Many people enjoy reading literature, some have found it to be so interesting that they advance a life long career. As authors and writers work, they seem to demonstrate characteristics that may hold constant across the board; rather, it is not the trait of the author but the essential aspects of the work produced that develop various eras. One of the most influential periods of American history in literature is the Romantic period.
David Reynolds shared in his work, Beneath the American Renaissance: the Subversive in the Age of Emerson and Melville that “American literature, in broad, is generated by a highly complex environment in which competing language and value systems, openly at war on the level of popular culture, provided rich material which certain responsive authors adopted and transformed in dense literary texts” (Beneath the American). The author of Introduction to Romanticism says, “Romantics tended to define and to present the imagination as our ultimate shaping or creative power, the approximate human equivalent of the creative powers of nature or even deity” (Introduction to Romanticism). This is also expressed at a different angle as, Romanticism examines the fictitious investigation into the concealed innermost depth of the soul (Moore). The American Romanticism period may also be referred to as the American Renaissance. Often times the miss conception of the name is attributed to the sense of flowering, thrill over human limitations, and a high regard for individual ego. Many note the Romanticism period was from 1840-1865; however, the heart of the Romantic movement was from 1850-1855, sometimes called, “the glory years” (Stickland). The term “Romanticism” refers to a genre of literature, music, painting, or other arts or cultural aspects that rose in England, Europe, and America roughly from 1770 to 1860 (Strickland). Mr. Cuddon shares that F.L. Lucas counted over 11,300 definitions of the term “romanticism.” Romanticism holds an elaborate and intriguing history. “Romance” derives from the Latin word “romanz,” which means to convert books in layman's terms. The work, when the translation was complete, was then referred to as “romanzo” or “romance” (Penguin).
Nature in Romantic literature is ethical; it carries emblematic significance, and any who dares question this with insufficient respect of divine power normally learned lessons (Moore).
This movement cultivated the primary roots of what Western culture thought about themselves and the newly founded nation of America (Introduction to Romanticism). Romantics showed more interest in exotic periods such as middle ages with its tales of knighthood and bravery. Romantic writers deeply loved nature because it was untamed, attractive, and incomplete (Risjord). Most American writers felt a strong sense of self-consciousness and very much anti-British (Woodlief). As from author to author the point of view with regard to nature varies greatly. Nature was viewed as “organic” by the Romantics; yet, that same nature was viewed as “mechanical laws in nature” by the scientific community or rationalists. Romantics gave substantial thought to describing both natural events authentically and to seize, as the author of Introduction to Romanticism notes, "sensuous nuance.” Accuracy was not the primary goal for Romantics (Introduction to Romantics).
The decisions of leaders, influences of supporters, and the desire of the public all play a role in the psyche of the humanity to guide into the flow of various eras. Post movements, pushed the necessity to belong to the “real world,” as Mrs. Julie Moore says. The Realists portrayed the subject of literature such as: slums of larger cities, the grim realities of life, and the new urban poor or portraying any location was all portrayed realistically and with little or no colorful wordy effects. Realists viewed the world as it exists, without the nostalgia of the Romantics. Though Realism may have never came after the Victorian and Romantic periods if they, the Victorians and Romantics, did not manifest. The point is, Romanticism may have never existed without The Age or Reason before it (Moore). Romanticism involves many diverse, even contradictory elements, gestures, and meanings. For instance, in American literature, styles or possibilities of the range in the genre may vary: from the complicated excitement of the Leatherstocking Tales of Ralph Waldo Emerson, or the severe Transcendentalism from Henry David Thoreau, or perhaps the extreme gothic light of Edgar Allan Poe, and even the inspirational quotes written down from Whitman’s raw verse with Harriet Beecher Stowe, Fredrick Douglass, and Margaret (American Renaissance and American Romanticism).
The writers of the day believed in the power of human morality (Moore). The Romanticism artists have common “blood” that pumps life through their work, that is, Romanticism almost always values something beyond or something lost. This value challenges or in some perspectives transforms the reality of everyday lifeThe Romantics were convinced in following the heart or feelings to lead to life’s truths, especially in using nature as the catalyst. There are many instances where this is seen; yet, in Melville’s Moby Dick which in a get a way novel; Ishmael vanishes from the enclosed domain of Manhattan to go to the sea aboard a whaling ship (Moore).
Some other characteristics of Romanticism, as declared by Brad Strickland, may include, but are not limited to: characterization, “universe is mysterious,” irrational; “incomprehensible,” fairness where nature may be the judge. Many works are centered around a moment of crisis, creating the plot. Often times love, honor and integrity, and idealism of self where issued as plot parameters to better guide an author in his or her own work; this is not always the case (American). Heather Carroll continues with the list of attributes that describe the characteristics of Romantic works: “imagination,” individuality, “nature as a source of spirituality,” looking to the past for wisdom, and seeing the common man as a hero.
The characteristic of imagination goes side by side with the Industrial Revolution, which was a magnificent period of expansion. In many instances, when there is growth considerable optimism follows. People begin to envision what may occur next. On the other hand of progress, masses migrate to large cities which causes overpopulation. Most cities became a playground for disease ridden filth. This easily becomes a driving factor that push people away from the large cities. Thus American Romantic writers welcome the idea of imagination via escapism (Carroll). Characters in Romantic writings often take a trip away from the cities and into the country side. The travels carry audiences to a place that is not totally realistic. The journeys are improbable, fantastic, and supernatural. The author fabricates these worlds of stories with imagery to grab and pull the reader through an experience that makes the reader feel that the place is real. Irving’s Rip Van Winkle gave a fanciful escape. This type of escape is seen even in the movies of today (Carroll). For example, Jake Sully in Avatar is able to escape the realistic evil world by taking on a new identity in an attractive bright new world. Even the audience breaks free from reality as they watch and experience the dazzling world of Pandora. This is evident that escapism is still alive today. Technology has allowed authors to include other senses in the experience making the distant lands of the imagination seem even the more real to audiences.