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A Movement Across the Arts
Romanticism refers to a movement in art,
literature, and music during the 19th
Romanticism is characterized by the 5 “I”s
Imagination emphasized over “reason”
 Backlash against the rationalism
characterized by the Neoclassical period or
“Age of Reason”
Imagination considered necessary for
creating all art
British writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge
called imagination “intellectual intuition.”
Romantics placed value on “intuition,” or
feeling and instincts, over reason.
Emotions were important in Romantic art.
British Romantic William Wordsworth
described poetry as “the spontaneous
overflow of powerful feelings.”
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.”
Romanticism emphasized going with the
moment, or being spontaneous, rather
than being precise, controlled, or realistic.
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.”
Romanticism began to take root as a
movement following the French
The publication of Lyrical Ballads by
William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor
Coleridge in 1792 is considered the
beginning of literary Romanticism.
The Arts
Romanticism was a movement across all
the arts: visual art, music, and literature.
All of the arts embraced themes prevalent
in the Middle Ages, such as chivalry and
courtly love.
Shakespeare came back into vogue.
Visual Arts
Neoclassical art was
rigid, severe, and
unemotional; it
hearkened back to
ancient Greece and
Romantic art was
emotional, deeplyfelt, individualistic,
and exotic. It has
been described as a
reaction to
Neoclassicism, or
Visual Arts: Examples
Romantic Art
Neoclassical Art
In America, Romanticism’s strongest impact was
on literature.
Writers explored supernatural and gothic
Writers wrote about nature as a place to escape,
to reconnect with the primitive and Edenic,
and/or to connect with God.
• Setting: “pseudo-medieval,” e.g. in a dark castle or
abbey with secret passageways and hidden trap doors
• Themes often focused on the darker side of human
nature: betrayal, the desire for revenge, insanity,
superstition, etc.
• Supernatural Elements: ghosts and spirits
• Mood and Tone: mysterious, dark, suspenseful, meant
to arouse terror
On Hawthorne and “Y.G.B.”
• Hawthorne (1804-1864) was born
in Salem, Massachusetts; many of
his novels and stories are set in
Puritan New England.
• Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young
Goodman Brown” takes place in
Salem in the late 1600’s, around
the time of the Salem witch trials.
• Hawthorne’s ancestor was a judge
during the witch trials; Hawthorne
changed the spelling of his name to
distance himself from this ancestor.
Hawthorne and “Y.G.B”
Recurring themes in Hawthorne’s work:
•the isolation and alienation of the individual
•the workings of the inner mind, including psychological
repression and madness
•sin and guilt as universal
•society’s (especially Puritan society’s) restrictions on
sexual and religious freedom
•the dangers of the mob mentality
•dysfunctional family and other relationships
Consider and Discuss
• “Young Goodman Brown” is in some ways, but not all, a
“typical” example of the Romantic movement. Which
elements in the text are “typical” of Romanticism (Recall
the 5 I’s and other features of Romantic art and
thinking)? Which do not seem to fit with the Romantic
movement’s ideals?
• Which themes in “Young Goodman Brown” are typical of
Hawthorne’s work in particular (Recall the list of
• This story makes several implicit arguments. What is
Hawthorne arguing about Puritan society? About the
plight of the individual? About human nature?