Romanticism

Romanticism results in re-entrenchment…

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Further comments following Lettrist’s comment

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You’re right, it needs a little elaboration!

I was thinking particularly of Raymond William’s comments about romanticism in Marxism and Literature – similar to points that Adoro also makes in Aesthetic Theory and elsewhere.

My understanding is that “romanticism” protested against industrial capitalism, back in the C.19th, but, under pressure, eventually was forced into a defensive withdrawal. This withdrawal constituted art as a separate realm: the realm of Beauty, of humanity, and of artistic craftmanship, as opposed to the realm of labour, the mechanical, and the materialistic. For some (e.g. Adorno), this (all importantly) maintains a grain of protest; but in separating itself of from everyday life, social conditions, the actual production of society, it becomes “affirmative culture”: an apology for or an escape from capitalist society. It also brings into question the very status and purpose of art… Although, that very question is perhaps, in a sense, an ideological question: positivist capitalism, which must give each thing its place, its use, asks the question, and the answer (the withdrawal into “art for art’s sake”) becomes a “fall from innocence” that plays itself out in Art through to the present day.

I was also thinking about the “romanticism” of the 1960s movements, and making a slightly trite connection (given the rentrenchment in the 1970s-80s).

As for whether we are still living through romanticism, Williams also talks about how “romanticism” produced some of the first encounters with “modernisation”, with industrialisation, and how it created many of forms and vocabularies that were then picked up by “modernism”. He also notes that “modernism” is not over: instead it has been accepted acroos the board, for it is the ideology of “modernism” that shapes our contemporary landscape: “Modernism quickly lost its anti-bourgeois stance, and achieved comfortable integration into the new international capitalism. […] the innovations of what is called Modernism have become the new but fixed forms of our present moment” (35). At least, this is how I would (briefly and clumsily) paraphrase the first two essays in his book Politics of Modernism. Therefore, to a certain extent there is a continuty from romanticism to the present, via “modernism” (which is the common content of momanticism, modernism and postmodernism).

Coming at it from the completely opposite angle, there are certain problems of “romanticism” that “modernism” (in the broadest sense, including everything from Marx to the avant-garde, to the structuralists, to…) sought to resolve. These include, once again, the separation of art and – more importantly, perhaps – philosophy, from social production. Thus, also, the separation of the mind, the private life of the subject (subjectivity), ethics, Beauty, etc. from the production of society. Since this separation hasn’t been resolved (although parody solutions abound), we might presume that romanticism is still intact, live and well.

At the risk (too late) of overburdening the term, there was also something “romantic” about much of the counter-culture… but, here we’re employing a very different (and yet related and mutually implicating) sense of “romanticism”.

So…..! It’s a complex of problems that needs still further elaboration! Thanks for your comment – do put down any of your own thoughts, as I’d be interested to hear what you reckon to this spiel.

Best
Wit

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~ by Wit on September 16, 2010.

2 Responses to “Romanticism”

  1. I am interested in this thesis. You should explain more. I have a “normal” friend who is into literature and romanticism and especially Russian lit. He remarked the other day that we are still living in the Romantic period or as a continuation.

  2. You’re right, it needs a little elaboration!

    I was thinking particularly of Raymond William’s comments about romanticism in Marxism and Literature – similar to points that Adoro also makes in Aesthetic Theory and elsewhere.

    My understanding is that “romanticism” protested against industrial capitalism, back in the C.19th, but, under pressure, eventually was forced into a defensive withdrawal. This withdrawal constituted art as a separate realm: the realm of Beauty, of humanity, and of artistic craftmanship, as opposed to the realm of labour, the mechanical, and the materialistic.For some (e.g. Adorno), this (all importantly) maintains a grain of protest; but in separating itself of from everyday life, social conditions, the actual production of society, it becomes “affirmative culture”: an apology for or an escape from capitalist society. It also brings into question the very status and purpose of art… Although, that very question is perhaps, in a sense, an ideological question: positivist capitalism, which must give each thing its place, its use, asks the question, and the answer (the withdrawal into “art for art’s sake”) becomes a “fall from innocence” that plays itself out in Art through to the present day.

    I was also thinking about the “romanticism” of the 1960s movements, and making a slightly trite connection (given the rentrenchment in the 1970s-80s).

    As for whether we are still living through romanticism, Williams also talks about how “romanticism” produced some of the first encounters with “modernisation”, with industrialisation, and how it created many of forms and vocabularies that were then picked up by “modernism”. He also notes that “modernism” is not over: instead it has been accepted acroos the board, for it is the ideology of “modernism” that shapes our contemporary landscape: “Modernism quickly lost its anti-bourgeois stance, and achieved comfortable integration into the new international capitalism. […] the innovations of what is called Modernism have become the new but fixed forms of our present moment” (35). At least, this is how I would (briefly and clumsily) paraphrase the first two essays in his book Politics of Modernism. Therefore, to a certain extent there is a continuty from romanticism to the present, via “modernism” (which is the common content of momanticism, modernism and postmodernism).

    Coming at it from the completely opposite angle, there are certain problems of “romanticism” that “modernism” (in the broadest sense, including everything from Marx to the avant-garde, to the structuralists, to…) sought to resolve. These include, once again, the separation of art and – more importantly, perhaps – philosophy, from social production. Thus, also, the separation of the mind, the private life of the subject (subjectivity), ethics, Beauty, etc. from the production of society. Since this separation hasn’t been resolved (although parody solutions abound), we might presume that romanticism is still intact, live and well.

    At the risk (too late) of overburdening the term, there was also something “romantic” about much of the counter-culture… but, here we’re employing a very different (and yet related and mutually implicating) sense of “romanticism”.

    So…..! It’s a complex of problems that needs still further elaboration! Thanks for your comment – do put down any of your own thoughts, as I’d be interested to hear what you reckon to this spiel.

    Best
    Wit

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