Reply To: Romanticism

  • Encyclios

    May 10, 2023 at 3:47 PM


    The Romantic school, which characterised modern literature from the end of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth, had already manifested itself (beginning with the political and social crisis of the Renaissance, the Religious Reformation and the contrasting theories of Greco-Latin classicism) as early as the seventeenth century and the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes. Particularly from the middle of the eighteenth century, in the field of theater, narrative, country, sepulchral and idyllic poetry, some elements of sensibility and taste have anticipated a real new trend: they have been grouped, since some decades, under the name of preromanticism, even if they have been instead considered as the beginnings of Romanticism since those first statements (for example, with Italo Siciliano starting from Abbot Prévost in his history of French Romanticism).

    A particular tendency, which stands out even before a declaredly and polemically Romantic school, was that of the Sturm und Drang (from the title of a drama by F. M. Klinger); from the needs expressed by such a movement L. Vincenti has clearly distinguished the innovative and quivering libertarianism of Alfieri, a man and author already defined protoromantic by B. Croce. Croce. Also the Belgian R. O. J. Van Nuffel exalted in Alfieri the character of revolutionary dramatist even in the classical form connected with the choice of some ancient heroes as characters.

    The new yearnings of Romanticism, connecting with the needs of modern peoples, especially the Nordic ones, generally alien or on the margins of the Greek-Latin cultural and mythological world, were masterfully embodied also by those who, for their education largely connected with the classical world and with antiquity in its eastern and Mediterranean development, opposed the romantic theories or at least discussed and limited them: Goethe, Foscolo, Leopardi, Shelley, Keats and others. The works of these authors are fundamental testimonies of a literary and artistic world inspired by new needs, from the advent of the French Revolution onwards: despite the limitations of a nationalistic conception (connected with the Italian Risorgimento and with German history, from the struggle against Napoleon to the affirmations of the Reich) Romanticism has elements of universal classicism, widely felt throughout the world as an expression of a new age.

    The complexity and variety of the manifestations of Romanticism throughout Europe and then in the American world (both in the south and in the north, including the literatures of Canada) prevent a unitary definition of the movements, or at least of the tendencies manifested in different peoples and cultures: even southern Europe (to use a term from the Coppet group) had in Romanticism a revolution or at least a literary reform. And so did Latin America in the same ferments of political freedom, at least from 1810 onwards. If the various national traditions are different and even opposed to each other because of new demands for patriotism (which after the French Revolution took the place of cosmopolitanism), the manifestations of Romantic tendencies should be considered in their unity, felt on the one hand as an element of rupture with the past, on the other as a restoration of values.

    The imperial and Christian Middle Ages was for the Germans a myth that even helped to strengthen Catholicism in the historiography of the Protestants, but for the Italians the civilization of the Communes, in anti-imperial function, if not always Guelph, was a fundamental reason in the Risorgimento. Sentiment, reverie, individualism, life as a struggle, the historical conquest of rights, revolutions, the contrasts of civilization are exalted in a dialectical need that opposes becoming to being, feeling to reasoning, passion to the mind.