Seeking Clarity on Romanticism Essay

Pages: 4 (1326 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Literature

Typically published scholars and intellectuals who research difficult, even ambiguous topics, reference previous scholarship in hopes of adding credibility to their given topic. Indeed, Peckham references an impressive 1949 essay by Rene Wellek, which offers three components explaining romanticism. The three are: a) there was indeed an intellectual and artistic movement in Europe, a movement that had "certain intellectual and artistic characteristics" called "romanticism"; b) those involved in the movement were "quite conscious of their historic and revolutionary significance"; and c) the reason that "skepticism" about romanticism exists in the United States is because of Arthur O. Lovejoy's article "On the Discrimination of Romanticisms" (Peckham 7).

According to Peckham the 1924 Lovejoy piece points to "a fearful variety of ways…" in which romanticism is defined, and Lovejoy insisted that there is not one single concept that can embrace all the ways in which romanticism should be understood (7). But that having been said, Peckham boils Lovejoy's "literary romanticism" definition (updated in Lovejoy's 1936 book) down to the simple idea that that there was (in the late 18th century and early 19th century) a "change in the way of thinking of European man" (8). That change was overdue because since Plato's original philosophy on the nature of reality, European minds had been stuck in one gear, Peckham explained (9).

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But "occidental art" and "occidental thinking" ("occident" means Europe and America, the West) came along as a key element of the romantic movement and it changed many ideas, including the belief that the "cosmos" was not a "static mechanism" but instead the cosmos was "a dynamic organism" (Peckham 9).

Essay on Seeking Clarity on Romanticism Assignment

Comparing Peckham's 1951 treatise on romanticism with Kaufman's 1925 essay is like comparing a hybrid auto (Peckham) with a gas-guzzling 30-year-old Dodge (Kaufman). Both essays are well structured and easily understood, but while Kaufman struggled with the definition and complained about the plethora of wrongheaded attempts to define romanticism, Peckham offers some clues and some answers that are helpful to the student researcher.

Perkins, 1990. This essay is really the first one of the three I chose that spells out how the romantic movement got its start, why it started (in particular with English poets) and who its pathfinders were (Wordsworth, Coleridge and Francis Jeffery, to name three). Perkins notes that the mean-spirited titles that were given to English poets prior to the use of the "romantic" -- "The Satanic School" and "The Cockney School of Poetry" -- were given to the poets by "politically conservative critics" that were "hostile" (Perkins 1990). Apparently anything progressive and hopeful was to be mocked, not unlike what we see in society today in politics.

But since these poets had "…inherited the historical sophistication and relativism that had been growing in England over the last hundred years," the romantics survived and thrived (Perkins 132). Meanwhile it is a bit disappointing that Perkins fails to mention Wordsworth as the leader of the sublime aspect of romanticism in England. He talks a great deal in this essay about the fact that the French Revolution "opened a new epoch of history" but the deeper meaning behind much of what the English romantics sought -- a sense of mankind realizing he is part of nature, born of nature, and should be coalescing with the natural world. Poets that understood the sublime expressed -- through their brilliant work, led by Wordsworth -- which the physical world could transcend into the spiritual world.

Still, Perkins' narrative is very different from the other two scholars represented in this paper, and he is honest when he recalls that toward the end of the 19th century romantic poets were either "…essentially liberal, radical, or revolutionary" (140). For much of society, especially those seeking a breath of fresh air in a world in transition smitten with power struggles, the romantic poets provided an alternative, a saner and more peaceful path to the future.

Works Cited

Kaufman, Paul.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Seeking Clarity on Romanticism" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Seeking Clarity on Romanticism.  (2014, September 30).  Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Seeking Clarity on Romanticism."  30 September 2014.  Web.  6 April 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Seeking Clarity on Romanticism."  September 30, 2014.  Accessed April 6, 2020.