Romanticism And The Enlightenment

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The Enlightenment was a pattern of thought that started during the 1600s and 1700s “that critically examined traditional ideas and institutions, privileged reason, and championed progress” according to The Bedford Glossary of Critical Terms (Murfin and Ray, “Enlightenment”). Romanticism was the era that immediately followed in the 1800s, and it was characterized by an emphasis on emotion, nature, and fantastical writing (Murfin and Ray, “Romanticism”). Many of the ideals of the Romantic era were almost opposite to the ideals of the Enlightenment. Because of this, Romanticism is the Hegelian antithesis to the ideals of the Enlightenment because it emphasized emotion over reason, nature’s beauty over its danger, and personal stories over general…show more content…
An example of this is Voltaire and Rousseau. Voltaire was a prominent Enlightenment thinker who advocated that reason and intellect were the keys to an improved life. Rousseau contributed to both the Enlightenment and Romanticism with his views of equality. Rousseau “argued that inequality was not only unnatural, but that--when taken too far--it made decent government impossible” (Brians, “Enlightenment”). His argument was more based on emotion than Voltaire’s because the issue of equality is largely an emotional one. On the other hand, Voltaire thought that equality was unachievable. Rousseau eventually became the influence of a major element of the Romantic movement, Gothic romance. The Gothic romance was a new genre of novel that came about in the Romanticism era. It was born as a reaction to the Enlightenment ideal of balance, rationalism, and reason. These novels had “a general mood of decay, suspense, and terror; action that [was] dramatic…show more content…
Though both movements celebrated the beauty of nature, according to The Bedford Glossary of Critical Terms, the Enlightenment thinkers focused on “the use of the scientific method, observation, and experience to understand - and modify… the natural world…” (Murfin and Ray, “Enlightenment”). This means that the Enlightenment thinkers were focused on using nature to advance human society. One of the main philosophies of the Enlightenment was the concept of natural law. According to Paul Brians article “The Enlightenment”, “The language of natural law, of inherent freedoms, of self-determination which seeped so deeply into the American grain was the language of the Enlightenment.” Natural law as it pertains to the Enlightenment, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, was that “we can know through the use of our unaided reason that we all – all human beings, universally – stand in particular moral relations to each other” (Bristow, “Enlightenment”). Using nature to advance society was not a part of the Romantic movement. Just as the Romantics idealized sensitivity as it pertains to feelings, they also idealized sensitivity to nature, according to Brians’ article on Romanticism ( Brians, “Romanticism”). This is important because this ideal set the stage for the natural world to become

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