The Romantics made it possible for us to understand and study literature the way we do now. While I believe the Modernists had more parallel developments to the 21st century in terms of technology and media that allowed for perspectives of the world and understanding to change, the Romantics are largely responsible for our ability to conceive of script as a medium, as a construct through which we access something else. In looking at literature, we create the subject of the message.
Romanticism rose out of German Classicism. The world had been figured out by Immanuel Kant (who coincidentally only left his hometown once in his life) who claimed that the world as we experience it is our own construction. The phrase”kein anderes Auge,” no other eye, expresses the subjectivity of our existence. Out of this understanding, art is totally subjective and created by and for each individual for him/herself.
The romantics extended this understanding to changing the way people connect with the world. Rather than being bodies in a wild and natural world, people are part of the wild and natural world, given shape by the word or concept that distinguishes them from the rest of the natural world. Being part of this vast, never ending being replaced the Christian God for many romantics. It became their religion. Connecting to this larger being became possible with the aesthetic-words that needed to be consumed and in consuming would guide the being to the larger state of his/her existance. Most people cannot gain this access. According to the Romatics, this is genius; is only granted to those with a certain kind of understanding.
However, everything I just described comes a bit later with Schlegel et, al. Romanticism starts with the exploration of the subjective self and how this self could be expressed and explored.
How does this connect to my PhD topic? I think that there are two strong links for my thesis to the Romantics. First of all, the idea of belonging to something larger than oneself, as I explained in my last post, is something that the Romantics were partially responsible for. Thus, the contemporary times are an antithesis to the Romantic era.
On the other hand, the ability to think of the world as an abstract, considering that we live among signifiers that lead to unknown signifieds, something Saussure and the Structuralists popularized, was trail-blazed by the Romantics. This understanding of an abstract world is important for media studies and therefore, I need to have control over Romantic theory (think also, Laocoon!) to pursue my topic. I’ll be able to return to this need soon, as I review my Intro to Media Studies notes.
Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense.
Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality.