 Romantic ideas arose both as criticisms of
18th century Enlightenment thought.
 Opposed and in conflict with the
 Narrowing of outlook, from the universal to
the particular – from humankind, to man,
nation ethnic group.
 Emphasis on individual and national
uniqueness. Traits which set one man apart
from another, one nation apart from another.
 The Romantics attacked the Enlightenment
because it rejected emotions and creativity.
 Attacked nature of urban industrial society.
 Industrial society brought new problems:
soulless individualism, economic egoism,
utilitarianism, materialism.
 Enlightenment had turned man into a
soulless, thinking machine -- a robot.
 Rejection of traditional authority.
 Enlightenment too objective -- saw human
nature as uniform.
 Rejected the Enlightenment ideal of balance
and rationalism.
 Revolution as a romantic idea. Still valid
today. Revolutionaries are celebrated as
Romantic characters.
Jane Sandanski. Che Guevara t-shirts.
Sacredness of the individual
 The modern fascination with self-definition
and self-invention, the notion that
adolescence is naturally a time of rebellion
in which one "finds oneself," the idea that
the best path to faith is through individual
choice, the idea that government exists to
serve the individuals who have created it: all
of these are products of the romantic
celebration of the individual at the expense
of society and tradition.
Sacredness of the individual
 Whereas the Enlightenment saw man as
creatures endowed with Reason, the
Romantics saw diversity and uniqueness.
 Faith in the absolute uniqueness of every
human being.
 Rousseau: “I know the feelings of my heart,
and I know men. I am not made like any of
those I have seen. I venture to believe that I
am not made like any of those who are in
existence. If I am not better, at least I am
Sacredness of the individual
 Human nature is not universal.
 The idea of the self took on greater
importance for philosophers, poets, political
thinkers, novelists.
 Both the American and French Revolution
developed out of strong convictions about the
innate rights of individual human beings.
 Authority located in the self rather than in
Sacredness of the individual
 Enlightenment stifled imagination, sensitivity,
feelings, spontaneity and freedom.
Imagination and feeling
 Emphasis on imagination and feeling.
 Reason vs feelings as the guide to certainty.
Which one should be the guide, according to
the Romantics? Why?
 Reason vs Feeling. Feeling as a guide to
knowledge of the ultimate real.
 Women, children and “primitive” people had
higher capacity to feel and express
Imagination and feeling
 Romantics celebrated romantic love as the
most exalted of human sentiments, and the
necessary foundation of a successful
The imagination is unleashed to explore
extreme states of being and experiences.
Feeling – purest form love.
Prized the tender sentiments of affection,
sorrow, and romantic longing.
Evocation of strong, irrational emotions.
Imagination and feeling
 The heart, not reason, was a source of
 Trust your instincts.
 Limitations of scientific knowledge.
 Trust your experience of sensations.
 The imagination elevated to a position as the
supreme faculty of the mind.
 This contrasted with the traditional arguments
for the supremacy of reason.
Imagination and feeling
 Greater emphasis on the importance of
intuition, instincts, and feelings.
 Romantics called for greater attention to the
emotions as a necessary supplement to
purely logical reason.
 Essential goodness of human nature.
Compare to the religious view.
 Religious and social repressiveness was the
 Emphasis on inner (psychic) experiences.
Literature and art
 Neoclassicism had prescribed for art the idea
that the general or universal characteristics of
human behavior were more suitable subject
matter than the peculiarly individual
manifestations of human activity.
 Romantic readers sought out the hysterical,
mystical, passionate adventures of terrified
heroes and heroines.
Literature and art
 Evocation of strong, irrational emotions.
 Celebration of agonies of frustrated love.
 Wallowing in the longings and
disappointments of frustrated protagonists.
 Symbolism and myth given great
prominence in the Romantic conception of
 Wordsworth's definition of all good poetry as
"the spontaneous overflow of powerful
Literature and art
 Prominence for first-person lyric poetry.
 Importance of the exotic.
 Generally anywhere south of the country
where one was resided was considered more
relaxed, more colorful, more sensual.
 Many male travelers viewed the women of
almost any foreign as more sexually desirable
and available than the women at home, and
so they are depicted in fiction, drama, art, and
 Nature is a living, vitalizing force and offers
a refuge from the constraints of civilization.
 The heart in communion with Nature.