American Romanticism

  • Borger went over the Romanticism part of these notes in class on Tuesday 09/20
  • Be prepared to take a quiz over Romanticism on Thurs. or Fri. 09/22-09/23

American Romanticism: 1800-1860**

Before American Romanticism
Puritans: (1600’s)

  • Broad tem referring to Protestant groups that sought to ‘purify’ the Church of England starting around 1560.
    • Thought religion should be a personal, inner experience
    • Wanted to return to a simpler form of worship
    • Persecuted in England (noses slit, ears chopped off, whipped & jailed, etc.) = journey to “The New World” in 1620
    • Philosophy centered on doubt: humanity is damned for all eternity because of Adam & Eve’s sin = unregenerate / damned. BUTGod is merciful (ergo Jesus) = elect / saved
    • You couldn’t know if you were elect or unregenerate.  Theology was clear about what would happen to saints & sinners but it was fuzzy about who were the sinners & who were the saints
  • Puritan values developed as a way to try to become elect / saved:
    1. Self-reliance
    2. Industriousness
    3. Temperance
    4. Simplicity

Age of Reason: (1700’s)

  • Enlightenment
  • Rationalism: belief that human beings can arrive at truth by using reason rather than religion, past authority, or intuition.
  • Rationalist values:
    1. Arrive at truth using reason
    2. God created universe but does not interfere with its workings
    3. World operates according to God’s rules & people can discover those rules using reason
    4. People are basically good
    5. You can worship God best by helping other people

American Romanticism: (1800-1860)

  • American Romanticism
    • Developed as a reaction to rationalism in light of the Industrial Revolution
      • To rationalists, the city was place of success, prosperity, & self-realization
      • To romantics, the city becomes a place of shifting morals, corruption, & death
    • The imagination was able to discover truths that the rational mind could not reach; favors intuition over reason
    • Romantics didn’t reject logic completely; for art, the emotional, ‘felt’ experience was key
  • Romantic Values:
    1. Value feeling & intuition over reason
    2. Prefer youthful innocence to educated sophistication
    3. Places faith in inner experience & imagination
    4. Finds beauty in the exotic & supernatural
    5. Believes poetry is the highest expression of imagination
    6. Shuns artificiality of civilization & seeks out truth in nature
    7. Believes nature is path to spiritual enlightenment
    8. Defends individual freedom & self worth
  • Romantic Escapism & Nature:
    • Rise above ‘dull realities’ to a realm of higher truth
    • Searched for exotic settings (nature, away from cities, folklore, etc.)
    • Reflect on the natural world to find Big-B-Beauty (and Big-T-Truth)
    • In nature, the ordinary becomes EXTRAordinary / SUPERnatural
    • Nature could provide sense in a chaotic world
    • Nature was the key to God
    • Symbolism is EVERYWHERE in nature
    • How many times have you found perfection walking down SHS’s halls?  Never!  That’s because you’re indoors – go outdoors to nature.  Therein lies truth and beauty (so thought the Romantics).
    • Contemplation of nature = emotional and intellectual awakening
  • Wilderness & the Frontier
    • America = limitless frontiers, westward expansion = idealization of frontier life
    • Frontier is the physical division between civilization & wilderness
    • Frontier = create your own identity
  • American Romantic Hero:
    • Young / youthful qualities
    • Sense of honor based on some higher principal but not on society’s rules
    • Has knowledge of people based on intuition – not on education
    • Loves nature – avoids towns
    • Quests for higher truth in natural world
    • Uneasy with women = domesticity
    • James Finimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo (Last of the Mohicans)
  • Transcendentalists: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau
    • Transcendental: to know the ultimate reality of God, the universe, and the self, one must transcend, or go beyond, everyday experiences in the physical world
    • Roots in idealism: Plato (400 BC) True reality is found in ideas rather than the world perceived by the senses
    • Believed in human perfectability
    • Transcendental Values:
      • Everything in the world is a reflection of the Divine Soul
      • Physical world is a doorway to the spiritual or ideal world
      • Use intuition, the capacity to know things immediately through our emotions, to behold God in nature (or God within)
      • Self-reliance & individualism vs. external authority & blind conformity to tradition
      • Spontaneous feelings superior to deliberate rationality (heart over mind)
  • Dark Romantics: Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville
    • Anti-Transcenentalists: didn’t believe that the “Truths” of nature were good and harmless
    • Explore conflict between good & evil
    • Explore the psychological effects of guilt & sin
    • Explore the madness of the human psyche
    • Believed that horror & evil resided behind the facade of social respectability
    • “Fathers of Psychology”
    • Characterized by horror, tragedy, macabre, supernatural, & the Gothic

**Adapted from: Arpin, Gary Q. “American Romanticism: 1800-1860.” Elements of Literature: Fifth Course, Essentials of American Literature. Ed. Laura Wood. Austin: Holt, 2005. 138-149. Print.


Harlem Renaissance: Celebrate Good Times

After the systemic oppression of slavery & convict leasing followed by the trials of the Great Migration, African-Americans finally had space to express themselves through art, music, and poetry.

“I, Too” by Langston Hughes (all students will memorize & recite this by the end of the unit for a 100 point presentation grade)

It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing” by Ella Fitzgerald

Minnie the Moocher” by Cab Calloway

Jump and Jive” Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers

Cotton Club Dancers dancing to “Bugle Call Rag” by Duke Ellington

Lindy Hoppers dancing

Nightlife by Archibald John Motley

Students will pull from other Harlem Renaissance links for the duration of this unit.

Slavery By Another Name

Realism came out of a need to accurately represent what was actually happening in our country which included the horrors of slavery and the Civil War.

Students will watch most of the PBS documentary Slavery by Another Name which covers the period of time immediately following the Emancipation Proclamation.  Most Americans believe that freedom came easily and instantaneously after Lincoln’s speech, but that was not the case.  Through convict leasing and peonage, slavery in alternative forms lasted through 1942 in this country.

Isabel Wilkerson wrote The Warmth of Other Suns which chronicles the Great Migration out of the south to New York & the east coast, Chicago & the Midwest, and LA & the west. Wilkerson was interviewed on Democracy Now where she discussed the three primary tales in her book. The Great Migration led to the Harlem Renaissance, which we’ll be discussing in coming weeks.

Friday, 03/13, we will be taking the 5 Essentials Survey for the State of Illinois. Students will be given their number in class.  If you do not write down your number correctly you cannot take the survey – Borger will not be bringing the numbers with her so listen carefully!

Once you have completed the survey, peruse the Slavery by Another Name website and click through “themes” or the “timeline and map” links.  You can also view another image gallery here.   You can also go to the Great Migration website and click any of the links under the “Read About” or “Image Gallery” sections.  Choose an image or definition or concept or timeline nugget, and respond to it.

We talked yesterday about how powerful storytelling is: how it teaches us empathy and prevents us from repeating history’s mistakes. Respond to or create stories for the images and information you see.  Save the files in your F: drive (include a link to the image or factoid you are working with so you can come back to it later since I doubt we will be able to finish this today).

Your responses should be 1-3 pages in length.  You can simply write a multi-paragraph response to our film viewing, seminar, and the information on the websites above.  Or, you can write a story about one of the images or some of the information you’ve thought about across the film, seminar, and websites.

Cultural Differences & Cultural Privileges

Students created identiy / cultural posters in class.  Students then tried to analyze the poster of a peer whose identity was unknown to them. They tried to identify primary cultural characteristics of the artist based on the presentation of the poster: what is the artist’s race, class, gender, religion, cultural beliefs, lived experiences, etc.

Students then Continue reading


Fortunately, Snowpocalypse 2013 does not affect our schedule.  I told classes on Thursday to finish memorizing poems.  If you forgot to take your homework home, that’s on you.

  • Deadpan, monotone delivery is never fun to listen to.  Once memorized, be able to deliver them clearly, without hesitation, and with feeling (see assignment & rubric for details).
  • Props and movement are allowed during your recitation.
  • If you are not comfortable performing in front of the class, you can choose to speak at the back of the class.  If you choose to speak at the back of the class and a classmate looks backward to watch you, that classmate will loose points on herm project (in the audiencing / listening category on herm rubric).
  • You signed up for speaking orders on Thursday.  Speaking order will be listed shortly.  We will still be performing on Monday & Tuesday when we return to school.

American Masters: Dickinson & Whitman

Wednesday 10/30: Idea Harvesting
Students perused the sections on Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson in class.  They created a split-note page for each author and titled each: Ideas/Images & Quotes. As they flipped through each author’s section, they were to collect quotes that stood out to them or make observations about images / ideas in each author’s writings.

Thursday 10/31: Speed-Dating/Idea Rotation
Students spent 5 minutes at the beginning of class finding one more quote / image for each author.  Then students started our speed-dating/musical-chairs rotation sharing what each found and harvesting more ideas from each other.  3-4 rotations per class.

Friday 11/01: Class Compilation
Students added their quotes to a class-list of quotes on the two class-computers.  Each student was to Continue reading