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Romantic Alienation

  • Geoffrey Thurley

Abstract

So far we have studied the Romantic predicament in terms of the language of’ its poetry, its new sense of ‘meaning’, and a certain subjectivism of literary content. In all cases, what had been felt before to be shortcomings of Romantic writers, turned out on inspection to be simply characteristics of a particular historical situation. This situation — the Romantic predicament — is beginning to emerge as a series of content-shifts. These shifts can be seen in turn as fallings-away — privations of subject-matter and attitude. Not only the way poets see things, but what they see, is created by the evolution of the historical continuum of which they are part. Erwin Panofsky’s perception that the material available to the artist changed dramatically during the Romantic period emerges as more and more important. If the evolution of history robbed the artist of the efficacy of certain traditional iconographies (themes and motifs, once operative and pungent, now decorative and useless), so did it alter the artist’s vision of man himself.

Keywords

Romantic Period Historical Situation Christian Doctrine Romantic Poet Societal Organisation 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    See for instance J. C. F. Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man ed. and tr. E. M. Wilkinson and L. Willoughby (Oxford, 1967), ‘Humanity has lost its dignity’, p. 57.Google Scholar
  2. J. Israel for a general account of this aspect of Romantic despair, Alienation from Marx to Modern Sociology (Boston, 1971) pp. 24–7.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    T. Hobbes, Leviathan part 1 ch. 13 (London, 1973) p. 67.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    C. B. MacPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (Oxford, 1962) p. 22.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Jürgen Habermas, Theory and Practice tr. J. Viertel (London, 1974) p. 92 et seq.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    J-J. Rousseau, The Political Writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, ed. C. E. Vaugh, 3 vols (Cambridge, 1915) vol. I, pp. 173–90.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    K. Marx, Marx-Engels, Gesammtausgabe (Berlin, 1962) section 1, vol. II, p. 599.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See R. Tucker, Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx (Cambridge, 1961) p. 34 et seq.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    G. W. F. Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik (Stuttgart-Bad Sannstatt, 1964) vol. II, ‘De Romantische Kunstform’, pp. 120 ff.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    For the Romantics’ political beliefs, see T. R. Edwards, Imagination and Poetry: a Study of Poetry on Public Themes (London, 1971).Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    T. W. Adorno, Prisms, tr. S. and S. Weber (London, 1967) p. 157.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Geoffrey Thurley 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoffrey Thurley

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