Good Essay About The Age Of Romanticism: The Infinite Within The Finite

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Human, Romanticism, Beauty, Society, Experience, Age, Love, Pleasure

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/03/17

Following the Age of Enlightenment, a new movement formed that was called Romanticism. Whereas the Enlightenment era was involved with political institutions and inherited intellectual authorities, the Romantic era was birthed out of a desire to shift from faith in reason to faith in emotion and the senses. The power and prominence of the imagination spoke of not only the devotion to self-introspection and self-discovery but also the idea that all is not as it seems. The sense of the mystery that has enlivened art and nurtured hungry souls was cradled in this era, where the individual and his personal experience were glorified for all its frenzy, chaos, emotion, and despair. The essence of romanticism was therefore to uphold the value of the individual human experience, while honoring the inherent beauty that lies in the arduous pursuit of fulfillment as well as the deeper, more mystical implications of that lifelong journey.
Romanticism replaced focus on urban society in high favor of rural nature. It replaced public, impersonal expression with introspective personal attention. It replaced the empirical and scientific with the infinite and supernatural. The individual and his experience was the focal point. Intuition was upheld as divinely mysterious and incomparably powerful. The imagination was paramount and instrumental to the human experience, as it was the portal to transcendence of the limited human vision and body. Feelings were the natural guideposts to conduct, which replaced the previous era’s faith in controlled rationalism. Primitivism was revered for its unblemished nature, before the urbanization and intellectualism of society. In fact, Romantics believed that rural living would eradicate most of the problems of society that formed as an unfavorable byproduct of urbanization. The movement consisted of “a nostalgia for the past, and suspicion of uniformity at the expense of individuality” (Schneider xiii). The Medieval past, the gothic, and the exotic were of great interest to Romantics, which translated into architecture, art, literature and poetry. Romantics were drawn to concepts of revolution, particularly when in the case of human rights, freedom, and self-autonomy. The Romantic era emphasized introspection, contemplation, melancholy, and dispiritedness. Literature and art heavily focused on death and human evanescence, and the way humans deal with their mortality. Any Romantic artist was freed from any limitations imposed by traditional form, and was instead able to be directed by his inner creative spirit.
The transcendence of the mundane and the finite was a core principle in Romanticism. For Romantics, the naked eye was blind to the true nature of reality. Within the seemingly minute, the infinite silently remained. As William Blake puts it: “To see a world in a grain of Sand, / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, / And Eternity in an hour” (Reardon 3). Romantics were therefore perhaps at the very forefront of what is now the modern day new age movement, as they revived the idea of having metaphysical vision and seeing beyond the mere physical. Romanticism brought us “nearer to the mystery of the universe,” as it removed the notion that there was one God and instead revealed the idea that the pursuit of peace and truth is a journey that unites rather than separates all human beings (Reardon 5).
Romantics upheld personal truth and the inner genius, and emphasized “the important role writers, painters, and musicians had in bringing those concepts together through their works” (Schneider xiii). For example, in John Keats’ “Ode on Melancholy,” the speaker comes to the conclusion that joy’s transience is precisely what makes it so meaningful. . To “burst Joy’s grape” is to be aware of the sadness that exists in all pleasure (Keats 3.28). This is not something to bemoan, for endless pleasure would lose its beauty and magnificence. Likewise, it is the decaying of beauty that makes the experiential pleasure of witnessing it so enlivening. “Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,” he says, exploring the poignant intertwining of pleasure and pain. Rather than ignore the fact that his mistress will eventually lose her physical beauty, he instead takes it as a sign to enjoy her beauty in the present to a deeper degree. In another example, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein also reveals many of the fundamental ideas behind the Romantic movement. The monster experiences rejection from society because of his grotesque and frightening appearance, which causes him to express feelings of deep sadness and ultimately anger: “The human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear” (Shelley 173). The monster represents the unfortunate individuals whom society all too easily rejects, oftentimes merely on the basis of physical appearance. The emphasis of the spiritual side of the monster and his longing for connection reveal the inherent sameness that he shares with the very people who reject him. Society’s attachment to rigid rationalism prevents them from realizing that he bears the same longings as any other human being.
Romantics paved the way for the true human experience. Whereas the Age of Enlightenment was propelled by an overt amount of optimism and belief in human reason to improve the world, Romanticism instead emphasized the beauty of the entire gamut of human experience. Sadness was not something to be avoided, but rather the thing that made living so beautiful when joy was in the soul. Romantics understood that contrast was for the fullness of life, and lived deeper, richer, and more profound lives by their acceptance and even glorification of the need for struggle to have the peace, the need for the dark in order to have the light.

Works Cited

Keats, John. Ode on Melancholy, 1816. South Bend, IN: Infomotions, ;, 2001. Print.
Reardon, Bernard M. G. Religion in the Age of Romanticism: Studies in Early Nineteenth
Century Thought. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire: Cambridge UP, 1985. Print.
Schneider, Joanne. The Age of Romanticism. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2007. Print.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. Charlottesville, Va.: U of Virginia Library, 1996.

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