“Pre 1865 America underwent an industrial revolution which led to developments in many areas. After the Civil War the nation entered a period of vast commercial expansion. Factories were built, cities grew bigger, and fortunes were made. Americans earned more than ever before. They had gained opportunities and freedom. Some felt patriotism and trust in their country. On the other hand there was dissatisfaction with the problems caused by industry and urbanization as well. These developments during the revolution came with an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement which gained strength. From this developed Romanticism with subgenres, light and dark romanticism and transcendentalism. Our authors discussed, Poe, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville and Whitman were also called American Renaissance writers. (http://www.sosyalarastirmalar.com/cilt3/sayi10pdf/dincer_figun.pdf)
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The Romantic Movement celebrated nature rather than civilization, and valued emotion over rationality. As I uncovered information I started to see the term Dark Romanticism. This term comes from both the pessimistic nature of the subgenre’s literature and the influence it derives from the earlier romantic literary movement. Dark Romanticism’s birth however was a mid 19th century reaction to the American Transcendental movement. Some, including Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville, found transcendental beliefs far too optimistic and egotistical and reacted by modifying them in their prose and poetry, works that now comprise the subgenre that was/is dark romanticism (http://library.thinkquest.org/C0126184/english/litamericandark.htm).
“While transcendentalism influenced individual Dark Romantic authors differently, literary critics observed works of the subgenre to break from transcendentalism in a few key ways. Dark Romantics are much less confident about the notion that perfection is an innate quality of mankind, as believed by Transcendentalists. Dark Romantics present individuals as prone to sin and destruction, not as inherently possessing divinity and wisdom. The Dark Romantics adapted images of evil in the form of Satan, devils, ghosts, vampires, and ghouls” (American Literature, Dark Romanticism http://library.thinkquest.org/C0126184/english/litamericandark.htm
“While both groups believe nature is a deeply spiritual force, Dark Romanticism views it in a much more sinister light than does Transcendentalism, which sees nature as divine and universal. For these Dark Romantics, the natural world is dark, decaying, and mysterious. When it does reveal the truth to man, the revelation is evil and hellish. Transcendentalists advocate social reform when appropriate; works of Dark Romanticism frequently show individuals failing in their attempts to make changes for the better” (http://www.america.gov/st/arts-english/2008/April/20080429095227eaifas5.479068e-02.html).
Many consider American writers Edgar Allan Poe, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Herman Melville to be the major Dark Romantic Authors, whereas Thoreau and Whitman would be considered Transcendentalists.
“Instead of carefully defining realistic characters, Hawthorne, Melville, and Poe shaped heroic figures, larger than life and brimming with significance. “Hawthorne called the “Romance” a heightened emotional and symbolic form of the novel. Romances were not love stories, but serious novels that used special techniques to show complex and subtle meanings”( (http://www.america.gov/st/arts-english/2008/April/20080429095227eaifas5.479068e-02.html
“Many of the typical protagonists of the American Romance are haunted, alienated individuals like Arthur Dimmesdale or Hester Prynne, characters in “The Scarlet Letter” . . . and the many isolated and obsessed characters of Poe’s tales show lonely protagonists pitted against unknowable dark fates, that in some mysterious way, grow out of their deepest unconscious selves” (http://www.america.gov/st/arts-english/2008/April/20080429095227eaifas5.479068e-02.html).
The Romantic Movement originated in Germany and quickly spread to England and France, and reached America around 1820. There are many discussions of the term Romanticism with each explaining the label to identify the movement including art, Literature, Music, Philosophy, politics, and culture.
“The grotesque, the gloomy, the morbid, the fantastic, this was the American Dark Romantics. They embraced all of those illogical elements and shaped them into perhaps the most popular sub-genre of American Literature. While the romantics believed reality to be pale and empty, the dark Romantics thought quite the opposite. Life to the Dark romantics was colorful, capricious, and contradictory. Unlike the Romantics, the Dark romantics acknowledged the evil of man and the horror of evil”(library.thinkquest.org/C0126184/english/litamericandark.htm)
“Like the Romantics and the Transcendentalists the Dark Romantics stood to remind the world of the existence of evil, valued intuition and emotion over logic and reason, and saw symbols, spiritual truths, and signs in nature and everyday events. The Key figures of Dark romanticism were Poe, Melville, and Hawthorne. Poe was a master of the psychological thriller and is an American cultural icon. His mystery stories paved the way for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to create Sherlock Holmes” (library.thinkquest.org/C0126184/English/litamericandark.htm).
“Although Herman Melville was not a popular Dark Romantic, he contributed to Romanticism, and the development of the Romantic hero. The publication of Moby Dick in 1851 left many of his readers confused. Moby Dick is a tale of good vs. evil, and man vs. nature. As evil prevails in the story the novel is considered a dark romance novel” (www.online-literature.com/melville/mobydick).
“Nathanial Hawthorne, famous for “The Scarlet letter,” is a purely romantic work with elements of gothic Romance. “The Scarlet Letter” is chock full of gloomy tones, color imagery, supernatural illusions, use of symbols in nature, and in civilization, and nonconformist themes. Two of Hawthorne’s short stories, “Young Goodman Brown,” and “The Minister’s Black Veil” are both consistent with the dark romantic Tradition. In both tales, Hawthorne digs deep into the human mind, and examines sin and evil” (http://library.thinkquest.org/C0126184/english/litamericandark.htm).
“American romanticism is one of the early forms adopted by American authors. It was the canvas for the first wave of great American writers. Romanticism stressed nature and individuality along with the power of imagination. It has a broad range of movements including Transcendentalism made popular by Emerson and Thoreau”(http://library.thinkquest.org/C0126184/english/litamericandark.htm).
“Thoreau, while living at Walden experiences his “self.” He tells us “one’s self” is not the outward expression that we are known to others, but it is the inner person that can only be contacted through isolation. Thoreau theorizes that if man were to become unconcerned with his outward person, and only follow and live by the needs and desires of the self, society could live and thrive in a natural state(“Walden. Thoreau Henry David).
“Was Whitman a romantic? Had he been older, born into the educated class, gone to Harvard, and lived in Boston or Concord, there would be little doubt. He was a late bloomer, coming to poetry at the age of 37, after a career as a journalist, spurred on by his reading of Emerson. He was certain that he was the poet that Emerson called for in “The Poet’, a characterization that he makes clear in his Preface To The 1855 Leaves of grass. Although his poetry has characteristics of transcendental thought and being the brave new poet and American voice that the transcendentalists had hoped for, his most transcendental poems are probably “Song of Myself,” because of its vision of the self, and its relationship to the universe. “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” because of its dramatization of the evolution of the poet, and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom” because of how he sees nature as a symbol” (http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/roots/legacy/whitman/index.html)
“Melville exemplifies the turn in Romanticism that inverts the hero and disavows the quest for unity and understanding, replacing it with a growing recognition of chaos and darkness. The terror implicit in Melville’s dark vision is highlighted in Edgar Allan Poe’s haunting narratives, in which madness, gothic horror, and violent death take center stage and in which the precarious balance of the human psyche is exposed and explored. While his contemporaries Hawthorne, Thoreau, and even Melville might be considered moralist in their orientation, Poe was a like a psychologist, concerned less with the questions of the nature of right and wrong and more with the workings of the mind under extreme stress. In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” widely considered to be one of Poe’s masterpieces, the tale’s narrator tells the terrifying story of his friend Roderick Usher’s premature burial of his twin sister, Madeline. The horror of the burial is compounded by the glimpse Poe gives us of Roderick’s gradual mental decay, as he hears the voice of his sister call him from her coffin. Roderick’s mental suffering seems as acute as Madeline’s, augmented as it is by guilt and by his own fear for his sanity. Roderick’s fear is mirrored in a different way in the narrator, who struggles with his rational mind against the seemingly inescapable fact of supernatural forces at work in the Usher mansion and in the family curse. Poe’s gothic tale of premature burial thus becomes a study of the psychology of mental derangement and of the rational mind’s confrontation with events that seem to transcend rational explanation.” (http://www.enotes.com/american-history-literature/romanticism.)
“In other works, such as “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Black Cat,” Poe employs the device of an insane narrator, whose madness slowly dawns on the reader as the story’s details unfold. The gradual recognition that one is seeing the world through the eyes of insanity has a powerful impact. Poe relies on a similar experience in what is perhaps his best-known work, “The Raven,” a poem in which the narrator gives a hypnotic account of his crushing realization of the finality of his lover’s death. He begins as a seemingly rational man, but as the poem develops, he is tortured by grief and descends into a shrieking hysteria of denial before he collapses at the poem’s end. This is Poe’s testament of the mind’s inability to bear the anguish of loss” http://www.enotes.com/american-history-literature/romanticism.)
“Romantic ideas centered on the spiritual and aesthetic dimension of nature, and the importance of the individual mind and spirit. The Romantics underscored the importance of self-expressive art for the individual and society. The development of the self became a major theme; self-awareness a primary method. If, according to Romantic theory, self and nature were one, self-awareness was not a selfish dead end but a mode of knowledge opening up the universe. If one’s self were one with all humanity, then the individual had a moral duty to reform social inequalities and relieve human suffering. The idea of “self,” which suggested selfishness to earlier generations, was redefined. New compound words with positive meanings emerged: “self-realization,” “self-expression,” “self-reliance”(http://www.enotes.com/american-history-literature/romanticism)
“As the unique, subjective self became important, so did the realm of psychology. Exceptional artistic effects and techniques were developed to evoke heightened psychological states. The “sublime” – an effect of beauty in grandeur (for example, a view from a mountaintop) – produced feelings of awe, reverence, vastness, and a power beyond human comprehension’ (http://www.enotes.com/american-history-literature/romanticism)
“Romanticism was affirmative and appropriate for most American poets and creative essayists. America’s vast mountains, deserts, and tropics embodied the sublime. The Romantic spirit seemed particularly suited to American democracy: It stressed individualism, affirmed the value of the common person, and looked to the inspired imagination for its aesthetic and ethical values” ((http://library.thinkquest.org/C0126184/english/litamericandark.htm)
“The Transcendentalist movement, embodied by essayists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, was a reaction against 18th century Rationalism, and closely linked to the Romantic Movement. It is closely associated with Concord, Massachusetts, a town near Boston, where Emerson, Thoreau, and a group of other writers lived (www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism).
“In general, Transcendentalism was a liberal philosophy favoring nature over formal religious structure, individual insight over dogma, and humane instinct over social convention. American Transcendental Romantics pushed radical individualism to the extreme. American writers – then or later – often saw themselves as lonely explorers outside society and convention. The American hero – like Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab or Mark Twain’s Huck Finn – typically faced risk, or even certain destruction, in the pursuit of metaphysical self-discovery. For the Romantic American writer, nothing was a given. Literary and social conventions, far from being helpful, were dangerous. There was tremendous pressure to discover an authentic literary form, content, and voice” (www.infoplease.com/ce6/ent/A0849256.html).
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“Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord and made it his permanent home. From a poor family, like Emerson, he worked his way through Harvard. Thoreau’s masterpiece, Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854), is the result of two years, two months, and two days (from 1845 to 1847) he spent living in a cabin he built at Walden Pond, near Concord. This long poetic essay challenges the reader to examine his or her life and live it authentically” (Walden Thoreau Henry David)
” Thoreau’s essay, “Civil Disobedience,” with its theory of passive resistance based on the moral necessity for the just individual to disobey unjust laws, was an inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi’s Indian independence movement and Martin Luther King’s struggle for black Americans’ civil rights in the 20th century (sunsite.berkeley.edu/…/Thoreau/CivilDisobedience.html).
“Born on Long Island, New York, Walt Whitman was a part-time carpenter and man of the people, whose brilliant, innovative work expressed the country’s democratic spirit. Whitman was largely self-taught; he left school at the age of 11 to go to work, missing the sort of traditional education that made most American authors respectful imitators of the English. His Leaves of Grass (1855), which he rewrote and revised throughout his life, contains “Song of Myself,” the most stunningly original poem ever written by an American (famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/walt_whitman)
“The poem’s innovative, unrhymed, free-verse form, open celebration of sexuality, vibrant democratic sensibility, and extreme Romantic assertion that the poet’s self was one with the universe and the reader, permanently altered the course of American poetry” (http://www.america.gov/st/peopleplace-english/2008/April/20080429094758eaifas0.1172602.html)
“Dark Romanticism is a literary subgenre that emerged from the philosophical movement popular in the nineteenth-century. Transcendentalism began as a protest against the general state of culture and society at the time, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard and the doctrine of the Unitarian church, which was taught at Harvard Divinity School. Among Transcendentalists core beliefs was an ideal spiritual state which “transcends” the physical and empirical and is only realized through the individual’s intuition, rather than through the doctrines of established religions. Prominent Transcendentalists included Sophia Peabody, the wife of Nathanial Hawthorne, one of the leading dark romanticists. For a time, Peabody and Hawthorne lived at the Brook Farm Transcendentalist utopian commune” (www.associatedcontent.com/…/the_dark_romantics_of_literature.html )
Works in the dark romantic spirit were influenced by Transcendentalism, but did not entirely embrace the ideas of Transcendentalism. Such works are notably less optimistic than transcendental texts about mankind, nature, and divinity.
“Many consider Edgar Allan Poe to be the seminal dark romantic author. Much of his poetry and prose features his characteristic interest in exploring the psychology of man, including the perverse and self-destructive nature of the conscious and subconscious mind. Some of Poe’s notable dark romantic works include the short stories, “Ligeia,” an early short story written by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1838. The story follows an unnamed narrator and his wife Ligeia, a beautiful and intelligent raven-haired woman who falls ill, as many of Poe’s seem to do” (xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper/POE/hawthorne.html)
“Nathaniel Hawthorne is the dark romantic writer with the closest ties to the American Transcendental movement. He was associated with the community in New England and even lived at the Brook Farm
Transcendentalist Utopian commune for a time before he became troubled by the movement; his literature later became anti-transcendental in nature. Also he was troubled by his ancestors’ participation in the Salem witch trials” (xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper/POE/hawthorne.html)
“Melville, Best known during his lifetime for his travel books, a twentieth-century revival in the study of Herman Melville’s works has left “Moby-Dick and Bartleby the Scrivener. Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” is a long short story, or novelette, by American author Herman Melville. The story first appeared anonymously, in two parts, in the November and December 1853 editions of Putnam’s Magazine…” among his most highly regarded. Also known for writing of man’s blind ambition, cruelty, and defiance of God, his themes of madness, mystery, and the triumph of evil over good in these two works make them notable examples of the dark romanticism sub-genre” (http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Dark_romanticism).
“Light Romantics are optimists because they had their solutions by turning to the past. To them the past was everything good. On the other hand, dark Romantics like Hawthorne and Poe, are realistic but not totally pessimistic. Light Romantics look for the past. They turn to the past to see the mistakes they have made. The dark Romantics see both good and bad things in the past and the future. Puritan heritage is some of the writers’ main focus to criticize the past as in “the Scarlet Letter”. They look ahead but distrust changes brought by the future. The Light Romantics solve the problems by searching for the past and the values in the past. Idealism in the Light Romantics cannot be seen in the dark ones. They do not search for utopias but they rely on a struggle for utopia. Another feature of Dark Romanticism is its relation to Gothic fiction, which shares many
Conventions found in Dark Romantic works. It has common elements of darkness and the supernatural and portrays characters feeling sheer terror. Gothic’s themes of dark mystery and skepticism regarding man can be found in Dark Romanticism, as well. These features cannot be observed in Light Romanticism”(www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism).
“It is generally observed that Romantic heroes in these writings tend to be archetypal rather than well-rounded, realistic characters, and often meant to embody ideas rather than represent humanity. Their heavy involvement with nature helps identify them as Romantic heroes. They
also reflect a relation to the past. The setting in all of them tends to be a blend of imagination and realism” ( www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism)-
“Following Dark romanticism, we can see dark features in “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Scarlet Letter.” “The Fall of the House of Usher” All represents Dark Romanticism. It has the strong symbolic representation of nature both in the description of the house and the surrounding storm. Poe uses the setting to establish a gloomy mood and to
Foreshadow dark future events. He also uses symbols to help understand the theme. For instance, Poe describes the setting in the house as “I had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe that about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity- an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn- a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernable and leaden-hued” (Poe,). In fact, the first effect the narrator brings to the story is a very good example for Romanticism when he describes how the weather was the day he arrived at the house of Usher. He says “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavensâ€¦” He uses “dark, dull and soundless day” in autumn that might stand for death coming. The house is, on the other, described with some Gothic elements as
“Dark with bleak walls, vacant eye-like windows, a few trunks of decayed trees” At the very beginning readers can feel the pessimistic and dark mood as the narrator feels. He says that “a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit” “My imagination started to see things as if they were really there”‘ Here, it can be asserted that Poe creates the perfect line between imagination and reality, which is one of the characteristics of the romanticism” (www.online-literature.com/poe)
“If Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, or Nathaniel Hawthorne ever got a hold of a Pentium III Processor with a cable modem and an SVGA monitor, the things would spill from their stiff mouths. Melville would mumble, “What stuff all this is!” Poe would shout, “Lord help his poor soul, he is the spirit of perverseness!” And Hawthorne, though reticent, would yawn and moan, “Positively a hell-fired young man, into which I find it almost impossible to see any cheering light.” And Hawthorne certainly would not. If the Dark Romantics recognized Eric Harris zeal for bloodshed as an element of the inherent evil of man, they would also disapprove of his plan to assault Columbine High School unconditionally. In short, they would nod to themselves; each would acknowledge the truth of the horrifying evil in man, and how attempting to uproot it from the wasteland of human motivation would be futile”(http://library.thinkquest.org/C0126184/english/litamericandark.htm).
“The Dark Romantics stressed the existence of sin, pain, and Satan, as well as the importance of human intuition over reason and logic. The belief in the supernatural and the acknowledgement of spiritual significance in disasters stemmed from these principles. The Dark Romantics believed that these elements of the mind motivated humans in the worst ways. What the Dark Romantics found in the human heart was darkness and the only things that sufficed as explanations for man’s moral hell were that which was mystical and melancholy-a House of Usher, a scarlet letter, , a minister perpetually hidden behind a dark veil, and an idle scrivener. Would humans be pure and free from sin? As Poe would put it: “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/shall be lifted-nevermore”(library.thinkquest.org/C0126184/english/litamericandark.htm)
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