Wednesday, July 16, 2008

'romantic' & 'romanticism'--again, but for the last time

I've concluded that these words have no useful meaning--if they ever did. They do not enable us to make useful distinctions. What do we know that we didn't know before when we call a poem 'romantic'? Nothing.

None of the Romantic poets, so-called, called himself a romantic poet. According to the OED, the first literary use of this term is by Emerson in 1841: "The vaunted distinction between classical and romantic schools seems superficial and pedantic."

My guess is that these words were concocted by literary historians trying to organize their materials or critics looking for a simple way to categorize works and writers they approved or disapproved of.

1 comment:

  1. When we talk about music, the word "romantic" certainly has meaning. Music composed by Mozart isn't romantic, not even emotion-filled arias like "Dove sono," sung by the Countess in the "Marriage of Figaro." Music that sounds as if was composed after 1803 or so has a type of melodiousness that's all different from what came before. The word "romantic" has nothing to do with romance, but describes a style heard during much of the 19th century.