Romanticism and the Age of Reason
Most people know that it is a lot more fun to watch something that is associated with some kind of emotion. It is common to hear someone say: “I cried so much, loved it! ” or “That movie was hilarious! ” after a movie. Movies that are strictly fact are not as exciting as the ones with some action in it; emotion makes the story interesting. The romantic period in American literature is often called the American renaissance. During this period many of the novels, which can be found in today’s English schoolbooks, were written.
Romanticism, which put emotion before everything, was a direct reaction against the age of reason, which put logic first. This essay will talk about characteristics of romanticism, such as: Death and intuition, which are going to be discussed in this essay. It is also going to talk about the ways that the romantic authors were trying to show, in their writings, how they opposed logic and reason. The Romantic authors believed that intuition was an essential part of their literature.
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They did not want to use reason and logic in order to write their novels, instead, they used intuition. It meant that they wanted to look inside themselves and inside nature to find inspiration and knowledge. Along with intuition comes also the supernatural, things that happen that cannot be explained with logic. A perfect example of that is Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven;” it is about a man, the narrator of the poem, whom has lost his love, Lenore. One night when the man is grieving in his chamber, a raven appears in his window and starts chatting with him.
The man wants to know more about his Lenore, but the Raven just keeps saying “Nevermore”. In the end the man panics and tells the raven to leave; but the Raven does not leave. The last verse in “The Raven” reads as follow: “And the Raven, never flitting, still sitting, still sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming, And the lamp-light o’er him steaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor. This verse and the other verses towards the end of the poem give the reader the feeling that the man is crazy, maybe he was. But if Poe based his poem on intuition, it can be argued that the raven in fact is the narrator’s soul or mind that is still wondering and grieving over his Lenore. In the end of the verse, the two last lines, the narrator is talking about how the raven threw his shadow on the floor, where the man’s heart was laying. On an allegorical level that means that the narrator gives up his logic and reason for his emotions and intuition.
Many authors used this writing style in their novels to show that they put emotion first. Not only intuition was important to the romantic authors, one of the main characteristics of the Romanticism, death, occurred as the main topic in many of the romantic novels and poems. For the romantic authors death was the ultimate source to emotion. A great example of that is William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” where he is discussing people’s fear of death. In the second verse Bryant is describing what will happen after death: “The all-beholding sun shall see no more in all his course. The sun is a symbol for happiness; so, never being able to see the sun again means that there will be no happiness after death. Just this sentence alone creates a lot of emotion in the reader. Since death is something that nobody alive knows anything about it is easier for the romantic authors to write about it and use their own imagination to create their own view on death. The romantic authors despised logic and reason; they often showed that in their writings. In “The Fall of The House of Usher,” Poe is putting Romanticism against The age of reason, emotion versus logic.
Although it is not written literally in the novel, on an allegorical level it is. Roderick Usher symbolizes the age of reason and the logic whereas Madeline is symbolic for the Romanticism. Trying to get rid of Madeline, Roderick buries her in the valve, which is symbolic for logic trying to bury emotion. In the end Poe writes: “…Then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and victim to the terrors he had anticipated. It simply meant that Madeline died and took Roderick down with her. On an allegorical level, it means that either of reason or emotion could survive without each other. But the fact that Madeline managed to take her brother with her shows that emotion is stronger than logic. Nonetheless, Poe was a romantic author so it is not surprising that he made Madeline the stronger of the two siblings. It is easy to say that romanticism is each other’s opposites and have nothing to do with each other except the fact that romanticism was developed as a protest gainst the age of reason. But they can impossibly be without each other. It might sound very illogical, but what would imagination come from if not from life, as we know it? In “The Raven” The setting could be real, the man could be real and Lenore could be real. It is true that some people have a better imagination than others Poe used his imagination to create his own story, but he still had to rely on truth to be able to create that story. Just like imagination relies on truth, truth relies on imagination.
All truths is based on imagination, somebody had to come up with all the ideas about things like science and technology. Logic and Emotion are like two puzzle pieces, two completely different pieces, but they still need each other to become a complete picture. Romanticism is a very interesting period in literature; many literature pieces written at that time are still considered American masterpieces. Why would that be? One reason could be that the novels are aphoristic, everybody can relate to what they are talking about no matter what century they were living in.
Death for example, death is a topic that will never die out; it will always be a mystery for those who are still alive. People are not always handling situations in a logic way; many decision that are not logic at all are made everyday. They might seem to be reasonable at the time, but in reality they were just a result of how the person felt at that particular time. Therefore, logic and emotion are inseparable; no matter how hard people try to separate them, in some way or the other, they will find a way to stay together.