American Romanticism (1820-1900)

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American Romanticism (1820-1900)

Background: Romanticism, a term that is associated with imagination and boundlessness, and in critical usage is contrasted with classicism, which is commonly associated with reason and restriction. A romantic attitude may be detected in literature of any period, but as a historical movement it arose in the 18th and 19th centuries in reaction to more rational literary, philosophic, artistic, religious, and economic standards. Since it gathered force gradually in its various manifestations, it does not lend itself to the limitations of a concise summary. The most profound and comprehensive idea of romanticism is the vision of a greater personal freedom for the individual.

The American Romantic Period (1820-1900) and Transcendentalism overlapped with and influenced each other, sharing some themes, but romanticism distinguishing itself in other ways. Romanticism was a separate movement which gained strength around 1820 as a reaction against the scientific Age of Reason/Enlightenment and the dehumanizing Industrial Revolution, coming to life most strongly through the visual arts, music, and literature. The Romantic movement in America, as elsewhere, left its impression not only on the arts, but also in the more practical spheres of action, as in revolutionary activities for political freedom and individual rights, humanitarian reform (Abolitionism and feminism), liberal religious movements, labor reform, and economic experiments in communal living (Oxford Companion). The literary movement was characterized by: •Sentimentalism

•Celebration of natural beauty and the simple life
•Introspection
•Idealization of the common man, uncorrupted by civilization •Interest in the picturesque past
•Interest in remote places
•Gothic romance
•Individualism
•Humanitarianism
•Morbid melancholy
•Childlike imagination & wonder
•Themes of immortality
•Symbolism
•Mostly by and about young men (not women)...
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