Romanticism is a very complex and difficult to define phenomenon, not attributable to a single formula, a phenomenon that represents a radical turning point in the history of sensitivity and taste, in turn based on a profound transformation of the conception of the world and ultimately on a revolution of customs and society.
Of the two main meanings with us, the term romanticism is used as an extra-temporal category and as a historical category, today the second is preferred.
The same can be said of the various “classicisms” (humanistic, Renaissance, Baroque, Enlightenment, etc.) that have followed one another over the centuries.
Romanticism opposed all past and contemporary classicisms. Briefly, it can be said that classicism (in its various historical manifestations) embodies a regulated and static conception, aimed at the past and at human and literary models defined once and for all; Romanticism is a freer (adverse to rules, sometimes unregulated) and dynamic conception of literature, open to the present and the future.
However, there are also areas of obvious convergence: in particular the neoclassicism which is often tinged with romantic tones. The ideal of perfect beauty and grace, originally an expression of a soul not disturbed by passions, translates into a nostalgic longing for a spiritual condition that feels hopelessly lost and opens up to the representation of anxieties, passions and lacerations. of modern man; the neoclassical poetic formula therefore leaves room for the penetration of sentimental instances and romantic ideologies. But it was a question of a transient convergence, of a precarious balance: the new demands urged and demanded adequate forms, equally new, revolutionary, they demanded a clean break with the past.
Romanticism has a northern genesis, as an opposition to the classical tradition which in the northern countries was an import phenomenon and as a revaluation of the local mythical and traditional heritage.
But taking on various shades according to different national contexts, it spread throughout Europe.
In Italy it was a fairly moderate phenomenon. If the Germans and the English accentuated the irrationalistic and fantastic aspects, the Italians (following the controversy aroused by de Stael who invited the Italians to translate the works of the literatures of northern Europe) accentuated characters such as realism, the need to adapt literature to the tasks that the present (like the Risorgimento) imposed, the morality of art.
In general, the main canons of romantic poetics include: the rejection of classical mythology, the re-evaluation of national, local and popular cultural traditions, the re-evaluation of medieval literature and civilization, the affirmation of the Christian origin of romantic literature, of his restless, sentimental, melancholic character, the need for a modern national popular literature, the historicity of the canons of taste and the principles of art (the spontaneity, the originality, the genius of art, the imagination, the genius, poetic fury), the rejection of classical rules and precepts, of the system of genres, etc.
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