Romanticism The adoration of emotions

Romanticism was a cultural and an intellectual movement that took place approximately between 1800 and 1850. It would mark a clear opposition against the rationalism of The Enlightenment. In contrast to reasons that were central aspects to The Enlightenment, the ideas of Romanticism advocated the emotions.

The Romanticism would have a large impact on literature. Until now, certain rules had existed for styles and genres such as the decorum of how to depict different subjects. In the Romantic movement the literary writers would instead put emphasize on the individual expression as playing the major role of the style. The poems would also more often be read as reflections  of the poets inner life and this would also establish the image of the “creating genius“.

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18th century (1660-1789)

When centuries are used to conclude epochs, they aren't always beginning and end in expected years. The 18th century, from a literature historical perspective, are often involving the period 1660-1789.

The year of 1660 marks the transition from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment whereas 1789 is the year of the French Revolution ad William Blake's Innocence and Experience, which is seen as a pioneer work of the Romantic Era.1

Pre-Romanticism

Sometimes pre-Romanticism is mentioned as an antecedent period of Romanticism and which are dated to the late 18th century.

Among the writers associated with the pre-Romanticism were primarily poets such as Robert Burns, William Blake, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, but also the French writer and thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Rousseau and the first private autobiography

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) embodied the great passions and the belief in the natural man. His legacy is today mostly kinked to cultural history and the great position as a fiction writer that he had in his life time has in a high degree disappeared. His grand Julie, or the New Heloise (Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse, 1761), is till printed in new editions but most readers will find the love story that taking place outmoded and longwinded.

That instead is still a remarkable fresh is Rousseau’s autobiographical Confessions. Confessions is divided in two parts, each consisting of six volumes, and begins in Jean-Jacques younger days when he strives for become a musician. Apart from that the final part of the second part is partly shattered by the writer’s escalated paranoia this is a fascinating story of the human sides of the great thinker which ideas are still slumbering in our time. And the way Rousseau included the beauty of the nature would inspire later writers like the English poet William Wordsworth.

Besides from being great literary this is also considered as one of the first autobiographies written as a book. Moreover, it was the first autobiography in which the writer was focusing on his own experienced and shared private matters in that degree – earlier it has been with a focus on religious experiences.2

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s primitive leaning for the nature would inspire another important precursor to Romanticism, the German Sturm und Drang   movement that had its period mainly in the 1770s. The ideas behind Sturm and Drang (it could be translated into English as Storm and Stress) was to focus on the individuals expressions of strong emotions and in opposition with the French  Neoclassicism.3

Notes

1. Eighteenth-Century English Literature. Charlotte Sussman. 2012, p. 1f.
2. Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessions_(Rousseau)
3. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, p. 246-247

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