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Comparing Romanticism to Enlightenment and Realism

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Romanticism emphasized emotion, sentiment, and the inner feelings of the individual. Unlike the Enlightenment that stressed the idea that there exists a natural law behind the universe and all of society, Romanticism defied this idea and asserted that you cannot place a law over the human emotion. Thus, to a large extent, Romanticism rejected the Enlightenment views of human beings and the natural world because these Enlightenment ideas blocked the human emotion and creativity. Romanticism appealed to the bizarre and unusual. Gothic literature, such as Edgar Allan Poe's short stories and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, reflected Romanticism's emphasis on the irrational. Shelley's Frankenstein recounted the story of a scientist whose experiment of creating a humanlike monster goes awry. Other Romantics sought the unusual by pursuing extraordinary states of experience in dreams, nightmares, frenzies, and experimentation with cocaine, opium and hashish to produce altered states of consciousness. ...read more.


Wordsworth had believed that science and pure rationality had reduced nature to a cold object of study while industrialization had alienated people from their inner selves and the natural world surrounding them. Romantics rejected this objective, calculating view of life and utilized emotion and sentiment in all works of art. Beethoven's Third Symphony reflected the elements of Romanticism in the degree of emotional intensity. Berlioz's Symphonie Fantasique likewise evoked the passionate emotions of a tortured love affair and appealed to the irrational by creating a vision of opium-induced nightmare of a witches' gathering. Both of these musical works defied the Enlightenment's orderly appeal. While Romanticism emphasized the human emotion, sentiment, and the bizarre, Realism emphasized what was inherently and actually there. The 1850s beginning of total war, mass casualties, and infliction of disease sparked the shift from romanticism to realism. ...read more.


Charles Dickens' Great Expectations reflected a realist novel that focused on the ordinary life of a young orphan boy, Pip, and an ordinary blacksmith, Joe, in the Britain's industrial era. While Romanticism celebrated the heroes in unusual settings, Realism emphasized ordinary individuals from real life. In similarity, both Realists and Romanticists criticized industrialization, although for different reasons. Robert Southey, a Romantic poet, criticized industrialization for its overcrowding population, starvation, destitution, and environmental hazards - all of which harmed the individual. Other Romanticists criticized industrialization because they believed industrialization would cause people to become alienated from their inner selves and the natural world around them. Realist artists and novelists likewise condemned industrialization. Dickens' Great Expectations conveyed the realist portrayal of the urban poor and the brutalization of human life. Courbet's The Stonebreakers depicted road workers engaged in breaking stones to build a road, representing human misery of industrialization. Both Realists and Romanticists similarly condemned the effects of industrialization through artwork and literature. ...read more.

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