40416454-Romanticism-Lectures.pdf - INTRODUCTION TO ROMANTICISM The word romantic(ism has a complex and interesting history In the Middle Ages

40416454-Romanticism-Lectures.pdf - INTRODUCTION TO...

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INTRODUCTION TO ROMANTICISM The word romantic(ism) has a complex and interesting history. In the Middle Ages ‘romance’ denoted the new vernacular languages derived from Latin, and works composed or translated in the vernacular. The term also signified a ‘popular book’. There are early suggestions that it was something new, different, divergent. It then acquired in turn connotations of fanciful, bizarre, exaggerated, chimerical, tender, gentle, sentimental, sad, melancholic. Friedrich Schlegel is generally thought to have first established the term ‘romantic’ in literary contexts, without being very clear as to what he meant by it, and romanticism was in turn defined as a sickness of the spirit and a disorganising irruption of subjectivism (Goethe) and a kind of renaissance, a rediscovery, a wholly beneficial movement, and a much-needed rejection of defunct standards and beliefs which resulted in a creative freedom of mind and spirit. Anything to do with the romantic and romanticism is to a large extent vague and formless, the general idea being that whatever is romantic depicts emotional matter in an imaginative form. Any study of the subject should begin with the recognition of the plurality of Romanticisms, of possibly quite distinct thought complexes, a number of which may appear in any one country. There is a movement which began in Germany in the seventeen-nineties – the only one which has an indisputable right to be called Romanticism, since it invented the term for its own use – and there are other movements that developed in England, France, etc., as well as numerous other things called Romanticism by various writers. The fact that the same name has been given by different scholars to all of these episodes is no evidence that they are identical in essentials. The Romantic period in Britain is usually taken to run between 1798 , the year in which Coleridge and Wordsworth published the first edition of the Lyrical Ballads , and 1832 , when Sir Walter Scott and Goethe died and the Reform Bill was passed. In spite of the multitude of different Romanticisms in European culture and the large number of dates suggested to mark the beginning and ending of the Romantic movement(s), it is important to note how closely the rather volatile limits of this literary ‘period’ coincide with crucial political events. The most significant of these are the outbreak of the Colonists’ rebellion in N. America, their successful defence and their achievement of independence (1775– 1783), and the equally dramatic events in France, culminating in the Fall of the Bastille (July the 14 th 1789). [for the younger generation of Romantic writers the battle of Waterloo was as decisive a landmark as the Bastille had been for Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge.] The loss of the American colonies destroyed many of the old British certainties and the eruption of the French Revolution completed this trauma, to such an extent that at the end of the eighteenth century many Englishmen considered that the world had been turned upside down. It was indeed a period of

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