Isaak Nusinov 1930

Brief history of literary Romanticism

Author: Isaak Nusinov;
Written: 1930;
First published: 1930 in Small Soviet Encyclopedia, Vol. 7, pp. 401-402;
Translated by: Anton P.

The literary movement known as Romanticism originated in the last third of the 18th century originally in England and took shape in the late 18th and early 19th century as a literary school first of all in Germany and then in other European countries. Romanticism became by the 1830s the mainstream literary school, which in the following decades gave way to Realism.

In all these countries, Romanticism was the literary movement of two groups that survived a great historical catastrophe: the declining nobility yearning for the feudal past, and the petty bourgeoisie, whose great impulses of the era of storm and stress in Germany and of the heroic days of the Jacobin dictatorship in France ended in vain: what replaced the old order was not the people, but a large capitalist, the principles that triumphed were not freedom, equality and fraternity but the laws of the market. Romanticism was an expression of the disappointment of these two groups in the ways and methods, and sometimes even in the ideals of the 18th century, their powerless rebellion and angry protest against the perpetrators of their misfortune and humiliation. Romanticism came as a replacement to Classicism, which was the literary school of the aristocracy and the big bourgeoisie of the 17-18th centuries, the era of absolute monarchy. Opposing itself to Classicism, Romanticism rejects the rationalism of the classics, asserts the primacy of imagination and feeling, and promotes the cult of mystery, secrets and horrors. Classicism knew the cult of the ancient world, Romanticism refers to the Middle Ages and glorifies them. Classicism operated on man In general, Romanticism operates chiefly on the concepts of nation, national past, and therefore affirms the principle of historicity, cultivates historical works (the novel, etc.). Romanticism seeks to create a person opposed to society, indeed an exceptional person. For a classicist, the highest principle of creativity is truth (for Boileau truth alone is beautiful). For a romantic, truth is opposed by justice. For a classic, truth is nature, reality; the romantic turns away from truth and opposes truth to poetry. For a romantic, nature is just a source of moods, emotions, delights. Therefore, Romanticism is most interested in the exotic landscape, the landscape of distant non-European countries.

Expressing the impotence of two large social groups, Romanticism was imbued with the deepest individualism, the cult of a rebellious, often God-fighting, always exceptional personality, stood in the center of the creative attention of almost all the great Romantics. Individualism and powerlessness permeated the entire poetics of Romanticism. Each of the two groups, whose social disaster was expressed by Romanticism, nominated a number of major writers. In Germany, aristocratic Romanticism was grouped in the so-called Jena school (1798-1802); representatives of aristocratic Romanticism include Novalis and Fouque (author of the novel Undine); petty bourgeois Romanticism is represented by Hoffmann and Heine. In France, representatives of aristocratic Romanticism include Chateaubriand and Alfred de Vigny, and of petty-bourgeois Romanticism Victor Hugo. The radical tendencies of French Romanticism were expressed by Georges Sand and others.

As the bourgeois order gained strength, the nobility increasingly lost hope of a return to the past, and the petty bourgeoisie lost hope of the implementation of democracy, the original demand of the Great French Revolution. The social illusions of these two groups were outlived, and Romanticism died with them. After the revolution of 1848, Romanticism gave way to Realism.

In Russia Romanticism was founded by Zhukovsky (he had started as a translator of Western romantics) and flourished in the 1820-30s. It was represented by Pushkin, Lermontov, V.F. Odoevsky, Gogol, especially Marlinsky, etc. Here too Romanticism was an expression of the crisis of the impoverished aristocracy, the hopelessness of the position of a part of the petty nobility and petty bourgeoisie. As a literary school, by the middle of the 19th century Romanticism is increasingly fading away, but the well-known elements of Romanticism, such as: the cult of the exceptional personality, individualistic rebelliousness, assertion of the primacy of feeling, opposition to objective truth by the truths of the poet etc. were also subsequently inherent in individual writers (the early Maxim Gorky and others), who are often called Neo-Romantics.