The Romantic Revolution: A History

Tim Blanning. Random/Modern Library, $22 (288p) ISBN 978-0-679-64359-3
This romp through the origins and history of romanticism concentrates on its far-reaching influence in the arts. Cambridge University cultural historian Blanning (editor of The Oxford History of Europe) acknowledges the impossibility of pinpointing any originating moment for romanticism, which expanded slowly from the mid-18th century; in a somewhat perfunctory concluding chapter, he observes that this revolution is continuing. Despite some 50 pages of notes, this work is lively as well as informative. Blanning's cultural inclination toward continental Europe brings perhaps less familiar figures to the fore. Whereas English and American readers are more accustomed to the works of the Shelleys, Blake, and Byron, among others (all covered here), the intellectual roots of romanticism lie in figures such as Hegel and especially Rousseau. In a conversion experience almost of a Pauline magnitude, as Blanning (and Rousseau himself) describe it, Rousseau came to reject the Enlightenment ideals of science and art as corrupting the human spirit. Blanning covers a full range of romantic expression: painters (Philipp Otto Runge), art historian Winckelmann, writers (Goethe), composers (Beethoven and Wagner), and many others. This book is a fine introduction to the roots of an intellectual movement that is central to our worldview. 8 pages of color photos; 13 b&w photos. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
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