Romanticism 1820s-1860s

What is Romanticism and romanticism in America

Romanticism is an artistic movement that originated in Europe at the end of the 17th century. It is characterized by its empasis on emotion and individualism, and its glorification of the past and nature. In America, romanticism emphasized the capacity of the individual, without the excessive reliance on god and religion to maximize human potential. Romanticism adopted perspectives on topics and concepts, including

  • Emotions
  • Nature and natural landscapes
  • Realistic exaggeration
  • Demystification of aristocracies, nobility, and the upper class
  • Judgement
  • Intensity
  • Imagination

Some characteristics of Romanticism are:

  • A focus on the writer or narrator’s emotions and inner world
  • Celebration of nature, beauty, and imagination
  • Rejection of industrialization, organized religion, rationalism, and social convention
  • Idealization of women, children, and rural life
  • Inclusion of supernatural or mythological elements
  • Interest in the past; frequent use of personification
  • Experimental use of language and verse forms, including blank verse
  • Emphasis on individual experience of the "sublime."
  • Escapism: People had a tendency to seek some form of relief from the hardships at the time. While not the same as romanticism, they had an extent of co-influence.
  • Transcendentalism
  • Religion
  • Was to an extent anathema to more conservative religious ideals, stressing the freedom for the constraints of religion
  • Pantheism was stressed, sort of bordering on atheism (kinda like saying you’re “spiritual, not religious”)
  • Nature
  • Many poets worshiped the environment, instead of doting upon god and traditional religion.

Statistics of the romantic era

Lasted from around the 1810s-1820s to the 1910s.

Art of the Romantic era

(Albert Bierstadt)

Emanuel Leutze: Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851)

George Stubbs: Lion Attacking a Horse (England, 1770)

Hudson River School
  • Albert Bierstadt: Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California (1868)
  • Robert S. Duncanson: Woodland Stream, An Idyll (1865)
  • Albert Bierstadt: Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California (1865)

Hudson River School, art, and the west

The Hudson River School was founded around 1850, and was strongly influenced by the Romantic era. It included notable artists, such as Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt. They painted mostly western landscapes, and were responsible for some of the migration to the "Great West".

The "Great West" (AKA, the Great Plains) was the subject of much curiosity. Because few knew what the western frontier held, other than (however invalid) perspectives of whatever opportunities it promised, it became widely romanticized, both in art and literature. From this arose literary characters like the cowboy. While the life of a real "cowboy" was often a lonely, devastating existence, he was crafted as a heroic character, often involved in romance and exhibiting heroic individualism.

Authors of the Romantic era

Washington Irving

Washington Irving, author of Rip van Winkle (1819) and the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow (1858). Both publications included elaborate detailing of the characters and settings, which was characteristic of literature influenced by the ideals of romanticism.

Another genre that is counted under Romanticism is Gothic Literature. It combined Romantic themes with themes of death, horror, and romance.

Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven

Edgar Allan Poe was an American poet that specialized in Gothic poetry. Poe was also orphaned at a young age, which affected his future works. His work leaned more towards what became known as "dark romanticism," which, while elaborately detailed, tended to focus more on the negative aspects of human personality. He is known for several works, including

  • The Raven (1845). The Raven was one of his most well-known works, it follows a mourning widower and a mysterious raven.
  • To Helen (1831)
  • Dream-Land (1844)
William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen Bryant was a romantic poet, as well as drifting around several other careers, including being an editor of the New York Times. He is known for several works, most famously Thanatopsis (1817). Thanatopsis approaches the concepts of life and death, and like many romantic poets, he includes nature as a major theme. Other works by Bryant include To a Waterfowl (1821) and A Forest Hymn (1824).

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson lived most of her life in isolation, having few relationships and generally considered an outcast. Outside of her works, little is known about her. She did, however, deviate from the typical format of the time in her writing. Her works reflected primarily the ideals of the realist era, although her works did incorporate some elements of romanticism. Some of her works include:

  • Success is Counted Sweetest (1859)
  • Hope is the thing with Feathers (1861)
  • I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed (1861)
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne was another product of dark romanticism. He wrote several novels and short stories. Some of his works include:

  • The Scarlet Letter (1850)- One of his most notable works, it is a romance novel set in Boston.
  • The Grey Champion (1835)
  • Twice-Told Tales (1837)

Music of the romantic era

Music was profoundly effected by the Romantic period, however, the majority of these Romantic composers were from the German states, France, Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Romantic music can be divided into three periods. The first period was around the end of the classical era and contained many themes from it. Composers from the era include Ludwig van Beethoven, Fryderyk Chopin, and Carl Maria von Weber.

Fryderyk Chopin

The second era of the Romantic era is considered the era that usually defines "Romantic music". Music from this time became much more complex and expressive of the emotions, and orchestras saw an increase in their size and diversity as composers, like Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and most notably Richard Wagner.

Themes from this time include:

  • a new preoccupation with and surrender to Nature
  • A fascination with the past, particularly the Middle Ages and legends of medieval chivalry, along with mythological themes.
  • a turn towards the mystic and supernatural, both religious and merely spooky
  • a longing for the infinite
  • mysterious connotations of remoteness, the unusual and fabulous, the strange and surprising

The last era of Romantic music occurred around 1890 and 1910. Music from this time was at its most complex, and at its longest. A notable theme in music from this time is nationalism, something already seen in earlier Romantic music, but was not as prominent. Composers from this time include Antonín Dvořák (Anton-in Dihv-o[odd combination of a rolled r and a "zh" sound]-ack), Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Richard Strauss.

Americans and Romantic Music

Samuel A. Ward

"America the Beautiful," original composition by Samuel A. Ward is an example of music showing romantic era, notably its glorification of American history.

Stephen Foster is another composer during the Romantic era. He is known as the "Father of American music," and composed Oh! Susanna and My Old Kentucky Home

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Alexandra Stone

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