England and Germany are considered to be the strongholds of Romanticism. (academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu, p.2) The period clashed with the American (1776) and French (1789) Revolution. Though, it was for the first time that intellectual elite of Germanic countries gave birth to revolution of souls and minds, neither Italy nor France, belonging to Romanic world, as in case with Renaissance. Sturm und Drang movement emerged in Germany, uniting the elite of feudal disunited country. Thanks to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Ernst Hoffmann and many other men of genius, we have wonderful, miraculous fairy-tales. August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis (Georg Friedrich Philipp von Hardenberg), Friedrich Schleiermacher were among the originators of Romanticism as ethic, aesthetic, artistic and philosophical concept.
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by John Byron involves almost all the peculiar features of Romantic literature, i.e. journey (both physical and mental) (as one of possible themes), escapism, disappointment, unexpected circumstances and extraordinary hero. In theory of literature the term “romantic hero” is accordant to that of “Byronic hero”. Distinctive features of Byronism and Byronic hero as the phenomena in literature are as follows: escape from the cruelty of life, world grief, continuous state of exploration of harmony etc. Unifying feature of all Romantic authors is not egocentrism, but being self-centred, i.e. putting their ideas into the mouth of their heroes, similar physical traits and living the idealistic live (what a hero does from the standpoint of an author) - speak louder here.
The poem was written in the beginning of the XIX century. The poem involves a young man, who is candidate for knighthood, on a journey. The semantics of anthroponym “Childe” dates back to Old English period. The word is used to mean “a young lord”, i.e. a son of a noble, who is not yet a knight, or a title in chivalry. The second name, Harold, may refer to Germanic world, meaning “he, who commands a battalion” (a warrior host). The poem consists of preface and four cantos. It is autobiographical in terms of Byron’s perception of reality and public stance. Being a public, political figure and his hero’s high blood may also be regarded as autobiographic feature of the poem.
However, “The Preface to Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, published along with the poem, explains Byron’s intent in writing the poem and offers a defence of Childe Harold’s seemingly un-chivalrous character, despite his being a candidate for knighthood. Byron also insists that, while based on real events, the poem is in no way to be taken as autobiographical.” (gradesaver.com, p.1) All these mean that creation is inspired by life.
Romantic ideal of education is education in nature’s lap. Consequently, any debates around “nature or nurture” concept are solved of their own accord. Nature “…was often presented as itself a work of art, constructed by a divine imagination, in emblematic language.” (academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu, p.5) Romantic artists treated nature as: a healing power, a source of object and image, refuge from artificial constructs of civilization. “It was viewed as "organic," rather than, as in the scientific or rationalist view, as a system of "mechanical" laws, for Romanticism displaced the rationalist view of the universe as a machine (e.g., the deistic image of a clock) with the analogue of an "organic" image, a living tree or mankind itself. At the same time, Romantics gave greater attention both to describing natural phenomena accurately and to capturing "sensuous nuance"--and this is as true of Romantic landscape painting as of Romantic nature poetry. Accuracy of observation, however, was not sought for its own sake. Romantic nature poetry is essentially a poetry of meditation.” (academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu, p.5)
Henry David Thoreau in his book “Walden; or, Life in the Woods”, published in 1845, by means of autobiography proclaimed the concepts of transcendentalism, invented by German philosophers Georg Hegel and Immanuel Kant, introduced to English and American literatures by Samuel Coleridge, Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Transcendentalism indicated the process of general humanization of philosophy in the XIX century.
“Symbolism and myth were given great prominence in the Romantic conception of art. In the Romantic view, symbols were the human aesthetic correlatives of nature's emblematic language.” (academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu, p.6) That means that symbol is polysemous and important as far as allegory being concerned. The poem is symbolic and the cases of mythopoetics in the poem have to do with hero’s travel in the land of Greece – the idealistic citadel of spirit and fealty.
“…Romantics generally called for greater attention to the emotions as a necessary supplement to purely logical reason.” (academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu, p.7) Being a symbolic poem, another antinomy within the literary work is its being canonical. “The interior journey and the development of the self recurred everywhere as subject material for the Romantic artist. The artist-as-hero is a specifically Romantic type.” (academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu, p.7)
Yet something different the poem by Henry Wadsworth Logfellow “The Song of Hiawatha” is. Optimism, bright mind, wisdom, kindness, bravery and peace make it another stage within the romantic period in literature. The poem consists of twenty-three cantos, based on Native-Americans’ mythology and ethnography – names of clothing, objects of everyday use and names of deities. “Hiawatha's coming is foretold by Gitche Manito, the mighty spirit who gathers his people together and tells them a peacekeeper will be born who will bring wisdom to the warring tribes and stop their fighting.” (enotes.com, p.3) Brought up by his grandmother, Hiawatha commits many great deeds, becoming a wise, fearless and veracious hero. The poem is a hymn to the nature, a man, dignity and belief in the right, the story of gains and losses. Life and death, past and future, generational change, belief, connection between people and nature are still not deprived of sacredness.
Modernism appeared in the last decades of the XIX century and became popular in XX century. It synthesised all the achievements of the past and worked out some special techniques. Epiphany, montage, chronological shifts, estrangement, stream of consciousness technique (interior monologue, unreliable narrator, and improper direct speech), break of the syntax etc. were characteristics of the period. “The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man” is a novel written by James Joyce and published in 1916. The specific genre is clarified as Bildungsroman, i.e. the novel of formation of the personality of a hero, his identity. It is also autobiographical novel. Stephen Dedalus is an archetype – we meet him in this novel, then the character acts in “Ulysses”. Some scientists, who investigate Joyce’s works, admit that first three stories from “Dubliners” collection might have been narrated by younger Stephen.
The novel, though, is considered to be semi-autobiographical. The story tells about the life of a person, who seeks for identity. The very title and the very beginning make things clear.
While mirror is our own perception of us, a portrait is our image, created by society and surrounding. Artist is anyone, who creates his life with his own hands, skills and talents. The hero is depicted as a child, a pupil, a student, a friend, a loving man. Childhood, adolescence and youth are the stages in development of any human being. In addition, anyone can create his own world, his way of observation, perception and caring. The novel tells of youth, with its special things: idealisation, lightness, intellectual development, experience, hope, catharsis and hope.
“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. . . . His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face. He was a baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt. O, the wild rose blossoms On the little green place.
He sang that song. That was his song. O, the green wothe botheth…” (sparknotes.com, p.1) The abstract sets the scene – these are the first lines. Being attentive, one may guess that something is wrong within the family; the boy is closer to his mother than to his father, who is rough and strict and perhaps the father may get into trouble because of his work – judging from the description, his father is hard-working, but makes a little success.
“—Corpus Domini nostri. Could it be? He knelt there sinless and timid: and he would hold upon his tongue the host and God would enter his purified body.—In vitam eternam. Amen. Another life! A life of grace and virtue and happiness! It was true. It was not a dream from which he would wake. The past was past.—Corpus Domini nostri. The ciborium had come to him.” (sparknotes.com, p.2) This is actually one of the moments of epiphany in the novel. Epiphany is the sudden revelation of a hero.
What is peculiar about the novel is that it ends with the notes from hero’s diary. He departs, he moves in order to fulfil his dream and find his identity. Not many examples exist that show how the author can decompose in his hero’s identity. Goethe’s “Leiden des jungen Werthers” is purely romantic epistolary novel, the first novel of that kind.
Yoknapatawpha County is a generalized character of American South, created by William Faulkner. That is the setting of majority of author’s novelettes. Man and nature face each other again at pages, written by Faulkner’s genius. A boy, named Isaac, taken for the first time on a hunting season, is in the centre of world of people, depicted in the novelette. The life of the wild world takes its course. The old Bear, The Old Ben, rules here. The work mentions that he (the bear) is a sort of anachronism of the world. It is clear that the author himself has a thorough, profound knowledge about hunter’s life.
The game is a kind of entertainment for the men. But hardly ever had people been so cruel and had invented such a sophisticated manner to destroy the weak, and make an entertaining passion out of it. People live their life, interfere the nature more and more. Cruelty, wildlife management and nature’s disregard became the part of the human nature. The world became morose, when inter-connections fall. The idea is as follows: passion fades, evil breeds evil, the order of the old world is collapsed under the tread of things to come.
The novelette is the centrepiece of “Go down, Moses”. It is the most intense, focused and symbolic exploration of the relationship between people and nature. Man’s attempt to conquer as novelette of ambiguity. The way the change, the nature and the life-style is depicted is thought-provoking.
The works of literature differ in form, but the idea is rather similar. Fairy tale and ballade, antic poetical form, synthesis were characteristics of that time. Romanticism built a ground for further development of philosophy, psychology and aesthetics. Both philosophy and psychology have influenced politics and science much. Cultural and aesthetic views were determined much by all of the above. Debunk rationalism that failed to change the old order, was substituted by sentiments and emotions. Intellectual art did not manage to wake people’s consciousness, i.e. public conscience, civic awareness and what not.
Francois Rabelais, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe spoke about people’s abilities, multiversity of the abilities of human soul and mind. All of them had to scavenger. But they knew that there is still a hope. The real essence of art was to fix the ideas of kindness and care for each other and the environment. Attention to personal problems and the inner world made things different. Agile mind yielded undisguised emotions. Respect and kindness no longer reign in people’s relationship, either belief in miracle. These ideas were proclaimed by Charles Dickens, who still had a strong belief in humanity. Oscar Wilde was one of those, who understood well what was wrong about art and society. So, he could foresee further trends in their development.
What Romanticism and Modernism had in common was so-called fatalism (i.e. destinism, hard-determinism). Pushkin, who predicted his death in his poem “Eugene Onegin”, Lermontov, who rejected his resemblance to Byron, was shot by the bullet relinquished from the gun to kill Pushkin. Giorgio de Chirico, Italian artist, precursor of surrealism, circa 1914 made a portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire as a marked man. Few years after Apollinaire lost his life at war. The wound was at the same place that was pointed at the portrait. Somehow it happened so that artists have foreseen the brevity of their life-time. Wilhelm Hauff in twenty four years of his life created more twenty fairy-tales, based on Germanic and oriental folklore, two novels, three satirical works and more than a dozen of short stories. On the other hand, Charles Perrault, who began his literary work at the age of sixty seven. Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was a writer, a composer (Johannes Kreisler) and the painter.
The leave-taking of the cohort of geniuses was marked with a sudden decay. The mission to shake the traditional ideas was delegated to modernists. These artists were the first to manifest themselves as modern ones. So they treed themselves and drove themselves into the framework. They were the first to parade their knowledge and make this a subject of ridicule at once. That is how the concept of “Art for Art’s sake” worked and, retrospectively, estimated the climate of cultural life. That is all together an allegory of modernism and its self-irony.
Nothing is new. That is what todays art is about. Hardly anyone knows what had happened in the beginning of the past century. Perhaps, people became masters of deceit, learning so long to be numb. Perhaps, it is just weariness. Cynically, but if information is no longer synonymous to humanism, perhaps, modernism is the most humane thing ever that might have happened to this world and people’s consciousness.