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.


Puritans and Rationalists

Read the following sections in your textbook.  Your task is to take notes and identify the key components for each ideology below.  You will then compare those notes with Borger’s notes to see how they match up.
Puritans: Pages 11-15-ish in your textbook.  Make a bullet list of the things that make Puritans, Puritans. Include their core values as well as information about their history / background.
Rationalists: Pages 14-19 in your textbook.  Make a bullet list of the things that make Rationalists, Rationalists. Include their core values as well as information about their history / background.
Notes are due on Wednesday 09/07; late notes will be accepted on Thursday 09/08 for partial credit.  Notes will not receive credit after Thursday 09/08.

Puritans & Rationalists

Yesterday you were instructed to take notes over the Puritans and Rationalists using readings in your textbook.

If you have your notes completed, you will be working in groups to synthesize the 10 items you pulled out for each philosophy.  If your notes are not complete, you will spend the remainder of the hour completing them.


  • Compare lists.
  • Circle items on your list that a majority of folks have for Puritans.
  • Circle items on your list that a majority of folks have for Rationalists.
  • Find common ground on the “squishy” items that are sort of similar but not perfect matches.
  • Make a group list of five items for each category.  One list for Puritans; one list for Rationalists.
  • Call Borger over at this point.  She will check your work then give you your next task for the day.

Puritans, Rationalists, & Romantics

Read the following sections in your textbook.  Your task is to take notes and identify the 10 key components for each ideology below.  You will then compare those notes with Borger’s notes to see how they match up.

Puritans: Pages 11-15-ish in your textbook

Rationalists: Pages 14-19 in your textbook

Notes are due on Wednesday 09/02; late notes will be accepted on Thursday 09/03 for partial credit.  Notes will not receive credit after Thursday 09/03.

Crucible Essay

Choose one of the two options below.

Write an essay in which you discuss the ways in which the individual must sometime go against the “moral fashion of the time.”  The essay will have four sections plus an introduction.  Include in your paper:

  • A discussion of Proctor’s decision to rebel against his times–What did he do?  What were the results?
  • Then choose a second character in the play and analyze her/his actions in terms of their willingness to go against the “moral fashion of the times.”
  • In your third section discuss a time when you have been willing to stand up to what everyone else does, or thinks is right.  Explain the details of the situation, how you felt during the situation, and the results.
  • Draw some larger conclusion as the role of the individual in society.  What should she/he do when confronted with society’s rules that are in opposition to personal values?


Write a four paragraph essay in which you trace the development of 1-2 of the characters in The Crucible.  Each body paragraph should include at least 2-3 quotes about or by the character you are analyzing.  (Body paragraphs will probably run about 200 words).  These paragraphs should focus on how the character changed and what caused those changes.  Static characters should be described throughout the play.  Note: One of the characters you analyze must by dynamic.

The first paragraph should identify the work and the author, include a 5-7 sentence plot summary, and end with a thesis describing the characters you will analyze.  The final paragraph will summarize your main points and end with a discussion of why the people of Salem acted the way they did.


Mandatory Memorized Performance: 20% of Final Exam Grade

We have studied the works of a variety of writers this semester.  Your task for this project is to perform the words of one or more of these authors from memory.  Choose your selection wisely. This project will be worth 20% of your final exam grade.

  • Only memorized texts can earn an “A” for this portion of the final exam; however, memorizing alone cannot earn you an “A” for this project. See Poetry Recitation Rubric for grading criteria.
  • All selections must be approved by Borger.  Selections can be one of the following, but must be at least 250-words long: roughly 1 page, double-spaced, 12-point font. (This entire prompt is 300 words long):
    • An excerpt from Thoreau
    • An excerpt from Emerson
    • A compilation of Thoreau & Emerson’s work
    • An excerpt from Poe or a compilation of pieces of his work
    • An excerpt from Franklin or compilation of his work
    • An excerpt from Edwards
    • Poetry by Longfellow, Dickinson, or Whitman.  Since poetry is shorter, you may need to recite multiple selections by one or more of these authors
    • A 250-word excerpt from a text related to the time periods we have discussed in class so far: Puritans, Rationalists, Romantics (Transcendentalists, Dark Romantics, “American Masters”)

I encourage creativity in your performance choices.  Feel free to use music, props, costumes, etc.

Performances must be delivered before the final exam, but can be delivered starting the week after Thanksgiving.

Students may chose to perform their selections alone before Borger or before their classmates. Students who perform in front of their peers will earn a 10% boost to their overall final exam grade. 

Some class-time will be provided for rehearsal and memorization; however a bulk of this project needs to be rehearsed in your own time.

Students must submit a typed script with their final performance.