Romanticism and the Birth of Political Ideologies

Following the turmoil of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Europe attempted to, in many ways, “turn back the clock” to a time before the Revolution. However, the French Revolution and the changes in society caused by the Industrial Revolution lead to a series of new ideologies that would transform the shape of European society, lead to dramatic shifts in the makeup of Europe for the next 100 years, and introduce a multitude of “-isms” within the political scene. We will talk about many of these (particularly Romanticism) this week, and continue to look at these “-isms” over the coming weeks. Remember that many of these new ideas were a strong attempt to deal with a changing world, whether on a personal or political level. Romanticism, for example, was an artistic and literary movement that focused largely on the idea of an emotional impact. It was marked by an emphasis on feeling, individuality, and passion rather than classical form and order, and typically preferring grandeur, picturesqueness, or naturalness to finish and proportion. But its focus on passion and emotion also led many to look at the darker side of human nature, in many ways as a response to the revolutionary changes of the 18th and early 19th century. Women like Mary Shelley, in particular, strove to come to grips with this changing world. We will talk about that in more detail in the optional discussion of Frankenstein this week. Beyond Romanticism, we will also be focusing on some of these other major “-isms”: Liberalism, Conservatism, and Socialism. With the basic ideas of liberalism and conservatism and the artistic ideas of Romanticism, the 19th century provided the blueprint for social, political, and artistic change. But many of these thoughts were not necessarily radical transformations in the world, but instead, attempt a slower transition for society. However, there were more radical thoughts that would eventually fuel major social and political change in Europe and across the world. These thoughts, along with conservatism and liberalism, will lead to massive revolution across Europe as a whole. While Liberalism would contend with Conservativism during the early part of the 19th century over issues like enfranchisement and freedom of speech, Socialism (or Marxist Socialism that you will be reading about) was a response to the greater industrialized world and, to a large extent, the limitations of traditional liberalism. I must emphasize this point: these terms have many modern connotations that are very different from their original use in the 19th century. Always be sure to keep that in mind as we move forward in the course. For example, Marxism will be a fundamental alternative to the other political thoughts of the day and will influence many radical elements of European society in the mid-19th century, but it is far removed in many ways from the Communist States of the 20th century. This week, we will only have a Discussion Post due. However, remember to fully look over the assigned material to fully answer the question. (as well as to fully prepare you for the final exam). Discussion Prompt Consider the wide range of “-isms” we examined this week. Which of these “-isms” do you believe resonated most the most in the first half of the nineteenth century? Please do not be overly general, but instead, illustrate specific details from the assigned material. Remember, your posts should be at least one to two paragraphs. Keep in mind a paragraph is three to five complete sentences. Respond to this thread and this thread only. Do your best not to repeat the examples given by your fellow students. Also, remember that you need to respond to at least one other post to receive full points.

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