Romanticism began in the early 19th century and radically changed the way people perceived themselves and the state of nature around them. Unlike Classicism, which stood for order and established the foundation for architecture, literature, painting and music, Romanticism allowed people to get away from the constricted, rational views of life and concentrate on an emotional and sentimental side of humanity.
This not only influenced political doctrines and ideology, but was also a sharp contrast from ideas and harmony featured during the Enlightenment. The Romantic era grew alongside the Enlightenment, ut concentrated on human diversity and looking at life in a new way. It was the combination of modern Science and Classicism that gave birth to Romanticism and introduced a new outlook on life that embraced emotion before rationality. Romanticism was a reactionary period of history when its seeds became planted in poetry, artwork and literature.
The Romantics turned to the poet before the scientist to harbor their convictions (they found that the orderly, mechanistic universe that the Science thrived under was too narrow-minded, systematic and downright heartless in terms of feeling or emotional thought) and it was men such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in Germany who wrote “The Sorrows of Young Werther” which epitomized what Romanticism stood for. His character expressed feelings from the heart and gave way to a new trend of expressing emotions through individuality as opposed to collectivism.
In England, there was a resurgence into Shakespearean drama since many Romantics believed that Shakespeare had not been fully appreciated during the 18th century. His style of drama and expression had been downplayed and ignored by the Enlightenment’s narrow classical view of drama. Friedrich von Schlegel and Samuel Taylorleridge (from Germany nd England respectively) were two critics of literature who believed that because of the Enlightenment’s suppression of individual emotion as being free and imaginative, Shakespeare who have never written his material in the 19th century as opposed to the 18th century.
The perception that the Enlightenment was destroying the natural human soul and substituting it with the mechanical, artificial heart was becoming prevalent across Europe. The Lyrical Ballads, published in 1798, was a series of poems that examined the beauty of nature and explored the actions of people in natural settings.
Written by William Woodsworth, this form of poetry was free, expressive and without constraint as evident by this passage: “If this belief from heaven be sent, If such be Nature’s holy plan, Have I not reason to lament, What man has made of man? Such passages from his work indicates that poetry and literature was also used as a form of rebellion or distaste for political institutions or social conditions during the 19th century.
However, since most poets thrived on the emotional and irrational abstract that they were writing about, there was no specific category that this mode of thinking could fall into. This was a strength since the freedom to explore nature was infinite and without any restriction based on rules, law or doctrine.
This invariably led to a re-introduction into religion and mysticism; people wanted to explore the unknown. The Genius of Christianity, written by Rene de Chateaubriand, offered a contrast to Science. He found Christianity to be “the most poetic, most human, the most conducive to freedom, to arts and literature…” of all the religions and deduced that Science was lacking this element which could benefit mankind. The middle ages were regarded as a creative period when humans ived close to the soil and were unblemished with the effects of industrialization or urbanization.
Romanticism began to show the people that the Enlightenment had overstayed its welcome by leading the people to a future that offered a vision of mankind as being part of a group rather than an individual. G. W. F. Hegel, a German philosopher, rejected the rational philosophy of the 18th century because he believed in “Idealism”. This involved looking at life in terms of the importance of ideas, not thought the narrow tunnel of materialism and wealth. By advocating Idealism, Hegel concluded that ankind could be led by his spirit, his soul, rather than the establishment or the status quo.
Although Romanticism was perhaps conservative in nature, every participant of this swift and silent movement could relish in his own free and glorious vision of nature. Romanticism was not a political movement or a reformist package offered by a group of dissidents; Romanticism was a time when mankind could restructure his outlook on life so that he was able to reach new heights of intellectual and political awareness. In the process of doing so, he found answers to practical problems by simply using his heart and searching his soul.