Unit Three:
American Romanticism
A. What was it?
1. An international artistic and philosophical
movement that redefined the fundamental ways
in which people in Western cultures thought
about themselves and about their world.
2. Consumed with the need to find an “American
3. free experimentation over the "rules" of
composition, genre, and correctness
4. they promoted the formation of the artist as
"inspired" creator
5. Turn toward artistic, metaphysical
(abstract thought or subjects as existence
or truth), and intellectual frontiers to
recapture the joy of exploration and
6. Manifest Destiny
a. The belief prevalent in the 19th century that
the United States had the God‐given right to
expand into and possess the whole of the
North American continent
B. New Philosophy vs. Old Philosophy
1. Puritans – God over logic (faith over head)
2. Age of Reason– science/logic over faith
(head over heart)
3. Romanticism ‐ intuition over logic
(instinct/feelings over head) - Humans are
innately good and can better themselves
through their actions
• Truth is more a matter of intuition and
imagination than logic and reason
• all people had access to divine inspiration, and
sought and loved freedom, knowledge, and truth.
C. Imagination
1. The imagination is the supreme faculty of the mind,
not reason
2. Imagination is an active part of the soul – creative
3. We not only perceive the world around us, but also in
part, create it
4. Imagination enables us to "read" nature as a system of
D. Nature
1. Nature as a healing power
“ as a refuge from the artificial
constructs of civilization
“ as "natural," rather than a system of
"mechanical" laws
“ has its own symbolic language
5. Nature is the main subject of Romantics
because Nature tells us about ourselves. It is
where all eternal truths can be found (i.e.-on
nature walks in the wilderness).
Romanticism (summary)
• Romanticism is a movement that flourished in literature
and philosophy, music, and art during the 19th century.
Beginning as a revolt against classicsism. Romanticism
essentially upholds feeling and the imagination over
reason and fact. It attempts to show life as we might
imagination wit to be or think it should be. It favors the
picturesque, the emotional, the exotic, and the
mysterious. One kind of romanticism glorified nature
and upholds the notion that people are good and
perfectable. Another kind investigates the dark side of
the human soul.
I. Philosophy of Romanticism
A. The universe is not static, but dynamic. This dynamism extends to all
facets of the universe and existence.
II. Aspects of Romanticism
A. Social
1. Individuals can develop inner potential to raise higher in society.
B. Domestic
1. Women are perceived as individuals free to develop their potential
C. Psychological
1. Feeling, whim, and intuition are valid guides to behavior.
2. Personality is open and limitless, capable of feeling and achieving
III. The Optimistic Romantics
-William Cullen Bryant, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost.
IV. The Pessimistic Romantics
-Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville
E. Pessimistic Authors
1. Nathaniel Hawthorne
2. Edgar Allan Poe
a) Biographical Background
1) Poe's work is shadowed by the deaths of three
women he loved intensely (besides his wife):
i. His mother (died at age 2)
ii. Jane Stanard (idealized mother of a school
friend), who died insane at age 28 ("To
iii. Frances Allan (his foster mother)
b) Major Phases of Poe's Career
1. 1827-1831
i. Work during this period expresses poetry of life's burdens
and sorrows.
2. 1831-41
i. Poe experienced a radical change; his works involved the
theme of death as a finality in a cosmic void of darkness and
3. 1841-1849:
i. A return to poetry and essays and fiction on theme of
psychic transcendentalism.
c) Types of Works (please put on Vocab sheet)
1. Satiric tales (a novel, play, entertainment, etc., in which topical
issues, folly, or evil are held up to scorn by means of ridicule and
2. Parodies (humorous imitation of a serious piece of literature or
3. Grotesques (tales where one aspect of the character is
heightened for a marked effect)
"The Raven"
• From a spectator's account: Poe wore black, and,
adjusting the atmosphere to suit the mood of his work,
"would turn down the lamps till the room was almost
dark. Standing in the center of the apartment he would
recite those wonderful lines in the most melodious of
voices. So marvelous was his power as a reader that the
auditors would be afraid to draw breath lest the
enchanted spell be broken." Elmira Royster Sheltonsaid,
"When Edgar read 'The Raven,' he became so wildly
excited that he frightened me, and when I remonstrated
with him he replied he could not help it--that it set his
brain on fire."
F. Poetry
1. Poetry is a mediation of life and our
connection to nature
2. It is from our intuition (instinct), not
rational (reasoning) side of thinking
3. According to Romantics, it is the highest
expression of the imagination
G. Mysticism
1. A religious attempt to achieve spiritual
union with God through a purging of
basic instincts and an existence outside
the physical world through intuition and
H. Romantic Hero
1. Romantic Hero follows the importance of
the individual, the unique, and even the
unconventional (unusual).
2. This hero is youthful, innocent, intuitive,
and close both physically and spiritually to
3. Today, we look at these heroes as uneasy
with women because of civilization’s need to
1. Examples in today’s societies? (books? Movies?)
I. Romantic Artist
• Were involved in society only for the
betterment of it (abolitionists, tax
reformers, socialists)
• Otherwise, they avoided society (reclusive)
because being with nature was better
• Also called “individualists”
J. Utopian
• An imaginary perfect world. In the early
Romantic period, the American and
French Revolutions gave political liberals
and radicals great hopes that humanity
was entering a new golden age, in which
monarchies, social class hierarchy, and
economic injustice would be replaced by
democracy and socialist equality
• Individual needs within society
K. Transcendentalism
1. An American Romantic philosophy, flourishing in
New England in the mid‐nineteenth century.
2. It consisted of the following:
Idealist: holding that the natural world was a
symbol of the eternal
b. Pantheist: believing all things that exist are part of a
Supreme Mind or Over‐Soul [the religious belief
that God and the universe are one and the same]
c. Primitivist: pursuing a simplified and frugal lifestyle
[a preference for the simple and the natural over the
civilized and the artificial]
K. Transcendentalism
d. Anti‐establishment: believing in self‐reliance
i. Human beings are basically good (Absolute
ii. Humans can learn through intuition and
nature; what is good can change each day
iii. The transcending, or going beyond practical
experience, and discovering the basic
principles of human knowledge.
Transcendentalism (summary)
1. A movement in nineteenth-century
American literature and thought. It called
on people to view the objects in the world
as small versions of the whole universe
and to trust their individual intuitions.
2. The two most noted American
transcendentalists were Ralph Waldo
Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
a. The spiritual unity of all forms of being with God, Humanity, and
Nature all sharing a universal soul, the Oversoul
b. The innate goodness (divinity!) of Man and Nature
c. The value of individualism
d. The belief that the natural world is symbolic of the spirit world
e. The “Lemon Pie” theory (to know the part is to know the whole)
f. That Society is the source of corruptive, distracting materialism
g. That Man is naturally good, even divine, because of his Divine
h. That Nature is inherently good because it is symbolic of the
spirit (God)
i. That God, the Oversoul, is the universal soul that permeates all
4. Preached
a. Non-violent protesting against governments that
oppress individuals.
b. Drug-free meditation. Drug use keeps us from
hearing our intuition.
c. Transcendentalism as an answer to most social
problems like racism/slavery, sexism, violence,
poverty, etc.
d. Because transcendentalists do what their souls
(made in God’s perfect image) say is right NOT what
society says is right, humans would never allow
atrocities to happen.
5. Popular Transcendentalists of the Era:
a. Ralph Waldo Emerson
b. Henry David Thoreau
6. Modern Transcendentalists:
a. Martin Luther King Jr.
b. Mahatma Gandhi
c. Mother Theresa
7. Anti- Transcendentalists believed:
a. Humans need external structure (rules via
government/ organized society)
b. Some people, such as the criminally insane or
disabled, choose not to be perfect or cannot be perfect
(this led toward gothic writing).
8. How was Transcendentalism Spread?
a. Lectures: Thoreau and Emerson went from town to
town on the lyceum circuit to spread the message
(no TV or radio)
b. Books:
1) Thoreau wrote Walden – example meditation at
Walden Pond. This showed people how to get in
touch with the soul as well as illustrated the
benefits of a transcendentalist lifestyle.
2) Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience – to show
people how unfair and inefficient our
government was.
3) Emerson wrote Self Reliance – a compilation of
several of his best speeches/writings pointing out
the importance of transcendental thought on
individual happiness. (Example: Some transcendentalists
created communes or communities filled with like-minded
separated from all of society to show that it
really worked.)
How did Transcendentalism
Some Unitarian ministers realized that
society/ government controlled what
people did and that the individual person
(as God’s perfect creation) could do
what’s right if it is left alone
Did Transcendentalism work?
NO! Meditation took too much timepeople had to spend their days in the
pursuit of survival (farming, child rearing,
etc.) and couldn’t take the time to hear
their souls.
Unit Four:
19th Century literary movement
An extension of realism
Claimed to portray life exactly as if it were being examined through
a scientist’s microscope
D. Influenced by Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”
E. Beliefs
1. Human behavior is determined by heredity and environment
2. People have no recourse to supernatural beings (no heaven or
3. Humans, like animals, are subject to the laws of nature beyond
their control
4. Authors
a) Theodore Dreiser
b) Frank Norris
c) Jack London – “To Build a Fire”
A. 19th Century literary movement
B. It is the attempt in literature and art to
represent life as it really is (without
adding extra stuff)
C. Realistic writing often depicts the
everyday like and speech of ordinary