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The Philosophy of Illuminism

Introduction
The vast intellectual movement which made its appearance at the close of the "Glorious
Revolution" in England (1688) and continued until the French Revolution (1789) is
called Illuminism, or the Enlightenment. The new culture, advancing under the aegis of
"reason," launched itself in bitter opposition to all the past in general, and in particular to
the Middle Ages. According to the Illuminati -- the exponents of the Enlightenment -- the
Middle Ages, victim of philosophical and religious prejudices, had not made use of
"reason," and hence they called it the age of obscurantism, or the Dark Ages. The new
philosophy, on the other hand, was to introduce an age of enlightenment; it was to dispel
the darkness of the past.
Opposition to the immediate past had manifested itself, though to a limited degree, during
the Renaissance. Humanism had in fact minimized and ignored the Middle Ages, and had
accentuated and lauded the classical world of ancient Greece and Rome; and
Protestantism had extolled "primitive Christianity."
Illuminism attempted to go further still, to excel the past in its various manifestations of
culture, religion and government -- for its philosophers considered the entire past to be
the work of "non-reason" (Anti-historicalism). Everything appeared before the tribunal of
"reason" to receive its condemnation. With all science of the past discredited, man was
brought back at last to his origins, to his natural state; Illuminism then worked to
formulate a new philosophical system, a rational system because it was evolved by reason
purified of all prejudice. It is a system which embraces all human activity -- civil,
juridical and religious (Naturalism).
Reason, as understood by the Illuminati, is the faculty which Descartes had called "good
sense" and is equally distributed and common to all men. The rational order means the
association of one phenomenon with another, not by reason of finality or causality but
simply by virtue of mechanical necessity.
In order to understand the strange trend of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, we must
bear in mind that this age is witness to the establishment of modern physics as the science
of nature; and physics, as we know, is regulated by mechanical necessity. Illuminism
attempted to apply the same laws and methods of mechanical necessity to every field of
human knowledge. With all authority and finalism banished and mechanism proclaimed
in their stead as the single rational means of solving the problems of nature, there
inevitably emerges a natural right, a natural society, a natural religion. Everything
consists in a succession of phenomena starting from the so-called "state of nature" and
proceeding one from another by mechanical necessity. All these suppositions of
naturalism were to find violent manifestation in the great upheaval of the French
Revolution.

I. ENGLISH ILLUMINISM
Illuminism in England was concerned with defending religion and morality against the
atheistic conclusion of empiristic philosophy, particularly as expressed by Thomas
Hobbes. This aim gave rise to two manifestations, namely, the moralism of Cambridge,
and the "common sense" of the Scottish School (Thomas Reid).
The first, starting from a world Platonically conceived, tried to defend and justify the
laws of "natural religion" and "natural morality." The second held that morality finds its
justification in certain primitive judgments which are intuitively known as "common
sense." (Note: the use of the term "common sense" here is not the same as we use it in
traditional commonsense philosophical realism.)

Influence of Realism on Literature


After World War I, American people and the authors among them were left
disillusioned by the effects that war had on their society.
America needed a literature that would explain what had happened and what was happening to
their society. American writers turned to what is now known as modernism. The influence of
19th Century realism and naturalism and their truthful representation of American life and
people was evident in post World War I modernism. This paper will try to prove this by
presenting the basic ideas and of these literary genres, literary examples of each, and
then make connections between the two literary movements. Realism Modernism not only
depicted American society after World War I accurately and unbiasedly, but also tried to
find the solutions brought upon by the suffering created by the war (Elliott 705).
The realistic movement of the late 19th century saw authors accurately depict life
and its problems. Realists attempted to give a comprehensive picture of modern life
(Elliott 502) by presenting the entire picture. They did not try to give one view of life
but instead attempted to show the different classes, manners, and stratification of life in
America. Realists created this picture of America by combining a wide variety of details
derived from observation and documentation... to approach the norm of experience... (3).
Along with this technique, realists compared the objective or absolute existence in
America to that of the universal truths, or observed facts of life (Harvey 12). In other
words, realists objectively looked at American society and pointed out the aspects that it
had in common with the general truths of existence.
This realistic movement evolved as a result of many changes and transitions in
American culture. In the late 1800s, the United States was experiencing swift growth and
change as a result of a changing economy, society, and culture because of an influx in the
number of immigrants into America. Realists such as Henry James and William Dean Howells,
two of the most prolific writers of the Nineteenth-century, used typical realistic methods
to create an accurate depiction of changing American life. William Dean Howells, while
opposing idealization, made his comic criticisms of society (Bradley 114) by comparing
American culture with those of other countries. In his comic writings, Howells criticized
American morality and ethics but still managed to accurately portray life as it
happened. He attacked and attempted to resolve the moral difficulties of society by this
rapid change. (Elliott 505). He believed that novels should should present life as it is,
not as it might be (American Literature Comptons). In the process of doing
this, Howells demonstrated how life shaped the characters of his novels and their own
motives and inspirations. By concentrating on these characters strengths as opposed to a
strong plot, he thematically wrote of how life was more good than evil and, in return,
wanted his literature to inspire more good.
On the other hand, Henry James judged the
world from a perspective ...offered by society and history... (704). He also separated
himself from America to create an unbiased view of it as a spectator and analyst rather

than recorder (Spiller 169) of the American social structure. He wrote from a perspective
that allowed him to contrast American society with that of Europe by contrasting the
peoples ideas. By contrasting social values and personal though about America in America,
he presented to the people the differing motivational factors that stimulated the different
social classes (Bradley 1143). Overall, these writers managed to very formally portray
America as it was while adding their own criticisms about it in an attempt to stimulate
change.
The naturalist movement slowly developed with most of the same ideals as those of
the realists in that it attempted to find lifes truths. In contrast, Naturalists, extreme
realists, saw the corrupt side of life and how environment deprived individuals of
responsibility (Elliott 514). Literary naturalism invited writers to examine human beings
objectively, as a scientist studies nature (Am. Lit. Comptons). In portraying ugliness
and cruelty, the authors refrained from preaching about them; rather they left readers
to draw their own conclusions about the life they presented. Generally, these authors took
a pessimistic view to portray a life that centered on the negative part of mans existence.
When dealing with society directly, naturalists generally detailed the destruction of people
without any sentiment.
To do this, they wrote more open about societys problems in a more
open manner usually using nature as a symbol for society. Naturalistic literature, like
realistic, served as a catalyst for change but, in contrast, was a little more
like propaganda.
Even though only twenty years may have separated them, the transformation from
realism/naturalism to modernism was a long one in terms of how much society had changed.
The aforementioned rapid change in American society and Americas relation with the rest of
the world left America in disarray. After the first World War, American society was divided
and left without definition. This called for a new age of literary expression to control
and document the isolationist fears, corruption, and disenchantment (Bradley
1339-1340) caused by the war. Authors looked to explain their generation and to respond to
the social and moral confusions (1340).
The World War broke down Americas fundamental institutions by dehumanizing the people that
provided their strong foundations (1339).
War diminished the individual identity and the society as a whole. The human personality
was dwarfed as much by the ...dehumanizing magnitude of modern events... as by natural
laws that controlled man to their own destiny.
Authors after World War I created a new literature of enduring merit...that
shattered conventional taboos in their expression of physical and psychological actuality.
(Bradley 1339)
This was the beginning of modernism. Modernism, although strongly influenced by realism and
often referred to as an extension of naturalistic values, was the answer to Americas newfound problems.
Modernism promoted and combined the scientific aspects of naturalism along with a
psychological examination of the individual and the culture. By being so experimental
(1340) and intense(1337), modernism was able to unite America after a period of crisis.
Modernism centered on explorations into the spiritual nature of men and the value of his
society and institutions. (1337) Like realism, modernists focused on changes on society
(Elliott 699) and used symbolism, although in this case spiritual, to draw their fiction
(Bradley 1340).
Modernist writers, like most Americans, were amazed at the destructive
power of war on the common man.
Writers such as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and F.
Scott Fitzgerald spearheaded the modernistic renaissance by employing
realistic and naturalistic techniques. Hemingways The Sun Also Rises
details the principle of an alienation from society that had been
forced upon by the circumstances of the time (Spiller 271). In this
case, it describes a young boy alienated from society because of his
involvement in World War I, the ...loss of faith and hope..., and
...collapse of former values... that occurs (Hart 284).
His
earlier works can sometimes be described as containing characteristic

influences of naturalism (Bradley 1339). This can be reflected in his presentation of the
strict relations between environment and fate... (1339). Later in his career, Hemingway
once again took the alienation from society route. This time, in the spirit of realist
Henry James, he separates himself from American society to better judge it. With his novel
The Rolling Hills of Africa, Hemingway compares American culture to that of another. At
times, Hemingway ...began to seem like a little more than a modern realist...
(Spiller Lit His 1300).
William Faulkner, producer of some of the most important books of the twentiethcentury, also draws the connection between environment and fate strongly. He combines
naturalism and primitivism, a literary technique involving clear imagery, to create a
sometimes confusing and complex detailed reading that involves ...people of all sorts
wealthy and poor, evil and good, slave and free come into sharp focus in his writing.
(Faulkner Comptons)
This idea, much like that of realist James, provides the reader with
the whole picture of society.
The novels and short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald are famous for portraying the
"lost generation" of the post-World War I era. Faulkner's moral values were social rather
than personal (Fitzgerald Comptons). He believes that his writing should address
the problems that society has and the problems that he has with society. Faulkner's prose
is ornate and complex. His sentences are long and complicated, and many nouns and adjectives
are used. Hemingway's style is quite the opposite. His sentences are short and pointed, and
adjectives are used sparingly. The effect is one of great power and compression. By
compressing his literary ideas in his writing, he makes his literature easily understood and
direct to his readers.
Many connections can be made between the literature of the late 19th century realism
and naturalism and that of post-World War I modernism. First and most importantly of all,
modernists, like realists and naturalists, attacked societys problems by using
symbolism to make their own judgments of the basic foundations of American life.
Modernists, such as Ernest Hemingway, looked at American society and compared to that of
other cultures of the world.
This technique had been extensively employed by such realists as Henry James. Modernism
used the naturalist method of scientifically exploring the individual and the society.
Stylistically, modernists, with the exception of Hemingway, wrote in a very formal, defined
form.
Modernists and realists both attacked the moral dilemmas in society.
The only difference was that these dilemmas were different.
While that realists attempted to give a comprehensive picture of modern life...
(502), modernists wished express the whole experience of modern life. (Elliott 598).
These authors of the realistic and modernistic period had the same goals so naturally they
wrote using the same ideas, methods, and principles. Realists focused on different literary
aspects to detail how American culture was effected by these changes. They detailed
characters shaped by society and tried to convey the good and evil aspects of life.
Mirroring this technique, modernists portrayed people alienated and rejected from society
because of the effects of the first World War. Both focused on detailing problems facing
their characters, externally and internally, while not focusing on plot development.
Thematically, both groups of authors conveyed the good and bad aspects of a changing
American society. Both rallied for change and both asked for the unification of society,
but both still lingered more on the presence of corruption in America.
The only thing that separated the two movements was the societies around them.
While both societies were experiencing major change quickly, they were so different. The
two literatures had to be distinguished not because of their content and character, which
was for the most part the same, but instead because of the differing conditions that existed
around the literature. Even though both wanted to accurately depict life, they were written
in two very distinct times in American history. In one, American culture was expanding and
adapting. In the other, life was being oppressed by the dehumanizing agents of warfare on
a large scale. As we know, culture influences literature. Even though these two literary

movements may have only been separated by about twenty years, in these twenty years,
focus shifted from the interior of American society to how American society was effected by
a conflict created as a result of opposing cultures. This idea of differing cultures
producing differing literatures provides the basis for the differences in
the movements.
Modernism after World War I was influenced by the realistic/naturalistic movement of
the late Nineteenth century. The literary goals, techniques, and principles of the
modernists and realists/naturalists were the same. Both wanted to paint an unbiased,
accurate picture of society by confronting the problems of the individual and of the
society. To do this, most of the time they resorted to the same techniques. They created
literature that combined scientific reasoning, unidealistic views, and physical and
psychological examination that painted a portrait of society that could be used to help
American society adjust, define, and heal. Realists of the late Nineteenth century and
modernists of the 1920s wrote alike but were divided on the basis that their respective
societies were so different.
--

Definitions
Broadly defined as "the faithful representation of reality" or "verisimilitude,"
realism is a literary technique practiced by many schools of writing.
Although strictly speaking, realism is a technique, it also denotes a
particular kind of subject matter, especially the representation of middleclass life. A reaction against romanticism, an interest in scientific method,
the systematizing of the study of documentary history, and the influence of
rational philosophy all affected the rise of realism. According to William
Harmon and Hugh Holman, "Where romanticists transcend the immediate to
find the ideal, and naturalists plumb the actual or superficial to find the
scientific laws that control its actions, realists center their attention to a
remarkable degree on the immediate, the here and now, the specific action,
and the verifiable consequence" (A Handbook to Literature 428).
Many critics have suggested that there is no clear distinction between
realism and its related late nineteenth-century movement, naturalism. As
Donald Pizer notes in his introduction to The Cambridge Companion to
American Realism and Naturalism: Howells to London, the term "realism" is
difficult to define, in part because it is used differently in European contexts
than in American literature. Pizer suggests that "whatever was being
produced in fiction during the 1870s and 1880s that was new, interesting,
and roughly similar in a number of ways can be designated as realism, and
that an equally new, interesting, and roughly similar body of writing
produced at the turn of the century can be designated as naturalism" (5).
Put rather too simplistically, one rough distinction made by critics is that
realism espousing a deterministic philosophy and focusing on the lower
classes is considered naturalism.
In American literature, the term "realism" encompasses the period of time
from the Civil War to the turn of the century during which William Dean

Howells, Rebecca Harding Davis, Henry James, Mark Twain, and others
wrote fiction devoted to accurate representation and an exploration of
American lives in various contexts. As the United States grew rapidly after
the Civil War, the increasing rates of democracy and literacy, the rapid
growth in industrialism and urbanization, an expanding population base due
to immigration, and a relative rise in middle-class affluence provided a
fertile literary environment for readers interested in understanding these
rapid shifts in culture. In drawing attention to this connection, Amy Kaplan
has called realism a "strategy for imagining and managing the threats of
social change" (Social Construction of American Realism ix).
Characteristics
from Richard Chase, The American Novel and Its Tradition)
Renders reality closely and in comprehensive detail. Selective
presentation of reality with an emphasis on verisimilitude, even at the
expense of a well-made plot
Character is more important than action and plot; complex ethical
choices are often the subject.
Characters appear in their real complexity of temperament and motive;
they are in explicable relation to nature, to each other, to their social class,
to their own past.
Class is important; the novel has traditionally served the interests and
aspirations of an insurgent middle class. (See Ian Watt, The Rise of the
Novel)
Events will usually be plausible. Realistic novels avoid the sensational,
dramatic elements of naturalistic novels and romances.
Diction is natural vernacular, not heightened or poetic; tone may be
comic, satiric, or matter-of-fact.
Objectivity in presentation becomes increasingly important: overt
authorial comments or intrusions diminish as the century progresses.
Interior or psychological realism a variant form.
In Black and White Strangers, Kenneth Warren suggests that a basic
difference between realism and sentimentalism is that in realism, "the
redemption of the individual lay within the social world," but in sentimental
fiction, "the redemption of the social world lay with the individual" (75-76).
The realism of James and Twain was critically acclaimed in twentieth
century; Howellsian realism fell into disfavor as part of early twentieth
century rebellion against the "genteel tradition."

Practioners

Mark Twain
William Dean Howells
Rebecca Harding Davis
John W. DeForest
Henry James

ENGLISH ROMANTICISM
English Romanticism started in the 1740s.The word Romanticism derives from
the French word "Romance", which referred to the vernacular languages derived
from Latin and to the works written in those languages. Even in England there
were cycles of "romances" dealing with the adventures of knights and containing
supernatural elements.
Romanticism
attitude or intellectual orientation that characterized many works of literature,
painting, music, architecture, criticism, and historiography in Western civilization
over a period from the late 18th to the mid-19th century. Romanticism can be
seen as a rejection of the precepts of order, calm, harmony, balance, idealization,
and rationality that typified Classicism in general and late 18th-century
Neoclassicism in particular. It was also to some extent a reaction against the
Enlightenment and against 18th-century rationalism and physical materialism in
general. Romanticism emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational,
the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and
the transcendental.
Among the characteristic attitudes of Romanticism were the following: a
deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature; a general exaltation of emotion
over reason and of the senses over intellect; a turning in upon the self and a
heightened examination of human personality and its moods and mental
potentialities; a preoccupation with the genius, the hero, and the exceptional
figure in general, and a focus on his passions and inner struggles; a new view of
the artist as a supremely individual creator, whose creative spirit is more
important than strict adherence to formal rules and traditional procedures; an
emphasis upon imagination as a gateway to transcendent experience and
spiritual truth; an obsessive interest in folk culture, national and ethnic cultural
origins, and the medieval era; and a predilection for the exotic, the remote, the
mysterious, the weird, the occult, the monstrous, the diseased, and even the
satanic.
Literature. Romanticism proper was preceded by several related developments
from the mid-18th century on that can be termed Pre-Romanticism. Among such
trends was a new appreciation of the medieval romance, from which the
Romantic movement derives its name. The romance was a tale or ballad of
chivalric adventure whose emphasis on individual heroism and on the exotic and
the mysterious was in clear contrast to the elegant formality and artificiality of
prevailing Classical forms of literature, such as the French Neoclassical tragedy
or the English heroic couplet in poetry. This new interest in relatively

unsophisticated but overtly emotional literary expressions of the past was to be a


dominant note in Romanticism.
Romanticism in English literature began in the 1790s with the publication of the
Lyrical Ballads of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Wordsworth's "Preface" to the second edition (1800) of Lyrical Ballads, in which
he described poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," became
the manifesto of the English Romantic movement in poetry. William Blake was
the third principal poet of the movement's early phase in England. The first phase
of the Romantic movement in Germany was marked by innovations in both
content and literary style and by a preoccupation with the mystical, the
subconscious, and the supernatural. A wealth of talents, including Friedrich
Hlderlin, the early Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Jean Paul, Novalis, Ludwig
Tieck, A.W. and Friedrich Schlegel, Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, and Friedrich
Schelling belong to this first phase. In Revolutionary France, the Vicomte de
Chateaubriand and Mme de Stal were the chief initiators of Romanticism, by
virtue of their influential historical and theoretical writings.
The second phase of Romanticism, comprising the period from about 1805 to the
1830s, was marked by a quickening of cultural nationalism and a new attention to
national origins, as attested by the collection and imitation of native folklore, folk
ballads and poetry, folk dance and music, and even previously ignored medieval
and Renaissance works. The revived historical appreciation was translated into
imaginative writing by Sir Walter Scott, who invented the historical novel. At about
this same time English Romantic poetry had reached its zenith in the works of
John Keats, Lord Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
A notable by-product of the Romantic interest in the emotional were works
dealing with the /bcom/eb/article/3/0,5716,1323+1+1322,00.htmlsupernatural, the
weird, and the horrible, as in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and works by C.R.
Maturin, the Marquis de Sade, and E.T.A. Hoffmann. The second phase of
Romanticism in Germany was dominated by Achim von Arnim, Clemens
Brentano, J.J. von Grres, and Joseph von Eichendorff.
By the 1820s Romanticism had broadened to embrace the literatures of almost
all of Europe. In this later, second, phase, the movement was less universal in
approach and concentrated more on exploring each nation's historical and
cultural inheritance and on examining the passions and struggles of exceptional
individuals. A brief survey of Romantic or Romantic-influenced writers across the
Continent would have to include Thomas De Quincey, William Hazlitt, and the
Bront sisters in England; Victor Hugo, Alfred de Vigny, Alphonse de Lamartine,
Alfred de Musset, Stendhal, Prosper Mrime, Alexandre Dumas (Dumas Pre),
and Thophile Gautier in France; Alessandro Manzoni and Giacomo Leopardi in
Italy; Aleksandr Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov in Russia; Jos de Espronceda
and ngel de Saavedra in Spain; Adam Mickiewicz in Poland; and almost all of
the important writers in pre-Civil War America.

The adjective Romantic first appeared in English in the second half of the
17th century as a word to describe the fabulous, the extravagant and the
unreal, something having no basis in fact. Throughout the 18th century
"romantic" was used to refer to the picturesque in landscape, but gradually
the term came to be applied to the feeling the landscape aroused in the
observer, and generally to the evocation of subjective and individual
emotions, especially loneliness and melancholy. The first to boast of
having used the term in this way were Goethe and Schiller. They did so in
opposition to "classic", thus clearly stating that the new meaning indicated
not just a change in taste but an open revolt against tradition.
A movement in art and literature in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries in revolt against the Neoclassicism of the previous
centuries...The German poet Friedrich Schlegel, who is given credit for
first using the term romantic to describe literature, defined it as "literature
depicting emotional matter in an imaginative form." This is as accurate a
general definition as can be accomplished, although Victor Hugo's phrase
"liberalism in literature" is also apt. Imagination, emotion, and freedom are
certainly the focal points of romanticism. Any list of particular
characteristics of the literature of romanticism includes subjectivity and an
emphasis on individualism; spontaneity; freedom from rules; solitary life
rather than life in society; the beliefs that imagination is superior to reason
and devotion to beauty; love of and worship of nature; and fascination with
the past, especially the myths and mysticism of the middle ages.
English poets: William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron,
Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats
English Romanticism can be seen as a creative period in which, owing to the
radical changes taking place in the historical and social spheres, the cultural view
of the world had to be reconstructed or totally readjusted. The attitudes of many
Romantic writers were responses to the French and the Industrial Revolution The
remarkable expansion of industry and economy made its effects felt in the field of
economic theory which greatly flourished in the period. Adam Smith's The wealth
of Nations (1776) was a seminal book in the development of the theory of laissez
faire policies. It advocated no interference from the government in economic
activities and supported the idea that efficiency and profit are absolute goods,
thus widening the gap between the affluent layers of society and the poor.
English Romanticism is best represented by poetry, which was more suitable to
the expression of emotional experiences, individual feeling and imagination. The
great English Romantic poets are usually grouped into two generations: the first,
represented by William Blake, William Wordsworth and S. Taylor Coleridge; while
the poets of the second generation were John Keats, P. Bysshe Shelley and G.
Gordon Byron. No two writers were Romantic in the same way, nor was a writer
necessarily romantic in all his work or throughout his life. These poets did not

share a unity of purpose, so we cannot speak of a literary movement; they


certainly shared some ideas but they all remained highly individual in their
philosophy. Nor did a real break in continuity exist between the first and the
second generation, while the works of many Victorian writers, especially the
Brontes, R.L. Stevenson, B. Stoker, Tennyson and Rossetti remind us of the key
concepts of Romanticism. Anyway, some elements are more typical of the first
generation and others of the second. The poets of the 1st generation were
characterized by the attempt to theorize about poetry, they fervently supported
the French Rev. with its ideals of freedom and equality, being later bitterly
disappointed by the regime of terror and the Napoleonic wars in which the
experience of the French Rev. resulted, and by the results of the Industrial Rev.
which would lead them to adopt conservative views in the last periods of their
lives. The poets of the second generation instead all died very young and away
from home, in Mediterranean countries, especially Italy; they also
experiencedpolitical disillusionment, which results in the clash between the ideal
and reality in their poetry. Poetry thus became a means to challenge the cosmos,
nature, political and social order, or to escape from all this. Individualism, the
alienation of the artist from society, escapism were stronger in this generation
and found expression in the different attitudes of the three poets: the anticonformist, rebellious and cynical attitude of the "Byronic hero", the revolutionary
spirit of Shelleys "Prometheus" and Keatss escape into the world of the past or
of classical beauty.

Characteristics of Romanticism
Resulting in part from the libertarian and egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution,
the romantic movements had in common only a revolt against the prescribed rules of
classicism. The basic aims of romanticism were various: a return to nature and to
belief in the goodness of humanity; the rediscovery of the artist as a supremely
individual creator; the development of nationalistic pride; and the exaltation of the
senses and emotions over reason and intellect. In addition, romanticism was a
philosophical revolt against rationalism

Romanticism
(European) Romanticism 1820-1865: A European artistic and intellectual
movement of the early 19th century, characterized by an emphasis on individual
freedom from social conventions or political restraints, on human imagination,
and on nature in a typically idealized form. Romantic literature rebelled against
the formalism of 18th century reason. Many Romantic writers had an interest in
the culture of the Middle Ages, an age noted for its faith, which stood in contrast
to the age of the Enlightenment and pure logic.
Romanticism differs significantly from Classicism, the period Romanticism
rejected. Romanticism is more concerned with emotion than rationality. It values
the individual over society, nature over city. It questions or attacks rules,

conventions and social protocol. It sees humanity living IN nature as morally


superior to civilized humanity: glorification of the "noble savage." It conceives of
children, essentially innocent by nature, as being corrupted by their surroundings.
Many works emphasize the emotional aspects excessively, moving the piece
toward Dark Romanticism and the Gothic. Romantic literature places an emphasis
on the individual and on the expression of personal emotions. Literary
Romanticism should not be confused with romance literature.
Romanticism was evident not only in literature, but also in art, music and
architecture.
The American Period of Romanticism (1830-1865) was "an age of great
westward expansion, of the increasing gravity of the slavery questions, of an
intensification of the spirit of embattled sectionalism in the South, and of a
powerful impulse to reform in the North" (Harman 454). It has many of the same
characteristics as European Romanticism but had several uniquely American
aspects.
Conditions that influenced American Romanticism:
Frontier promised opportunity for expansion, growth, freedom; Europe lacked this
element.
Spirit of optimism invoked by the promise of an uncharted frontier.
Immigration brought new cultures and perspectives
Growth of industry in the north that further polarized the north and the agrarian
south.
Search for new spiritual roots.
Literary Themes:
Highly imaginative and subjective
Emotional intensity
Escapism
Common man as hero
Nature as refuge, source of knowledge and/or spirituality
Characteristics:

Characters and setting set apart from society; characters were not of our own
conscious kind
Static characters--no development shown
Characterization--work proves the characters are what the narrator has stated or
shown
Universe is mysterious; irrational; incomprehensible
Gaps in causality
Formal language
Good receive justice; nature can also punish or reward

Silences of the text--universals rather than learned truths


Plot arranged around crisis moments; plot is important
Plot demonstrates
o romantic love
o honor and integrity
o idealism of self
Supernatural foreshadowing (dreams, visions)
Description provides a "feeling" of the scene
Sub Genre:

Slave narrative: protest; struggle for authors self-realization/identity


Domestic (sentimental): social visits; women secondary in their circumstances to
men.
Female gothic: devilish childhood; family doom; mysterious foundling; tyrannical
father.
Women's fiction: anti-sentimental
o heroine begins poor and helpless
o heroine succeeds on her own character
o husbands less important than father
Bildungsroman: initiation novel; growth from child to adult.

American
Romanticists:
James Fenimore Cooper
Emily Dickinson
Frederick Douglass
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Margaret Fuller
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Washington Irving
Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow
Herman Melville
Edgar Allen Poe
Henry David Thoreau
Walt Whitman

European
Romanticists:
William Blake
Lord Byron (George
Gordan)
Samuel Coleridge
John Keats
Ann Radcliffe
Mary Wollstonecraft
Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley

Realism
Realism 1861- 1914 (American Realism 1865-1890): An artistic movement
begun in 19th century France. Artists and writers strove for detailed realistic and

factual description. They tried to represent events and social conditions as they
actually are, without idealization.
This form of literature believes in fidelity to actuality in its representation.
Realism is about recreating life in literature. Realism arose as an opposing idea to
Idealism and Nominalism. Idealism is the approach to literature of writing about
everything in its ideal from. Nominalism believes that ideas are only names and
have no practical application. Realism focused on the truthful treatment of the
common, average, everyday life. Realism focuses on the immediate, the here and
now, the specific actions and their verifiable consequences. Realism seeks a oneto-one relationship between representation and the subject. This form is also
known as mimesis. Realists are concerned with the effect of the work on their
reader and the reader's life, a pragmatic view. Pragmatism requires the reading of
a work to have some verifiable outcome for the reader that will lead to a better life
for the reader. This lends an ethical tendency to Realism while focusing on
common actions and minor catastrophes of middle class society.
Realism aims to interpret the actualities of any aspect of life, free from subjective
prejudice, idealism, or romantic color. It is in direct opposition to concerns of the
unusual, the basis of Romanticism. Stresses the real over the fantastic. Seeks to
treat the commonplace truthfully and used characters from everyday life. This
emphasis was brought on by societal changes such as the aftermath of the Civil
War in the United States and the emergence of Darwin's Theory of Evolution and
its effect upon biblical interpretation.
Characteristics:

Emphasis on psychological, optimistic tone, details, pragmatic, practical, slowmoving plot


Rounded, dynamic characters who serve purpose in plot
Empirically verifiable
World as it is created in novel impinges upon characters. Characters dictate plot;
ending usually open.
Plot=circumstance
Time marches inevitably on; small things build up. Climax is not a crisis, but just
one more unimportant fact.
Causality built into text (why something happens foreshadowed). Foreshadowing
in everyday events.
Realists--show us rather than tell us
Representative people doing representative things
Events make story plausible
Insistence on experience of the commonplace
Emphasis on morality, usually intrinsic, relativistic between people and society
Scenic representation important
Humans are in control of their own destiny and are superior to their circumstances

Sub Genres:

International novel--uses two or more continents; contrast of cultures gives


character his identity. Innocent American Vs experience of Europe.
Novel of manners--external focus on manners, customs of particular class at
particular time.
o Deals with people in society.
o Writers uses customs for characterization.

American Realists:
Henry James
Rebecca Harding Davis
Sarah Orne Jewett
Mark Twain
William Dean Howells
Ambrose Bierce

European/International
Realists:
Gustave Flaubert (French)
Guy de Maupassant (French)
Anton Chekhov (Russian)
George Eliot (English

Naturalism (1890 - 1915): The term Naturalism describes a type of literature that
attempts to apply scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to its study of human
beings. Unlike, Realism which focuses on literary technique, naturalism implies a
philosophical position: for naturalistic writers, since human beings are, in Emile Zola's
phrase, "human beasts," characters can be studied through their relationships to their
surroundings. The Naturalist believed in studying human beings as though they were
"products" that are to be studied impartially, without moralizing about their natures.
Naturalistic writers believed that the laws of behind the forces that govern human lives
might be studied and understood through the objective study of human beings.
Naturalistic writers used a version of the scientific method to write their novels; they
studied human beings governed by their instincts and passions as well as the ways in
which the characters' lives were governed by forces of heredity and environment. This is
a logical extension of Realism. The term was invented by Emile Zola partially because he
was seeking for a striking platform from which to convince the reading public that it was
getting something new and modern in his fiction. Naturalism is considered as a
movement to be beyond Realism. Naturalism is based more on scientific studies.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a basis for the Naturalist writer. Natural selection and
survival of the fittest help to depict the struggle against nature as a hopeless fight.
Characteristics:

Objective
Darwinistic--survival of the fittest
Detached method of narration
Language--formal; piling on of images ("wretched excess")
Human beings unable to stand up against enormous weight of circumstances.
Deterministic--natural and socioeconomic forces stronger than man.
Heredity determines character
Violence--force against force
Taboo topics
Animal imagery
Attention to setting to the point of saturation
Characters--lower socioeconomic class
Static characters
Naturalists observe, then write. Often about the black, darker side of life.
"Pessimistic materialistic determinism" (Pizer)
Characters conditioned or controlled by environment, heredity, instinct or chance
but they have a compensating humanistic value that affirms the significance of the
individual (Pizer).
Characters do not have free will (determinism)

Themes:

"The conflict in naturalistic novels is often 'man against nature' or 'man against
himself' as characters struggle to retain a 'veneer of civilization' despite external
pressures that threaten to release the 'brute within' " (Campbell).
Nature is indifferent to man
The universe is deterministic

American Naturalists:
Jack London
Frank Norris
Stephen Crane
Theodore Dreiser
Edith Whatron
Ellen Glasgow
John Steinbeck
Richard Wright

European Naturalists:
Emile Zola
Maksim Gorky (Russia)
Stephane Mallarme

Modernism and the Modern Novel


The term modernism refers to the radical shift in aesthetic and cultural sensibilities
evident in the art and literature of the post-World War One period. The ordered, stable
and inherently meaningful world view of the nineteenth century could not, wrote T.S.
Eliot, accord with "the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary
history." Modernism thus marks a distinctive break with Victorian bourgeois morality;
rejecting nineteenth-century optimism, they presented a profoundly pessimistic picture of
a culture in disarray. This despair often results in an apparent apathy and moral
relativism.
In literature, the movement is associated with the works of (among others) Eliot, James
Joyce, Virginia Woolf, W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, H.D., Franz Kafka and
Knut Hamsun. In their attempt to throw off the aesthetic burden of the realist novel, these
writers introduced a variety of literary tactics and devices:
the radical disruption of linear flow of narrative; the frustration of conventional
expectations concerning unity and coherence of plot and character and the cause and
effect development thereof; the deployment of ironic and ambiguous juxtapositions to
call into question the moral and philosophical meaning of literary action; the adoption of
a tone of epistemological self-mockery aimed at naive pretensions of bourgeois
rationality; the opposition of inward consciousness to rational, public, objective
discourse; and an inclination to subjective distortion to point up the evanescence of the
social world of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie. (Barth, "The Literature of
Replenishment" 68)
Modernism is often derided for abandoning the social world in favour of its narcissistic
interest in language and its processes. Recognizing the failure of language to ever fully
communicate meaning ("That's not it at all, that's not what I meant at all" laments Eliot's
J. Alfred Prufrock), the modernists generally downplayed content in favour of an
investigation of form. The fragmented, non-chronological, poetic forms utilized by Eliot
and Pound revolutionized poetic language.
Modernist formalism, however, was not without its political cost. Many of the chief
Modernists either flirted with fascism or openly espoused it (Eliot, Yeats, Hamsun and
Pound). This should not be surprising: modernism is markedly non-egalitarian; its
disregard for the shared conventions of meaning make many of its supreme
accomplishments (eg. Eliot's "The Wasteland," Pound's "Cantos," Joyce's Finnegans
Wake, Woolf's The Waves) largely inaccessible to the common reader. For Eliot, such
obscurantism was necessary to halt the erosion of art in the age of commodity circulation
and a literature adjusted to the lowest common denominator.
It could be argued that the achievements of the Modernists have made little impact on the
practices of reading and writing as those terms and activities are generally understood.
The opening of Finnegans Wake, "riverrun, past Eve's and Adam's, from swerve of shore
to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle

and Environs," seems scarcely less strange and new than when it was first published in
1939. Little wonder, then, that it is probably the least read of the acknowledged
"masterpieces" of English literature. In looking to carry on many of the aesthetic goals of
the Modernist project, hypertext fiction must confront again the politics of its
achievements in order to position itself anew with regard to reader. With its reliance on
expensive technology and its interest in re-thinking the linear nature of The Book,
hypertext fiction may find itself accused of the same elitism as its modernist
predecessors.

The 18th-century American Enlightenment was a movement marked by an emphasis on


rationality rather than tradition, scientific inquiry instead of unquestioning religious dogma, and
representative government in place of monarchy. Enlightenment thinkers and writers were
devoted to the ideals of justice, liberty, and equality as the natural rights of man.
Puritan Times
1650-1750
Content:
errand into the wilderness
be a city upon a hill
Christian utopia
Genre/Style:
sermons, diaries
personal narratives
captivity narratives
jeremiads
written in plain style
Effect:
instructive
reinforces authority of the Bible and church
Historical Context:
a person's fate is determined by God
all people are corrupt and must be saved by Christ

Rationalism/ Age of Enlightenment


1750-1800
Content:
national mission and American character
democratic utopia
use of reason
history is an act of individual and national self-assertion
Genre/Style:
political pamphlets
travel writing
highly ornate writing style

fiction employs generic plots and characters


fiction often tells the story of how an innocent young woman is tested by a seductive
male
Effect:
patriotism grows
instills pride
creates common agreement about issues
shows differences between Americans and Europeans
Historical Context:
tells readers how to interpret what they are reading to encourage Revolutionary War
support
instructive in values

American Renaissance/Romanticism
1800-1855
Content:
writing that can be interpreted 2 ways, on the surface for common folk or in depth for
philosophical readers
sense of idealism
focus on the individual's inner feelings
emphasis on the imagination over reason and intuition over facts
urbanization versus nostalgia for nature
burden of the Puritan past
Genre/Style:
literary tale
character sketch
slave narratives,
political novels
poetry
transcendentalism
Effect:
helps instill proper gender behavior for men and women
fuels the abolitionist movement
allow people to re-imagine the American past
Historical Context:
expansion of magazines, newspapers, and book publishing
slavery debates

Gothic
sub-genre of Romanticism
1800-1850
Content:
sublime and overt use of the supernatural

individual characters see themselves at the mercy of forces our of their control which
they do not understand
motif of the "double": an individual with both evil and good characteristics
often involve the persecution of a young woman who is forced apart from her true love
Style:
short stories and novels
hold readers' attention through dread of a series of terrible possibilities
feature landscapes of dark forests, extreme vegetation, concealed ruins with horrific
rooms, depressed characters
Effect:
today in literature we still see portrayals of alluring antagonists whose evil
characteristics appeal to one's sense of awe
today in literature we still see stories of the persecuted young girl forced apart from
her true love
Historical Context:
industrial revolution brings ideas that the "old ways" of doing things are now irrelevant

Realism
1855-1900
Content:
common characters not idealized (immigrants, laborers)
people in society defined by class
society corrupted by materialism
emphasizes moralism through observation
Style:
novel and short stories are important
prefers objective narrator
dialogue includes many voices from around the country does not tell the reader how to
interpret the story
Effect:
social realism: aims to change a specific social problem
aesthetic realism: art that insists on detailing the world as one sees it
Historical Context:
Civil War brings demand for a "truer" type of literature that does not idealize people
or places

Naturalism
(sub-genre of realism)
1880-1900
Content:
dominant themes: survival fate violence taboo
nature is an indifferent force acting on humans
"brute within" each individual is comprised of strong and warring emotions such as

greed, power, and fight for survival in an amoral, indifferent world.


Genre/Style:
short story, novel
characters usually lower class or lower middle class
fictional world is commonplace and unheroic; everyday life is a dull round of daily existence
characters ultimately emerge to act heroically or adventurously with acts of violence, passion,
and/or bodily strength in a tragic ending
Effect:
this type of literature continues to capture audiences in present day: the pitting of man against
nature
Historical Context:
writers reflect the ideas of Darwin (survival of the fittest) and Karl Marx (how money and class
structure control a nation)

Modernism
1900-1946
Content:
dominant mood: alienation and disconnection
people unable to communicate effectively
fear of eroding traditions and grief over loss of the past
Genre/Style:
highly experimental
allusions in writing often refer to classical Greek and Roman writings
use of fragments, juxtaposition, interior monologue, and stream of consciousness
writers seeking to create a unique style
Effect:
common readers are alienated by this literature
Historical Context:
overwhelming technological changes of the 20th Century
World War I was the first war of mass destruction due to technological advances
rise of the youth culture

Harlem Renaissance
(runs parallel to modernism)
1920s
Content:
celebrated characteristics of African-American life
enjoyment of life without fear
writing defines the African-American heritage and celebrates their new identity as Americans
Genre/Style:

allusions in writing often refer to African-American spirituals


uses the structure of blues songs in poetry (ex-repetition of key phrases)
superficial stereotypes later revealed to be characters capable of complex moral judgments
Effect:
this period gave birth to a new form of religious music called "gospel music"
blues and jazz are transmitted across America via radio and phonographs
Historical Context:
mass African-American migration to Northern urban centers.
African-Americans have more access to media and publishing outlets after they move north.

Postmodernism
1946-Present
Content:
people observe life as the media presents it, rather than experiencing life directly
popular culture saturates people's lives
absurdity and coincidence
Genre/Style:
mixing of fantasy with nonfiction; blurs lines of reality for reader
no heroes
concern with individual in isolation
detached, unemotional
usually humorless
narratives
metafiction
present tense
magic realism
Effect:
erodes distinctions between classes of people
insists that values are not permanent but only "local" or "historical"
Historical Context:
post-World War II prosperity
media culture interprets values

Contemporary
(continuation of Postmodernism)
1980s-Present
Content:
identity politics
people learning to cope with problems through communication
people's sense of identity is shaped by cultural and gender attitudes
emergence of ethnic writers and women writers
Style:

narratives: both fiction and nonfiction


anti-heroes
concern with connections between people
emotion-provoking
humorous irony
storytelling emphasized
autobiographical essays
Effect:

too soon to tell

Historical Context:
people beginning a new century and a new millennium
media culture interprets values

Enlightenment (1750-1800) Called the Enlightenment period due to the influence of science and logic, this period is
marked in US literature by political writings. Genres included political documents, speeches, and letters. Benjamin
Franklin is typical of this period. There is a lack of emphasis and dependence on the Bible and more use of common
sense (logic) and science. There was not a divorce from the Bible but an adding to or expanding of the truths found there.
Characteristics of Literature
during the 1700s/18th Century

Most literature was nonfiction, which means it was based on fact rather than being made up by the
author's imagination. The literature of this period was realistic. Its aims were to instruct, to enlighten,
and to make people think. These people believed reason shows life as it is; whereas, the imagination
shows life as people wish it were or fear it may be.
The people of the Enlightenment revered the power of the mind to reason and to determine realities.
They deprecated passions and emotions. They saw reason as the ruling principle of life and the key
to progress and perfection. This was an optimistic, self-confident period of time in Europe. People
felt they knew all the answers; they were content, and they were smug!

The Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, is the name given to the period in Europe
and America during the 1700s when mankind was emerging from centuries of ignorance into a new
age enlightened by reason, science, and respect for humanity. People of the Enlightenment were
convinced that human reason could (1) discover the natural laws of the universe and (2) determine
the natural rights of mankind; (3) thereby unending progress in knowledge, technical achievement,
and moral values would be realized.
This new way of thinking led to the development of a new religious thought known as (4) Deism.
Deists believed in God as a great inventor or architect who had created the universe then allowed it
to function like a machine or clock without divine intervention. Although Deists believed in a
hereafter, they believed human achievement and happiness should be the focus of this life rather
than the life to come.
Benevolence toward less fortunate people, (5) humanitarianism, resulted. Difficult though it is for us
to realize, the idea that people who are more fortunate should assist those who are less fortunate
was, in fact, a new concept during the Enlightenment. Prior to this, religious beliefs perceived
assistance to the unfortunate as interference with God because people thought if someone were
unfortunate, it was God's will and was punishment for wrongdoing.

The main stimulus for the Enlightenment was the scientific discoveries of natural laws. For example,
Galileo recognized the movement of planets, moons, and stars, and Sir Isaac Newton discovered
gravity.

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