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American Romanticism
Who are the Romantics?
Those who valued feeling, spontaneity, emotion, and
intuition over reason. These provide a “clearer route” to
Truth. (Think Rationalists of the heart )
What was American Romanticism?
A shifting away from Rationalism, the city, and the
monotony of everyday life. Idealizes nature and the
When was the Romantic movement?
In America, 1800-1860
Where was the Romantic movement?
Romantics sought to escape the grimy industrial
conditions of the city for the beauty and truth of nature.
Why did the Romantic age occur when it did?
The Louisiana Purchase (1803) had just doubled U.S.
land mass  allure of the frontier – wide open space,
freedom, adventure, creation, the unknown
Social reform: education, abolitionists trying to end
slavery to value human life, women campaigned for more
 War of 1812
 Mexican War (1846-1848)
 Gold Rush (1849)
 Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859)--global
How did the Romantics escape the dull realities of life?
 Used their imaginations
 Wrote about exotic settings
 Reflected on the natural world
 Looked inward for truth
How did this movement affect the literature of its time?
 Development of the novel! Wrote about frontiers,
settlers, Native Americans
 Poetry was considered the strongest embodiment of
 A new American hero emerged: youthful, innocent,
intuitive, close to Nature
Dark Romanticism
Transcendentalism: the opposite of Rationalism: One comes
to understand God through his creation and through one’s
own intuition.
 More spiritual than religious
 To know the ultimate truth about the universe,
oneself, and other important matters, one must go
beyond, or transcend the everyday human experience.
 Every natural fact is a symbol of a spiritual fact.
 In search of truth:
o Intuition is one’s most important tool
o Nature is the doorway to a spiritual world holding
 By trusting in ourselves, we will realize that we are
all part of a divine soul
 Very optimistic outlook on life
 Ultimately asks the question: What is the point of
Dark Romanticism (Gothic): Transcendentalism’s mirror
Similarities to Transcendentalism:
 Valued intuition
 Saw signs and symbols in human events
 Looked inward for truth
Differences from Transcendentalism:
 Acknowledged that the dark side in humans also
comes from nature’s spiritual facts
 Looked inward but saw man’s darker capabilities
o What novels have you read that might be
considered “gothic”?
Explored through writing:
 Conflict between good and evil
 Psychological effects of guilt and sin
 Madness and derangement
 Man’s intuition is divine, but there are two sides to