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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


Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism

  • 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.