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Romantic Weltliteratur of the Western World

Edited By Agnieszka Gutthy

Romantic Weltliteratur of the Western World is a collection of essays that examine Romantic literature and art from Europe and America. Since Goethe coined the concept of Weltliteratur, scholarly interest in comparative, global, and transnational literary and cultural studies has only continued to grow. Intended to complement existing scholarship, the essays in this volume offer a variety of critical approaches to Romantic literature and explore the dialogic component of different literary works as well as their transnational intertextualities.

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Introduction (Agnieszka Gutthy)

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Introduction

Agnieszka Gutthy

By the end of the eighteenth century, certain changes in sensibility were being felt in European literature. Among these were an increasing interest in nature, not merely as untamed scenery but as a reflection of mood and spirit; a new emphasis on the individual, on intense emotions, subjectivity, spontaneity, imagination, and complete creative freedom. All of these features and many more characterized this new artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement. There was a rethinking of literature and fine arts, and the exceptional role of the creative artist. The unrest and populism initiated by the French and American Revolutions, and the drama of the Napoleonic wars required new artistic responses. The Industrial Revolution was changing societies in both Europe and America. From predominantly agrarian and rural they were becoming industrial and urban with a rising middle class.

In 1798, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge published the poem collection, Lyrical Ballads. In his preface to the Ballads Wordsworth presented a “Manifesto of Romantic Literature,” defending new innovative literary views and aesthetic concepts. This new movement eventually spread throughout the Western world and was widely embraced: Chateaubriand, Madame de Staël, and Hugo in France; Goethe, Schlegel, and Tieck in Germany; Espronceda, and later Béquer, and Zorilla in Spain; Mickiewicz, Słowacki, and Krasiński in Poland; Pushkin and Lermontov in Russia; the Transcendentalists in America, and many more examples of this new freedom in writers, poets, painters, and composers...

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