaches people to trust themselves, he means to trust the divinity in them. The relationship between God and man is a private one. The only way to God is through trusting the divinity that is in all people.
II. Literary Characteristics • He said to Harvard Divinity students: “You should throw out all authority. You should follow the divinity of your own mind and soul. You are you own God. You are each divine in your own minds and soul. You should follow what you feel is correct.” • He did not believe in formal religion, but this doesn’t mean he didn’t believe in God. He thought religion should be an emotional communication between an individual soul and the universal soul of which it was a part. That is why he teaches people to believe in themselves.
II. Literary Characteristics • He also believed nature is part of the one spiritual reality. That is to say, the individual and the external world of nature surrounding him are both parts of a single spiritual whole—the oversoul. So man can find the way to God through nature. Man and his world formed a perfect harmony. Nature was the great source of inspiration.
II. Literary Characteristics • Origin and Influence • Transcendentalists took their ideas from the romantic literature of Europe, from neo-Platonism (新柏拉图主义), from German idealistic (唯心论的, 唯心主义的) philosophy, and from the revelations of Oriental mysticism. They spoke for cultural rejuvenation and against the materialism of American society.
Cf. Neo-Platonism • Neo-Platonism • A philosophical system developed at Alexandria in the third century a.d. by Plotinus and his successors. It is based on Platonism with elements of mysticism and some Judaic and Christian concepts and posits a single source from which all existence emanates and with which an individual soul can be mystically united. • 新柏拉图主义由柏罗丁和他的后徒于公元3世纪亚历山大时期发展起来的一种哲学体系。它以柏拉图学说为基础，带有神秘主义色彩和一些犹太和基督概念，假定只有一个本源，万物来源于此，单独的灵魂能由此神秘地与之统一
Cf. transcendentalism 先验论 • A philosophy associated with Kant, holding that one must transcend empiricism or what is experienced in order to ascertain the a priori principles of all knowledge. • 先验论:与康德有关的一种哲学，认为人必须超越经验主义或体验到的东西以探知所有知识的先验原则
II. Literary Characteristics • Transcendentalism was a powerful expression of the intellectual mood of the age, and the ideas it represented have remained a strong influence on great American writers from the days of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walt Whitman to the present.
Supplementary reading • Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 4: American Transcendentalism: A Brief Introduction." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. • http://web.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap4/4intro.html
III. The growth of cultural nationalism • 1. Art • The growth of cultural nationalism aroused American artists to write patriotic songs, to paint vast panorama of American scenes, and to design monumental buildings that would register the grandeur of the American people and their land. • ---music: most American music remained derivative; Francis Scott Key’s “Star –Spangled Banner” • ---painting: the Hudson River School • ---architecture: Gothic buildings
III. The growth of cultural nationalism • 2. Literature • 1) Literature ceased to be primarily didactic, a servant of politics and religion. • Novels, short stories, and poems replaced sermons and manifestoes as America’s principal literary forms. The playhouse was no loner considered to be wholly a source of wickedness, but native playwrights remained few and their works second-rate. American drama was still underdeveloped.
III. The growth of cultural nationalism • 2) Imaginative literature became intense, personal, and symbolic as more writers came to perceive themselves as prophets and seers. Moved by a call for a national literature, writers celebrated America’s meadows, groves, and streams, its endless prairies, dense forests, and vast oceans. The wilderness came to function almost as a dramatic character that illustrated moral law.
III. The growth of cultural nationalism • 3) The desire for an escape from society, and a return to nature became a permanent convention of American literature. e.g. • Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales; Thoreau’s Walden; Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; Ernest Hemingway’s and William Faulkner’s works.
III. The growth of cultural nationalism • 4) Romantic writers displayed increasing attention to the psychic states of their characters. Heroes and heroines exhibited extremes of sensitivity and excitement. The novel of terror or the Gothic novel became the profitable literary staple that it remains today.
III. The growth of cultural nationalism • 5) Nationalism stimulated a greater literary interest in America’s language and its common people. • Noah Webster: An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) • American character types speaking local dialects appeared in poetry and fiction with increasing frequency. Literature began to celebrate American farmers, the poor, the unlettered, children, and noble savages (red and white) untainted by society. • 6) New England literary renaissance (“flowering of New England”) (See Textbook p.59)
Summary • America, from the early 1800s to the Civil War, was a land of paradoxes, a land stirred by spiritual dreams and shaped by the realities of a growing materialism. The age had rejected the ruined promise and stale wisdom it saw in 18th century rationalism. Americans had sought new liberties and new ideas in life and art, but the excesses and conflicts of their society had culminated in (以...而终结, 以...而达到顶峰) a bloody Civil War.