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ROMANTICISM. The term Romanticism derives from the French word romance which referred to the vernacular languages derived from Latin and to the works written in those languages .
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ROMANTICISM • The termRomanticismderivesfrom the French word romance whichreferredto the vernacularlanguagesderivedfrom Latin and to the workswritten in thoselanguages. • Also in England , in the Middle ages, therewerecyclesof “romances” dealingwith the adventuresofknights and containingsupernaturalelements. • Throughout the 18th century “romantic” wasusedtodescribe the picturesque in the landscape. Gradually the termcametobeappliedtothe feeling the landscapecreated in the observer, and generallytothe evocationofsubjective and incommunicableemotions.
THE ROMANTIC AGE THE AGE OF REVOLUTIONS The period from the declaration of American Independence (1776) to 1830 was marked by great revolutions: The Industrial Revolution reshaped the social and political background of Britain in fact the British colonies on the other side of the Atlantic became a new and free nation; steamenginesincreased production, steamlocomotion on the railwaysdistributed the coal and iron, steamresulted in the changeof location ofindustry. The Industrial Revolutionresulted in the rise of a middle-class business interest. They wanted more politicalpower in ordertoinfluenceeconomic policy towards free trade and against the protectionofoldindustrieslikeagriculture. The FrenchRevolutionspread itsideasoffreedom and equalityalloverEurope. English liberalsapprovedof the attack on the Catholicabsolutemonarchy. However, as a resultof the Terror supportof the FrenchRevolution, manyformerradicalsbecame conservative.
A NEW SENSIBILITY • At the end of the 18th century a newsensibilitybecamedominantwhichcametobeknown in literatureas “Romanticism”and presenteditselfas a reactionagainst the faith in reasonthathadcharacterised the previousage, promotinginstead the supremacyoffeelings and emotions. • Therewas a great interest in humble and everyday life and in the countryas a placewhere man’s relationshipwith nature wasstillintact , asopposedto the industrial town. • A new taste for the desolate , the love ofruins, suchasancientcastles and abbeyscame out tocontrast the present reality. A new interest in the populartraditionsof the Middle Ageswasrevealed in the so-called “Gothic Vogue”, thatis the interest in whatwas wild, irrational, supernatural , horrific.
A NEW CONCEPT OF NATURE • Naturewas no longerseenas a philosophical idea, somethingwhich man couldrulebyreason; slowlyitcametobefeltas a real living beingtobedescribedasitactuallywas. • Nature wasconsideredas a living force, as the expressionofGod in the universe. Itwas the main source ofinspiration, a stimulustothought, a source of comfort and joy.
IMAGINATION AND CHILDHOOD • Imaginationgained a key roleas a meansofgivingexpressiontoemotionalexperiencenotstrictlyaccountabletoreason. • The willingnesstoexplorelessconsciousaspectsof feeling wasaccompaniedby a seriousconcernabout the experienceofchildhood. • In a romantic mind a childwaspurererthangrown-up people becausehewasunspoiltbycivilisation. HisuncorruptedsensitivenessbroughthimclosertoGodand the sourcesofcreation, thereforechildhoodwasadmired and cultivated.
THE INDIVIDUAL • Great emphasiswasplaced on the significanceof the individual. The Augustanshadseen man as a social animal, in hisrelationshipwithhisfellows. The Romanticssaw the individualessentially in the solitary state; theyexalted the atypical, the outcast, the rebel. • Thisattitude led ,on the onehand, to the cult of the hero-the rebel in Coleridge, the Byronichero, and on the otherhandto the viewofsociety asanevilforce. • The currentofthoughtrepresentedby Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) encouraged the notionthatthe conventionsofcivilisationrepresentedintolerablerestrictionson the individualpersonality and producedeverykindofcorruption and evil. Consequentlynaturalbehaviour, unrestrained and impulsive, isgood, in contrasttobehaviourwhichisgovernedbyreason, and by the rules and customsof society.
THE CULT OF THE EXOTIC • Rousseau’s theoriesalsoinfluenced the “cult of the exotic”, thatwhichis far awayboth in space and in time. The remote and the unfamiliar in custom and social outlookwaswelcomed. • The remotestpartsofEurope and the Far East had the appeal ofbeingstrange and unpredictable; danger and disaster, adventure and the inexplicablebecamesymbolsforothermodesofhumanexperience. • The “noblesavage” conceptisspecifically a Romanticone: the savagemayappear primitive, butactuallyhehasaninstinctiveknowledgeofhimself and of the world oftensuperiortothatwhichhasbeenacquiredbycivilised man.
THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT • Romanticism in Europedeveloped in differentways and timesaccordingto the cultural, social and politicalsituationsofeachcountry. • In Germany, anticipatedby the Sturm und Drang movementof the 1770s, the romanticideasofSchlegelappeared on the pagesof the review “DasAthenaum” in 1798; • In England, “The LyricalBallads” ( 1800)by William Wordsworth and S. T. Coleridgewerepublished. Thesecontained a PrefacebyWordsworthwhichisconsidered the Manifesto of English RomanticPoetry. • “De l’Allemagne“ (1810) byMme De Stael, spread the romanticprinciples in France , and the • “Lettera Semiseria” (1816) by Giovanni Berchetmarked the officialbeginningof the Romanticmovement in Italy.
IMAGINATION • English Romanticismsaw the prevalenceofpoetry, which best suited the needtogiveexpressiontoemotionalexperience and individualfeelings. • Imaginationgained a primaryrole in the processofpoeticcomposition. The eyeof the imaginationallowed the Romanticpoetstoseebeyondsurface reality and apprehend a truthbeyond the powersofreason. Imaginationallowed the poettore-create and modify the external world ofexperience. • The poetwasseenas a “visionaryprophet” or a “teacher” whose task wasto mediate between man and nature, topoint out the evilsof society, togive voice to the idealsof beauty, truth and freedom.
POETIC TECHNIQUE • Breakingfree frommodels and rules, the Romanticpoetssearchedfor a new, individual style through the choiceof a language and subjectsuitabletopoetry. • More vivid and familiarwordsbegantoreplace the artificialcircumlocutionsof 18th centurydiction; syntaxmadelessconcessionsto the demandsofrhyme and metre ; symbols and imageslosttheir decorative functionto assume a vitalroleas the outer, visiblevehiclesof the innervisionaryperceptions. • As forverseform, therewas a returntopastformssuchas the ballad, the Italian terza rima and ottava rima, the sonnet and blankverse
WILLIAM BLAKE • He was born in London in 1757. Trained as an engraver he practised this craft until his death. A political freethinker, he supported the French Revolution. He witnessed the evil effects of industrial development on man’s soul and for him the role of the artist was to be the guardian of the spirit and imagination. • The most important literary influence in his life was the Bible, because it presented a total vision of the world and its history. He is considered the forerunner of the Romantic Movement because he rejected neoclassical literary style and themes.
TWO GENERATIONS OF POETS • The great English Romantic Poets are usually grouped into two generations: • The first generation, often called “The Lake poets”, included W. Wordsworth and S.T. Coleridge. They were characterised by the attempt to theorise about poetry. Wordsworth would write on the beauty of nature and ordinary things with the aim of making them interesting for the reader; Coleridge instead, should deal with visionary topics, the supernatural, and mystery; • The second generation were George Gordon Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. They all died very young and away from home, in Mediterranean countries. They experienced political disillusionment which is reflected , in their poetry, in the clash between the ideal and the real. Poetry was no longer regarded as an imitation of life, but coincided with the desire to challenge the cosmos, nature, political and social order. Individualism as well as the alienation of the artist from society, were stronger in this generation and found expression in the different attitudes of the three poets: the anti-conformist, rebellious and cynical attitude of the Byronic Hero,; the revolutionary spirit and stubborn hope of Shelley’s Prometheus and, finally, Keats’s escape into the world of classical beauty