Introduction to American Romanticism (2)

A Movement Across the Arts
Romanticism refers to a movement in art,
literature and music during the 19th century
(1800 – 1860)
American Romanticism was a reaction to the
Classicism of the late 18th century
Classicism was characterized as:
Upholding REASON over nature and human nature
Emphasizing Social over the personal
The Common over the Individual
In literature, Classicists valued Clarity, Order and
Classicism rested firmly on the belief that the
city and urban center was the place to find
success and self-fulfillment
By the early 1800’s, early American cities were
festering with social problems:
At this time in American History, exciting things
were occurring outside of these urban centers:
The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and the
subsequent Gold Rush prompted Westward
Expansion and the idea of ‘Manifest Destiny’
America needed a new identity and a new spirit
We will walk with our own feet
we will work with our own hands
 we will speak our own minds
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
. . . Was born out of three main events:
1. Westward expansion
2. The need for a new ‘American’
identity that set it apart from the British
3. The demise of the urban center
 Intuition
 Idealism
 Inspiration
 Individuality
Imagination was emphasized
over “reason.”
This was a backlash against the
rationalism characterized by the
classical period or “Age of
Imagination was considered
necessary for creating all art.
Romantics placed value on
“intuition,” or feeling and
instincts, over reason.
Emotions were important in
Romantic art.
Idealism is the concept that we can make
the world a better place.
Idealism refers to any theory that
emphasizes the spirit, the mind, or
language over matter – thought has a
crucial role in making the world the way it
Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher,
held that the mind forces the world we
perceive to take the shape of space-andtime.
The Romantic artist, musician, or
writer, is an “inspired creator”
rather than a “technical master.”
 What this means is “going with
the moment” or being
spontaneous, rather than “getting
it precise.”
Romantics celebrated the individual.
During this time period, Women’s
Rights and Abolitionism were taking
root as major movements.
Walt Whitman, a later Romantic
writer, would write a poem entitled
“Song of Myself”: it begins, “I
celebrate myself…”
Classical art was rigid, severe, and
unemotional; it hearkened back to
ancient Greece and Rome
Romantic art was emotional, deeplyfelt, individualistic, and exotic. It has
been described as a reaction to
classicism, or “anti-Classicism.”
Classical Art
Romantic Art
“Classical” musicians included
composers like Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart and Franz Josef Haydn.
Classical music emphasized internal
order and balance.
Romantic musicians included
composers like Frederic Chopin,
Franz Lizst, Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Romantic music emphasized
expression of feelings.
In America, Romanticism most strongly
impacted literature.
Writers explored supernatural and gothic
Romantic authors distrusted progress, and
often looked to the past for inspiration
Writers also wrote about Nature – Nature
was a source of inspiration and a reflection
of the inner world
Washington Irving was an early Romantic
 Irving explored mythology
and nature in his writings as a way to
examine the human condition and moral
 As you read “The Devil and Tom Walker”
ask yourself what makes this short story
a representation of Romantic Literature