Romanticism and Mary Shelley

The Spirit of the Age (1790-1850)
 A sense of a shared vision among the
 Early support of the French Revolution.
 Rise of the individual  alienation.
 Dehumanization brought by industrialization.
 Radical poetics / politics  an obsession
with violent change.
A Growing Distrust of Reason
Society is good, curbing
violent impulses!
Civilization corrupts!
 The essence of human experience is subjective
and emotional.
 Human knowledge is a puny thing compared to
other great historical forces.
 “Individual rights” are dangerous efforts at
selfishness  the community is more important.
The Romantic Movement
 Began in the 1790s and peaked in the 1820s.
 Mostly in Northern Europe, especially in Britain
and Germany.
 A reaction against classicism.
 The “Romantic Hero:”
 Greatest example was Lord
 Tremendously popular among
the European reading public.
 Youth imitated his haughtiness
and rebelliousness.
Characteristics of Romanticism
The Engaged & Enraged Artist:
 The artist apart from society.
 The artist as social critic/revolutionary.
 The artist as genius.
Above the Sea
of Fog
Caspar David
Lady Macbeth - Henry Fuseli, 1794
Characteristics of Romanticism
The Individual/ The Dreamer:
Individuals have unique, endless potential.
Self-realization comes through art
Artists are the true philosophers.
To deal with the harsh realities of life, Romantics
sought solitude in nature
Key to emotional healing could be found in nature
Nature imagery is the most predominant feature of
Romantic literature
The Dreamer
Gaspar David Friedrich, 1835
Solitary Tree
Caspar David Friedrich, 1823
Characteristics of Romanticism
Glorification of Nature:
 Peaceful, restorative qualities [an
escape from industrialization and
the dehumanization it creates].
 Awesome, powerful, horrifying
aspects of nature.
 Indifferent to the fate of humans.
 Overwhelming power of nature.
An Avalanche in the Alps
Philip James de Loutherbourg, 1803
Sunset After a Storm On the Coast of
Sicily – Andreas Achenbach, 1853
The Deluge
Francis Danby, 1840
The Wreck of the Hope (aka The Sea of Ice)
Caspar David Friedrich, 1821
Shipwreck – Joseph Turner, 1805
Victor Frankenstein’s Science
 Victor is a student of “natural philosophy”
 Study of nature and the desire to know how
nature functions – quest for knowledge was
more philosophical than scientific
 Victor influenced by:
 Cornelius Agrippa
- Renaissance philosopher and scientist
- Work reflects strong interest in the occult and ancient,
mystical “sciences” of the near East
- Writings blend European interpretations of
Plato’s philosophy with Jewish Kabalistic beliefs
- Agrippa’s ideas were later discredited by the
processes of observation and experimentation
Victor Frankenstein’s Science
 Paracelsus
- Renaissance philosopher and scientist
- Introduced new concept of disease and the use of
chemicals rather than herbs to treat diseases
- Asserted that diseases were caused by external
agents attacking the body
- Contrary to traditional idea of disease as an internal
upset of the body’s humors: yellow and black bile,
blood, and phlegm
- To cure the disease, attack external agent
- Alchemy became the means by which the chemical remedies
were prepared
- Paracelsus changed the emphasis of the alchemy from chasing
the mythological “Elixir of Life: or “Philosopher’s Stone” to
making medicines
Isaac Newton – William Blake, 1795
Dr. Frankenstein’s Adam & Eve??
The Industrial Age
 Flanked the Romantic Age
 1750-1850
 England moved from an agriculture to an industrial
 Home manufacturing to factory production
 Made England prosperous and powerful
The Industrial Age
Exploitation of workers
Deplorable living conditions
Towns became cities
Villagers, forced by economic necessity, sought work in growing
Huddled together in filthy slums
Men, women, and children labored from sunrise to sunset
All children able to pull a cart in the suffocating coal mines or to
sweep a floor in the textile factories worked
Poor children had essentially no religious training, medical care,
or education
The Slave Ship
Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1842
Flatford Mill – John Constable, 1817
The Corn
John Constable,
The Hay Wain - John Constable, 1821
Characteristics of Romanticism
In Art, Revival of Past Styles:
 Gothic & Romanesque revival.
 “Neo-Gothic” architectural style.
 Medieval ruins were a favorite
theme for art and poetry.
Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Ground
John Constable, 1825
Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows
John Constable, 1831
Hadleigh Castle - John Constable, 1829
Eldena Ruin
Gaspar David Friedrich, 1825
Winter Landscape with Church
Gaspar David Friedrich, 1811
British Houses of Parliament
Cloister Cemetery in the Snow
Caspar David Friedrich, 1817-1819
Pity - William Blake, 1795
Characteristics of Romanticism
and the Gothic
The Supernatural:
 Ghosts, fairies, witches, demons.
 The shadows of the mind—dreams &
 The romantics rejected materialism
in pursuit of spiritual self-awareness.
 They yearned for the unknown and
the unknowable.
Nightmare (The Incubus)
Henry Fuseli, 1781
Mad Woman
With a
of Envy
Abbey in an Oak Forest
Caspar David Friedrich, 1809-1810
The Great Red
Dragon and the
Woman Clothed
with the Sun
William Blake,
Manfred and the Witch of the Alps
John Martin - 1837
Francisco Goya,
Saturn Devours
His Son
Francisco Goya,
Gothic Novels
Offshoot of Romantic Literature
 Predecessor of modern horror movies
 Spin of Romantic idea of nature worship
and nature imagery:
 Along with the power of healing,
nature has the power of destroying
 Indication of mood through weather:
Stormy weather = Bad things are about
to happen!
The Raft of the Medusa
Théodore Géricault, 1819
 Born Mary Wollstoncraft in 1797
 Born to William Godwin and Mary Wollstoncraft – both
very prominent and liberal writers
 Mother wrote Vindication on the rights of Woman
 Mary spent her teens in Scotland writing
 Returned to London at 16
 Met, fell in love with, became pregnant by poet Percy
Bysshe Shelley
 Married after Shelley’s estranged wife committed suicide
 Lost all three of their children
 In 1822, Percy drowned in the Gulf of Spezia in Italy
 At the age of 24, Mary was an impoverished widow
 Frankenstein published in 1818 when Mary was 20
years old
 Considered to be a huge Feminist feat
The Great Age of the Novel
Gothic Novel:
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (1847)
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (1847)
Historical Novel:
Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott (1819)
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (1862)
The Three Musketeers – Alexander Dumas
The Great Age of the Novel
 Science Fiction Novel:
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley (1817)
Dracula – Bramm Stoker (1897)
 Novel of Purpose:
Hugh Trevar - Thomas Holcroft (1794)
Other Romantic Writers
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- Faust (1806-1832)
The Major Romantic Poets
Percy Byssche Shelley
Lord Byron (George Gordon)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
William Wordsworth
John Keats
William Blake
(Lord Byron)
of Chillon
The Rime
of the
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