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Romanticism Movement Essay, Research Paper

Romanticism is a literary and artistic movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth

centuries that placed value on emotion or imagination over reason, on the

imagination over society. Some sources say Romanticism started in reaction to

neo-classicism, or the Enlightenment. The most important result of romanticism

was the emphasis laid upon the supernatural. Some writers during this time

period were Mary Shelley with Frankenstein, Edgar Allen Poe with various poems

and selections, such as The Raven, The TellTale Heart, and The Pit and The

Pendulum. One person who had a great effect on the Romantic era was Washington

Irving. Some called Irving the first real American writer. Washington Irving was

born April 3, 1783, in New York City. He was the eleventh child of Sarah William

Irving. His father was a strict man, a merchant and deacon in the Presbyterian

Church. He started school at the age of four, but he never took it seriously.

Even when he was older, he did not really care for school. He did not impress

any of his teachers as outstanding. It was out of school where his real

interests developed. His interests were more into reading books of adventure and

travel. He was very good at writing, though. He loved the theater. His

fascination with the arts grew and was encouraged by one of her sister’s

boyfriends (Myers 64). His interests in the arts and in the theater were obvious

in his works. Irving did not wish to go to college. Though he had great

interests in the theater and the arts, his father expected each of his sons to

support himself, so Washington decided to be an apprentice in a law office. His

employer was Ogden Hoffman and Irving fell in love with his daughter. He also

wrote articles for his brother’s paper, the Morning Chronicle. He signed his

articles "Jonathon Oldstyle". Later he joined his brother William and

his friend Jim Paulding in making a humorous magazine called Salmagundi. In

1809, he published Dreidrich Knickerbocker’s History of New York. He later went

to Europe in 1815. Many people were very anxious to meet him. From 1815-1832, he

lived in England, Dresden, Paris, and Spain. In 1819, he published The

Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, which most people see as his greatest work. This

book was a collection of essays and stories. Among the stories it included

"Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Both

these stories were based on German legends. He is very highly acclaimed for

these two children’s stories. Irving wrote many good selections. Despite this

fact, some say Irving could be seen as a lesser man than his predecessors.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, "He lacked the religious intensity of

Mather, the versatility of Franklin, the statesmanship of Jefferson, or the

dedication of Paine. Yet he outlives them all in the history of American

letters"(649). Others see him as the first real American poet. Everyone saw

him as such a great poet because of The SketchBook. Everyone was reading it in

that time. It was all the rage. This book established Irving as a talented

writer , one whose elegant good taste seemed to come instinctively. While he was

making Dreidrich Knickerbocker’s History of New York, he was interrupted by the

sudden death of Matilda Hoffman, Ogden Hoffman’s daughter. It caused him much

grief, but after a while, he learned how to live with it. For some years after

the success of his book, his life seemed to him more or less aimless. During

these years he turned to variety of pursuits. He primed an American edition of

Thomas Campbell’s poems, edited the Analectic Magazine and acquired a

colonelship during the war of 1812. The Romantic sonnet holds in its topics the

ideals of the time period, concentrating on emotion, nature, and the expression

of "nothing." The Romantic era was one that focused on the commonality

of humankind and, while using emotion and nature, the poets and their works shed

light on people’s universal natures. In Charlotte Smith’s "Sonnet XII -

Written on the Sea Shore," the speaker of the poem embodies two important

aspects of Romantic work in relating his or her personal feelings and emotions

and also in having a focused and detailed natural setting. The speaker takes his

or her "solitary seat" near the shore of a stormy sea and reflects

upon life and the "wild gloomy scene" that suits the "mournful

temper" of his or her soul (ll.4, 7,8). While much Romantic writing dealt

with love and the struggles endured due to love, there was also emphasis placed

on isolation, as seen in the emotions of Smith’s speaker and also in the setting

on the work. Nature, in many Romantic sonnets, is in direct parallel with the

emotions being conveyed. Smith, for example, uses the water to aid the reader’s

comprehension of the speaker’s state of mind. Included in this traditional

natural setting is the use of the sea as stormy, deep, extensive, and dark which

ties the speaker in with the setting as the scene applies to the tone of the

poem as well. Also characteristic of the Romantic sonnet is the retreat from the

neo-classical age and its significant historical references into a new age where

it becomes common to speak of "nothing." In William Wordsworth’s

"Composed Upon Westminster Bridge," there is no deeper meaning to be

grasped other than the beauty of the day’s dawning. The speaker’s view of the

morning and its "majesty" and the "calm" that comes over the

speaker are central ideas in the poem (ll. 3, 11). In this sonnet, it is again

apparent how influential and prevalent nature is.

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