Unit III: Romantic Aesthetics and Nature brings together Burke, Kant, Gilpin, Schiller, Wordsworth and Coleridge, along with critical essays by Jonathan Bate, Walker Percy, Arnold Berleant, Christopher Hitt, Lawrence Buell, and Neal Evernden. The centerpiece of this unit is, of course, the comparison between Burke's and Kant's ideas of the sublime and beautiful. On the beautiful, we read Parts 1 and 3 of Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into our Ideas on the Sublime and the Beautiful alongside selections from the First Book Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgment ; on the sublime, Part 2 of Burke's Enquiry and the sections on the mathematical and dynamic sublime from the Second Book of Kant's Critique . We also read a few brief excerpts from Gilpin's Three Essays on the Picturesque to introduce this critically important aesthetic category. (While Gilpin stands in as the representative of the picturesque, I acknowledge the limits involved in such an oversimplification of this complex and conflicted theory.) Bringing Theodor Adorno's analysis of the aestheticization of nature to bear on a critique of aesthetic, particularly picturesque, mediations of nature, Jonathan Bate's "The Picturesque Environment," chapter five of The Song of the Earth , provides a point of departure for our discussion. After introducing the sublime, beautiful and picturesque, we place Schiller's On the Naive and Sentimental in conversation with Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads and Coleridge's Biographia Literaria . Schiller's ideas on the naïve and sentimental offer a post-Kantian revision of dualism in which nature serves as an important agency to foster human self-realization—the via negativa , which will re-emerge in our later discussions of Wordsworth and Charlotte Smith.
There seems to be a theme for what music is played when. For example, the “Midsummer” music (I still don’t know what it is called or who it’s by) seems to always be played in relation to romanticism (scenes concerning the Neil and the play and also scenes about Knox and Chris). The music played during the kicking the ball scene is Handel who is Baroque. Baroque describes “anything irregular, bizarre, or otherwise departing from established rules and proportions.” (Britannica) Beethoven is borderline classicism/romanticism – depending on which part of his life the piece was composed, and Tchaikovsky is romanticism.
In the traditional, specifically historical sense, romanticism was the peak of the anti-Enlightenment movement that spread throughout Europe. Its socioideological foundation consisted in a disillusionment with bourgeois civilization and with social, industrial, political, and scientific progress, which had introduced new contradictions and antagonisms and had resulted in fragmentation, leveling, and the spiritual devastation of the individual. “The social and political institutions which had been established ‘by the victory of reason’ turned out to be evil, evoking bitter disillusionment by their caricature of the glittering promises of the Enlightenment thinkers” (F. Engels, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch ., 2nd ed., vol. 19, p. 193). Vaguely suggested during the Enlightenment and first expressed in sentimentalism and preromanticism, criticism of the objectionable character of the bourgeois way of life and protest against the banal, prosaic, soulless, egotistical quality of bourgeois relations became particularly sharp among the romantics. History was not subject to “reason” but appeared to be irrational and full of mysteries and unpredictable events. The contemporary structure of the world seemed hostile to human nature and to personal liberty.