By Abdeslam Badre
Romanticism is a revolutionary movement associated with the French working-class revolution against the monarch and the aristocracy : they called for liberty, equality, and fraternity. The movement is also associated with the industrial revolution in England where the industrial town grew dramatically and a large working class, which was living very bad conditions, emerged.
As mode of thinking, romanticism revolutionized literature, religion and philosophy. It questioned the settled way of thinking which had widely spread with the age of Enlightenment : the age that gave priority to reason, and preference to ideas. The romantic ideological novelty can be seen, for example, in the French philosopher, Jean Jack Rousseau, who says : ‘ I felt before I thought’. In this statement, he opposes Descartes who rather supports reason : ‘ I think therefore I am ‘. Rousseau also stated that Man should liberate his spirit. This must bring a new idea, which is feelings may lead to ‘truth’. Hence, the romantic philosophy rejected the 18C. concept of the mind as a mirror or as a simple recipient of the reality out-there ; it rather considers the mind as itself the creator of the universe it perceives.
Romanticism had a great impact on literature. Literary Romanticism has changed the notion of literature. The latter, prior to the 18C., simply consisted of essays, history, and the study of ancient Greek & Roman languages. It was restricted to the study of Classics, and it was not something imaginative/inventive ; rather, it was very much limited and dominated by rationality. Poetry was regarded primarily as an imitation of nature. Then, Romanticism came as new beginning with new conception for literature, by introducing new ideas and ways of perceiving things. By this time, literature was becoming virtually synonymous with the ‘imaginative’ & ‘inventive’ & ‘creative’. The literary work itself came to be seen as an organic unity : it became, as William Wordsworth defined it : ‘ the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling’. Poetry acquired then deep social, political and philosophical implications. Literature has become a whole alternative ideology governed by ‘imagination’.