Romanticism as a Reaction to the Enlightenment

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Romanticism as a Reaction to the Enlightenment

The epoch known as the Age of Reason, or the Enlightenment, was a secular intellectual movement that looked to reason as an explanation of the world. The Enlightenment began in 1687 with the publishing of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia and ended in 1789 with the French Revolution (Fiero 134). The epoch of Romanticism was a reaction to the rationalism of the Enlightenment. The movement of Romanticism began in 1760 and ended in 1871. Romanticism as a movement was a reaction to the Enlightenment as a cultural movement, an aesthetic style, and an attitude of mind (210).

As a cultural movement, Romanticism “revolted against academic convention, and authority,” and the “limitations to freedom” that Romantics saw in the Enlightenment period (210). “Among European intellectuals, the belief in the reforming powers of reason became the basis for a progressive view of human history” (144). Enlightenment figures Antione Nicolas de Condorcet and Mary Wollstonecraft advocated for one such progressive cause, the rights of women. Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman put the idea of women’s rights into the minds of people during the Enlightenment period. As a merely progressive view, women did not obtain rights such as voting until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Enlightenment writers like Jonathan Swift and Voltaire, used satire to “[draw] attention to the vast contradictions between morals and manners, intentions and actions, and, more generally Enlightenment aspirations and contemporary degradation” (158).

The Enlightenment was a period of increased literacy and public interest in literature and arts that promoted learning through reason and logic (134). Romantic wr...

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...formation that forms experience.

Romanticism was a reaction to the Enlightenment as a cultural movement, an aesthetic style, and an attitude of mind (210). Culturally, Romanticism freed people from the limitations and rules of the Enlightenment. The music of the Enlightenment was orderly and restrained, while the music of the Romantic period was emotional. As an aesthetic style, Romanticism was very imaginative while the art of the Enlightenment was realistic and ornate. The Romanticism as an attitude of mind was characterized by transcendental idealism, where experience was obtained through the gathering and processing of information. The idealism of the Enlightenment defined experience as something that was just gathered.

Works Cited

Fiero, Gloria K. The Humanistic Tradition. 6th ed. Vol. 2. New York: McGraw Hill, 2011. Print.

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