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Classicism in literature

Classicism and Romanticism

Toward the end of the eighteenth-century, Romanticism emerged as a response to Classicism. Even though this change was gradual, it transformed everything from art and philosophy to education and science. While the Classicists thought of the world as having a rigid and stern structure, the romanticists thought of the world as a place to express their ideas and believes. The Romanticists and Classicists differed in their views of the relationship between an individual and society, their views of nature and the relationship between reason and imagination.

Classicists and Romanticists differed in their views of nature. Classicism was based on the idea that nature and human nature could be understood by reason and thought. Classicist believed that “nature was, a self-contained machine, like a watch, whose laws of operation could be rationally understood.” On the other hand, Romanticists viewed nature as mysterious and ever changing. As William Cullen Bryant states that nature “; speaks a various language.” Romantic writes believed that nature is an ever changing living organism, whose laws we will never fully understand.

Classicist and Romanticists also differed on their approaches towards reason and imagination. Classicism attached much more importance to reason than imagination because imagination could not be explained by their laws. To them, “;the imagination, though essential to literature, had to be restrained by reason and common sense.” The Romanticists, however, emphasized that reason was not the only path to truth. “Instead, Romantic writers emphasized intuition, that inner perception of truth which is independent of reason.” To the Romantic writers, imagination was ultimately superior to reason.

Yet another area of difference between Classicists and Romanticists whether they placed greater importance on tradition or whether they chose to innovate. Classicists thought that it was literature’s function to show the everyday values of humanity and the laws of human existence. Their idea was that “classicism upheld tradition, often to the point of resisting change, because tradition seemed a reliable testing ground for those laws.” As for the Romantics, they wrote about how man has no boundaries and endless possibilities. “Who,” Emerson asked, “can set bounds to the possibilities of man?” Opposing classicists’ importance being put on human limitation, “the Romantics stressed the human potential for social progress and spiritual growth.”

Because the expression Romanticism is a phenomenon of immense scope, embracing as it does, literature, politics, history, philosophy and the arts...

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