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Distinction between British and American Romanticism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2233 words Published: 28th Sep 2017

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Distinction between British and American Romanticism’


The Romantic Movement was first originated in Germany, quickly reached England, France, and afar, it spread in America roughly during 1820, some twenty years after William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge had transfigured English poetry by bringing out Lyrical Ballads. In America as in Europe, fresh new visualization exhilarated inventive and intellectual groups. However there was a significant distinction that was that Romanticism in America coexisted along with the phase of nationwide growth and the invention of an idiosyncratic American voice. The solidification of a national individuality/identity and the enthusiasm of Romanticism and surging idealism cherished the masterworks of “the American Renaissance.”

Romantic designs were based on art as encouragement, the religious and aesthetic aspect of natural world, and metaphors of natural development. Romantics argued Art, rather than science, possibly will best convey universal reality. The Romantics emphasized the significance of communicative art for the society and individual.

Romanticism was assenting and suitable for most American creative essayists and poets. America’s deserts, tropics and vast mountains personified the magnificent. The Romantic spirit appeared mostly appropriate to American democratic system: It affirmed the worth of the ordinary individual, looked to the inspired imagination for its ethical and aesthetic values and emphasized individualism. Unquestionably the New England Transcendentalists – Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and their associates – were enthused to a new hopeful assertion by the Romantic Movement. In New England, Romanticism fell upon fertile soil.


Northrop Frye, Introduction to Romanticism Reconsidered:

The anti-romantic movement, which in Britain and America Followed the Hulme-Eliot-Pound broadsides of the early twenties, is now over and done with, and criticism has got its sense of literary tradition properly in focus again. (v)

Harold Bloom, The Visionary Company (1961):

Wordsworth’s Imagination is like Wallace Stevens’ “angel surrounded by peasants”: not an angel of heaven, but the necessary angel of earth, as, in its sight, we see the earth again, but cleared; and in its hearing we hear the still sad music of humanity, its tragic drone, rise liquidly . . . . For Wordsworth the individual Mind and the external World are exquisitely fitted, each to each other, even as man and wife, and with blended might they accomplish a creation the meaning of which is fully dependent upon the sexual analogy; they give to us a new heaven and a new earth blended into an apocalyptic unity that is simply the matter of common perception and common sexuality raised to the freedom of its natural power. (127)

Harold Bloom, ed., Romanticism and Consciousness (1970):

[T]he central spiritual problem of Romanticism is the difficult relation between nature and consciousness, and its prime historical problem the relation between changing concepts of nature and the French Revolution. The leading formal problem results directly from tehse psiritual and historical stimuli, and is a problem of innovations in literary form : in questions of aesthetic theory, verbal mode, verse forms and metrics, and the new genres or modifications of genre that appeared. (147)

M. H. Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (1973):

[“The Prospectus”] was probably written at some time between 1800 and 1806. . . . A decade or so later, in the Preface to The Excursion (1814), Wordsworth still chose to reprint this radical statement of his poetic intentions. . . . [In it, Wordsworth reveals his belief that], in the line of inspired British poets (what Harold Bloom has called “the Visionary Company”), he has been elected as the successor to Milton. . . . (20-22)

Here, in short, is Wordsworth’s conception of his poetic role and his great design. The author, though a “transitory Being,” is the latest in the line of poets inspired by the “prophetic Spirit,” and as such has been granted a “Vision” (lines 97-8) which sanctions his claim to outdo Milton’s Christian story in the scope and audacious novelty of his subject. The vision is that of the awesome depths and height of the human mind, and of the power of that mind as in itself adequate, by consummating a holy marriage with the external universe, to create out of the world of all of us, in a quotidian and recurrent miracle, a new world which is the equivalent of paradise. (28)

Jerome McGann, “Rethinking Romanticism” (ELH1992):

Until about ten years ago scholars of romanticism generally accepted Rene Wellek’s classic modern definition of their subject: “Imagination for the view of poetry, nature for the view of the world, and symbol and myth for poetic style.” . . . Today that synthesis has collapsed and debate about theory of romanticism is vigorous from cultural studies, feminist scholarship, [etc.] . . . .

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Between 1978 and 1983, . . . . I worked to clarify the distinction between “the romantic period” (that is, a particular historical epoch) and “romanticism” (that is, a set of cultural/ideological formations that came to prominence during the romantic period). The distinction is important not merely because so much of the work of that period is not “romantic,” but even more, perhaps, because the period is notable for its many ideological struggles. A romantic ethos achieved dominance through sharp cultural conflict . . . .” (735)

Marjorie Levinson, Wordsworth’s Great Period Poems (1986)

A new word is abroad these days in Wordsworth scholarship–`historicist’–and the adjective carries distinctly heterodox overtones. What is thereby refused is an idealizing interpretive model associated with Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Paul de Man, and even M. H. Abrams. At the same time, historicist critique distinguishes its interests and method from historical scholarship, or from the researches and argumentation of David Erdman, Carl Woodring, E. P. Thompson. More specifically, a number of works published over the last three years position themselves as demystifications of Romanticist readings as well as of Romantic poems. They use history, or sociopolitical reconstruction, to resist the old control of Yale. However, insofar as they repudiate the empiricist, positivist concept of historical fact, in that they focus textual antinomy and erasure rather than manifest theme and achieved form, and in that they use their historical remove with conscious opportunism, these works are deeply of the devil’s party.

Anne K. Mellor, Romanticism and Gender (1993):

What difference does gender make to our understanding of British literary Romanticism? . . . Whether we interpret British literary Romanticism as a commitment to imagination, vision and transcendence, as did Meyer Abrams, Harold Bloom and John Beer, or as a questioning, even systematic demystification, of the very possibility of a linguistically unmediated vision, as have Geoffrey Hartman, Paul de Man and host of others, or as an ideology located in specific political and social events, as urged by Carl Woodring, Jerome McGann and the school of new historical Romanticists inspired by their work, or as a complex configuration derived from all of these recent critical approaches, we nonetheless have based our constructions of British Romanticism almost exclusively upon the writings and thought of six male poets (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Byron, Shelley and Keats).

What happens to our interpretations of Romanticism if we focus our attention on the numerous women writers who produced at least half of the literature published in England between 1780 and 1830? . . . . [T]here were over 200 publishing women poets and at least as many novelists, as well as several playwrights, essayists, memoirists and journalists. . . . This book can only attempt an initial, exploratory mapping of this new literary terrain . . . . But even a cursory, introductory survey reveals significant differences between the thematic concerns, formal practices, and ideological positions of male and female Romantic writers. . . . [F]or the most part, . . . women Romantic writers tended to celebrate, not the achievements of the imagination nor the overflow of powerful feelings, but rather the workings of the rational mind, a mind relocated–in a gesture of revolutionary gender implications–in the female as well as the male body. (1-2)


Started in Europe, toward the end of the eighteenth century, Romanticismwas an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement and was at its zenith, in most areas, in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was partly a reaction to theIndustrial Revolution. In the early nineteenth century The European Romantic movement reached America. American Romanticism was just as individualistic and versatile as it was in Europe. Just like the Europeans, the American Romantics also revealed a great level of moral enthusiasm, assurance to individualism and the disclosing of the self, an emphasis on instinctive awareness/perception, as well as the supposition that the natural world was intrinsically good, whilst human society was filled with corruption. The 18th and 19th centuries Romanticism presents wide range in content, style and theme than any other era in English Literature. In England, Romanticism had its immense influence from the end of the 18th century up through about 1870. It’s most important medium of expression was in poetry, though writers espoused many of the similar themes. The Romantic Movement was slightly postponed and moderated, in America, holding sway over arts and letters from around 1830 up to the Civil War. Dissimilar to the English model, American literature supported the novel as the most appropriate genre for Romanticism’s elucidation. In a general sense, Romanticism can be considered as an adjective which is pertinent to the literature of almost any time period. Keeping this in consideration, anything from the Homeric epics to present dime novels can be supposed to bear the stamp of Romanticism. In spite of such universal disagreements over manipulation, there are several conclusive and widespread declarations one can construct concerning the nature of the Romantic Movement in both America and England.


In America there was no intense reformist propensity to establish the type of conspiratorial socialism that appeared in Europe. Alternatively, Romanticism in America obtained its own individual approach from the strong bequest of seventeenth century mutinous Puritanism, which was a strict Calvinist type of Protestantism. A philosophy of individuality with the exceptional American frontier was developed by American Romantics. American settlers experienced a sense of blessedness in the new territory. James Fenimore Cooper romanticized the independence of frontier civilization in past anecdotes, for instance, The Last of the Mohicans written in 1826. Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick which manifested a moral vagueness in the American psyche i.e. a clash among the “mystical blackness” and pioneering free will of Puritan principle. American Romanticism was mostly about social relevance and individualism in that everyone was supposed to have an opportunity to make best use of their own value. With Emerson glancing inside to discover godly spirit, which he asserts we all share in common, as well as Emily Dickinson not going “public” by issuing her poetry, American Romanticism is definitely dissimilar to European in every artist. American Romanticism developed from a frontier that undertook chance for growth, freedom, expansion, while Europe did not have this component. The strength of hopefulness invoked by the assurance of an unexplored frontier was represented in numerous works of art of American Romanticism. Colonization to America produced new outlooks and cultures to the American Romanticism. Augmentation of manufacturing sector in the north that further polarized the agrarian South and the north plus search for new religious cores impacted the American Romanticism and made it noticeably different from European Romanticism.



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