The Romantic Aesthetic

If man is forever rational then why was he always subject to uncontrollable emotions? Questions such as this resonate with the Romantics and develop to create a countervailing style to a cool-detached classicism. A movement of individuals naturally created a multiplicity of styles as Romanticism begins to take on many different forms. Nature, Medievalism, nationalism, and exoticism are only a few of the many manifestations of Romanticism.

Goethe: The Sorrows of Young Werther

Romanticism with its roots in Storm and Stress, naturally looks to Goethe as a literary giant. A seemingly simple novella where his Werther is consumed with emotion to a destructive end becomes the foundation on which a movement of emotion is based. A man who disintegrates as he becomes unable to reconcile "his idea" of the world with the reality around him and a woman whom we know only through his eyes is a Romanticist's dream of subjectivity.

Schopenhauer: The Will

An Enlightenment view of the world was for many elusive and after the devastation of the Napoleon wars, a Reign of Terror, and a growing realization of the dark side of industrialization many were led to a growing pessimism. The philosophical writings of Schopenhauer reflected just such a trend. His view of man as slaves to the will was in tune with an age questioning man's rational capacity and irrational dark side. "The sleep of reason" produced monsters… Schopenhauer expounds on that suffering.

Romantic Art

More personal than Neoclassicism, the Romantic aesthetic can best be approached first with Goya where a different view is presented of the Napoleonic campaigns. But not all were the radicals of style of a Goya or a Delacroix. More traditional pallets such as Ingres provide Romanticism with a countervailing force: Romantically exotic, but with a classical, more traditional hand. A similar dichotomy can be seen in the Romantic landscape, where an idealized Constable countryside is contrasted with the painterly violence of Turner. An era obsessed with individuality of expression was bound to create a fragmentation of artistic styles.

Dostoevsky: The Grand Inquisitor

The "problem of freedom" best summarizes this excerpt from his Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky uses the Temptations of Christ to explore the paradox between freedom and security. Noting that maximizing one trumps the other, Dostoevsky presents us with the Inquisitor who offers man happiness by taking his freedom away from him. Without freedom, man is not burdened with the anxiety of choice. Was this not the very issue the Gospel describes in the temptation offered to Christ. Modern Existentialism can trace its roots to this profound work.

Thus spoke…Nietzsche

As Schopenhauer opens the century, so Nietzsche closes it. With a declaration that god is dead, Nietzsche goes on to posit the Ubermensch as the answer to the emerging nihilism overtaking the West. No less than a new morality will replace the old which has grow stale and purposeless. If attempts at constitutional government were the results of applying the Enlightenment philosophy, then Nietzsche's philosophy had very different implications.

Romantic Music

From the grand works for the concert hall factories, to the more intimate compositions for the salon, the Romantics sought to synthesize music and literary elements together. Symphonies that tell stories such as that written by Berlioz would provide a perfect mechanism for the composer to explore exotic mixtures of colors in musical sounds. A heretofore unsurpassed complexity is achieved by Wagner when listening to opera becomes an exercise in musical/philosophical expression. On a less grand scale, but no less literary, the lied becomes every bit a poetic as well as musical expression.