Defining Romanticism Essay

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Defining Romanticism Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Music, of all the liberal arts, has the greatest influence over the passions” (Machlis et al., 2003). This quotation clearly captures the essence of romanticism. Romanticism is characterized by a personal, subjective approach to the arts. Thus, expressions of intense emotions are often evoked through this style of art. In the following articles, “Beethoven’s Instrumental Music”, written by the music critic and composer, E.T.A. Hoffman, and “On the Concept of Classical and Romantic Music,” written by the music critic and poet, Karl August Kahlert, both authors attempt to define the essence of romanticism. Through their attempts, the idea of the sublime is recognized in their definitions as they distinguish from the classicist and the romanticist. E.T.A Hoffman saw instrumental music as the most ideal Romantic form. He characterized the ideal art as “mighty and immeasurable” (Hoffman, 1813). “It was free from the concreteness of words and visual messages and thus could evoke impressions, thoughts, and feelings that are beyond the power of words to express” (Burkholder et al., 2010). He claims that through listening of the ideal art, a feeling of “infinite yearning” (Hoffman, 1813) is attained. This “infinite yearning” is the essence of romanticism. The conflicting emotions “of awe, of fear, of terror, of pain” (Hoffman, 1813) are united with this yearning. As a result, the conflicting emotions inflict a painful experience but somehow at the same time, a sense of euphoria is acquired. “Love, hope and joy are consumed without it being destroyed” (Hoffman, 1813) is a great example of this sense of euphoria. Through these ambivalent emotions, Goethe’s and Kant’s definition of the sublime is easily recognizable here, although, Hoffman did not actually employ the term directly. Like Hoffman, Karl August Kahlert

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