Romanticism and Transcendentalism

Romanticism is a philosophical movement which defined and described ways in which the Western cultured people carried themselves, thought about themselves and the way they thought about the world (Brooklyn College). Transcendentalism, on the other hand, was a movement characterized by people who were trying to define spirituality and religion and, also, to correct the misperceptions that they found in the society (Lewis). Romanticism was popular in England and Germany in the 19th century while the transcendentalist movement took place in America before the Civil War, it was popular among the people of English origin around Boston (Lewis).

Romanticism was an international movement which affected all arts and it is dated back to the year of 1798, and is believed to have ended in 1832. The romantic period coincides with both the American and French revolutions. This age also witnessed the industrial and energy revolutions which influenced the transformation of the practice of poetry and the way the world is viewed currently (Brooklyn College). Some of the concepts that originated in the Romanticism found their way into the 20th century and their effects are still felt in the current period.

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Romanticists seriously took the power of imagination and their creative power. They believed the power of imagination was an active power rather than passive. They thought that art was created through the imagination. Wordsworth suggested that “we not only perceive the world around us, but also in part create it.” Wordsworth was an author at that period and was stressing on the power of imagination. Farther, the romanticists regarded the power of imagination as the power which enabled humans to read, understand and interpret nature (Andrew, Karen and Jerry).

Nature was also another factor among the Romanticists which was presented as a work of art. It was viewed as a healing power and a refuge from all hindrances of civilization. The Romanticists replaced the perception of nature as a machine of the universe with an “organic” image. The natural phenomena also influenced poetry writing as it came to be regarded as poetry of meditation (Brooklyn College).

In romanticism art, symbolism and myth are important aspects. Humans and nature elements are viewed as symbols of beauty whereby the whole symbolism process circulates around them. Emotion also turned out to be an important concept in poetry. When it came to the application, a big transformation was observed in the art. This was observed in Wordsworth’s definition of poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. Romantics also avoided generalizing and instead depended on individualism. They opposed typology which was used in the neoclassical works. They associated themselves with the Middle Ages and periods of literature that the neoclassicists rejected. The Romanticists rejected religion which was prominent at the time and instead supported every individual believing in their own aspects of life (Brooklyn College).

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The Romanticists had a complex attitude towards the social and daily life. They detested any exotic materials and preferred the use of domestic things as symbols. They developed uncertainty towards the social world around them and on several occasions they distanced themselves from the public, especially in politics. Interpretation of things was through their emotions which revolved around political and social matters (Brooklyn College). Romanticism spread through literature, music, painting and architecture. It is believed that symbolism and Realism as movements that followed Romanticism were opposite to it. Romanticism transformed Western culture and the effects can be noted up to now (Brooklyn College).

Transcendentalists are viewed to be the well-educated and civilized people who lived in America before the Civil War. They were involved in creating of a new form of American literature. They transformed the face of literature as applied in poetry, philosophy and other arts, and it was different from what was witnessed in France, Germany and England. The Transcendentalists were also involved in interpretation of spirituality and religion (Lewis). This generation resided in the areas around New England and Boston, which were regarded as the most educated regions. They strongly believed that God wasted the gifts of inspiration, insight and the gift of intuition by giving it to humankind. Scriptures of non Western cultures were found and interpreted to different languages and, hence, were readily available for understanding. Ralph Waldo Emerson began reading and examining Hindu and Buddhist scriptures and gave his own assumptions regarding his findings (Andrew).

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Ralph and his team of examiners gave a conclusion that God could not have left the humans to stray. They believed that there was truth somewhere. Later, the Transcendentalism came to rise and this was after Ralph declared in his own statement that “we will walk on our own feet, we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds...A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men."  He had a great influence among the multitude and this gave rise to the new movement. This movement became prominent in fighting for women rights and anti-slavery (Andrew). Transcendentalists became prominent social reformists in their movements and they believed that every human had access to divine inspiration, appreciated freedom and loved knowledge. Theodore Parker and Thomas Wentworth Higginson were known Transcendentalists who fought for human rights including women’s freedom and that of slaves. The movements had a mission of spreading the message that women and African slaves were all human beings that had the right for education like other people (Lewis).

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