American Romantics: 1820-1865 A journey away from the corruption of civilization and the limits of rational thought and toward the integrity of nature and the freedom of the imagination. Romanticism A movement in literature that celebrated the individual. The name given to those
schools of thought that value feeling and intuition over reason. Romanticism contd Romanticism, which started in Europe long before it reached the U.S., was a reaction against rationalism. Thus, emotional, intuitive, and sensual elements of artistic, religious, and
intellectual expression were counted in some ways more valid than the products of education and reason. Romanticism, contd Believed imagination was better able to understand truths than the rational mind could.
These truths often accompanied by powerful emotion and associated with natural, unspoiled beauty. Imagination, spontaneity, feelings, and nature were of more importance than logic, planning, and cultivation. Romanticism contd Romanticism embraced nature as a model for harmony in
society and art. The typical romantic journey was to the countryside, which represented independence, moral clarity, and healthful living Romantic escapism Sought to rise above the
dull realities to a realm of higher truths. Achieved this two ways: Romantic escapism, contd 1) Searched for exotic settings in the more natural past or in a world far removed from the grimy and noisy industrial age. 1) 2)
Sometimes did this in the supernatural realm, or with old legends and folklore. Most easily seen in Gothic writings (Poe, for example), with wild, haunted landscapes, supernatural events, and mysterious medieval castles. Romantic escapism, contd 2) Tried to contemplate the natural world until dull reality fell away to reveal underlying beauty and truth.
-- Most commonly seen in lyric poems. A commonplace item leads to important, deeply felt insights -- Rather than leading them to evidence of God, these objects offered a generalized emotional and intellectual awakening. The American Novel Westward expansion, and the ability to explore settings unknown to Europeans allowed the
Romantics to finally break from European models and develop a distinctive literature of their own. James Fennimore Cooper: first and second novels had European settings, but third novel explored uniquely American settings and characters. Created first American hero (Natty Bumppo). American Romantic Hero
Typical hero was youthful, innocent, intuitive, and close to nature. He was also uneasy with women, who represented civilization and the need to domesticate. This influence is still felt in todays literature and movies. Notable Romantic authors
Washington Irving (Rip Van Winkle), James Fennimore Cooper, Herman Melville (Moby Dick), Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter), and Edgar Allan Poe Romantic poetry Unlike Romantic novelists, Romantic poets stayed solidly within European traditions
rather than crafting their own voice. Used American settings, but typically English themes, meter, and imagery For years, the poems were staples of home and school readings. Romantic poetry, contd Fireside poets most popular of their time and for many decades after.
Called fireside poets because their poems were read aloud at the fireside as entertainment Included: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell Romantic poetry, contd Their
subject matterlove, patriotism, nature, family, God, and religionwas mostly comforting rather than challenging. Romantic poets, contd However, some took on social issues (Whittier attacked slavery), and all
furthered the evolution of American poetry by introducing uniquely American subject matter in their topics: American folk themes, descriptions of American landscape, abolition, Native American culture, and celebrations of American people, places and events Notable Romantic Poets Walt Whitman, Emily
Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell FINALLY The Civil War brought the Romantic period to an end.
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