Literary Romanticism

During the late 18th century and the 19th century, Europe and America rejected the formalism of Neoclassicism in painting, music, literature, and even gardening.  Attention moved from interests in nobility and the “proper-ness” of powdered wigs and geometrically designed formal gardens.  Instead, concerns turned to the common man–his life and language, his emotions and yearnings for individual freedom.

The formalism of Neoclassical painting can be seen on the back of the $2 bill: two-dollar bill

In contrast, this is an example of a Romanticist painting: Romantic painting, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Criticism” is an example of neoclassical formalism:  Expression is the dress of thought, and still
Appears more decent, as more suitable;
A vile conceit in pompous words express’d,
Is like a clown in regal purple dress’d:

In contrast, Walt Whitman’s romanticist freedom is seen in the opening of his “Song of Myself”:                                                                                                                                                     I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume, you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as well belongs to you.

I’m over-simplifying, of course, but I hope my informality will encourage you to submit a comment about Romanticism.


About Denny Bowden

Resident of Volusia County since 1960 Member of Halifax Historical Society since 1986 English teacher (1970-1989), Mainland HS, Spruce Creek HS District/County-Level Teacher-on-Assignment (1989-2009) Ph.D. in Literature and Literary Theory, Indiana University of Pennsylvania Member, Coquina Presbyterian Church, Ormond Beach, FL
This entry was posted in American Literature, British Literature, Literary Periods, Literary Romanticism, Neoclassicism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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