Thursday, January 14, 2010


When I teach Humanities I look forward to getting to the Romantic period. Now here’s a period you can sink your teeth into. You can name its characteristics and point them out easily in the art and definitely the literature. I always use Wordsworth’s poem “The World is Too Much with us” to start it off.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; (1)
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, (2)
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus (3) rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton (4) blow his wreathed horn.

I will not bore one with my lecture, but the characteristics of Romanticism include emphasis on emotion, primitive people, the unconscious, devil and demons, and exotic middle eastern lands and a turning away from or rejection of industrialism, rationalism, and classicism. Artists were now using art as a way to protest as well as express, and artists were considered a better class of people. Above all, Romanticism changed the Western view of nature.

Although we live in modernity, I think we live in the shadows of Romanticism. I blame Romanticism for a lot, although we can attribute some good to it. It did lead to better treatment of children, in a way. Our music (rock, blues, jazz) is more romantic than classical. The Green Revolution is Romantic. Our liberal view of the government as nanny state is Romantic. The more I look around, the more I see the Romantics are too much with us.

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