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Romanticism. 1785-1830 (English) 1830-1865 (American). Classicism (8 th century BCE-fall of Rome 5 th century: Plato, Homer, etc.) Medievalism (“middle ages” 5 th century-15 th century: Dante, Chaucer) Renaissance (“Elizabethan” 15 th -mid17 th century: Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth)

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1785-1830 (English)

1830-1865 (American)

Movements periods of art architecture music literature philosophy

Classicism (8th century BCE-fall of Rome 5th century: Plato, Homer, etc.)

Medievalism (“middle ages” 5th century-15th century: Dante, Chaucer)

Renaissance (“Elizabethan” 15th-mid17th century: Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth)

Neo-Classicism (“Enlightenment” mid-17th-1830: Voltaire, Pope, Hobbes)

Romanticism (1785-1830: Wordsworth, Emerson, Poe)

Victorianism (1830-1901: Queen Victoria, Tennyson, Brownings)

Realism/Naturalism (1860-1914: Flaubert, London, Sinclair)

Social Realism

Magical Realism

Psychological Realism

Modernism (1914-1945: Yeats, Lawrence, Faulkner, Pound, Eliot)

Post-Modernism (1945-1990?: Derrida, Baudrillard, Foucault)

Post-Post-Modernism (1990-? Crash, Magnolia)

Movements/Periods of Art, Architecture, Music, Literature, Philosophy,

What is a literary period
What is a “literary period?”

  • A way of categorizing/organizing art, literature, and ideas—a label.

  • Kind of like a “frame” placed around a group of ideas and works and that seem to directly shape and reflect the particular circumstances of a time period.

  • Assumes every age has its characteristic features (political, architectural, philosophical, aesthetic, cultural, economic, social, sexual, moral, etc.) which are reflected in representative artifacts or creations.

  • Assumes also that understanding the special features of the time enhances/clarifies/completes one’s understanding of the artifacts (and that an understanding of the artifacts enhances/clarifies/completes one’s understanding of the time).

Think classic rock
Think “classic rock”

  • When was it? Who created it? When did it become “classic?”

  • Features?

  • Did it shape and reflect the political, cultural, philosophical, economic ideas of the time? What must one understand about the times to fully appreciate “classic rock?”

  • No strict conformity; diversity (Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd are all in the “classic” canon), but a distinctness, nonetheless.

  • Think, too, about changes in the artists. “Come Together” is “classic.” Is “8 Days a Week?”

  • Is Van Halen “classic?”

  • Is “classic rock” over?

A period movement is

Less like a precise yardstick that cleanly delineates the distinct beginning and end of an era

And more like a wave on a beach that gathers up the receding wave that came before and mixes it all together.

A Period/Movement is…

Romanticism what came before

Neo-Classicism and the “Age of Enlightenment” distinct beginning and end of an era

Galileo (Italy) and Kepler (Germany): Heliocentrism

Isaac Newton (England): Laws of motion and gravity.

Francis Bacon (England): Knowledge emanates not from Church or books, but from observation and generalization (empiricism).

Rene Descartes (France): the only thing we really know is that we think (“I think; therefore, I am”); therefore, reason (not faith) is the building block for knowledge.

Reason and logic good; emotion and “enthusiasm” bad.

The universe is orderly, precise, and predictable; society should be, too.

Romanticism: What Came Before


  • Think distinct beginning and end of an eraPleasantville.

  • High valuing of rule, law, and order. Society much more important than the individual.

  • Art is rule oriented. Appropriate forms=success; inappropriate forms=malfunction (i.e. “classic forms” like the epic and the 5 act play are good)

  • Literature creates order by promoting human community through collectively-endorsed realities.

The next wave the spirit of the age
The next wave: “The Spirit of the Age” distinct beginning and end of an era

  • Renovation, rebellion, and revolution.

  • American Revolution (1775)

  • French Revolution (1789)

While fighting the american colonists
While fighting the American colonists… distinct beginning and end of an era

  • Social Shakeup: England moving from agricultural to industrial society (people gather by the factory whistle instead of the church bell).

  • Economic Shakeup: Workers coming out of the country and into the city—but please, don’t let them organize or even meet in public. They might demand to be paid fairly. (“Combination Laws”).

  • Ideological Shakeup: And whatever you do, don’t let them publish them new-fangled pamphlet things with all kinds of revolutionary talk and criticism of the ruling class—that’s officially treason.

  • But it’s hard to stop a moving train: Tom Paine (of Common Sense fame) publishes The Rights of Man, flees to France (found guilty of treason in absence), but jury acquits “Radicals” on trial for treason in 1797.

Meanwhile in france
Meanwhile, in France distinct beginning and end of an era

  • “The people” literally and bloodily take over (storming of the Bastille in 1793).

  • A brilliant military tactician from somewhat humble roots named Napoleon leaves his military exploits in Egypt and is crowned emperor of France.

What were they thinking
What were they thinking? distinct beginning and end of an era

  • Some (Percy Shelley and William Hazlitt) thought the citizenry, not God and not rulers, is the moving force of history.

  • This is humanity’s chance to “start history over.”

  • Others (like Blake) thought transformation/rebirth depended not on collective political action but on a revolution in/of the human consciousness—a casting off of the “mind-forg’d manacles” of imprisoning orthodoxies, traditions, an hierarchies.

  • Whichever, freedom reigns. The poetic/artistic/social forms of the recent past are oppressive, class-based forms designed to minimize the importance of the individual.

So what s new
So, what’s new? distinct beginning and end of an era

  • People are inherently good; society corrupts them (contrast with the belief that an ordered society produces good people).

    Children, the “uncultivated,” and

    “primitive” people are especially

    interesting because they are relatively

    “unspoiled” by society’s influence.

  • The individual and his/her “subjective” experience is far more valuable than the group and its shared “objective” facts.


Emotions and impulses are the most “natural” of human manifestations and since that which is human is good, emotions are really good. Poetry becomes “the spontaneous overflow of emotion recollected in tranquility” (Wordsworth).

In fact, an individual can be uplifted morally and spiritually by cultivating a greater sensitivity to feeling (e.g. empathy could be a seed for social change).

Reason…not so good. “Deep thinking is attainable only by a man of deep feeling.” (Coleridge)

Mysticism, dreams/nightmares, the supernatural, and psychological extremes, instead (Confessions of an Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey). The addition of “strangeness to beauty.”


  • Nature, as the antithesis of civilization, is also good. Nature rambles allow for quiet meditation, perfect opportunity to “find oneself.”

  • The “common man” and his speech are cool. Glorification of the ordinary and humble.

  • Heroism becomes the individual pursuit of the unattainable: “Less than everything cannot satisfy man.” (Blake). The “desire of the moth for a star.” (Shelley)