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The Genealogy of the Romantic Symbol$
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Nicholas Halmi

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212415

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212415.001.0001

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Defining the Romantic Symbol

Defining the Romantic Symbol

(p.1) 1 Defining the Romantic Symbol
The Genealogy of the Romantic Symbol

Nicholas Halmi (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with a discussion of the concept of the symbol as articulated by a number of German writers and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the period designated as the age of Goethe in German literary history and the Romantic period in British literary history, in the years between 1770 and 1830. It argues that the theorization of the symbol in the Romantic period may be understood as an attempt to foster a sense of the harmony of the human mind with nature, of the unity of seemingly disparate intellectual disciplines, and of the compatibility of individual freedom with a cohesive social structure — all for the sake of reducing anxiety about the place of the individual in bourgeois society (especially in the aftermath of the French Revolution and ensuing European wars) and about the increasing dominance of mechanistic science. To the extent that it sought to effect a re-enchantment of the world by reforming perception, the symbolist theory of the philosophically minded Romantics, for the most part Germans, was closely related to the poetic project of English poets like Wordsworth and Shelley, who sought to reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary and thereby transform human understanding of the external world.

Keywords:   Romantics, Romantic period, symbol, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shellet

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