Dark romanticism

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Edgar Allan Poe is among the most well-known authors of Dark Romanticism Edgar Allan Poe portrait B.jpg
Edgar Allan Poe is among the most well-known authors of Dark Romanticism

Dark Romanticism is a literary subgenre of Romanticism, reflecting popular fascination with the irrational, the demonic and the grotesque. Often conflated with Gothicism, it has shadowed the euphoric Romantic movement ever since its 18th-century beginnings. Edgar Allan Poe is often celebrated as one of the supreme exponents of the tradition.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.

Gothic fiction, which is largely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled "A Gothic Story". The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole's novel. It originated in England in the second half of the 18th century where, following Walpole, it was further developed by Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, William Thomas Beckford and Matthew Lewis. The genre had much success in the 19th century, as witnessed in prose by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe as well as Charles Dickens with his novella, A Christmas Carol, and in poetry in the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Lord Byron. Another well known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker's Dracula. The name Gothic, which originally referred to the Goths, and then came to mean "German", refers to the medieval Gothic architecture, in which many of these stories take place. This extreme form of Romanticism was very popular throughout Europe, especially among English- and German-language writers and artists. The English Gothic novel also led to new novel types such as the German Schauerroman and the French Roman Noir.

Edgar Allan Poe 19th-century American author, poet, editor and literary critic

Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and of American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country's earliest practitioners of the short story. He is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

Contents

Definitions

Romanticism's celebration of euphoria and sublimity has always been dogged by an equally intense fascination with melancholia, insanity, crime and shady atmosphere; with the options of ghosts and ghouls, the grotesque, and the irrational. The name "Dark Romanticism" was given to this form by the literary theorist Mario Praz in his lengthy study of the genre published in 1930, ‘’The Romantic Agony’’. [1] [2]

Mario Praz Italian art collector, art historian, journalist and writer

Mario Praz KBE was an Italian-born critic of art and literature, and a scholar of English literature. His best-known book, The Romantic Agony (1933), was a comprehensive survey of the erotic and morbid themes that characterized European authors of the late 18th and 19th centuries. See Femme fatale for a reference of one of his chapters. The book was written and published first in Italian as La carne, la morte e il diavolo nella letteratura romantica in 1930 [see Wikipedia page on Mario Praz in Italian], and the most recent edition was published in Firenze: Sansoni, 1996.

According to the critic G. R. Thompson, "the Dark Romantics adapted images of anthropomorphized evil in the form of Satan, devils, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and ghouls" as emblematic of human nature. [3] Thompson sums up the characteristics of the subgenre, writing:

Evil profound immorality

Evil, in a general sense, is the opposite or absence of good. It can be an extremely broad concept, though in everyday usage is often used more narrowly to denote profound wickedness. It is generally seen as taking multiple possible forms, such as the form of personal moral evil commonly associated with the word, or impersonal natural evil, and in religious thought, the form of the demonic or supernatural/eternal.

Satan Figure in Abrahamic religions

Satan, also known as the Devil, is an entity in the Abrahamic religions that seduces humans into sin or falsehood. In Christianity and Islam, he is usually seen as either a fallen angel or a jinn, who used to possess great piety and beauty, but rebelled against God, who nevertheless allows him temporary power over the fallen world and a host of demons. In Judaism, Satan is typically regarded as a metaphor for the yetzer hara, or "evil inclination", or as an agent subservient to God.

Devil supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind

A devil is the personification of evil as it is conceived in many and various cultures and religious traditions. It is seen as the objectification of a hostile and destructive force.

Fallen man's inability fully to comprehend haunting reminders of another, supernatural realm that yet seemed not to exist, the constant perplexity of inexplicable and vastly metaphysical phenomena, a propensity for seemingly perverse or evil moral choices that had no firm or fixed measure or rule, and a sense of nameless guilt combined with a suspicion the external world was a delusive projection of the mind—these were major elements in the vision of man the Dark Romantics opposed to the mainstream of Romantic thought. [4]

18th- and 19th-century movements in different national literatures

Elements of dark romanticism were a perennial possibility within the broader international movement of Romanticism, in both literature and art. [5]

Like romanticism itself, Dark Romanticism arguably began in Germany, with writers such as E. T. A. Hoffmann, [6] Christian Heinrich Spiess, and Ludwig Tieck – though their emphasis on existential alienation, the demonic in sex, and the uncanny, [7] was offset at the same time by the more homely cult of Biedermeier. [8]

E. T. A. Hoffmann German Romantic author

Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was a German Romantic author of fantasy and Gothic horror, a jurist, composer, music critic and artist. His stories form the basis of Jacques Offenbach's famous opera The Tales of Hoffmann, in which Hoffmann appears as the hero. He is also the author of the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker is based. The ballet Coppélia is based on two other stories that Hoffmann wrote, while Schumann's Kreisleriana is based on Hoffmann's character Johannes Kreisler.

Christian Heinrich Spiess was a German writer of romances.

Ludwig Tieck German poet, translator, editor, novelist, and critic

Johann Ludwig Tieck was a German poet, fiction writer, translator, and critic. He was one of the founding fathers of the Romantic movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

British authors such as Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Shelley, and John William Polidori, who are frequently linked to Gothic fiction, are also sometimes referred to as Dark Romantics. [9] Dark Romanticism is characterized by stories of personal torment, social outcasts, and usually offers commentary on whether the nature of man will save or destroy him.[ citation needed ] Some Victorian authors of English horror fiction, such as Bram Stoker and Daphne du Maurier, follow in this lineage.

The American form of this sensibility centered on the writers Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville. [10] As opposed to the perfectionist beliefs of Transcendentalism, these darker contemporaries emphasized human fallibility and proneness to sin and self-destruction, as well as the difficulties inherent in attempts at social reform. [11]

French authors such as Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud echoed the dark themes found in the German and English literature. Baudelaire was one of the first French writers to admire Edgar Allan Poe, but this admiration or even adulation of Poe became widespread in French literary circles in the late 19th century.

20th-century influence

Twentieth-century existential novels have also been linked to Dark Romanticism, [12] as too have the sword and sorcery novels of Robert E. Howard. [13]

Criticism

Northrop Frye pointed to the dangers of the demonic myth making of the dark side of romanticism as seeming "to provide all the disadvantages of superstition with none of the advantages of religion". [14]

See also

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Edgar Allan Poe bibliography

The works of American author Edgar Allan Poe include many poems, short stories, and one novel. His fiction spans multiple genres, including horror fiction, adventure, science fiction, and detective fiction, a genre he is credited with inventing. These works are generally considered part of the Dark romanticism movement, a literary reaction to Transcendentalism. Poe's writing reflects his literary theories: he disagreed with didacticism and allegory. Meaning in literature, he said in his criticism, should be an undercurrent just beneath the surface; works whose meanings are too obvious cease to be art. Poe pursued originality in his works, and disliked proverbs. He often included elements of popular pseudosciences such as phrenology and physiognomy. His most recurring themes deal with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead, and mourning. Though known as a masterly practitioner of Gothic fiction, Poe did not invent the genre; he was following a long-standing popular tradition.

Urban Gothic

Urban Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction, film horror and television dealing with industrial and post-industrial urban society. It was pioneered in the mid-19th century in Britain, Ireland and the United States and developed in British novels such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), and Irish novels such as Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). In the twentieth century, urban Gothic influenced the creation of the subgenres of Southern Gothic and suburban Gothic. From the 1980s, interest in the urban Gothic revived with books like Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and a number of graphic novels that drew on dark city landscapes, leading to adaptations in film including Batman (1989), The Crow (1994) and From Hell (2001), as well as influencing films like Seven (1995).

Romantic literature in English

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. Various dates are given for the Romantic period but here the publishing of William Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads in 1798 is taken as the beginning, and the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1837 as its end. Romanticism arrived later in other parts of the English-speaking world, such as America.

References

  1. First English translation 1933. The title in its original Italian is: "Carne, la morte e il diavolo nella letteratura romantica" (Flesh, death, and the devil in romantic literature".
  2. Dark Romanticism: The Ultimate Contradiction Archived 2007-01-28 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Thompson, G. R., ed. "Introduction: Romanticism and the Gothic Tradition." Gothic Imagination: Essays in Dark Romanticism. Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1974: p. 6.
  4. Thompson, G.R., ed. 1974: p. 5.
  5. Felix Kramer, Dark Romanticism: From Goya to Max Ernst (2012)
  6. A. Cusak/B. Murnane, Popular Revenants (2012) p. 19
  7. S. Freud, 'The Uncanny' Imago (1919) p. 19-60
  8. S. Prickett/S. Haines, European Romanticism (2010) p. 32
  9. University of Delaware: Dark Romanticism
  10. Robin Peel, Apart from Modernism (2005) p. 136
  11. T. Nitscke, Edgar Alan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" (2012) p. 5–7
  12. R. Kopley, Poe's Pym (1992) p. 141
  13. D. Herron, The Dark Barbarian (1984) p. 57
  14. Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (1973) p. 157

Further reading