The Eternal Dance: Classicism and Romanticism in Literature

Literary history unfolds like a mesmerizing dance between two eternal partners: Classicism and Romanticism. These two artistic movements have influenced the literature, visual art, music, and architecture of the Western world for centuries, each taking center stage in its own time.

  • Classicism:
    • Origin: The term "Classical" was retroactively given to the Greeks and Romans by Renaissance writers.
    • Beauty: Defined as balance, order, and rationality.
    • Periods: Flourished during the Renaissance and Age of Enlightenment.
    • Literary Values:
      • Traditional forms and structures.
      • Attention to metric perfection.
      • Reason as a tool for understanding nature and human nature.
    • Notable Figures: Virgil, Dante Alighieri, Dryden, Pope.
  • Romanticism:
    • Origin: Emerged in the 18th century as a reaction against Classicism.
    • Beauty: Celebrated through imagination and powerful emotions.
    • Periods: Dominated the late 18th and early 19th centuries (Romantic period).
    • Literary Values:
      • Embrace of strong emotions and rejection of rigid structures.
      • Imagination as a pathway to truth.
      • Celebration of the grotesque and the outcast.
    • Notable Figures: Wordsworth, Keats, Byron, Shelley, Charlotte Brontë.

Their Divergent Literary Approaches

  • Classicism:
    • Belief: Reason is paramount.
    • Interest: Civilized, modern, and sophisticated modes of life.
    • Writing Style:
      • Satirical tendency.
      • Formal correctness and order.
      • Emphasis on tradition and moral truth.
    • View of Nature: A self-contained machine with rationally understandable laws.
  • Romanticism:
    • Belief: Feelings, imagination, and intuition hold significance.
    • Interest: Primitive, medieval, and natural modes of life.
    • Writing Style:
      • Myth-making tendency.
      • Individual expressiveness and intensity.
      • Prevalence of image and symbol.
    • View of Nature: Mysterious, ever-changing, and beyond full understanding.

The Evolutionary Overlap

While Classicism and Romanticism showcase distinct characteristics, they often coexist and overlap in literary masterpieces. Both tendencies have left an indelible mark on the Western literary landscape, shaping the way we perceive and appreciate the art of words.

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