I feel the idea of romanticism which distinguishes it from other movements, in particular the Enlightenment, is really the emphasis on the subjective and emotional experience of things, in opposition to the objective and analytical observation of things.

Is that correct?


One example is John Keats. One letter to Charles Dilke (1819) illustrates the point:

Talking of Pleasure, this moment I was writing with one hand, and with the other holding to my Mouth a Nectarine—good God how fine. It went down soft, pulpy, slushy, oozy—all its delicious embonpoint melted down my throat like a large beatified Strawberry. I shall certainly breed. Now I come to my request. Should you like me for a neighbour again? Come, plump it out, I won’t blush.

A precursor of this tradition is Rousseau with Julie; or, The New Heloise (1761), and followers are Baudelaire ("L'Albatros", 1861) and Rimbaud ("Sensation", 1870).

These pieces bring the reader into experiencing in a sensitive way the idea/world/feeling the author wants to transmit/recreate via their piece.

In comparison, some fictitious novels such as Supplément au voyage de Bougainville (philosophical tale), or Madame Bovary (realistic novel) bring the author to think and then to observe (in the latter), or to observe and then to think (in the former).

I suppose drawing a similar parallel in music would be more difficult but possible.

  • 2
    As impressions go, your summary is fine with one useful caveat: it's possible to orthogonalize and reify the differences between these partitions, erasing the considerable overlap(s). At their core -- 1) these cohort mindsets consider time differently: the Romantics were rebelling against the clockwork universe of the Enlightenment. 2) they had differing perspectives on the possibilities of human knowledge: the Romantics were moving away from the deterministic, omniscient Voltairean eye in acknowledging human fallibility and imperfection
    – DJohnson
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 11:53
  • 1
    Yes, Descartes' foundationalism was being challenged.
    – DJohnson
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 12:01
  • 1
    The possibility of human perfection is, imo, a core principle of Christian Western Civ, implicit in biblical injunctions to control and/or master nature. Enlightenment thought was a continuation of this insofar as it advanced anti-scholastic frameworks criticizing static, received knowledge and promoted critical human capacities for experimentation and observation -- the invention of science, if you will.
    – DJohnson
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 12:11
  • 1
    Check out Brown's Thing Theory for a full discussion of the meaning of things. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thing_theory
    – DJohnson
    Commented Jul 16, 2023 at 11:21
  • 2
    @DJohnson your comments would make an excellent answer Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 6:58


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