The American Renaissance or Age of Romanticism (1830-1865)

The American Renaissance or Age of Romanticism (1830-1865)

  • New enthusiasm about portraying a unique American literature, culture, national life/character, and discourse.
  • Interest in Nature and Exaltation of Emotion over reason.

Historical Background

  • 1829-37:   Election of Andrew Jackson, 7th President, resulting in end of “Virginia Dynasty” of Presidents

Industrialization and Urbanization

  • 1838: Underground railroad established
  • 1840: Voting restrictions eased.  Egalitarian beliefs predominant
  • 1849: California gold rush
  • 1853: Rail connection, New York to Chicago
  • 1858: First transatlantic cable
  • 1859: First commercial production of petroleum
  • 1861-65: Civil War


Characteristics of Romanticism

  • Emphasis on the imagination, intuitive perception, and emotions (as opposed to reason)
  • Exaltation of “feeling over reason,” and “free expression of emotion.”
  • “Natural world is a source of goodness and man’s societies a source of corruption.”
  • Intense individualism and nonconformity
  • Belief in mysticism, intuition, pantheism, & transcendentalism.
  • Belief in the so called “Oversoul,” all-pervading power of goodness and source of all things.
  • Interest in Gothicism (horror & architecture)
  • Humanitarianism, democracy, populism or popular government/majority will.
  • Love of the land, wild nature, animals, plants, wild picturesque scenery, & rural life
  • More freedom in poetry: greater use of lyrics & narratives
  • Primitivism – belief in the superiority of the simple life and the remote in time and place
  • Antiquarianism: great interest in the picturesque elements of the past.
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