Proto-Romanticism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Proto-romanticism is a sensibility of Romanticism avant-la-lettre. It includes Rousseau in literature and Salvator Rosa in painting. Equating Romanticism with free love, Iwan Bloch wrote " more than Rousseau's Julie and Goethe's Werther is Friedrich Schlegel's Lucinde the apotheosis of individual love."

German Romanticism (Frühromantik) is generally regarded as the earliest strain of Romanticism.

Origins and precursors

The term 'Romanticism' derives ultimately from the fictional romances written during the Middle Ages ("romance" being the medieval term for works in the vernacular Romance languages rather than in Latin). These included the Arthurian cycle, and were notable for their use of magic and focus on personal characteristics of honor and valor, as well as a sense lofty idealism and a "lost world".

In English, the term 'Romantick' was often used in the 18th century to mean magical, dramatic, surprising. But it was not until the German poets, critics and brothers August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel used the term that it became a label for a wider cultural movement. For the Schlegel brothers, 'Romanticism' was a product of Christianity. The culture of the Middle Ages created a Romantic sensibility which differed from the Classical ideals embodied in the philosophy, poetry and drama of ancient Athens. While ancient culture admired clarity, health and harmony, Christian culture created a sense of struggle between the dream of heavenly perfection and the experience of human inadequacy and guilt. This sense of struggle, vision and ever-present dark forces was allegedly present in Medieval culture. The Schlegel brothers were also responsible for making Shakespeare into an internationally famous writer, translating his work into German, and promoting his plays as the epitome of the Romantic sensibility. Many later Romantic dramatists sought to imitate Shakespeare and to reject Classical models for drama.

While this view partly explains Romantic fascination with the Middle Ages, the actual causes of the Romantic movement itself correspond to the sense of rapid, dynamic social change that culminated in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era. However, Romantic literature in Germany preceded these crucial historical events. The 'Sturm und Drang' (Storm and Stress) movement in German drama was associated with Friedrich Schiller, and the early work of Goethe, in particular his play "Goetz von Berlichingen", about a Medieval knight who resists submission to any authority beyond himself. Goethe's novel "The Sufferings of Young Werther" (1774) had huge international success. This too concerned an individual who felt a strong contradiction between his own internal world of intense feeling, and the external world that failed to correspond to it. Werther eventually commits suicide. In later works Goethe rejected Romanticism in favour of a new sense of classical harmony, integrating internal and external states.

Counter-Enlightenment

Many intellectual historians have seen Romanticism as a key movement in the Counter-Enlightenment, a reaction against the Age of Enlightenment. Whereas the thinkers of the Enlightenment emphasized the primacy of deductive reason, Romanticism emphasized intuition, imagination, and feeling, to a point that has led to some Romantic thinkers being accused of irrationalism.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Proto-Romanticism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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