The Romantics were as preoccupied with the inner life as with the outer world revealed by the senses, and this shows in their works. Discuss with reference to three Romantic works.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ‘Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar’ was part of a highly influential book entitled Émile 1762, it was a work of self exploration and projection; outlining his religious beliefs and it in turn distinguished him from his Enlightenment peers. Rousseau can easily be perceived to be not only pre- Romantic but the first of the Romantics. There is a definite shift in emphasis in the work that sees Enlightenment giving way to Romanticism. The profession was grounded in emotion or ‘the heart’ yet it is a reasoned analysis of society’s defects and it posed rational solutions, it outlines Rousseau’s prime concern with himself as an individual and the uniqueness of his identity in a society with which he finds himself at odds.

It broke convention in Enlightenment values by not limiting sentiment to only the subjective, but going beyond and letting judgements guide him on matters of fact such as nature and the existence of God; not merely on his judgements upon morality or art.

The vicar began as a model rationalist but developed an obsession with sentiment; Inner sentiment played an important part in matters of conscience, religious faith and human relations. Rousseau appeals to inner sentiment as much as the outer senses as his guide to the truth recognising that objects (outer senses) cause him to have experiences, yet stating that the outer senses are a poor guide to correct and moral judgement. Rousseau thought it reasonable to hold opinions that weren’t merely grounded in sensory experience, and uses sentiment as a source of evidence in his quest for knowledge.

The first half of the ‘Profession’ is a defence of Rousseau’s own form of deism in which he gives voice to in the text which alienated him from the church and his enlightenment peers as well as atheists, agnostics and other deists that didn’t agree with his choice of legitimate sources of inspiration. ‘Prior to Rousseau, even deists sought evidence for their religious beliefs in the five ‘outer’ senses, not the ’inner’ senses of personal conviction and feeling.’ (Block 1, p.216). Rousseau saw nature as a source of information and knowledge and through nature came a personal relationship with God, as God exists in nature. To Rousseau nature also functioned as an object of reverence.

Eugène Delacroix’s, The Death of Sardanapalus, 1827-8, is an oil on canvas painting measuring 395 x 439 cm. The painting draws on a legend, telling a story but above all it is a product of Delacroix's fancy and a personal response to a situation that fractures prospective. It is a radical working of classical norms which departs from tradition. Delacroix sought a more expressive classism and this dramatic piece is exactly that.

The painting provoked a commotion because everything about it appeared excessive, both its subject and the manner in which it was painted; ‘this delirious orgy, playing on Byronic notions of fieriness and Faustian concoctions of creative and destructive energies’ (Block 7, p.60) wasn’t what the public or critics had come to expect of grand history painting. The paintings effect was only magnified by its vast size. The composition was slated for its lack of logic and riot of colour. Spectators reported to find it ridiculous as it went beyond all bounds.

Delacroix’s painting offered no clear recession into depth nor is there any logical sense of perspective. Figures and objects are thrown together in a way that makes it near impossible to say which are supposed to be closer to the viewer than others. The floor offers no clear pathfor the viewer to follow. The death bed appears to be propelled and lies diagonally through the scene with no relationship to the angle of the walls around it. There is no identifiable view point. The painting deals with the inexplicit and with the suggested rather than the clearly expressed and this shows with the way it appears to have been unnaturally cropped ‘as if the real clues to what is going on are out-of-frame’ (Block 7, p.63). Conventional eighteenth century French art followed the traditional values of a classical style ‘simplicity, unity, order, idealism, balance, symmetry and a general respect for rules and reason.’ (Block 7, p.65)Contemporary viewers would have denoted Romantic allegiances in the painting such as the horse and the black slave also the brush work that Delacroix applied to the painting also signified a Romantic mindset, he applied a technique called flossing to the finished piece enhancing the impression of sparkling light; ‘this technique was seen as a means to gaining access to the artist’s individual identity’. What really came to the fore in Delacroix painting of a suicidal eastern despot’s order of mass murder was the use of the exotic ‘as a form of escapism, a site of sensuous desire and fantasy’ (Block 7, p.129) for the Romantic disillusioned with western convention.

To the majority Delacroix’s painting was felt to be too extreme in its departure from the compositional and colour effects of neoclassical art, yet Delacroix consistently asserted his allegiance to classism and was stung by reactions to what he perceived to be a successful work ‘They’ll end by making me believe that I’ve had a real fiasco. And yet I’m not entirely convinced.’ (Block 7, p.77). He had methods of producing his paintings founded on fine judgement. His works include a measure of the refined study of nature, control and intelligence expected of a classical artist. Within his career the baroque aspects of his work intensified and he became venerable to the charge of abandoning what was seen as correct form of the classical for Romanticism, Delacroix was probably trying to stretch boundaries rather than over throw tradition, seeking a more expressive classism. The classic- Romantic divide was already clearly established before Sardanapalus, which seems to transcend it, ‘Clearly, there came a point at which baroque classism redefined itself, in the eyes of contemporaries, as Romanticism.’ (Block 7, p.79).

William Wordsworth’s poem ‘There was a boy’ written in 1798; the earliest manuscript for this Poem was ‘written in the first person’ (Block 4, p.63) and was later changed to third person, this suggests that the boy in the poem was initially Wordsworth himself ‘making the final central figure a composite portrait’ (Block 4, p.63). In the poem the character derives an experience brought to him by nature, he experiences the sublime; the sublime is a hallmark of the Romantic age. Language in the poem is elevated. There is iambic pentameter in the poem and the lines run unrhymed in blank verse, giving a much ‘more sinuous feel to them’ (Block 4, p.64). There is very little end of line punctuation in the poem with the exception of commas which occur mid-line and open up long sentences ‘an accompanying facility to develop meaning in a more complex way.’(Block 4, p.64) The way Wordsworth chooses to place punctuation in the poem serves to add emphasis to certain words such as ‘mute’ adding that dramatic edge to the final line. The Lakes (Windermere) set the natural elements in the poem but later scenes are ’non-specific, almost abstract’ (Block 4, p.64) and there is no cataloguing of views after the narrators address to nature. Although the poem focuses on the beautiful and the picturesque within its context, the concept of the sublime dominates the poem.

The experience establishes dialogue between nature and the heart, ‘carried far into his heart’ (Anthology II, P.86). It is a mystical experience; it doesn’t tell you what it feels like to intuit nature, more goes from eye to mind. The boy is in a level of suspense and there is an intenseunity between the power of nature and the power of the mind, where the sublime has the greatest hold. The emotion in the poem is subtle ‘a gentle shock of mild surprize’ (Anthology II, p.86) yet at the same time it is universal. After the subtle intensity of nature comes the calmretrospection of a ‘beauteous’ location; the poem is in effect a memorial to the experience that was so momentous to the child and is ‘a rich topic of mediation’ (Block 4, p.65)The experience derived from nature is a stronger force in the poem than the aspect of the nature itself.

I agree with the quotation in question and believe that it is exemplified in these three works. There is an emphasis on feeling and impulse in both Rousseau’s and Delacroix’s works and with defying convention came their revelation to the world that they were unique individuals after having recognised it themselves. They challenged predominant classicism to an extent that they were -although in different degrees- shunned by their peers. That’s not to say that either of them thought of themselves as Romantic, Rousseau was the pre- Romantic inspirer so to speak and Delacroix struggled to accept the Romantic title bestowed upon him by his peers. Subconsciously Delacroix made Sardanapalus Romantic by trying to ‘invest his innermost being in his art’ (Block 7, p.125), yet he persisted in modifying rather than rejecting classical tradition showing in the careful preparatory work for his paintings. The attempt to establish an identity brought about conflict with an aesthetic category already well established and sought after; he had to cast aside conventional standard convention and preoccupations in order to like Rousseau- escape social normality and unleash creativity enabling the artist to communicate through his works to other ‘free spirits’ (Block 7, p.137) thus establishing his own artistic identity.

The Romantics inherited the eighteenth century liking of travel, but changed the emphasis from travelling to gain knowledge and understanding of the world to travel as self discovery. Rousseau set this example and Wordsworth embarked on it establishing ‘the type of the Romantic wanderer’ (Block 7, p.131) people who encounter landscape in order ‘to test and extend his own sense of identity’ (Block 7, p.131).

The Romantics built upon Rousseau’s quest for self exploration, like him they found their innermost self to be part of and at one with nature rather than something separate from it and they ‘placed the discovery of that self at the heart of their concerns’ (Block 7, p.123). Wordsworth’s poem speaks of the landscape of the lakes as if it is intertwined with the poet’s or the narrator’s own identity ‘and that uncertain heaven, receiv’d Into the bosom of the steady lake’ (Anthology II, P.86), where the visible scene is mirrored in the lake and the boy’s mind. Both Rousseau and Wordsworth had a view that nature was a source of ‘purity and simplicity’ (Block 7, p.121) and they saw nature as an independent force rather than controlled by humankind. Nature’s power was brought to a crescendo by the aesthetics of the sublime, a force subject to no influence other than its own power; to Wordsworth nature’s power was a source of solace much like Rousseau found nature to be a source of inspiration. The divine power in nature brought Wordsworth ‘close to the quiet beauties appreciated by Rousseau.

Romanticism unlike Enlightenment cannot be easily defined with reasonable clarity, there is a broad spectrum for what can be properly called Romantic but there are central qualities to Romanticism, a preoccupation with the inner life is a key feature in a large number of Romantic works. Broadly speaking the Romantic mindset was characterised by feeling and the outer world revealed by the senses has no scope for emotion without being bound to the inner life.

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