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Romanticism: an era of great feelings (1795–1835)

The age of romanticism

Romanticism is an epoch that, on the one hand, influenced what we still understand today by the term "romantic": It emphasizes great feelings. In addition, the epoch stands for Longing and wandering into the distance. Despite this influence on our current understanding of romanticism, the epoch itself did not not directly about romantic feelings of lovebut rather around the mystical, the mysterious and the turning to nature. A strong ego-reference is also a characteristic of this time.

The term "romance" is derived from "lingua romana" ("Romance language"). This referred to writings in the language of the Romance countries and not written in Latin as usual were. By turning to their own culture, they also won Legends and myths of the Middle Ages again in importance.

"The world has to be romanticized. This is how you find the original meaning again." (Novalis, lyric poet of romanticism)

Table of Contents

  1. definition
  2. Historical classification
  3. Countermovement to the classic
  4. features
  5. Motifs and symbols
  6. literature
  7. overview

Romantic era: definition

Flickering candlelight, a golden sunset on the rushing sea or a mild moonlit night - these are the typical ideas we have of romance today. The term not only describes a sentimental feeling, but also one Literary era. This extended from the end of the 18th century until well into the 19th century. In the romantic epoch you can see that literary epochs can also run concurrently with one another and influence one another. Because romance is one Reaction and countermovement to two other epochs of this time: Enlightenment and Weimar Classics.

As a reaction to the rational philosophy of the Enlightenment, the romanticism posed topics such as Feeling, passion, individuality as well as medieval heroes take center stage. In doing so, she also rejected the classicism pursued by the Weimar Classicism, which was based on ancient models.


Historical classification

The literary epoch of romanticism is going on for years 1795 to 1848 dated. She can in three phases can be divided into:

  1. Early Romanticism (until 1804)
  2. High Romanticism (until 1815)
  3. Late Romanticism (until 1848)

Overall, that was the epoch shaped by social upheavals and technical and scientific innovations: Industrialization led to Urbanization and rural exodus, The French Revolution completely overturned the entire European social system. A self-confident, bourgeois society took the place of a feudal society. The Dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in 1806 led to the fact that numerous reforms were passed in Prussia, for example an educational reform, the peasants' liberation, the town order or the freedom of trade.

All of these ideas were destroyed when Napoleon ensued Wars of Liberation (1813 to 1815) was beaten in Waterloo and the Congress of Vienna decided to restore the old order in Europe.

Romanticism: a countermovement to the classic

Originally the romance is as Counter-movement to Classical and Enlightenment to understand. In a world that was becoming more and more scientific and technical, the romantics wanted to preserve myths and riddles that could be solved more and more through science and natural science. They longed for the mysterious, dreamy and inexplicable. They found their environment hostile; they despised the noisy and dirty cities and tried to escape the political turmoil and social upheaval. Based on the ego cult of storm and stress they also moved that Inner life of the individual in the foreground.

Characteristics of romance

The mindset of this era is reflected in certain themes and characteristics contrary. These can be found in all areas of art and thus also in literature. So if you have a Poetry analysis need to write, you can easily see from these content elements that it is a romantic poem.

Escape from the world

The Romantics consciously rejected the social developments of their time. they had Fear of losing security and took refuge in melancholy and fantastic worlds in order to withdraw from social life.

Turning to nature

Nature plays a big role in romance. She wasn't just that Opposite pole to the cities that are perceived as hostile to life and that are becoming increasingly full due to industrialization. Rather, it was also the place where the romantics could exhaust their longing for the mysterious and the beautiful. That's why she is Idealization of nature typical of romance.

Transfiguration of the Middle Ages

Not only the idealization of nature is a characteristic feature of the epoch. The romantic escape from the world was also evident in a strong one Transfiguration of the Middle Ages. Until then, the Middle Ages had a bad image. The upheavals in the 19th century led to the fact that the art and architecture of that time were suddenly appreciated and the world of medieval legends turned to. Collections of so-called folk poetry were also created for the first time in the Romantic era - they include, for example Grimm's Fairytales. Knight associations were also founded. The ills of the Middle Ages were, of course, disregarded in all this glorification.

Retreat into fantasy and dream worlds

Unique in its extent in literary history is that operated in Romanticism Retreat into fantasy and dream worlds. Instead of explaining everything with the intellect, as science does, the imagination should rule and burst boundaries: the boundaries of the mind, the boundaries between science and poetry and the boundaries between the various forms of literature.

Emphasis on the individual

The inner life of the individual is in the foreground of romantic works, subjective feelings are above the mind.

Romantic irony

The romantic irony states that the author stands above his work. This gives him the "power" to destroy the images and stories he has created. This feature does not appear in every romantic work, but it becomes clear in the example of Ludwig Teck's comedy "Puss in Boots". There two characters talk about the quality of this comedy. The work thus recognizes itself as a work.

Motifs and symbols of romance

The themes of romance show up in different motifs and symbols. They belong to them Blue flower, the mirror and the night motif.

The blue flower

The blue floweris the central motif of romanticism. It symbolizes longing and love and connects nature, man and spirit. It also stands for that Striving for the knowledge of nature and thus of the self. First this symbol was used by the poet Novalis.

Mirror motif

The mirror motif shows the Turning romanticism towards the uncanny - think of the fairy tale Snow White and the role that the mirror plays in it. At the same time, the mirror is that Interface between reality and unreality and puts your own self in the foreground. This can also be seen very well in the Snow White fairy tale.

Night motif

The night also has a special meaning in romance. It is the setting for numerous other motifs from this era: Death, impermanence and unusual, obscure phenomena.

Typical scenes of the romantic era:

  • graveyards
  • ruins
  • old castles
  • dark woods
  • Moors
  • caves
  • other natural landscapes

The literature of romanticism

Unlike in other epochs, such as the Baroque, the literary works of Romanticism do not follow a fixed scheme. Apart from dealing with symbols and themes typical of the epoch, they are neither in content nor in form bound to specifications. Since romanticism was about subjective emotional worlds, the writers of this epoch preferred above all poetry. But others too literary genresand forms of text were popular and very innovative - the American writer Edgar Allen Poe even created a new text form with "Metzengerstein" (1832): the short story.

Friedrich Schlegel coined the term "progressive universal poetry". It should break the prevailing schemes that applied to a specific literary work and not restrict the artist as a freelance genius in his imaginative creative power. The boundaries between the literary genres of epic, drama and lyric poetry should disappear, literary texts instead create a link to art and science. This universal poetry was progressive because it was supposed to be progressive, expandable and never complete. Because of this, the poetry of Romanticism is often incomplete as well theFragment an important type of text of this literary era.

Black romance

Black romance is one Undercurrent of romanceturning to the uncanny. That is typical for them Horror novel. He is characterized by his fascination for the evil and the creepy. The modern horror literature of the 19th century developed from him.

Important writers and works

  • Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857), e.g. "Mondnacht"
  • E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822), e.g. "The Sandman"
  • Bettina von Armin (1785-1859), e.g. "Die Günderode"
  • Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), Children's and Household Tales

Perhaps you have to give a presentation on the topic of romance or do you want to deal with it in your specialist thesis? We have put together a few topic ideas for you:

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The Romantic Era at a glance:

  • Period: 1795 to 1848
  • Important events: the French Revolution, industrialization, dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, victory over Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna.
  • Features: Transfiguration of the Middle Ages, flight from the world, turning to nature, emphasis on subjective feelings and the individual, retreat into fantasy and dream worlds, fascination with the uncanny.
  • Symbols: The blue flower, mirror and night motif
  • Universal poetry: Literature should not be tied to specifications -> mixing of literary genres

Further literary epochs: