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M. Rene Doumic delivered his first lecture on French Romanticism yesterday afternoon to a large audience in Sanders Theatre. M. Doumic was introduced by Professor Bocher.
The following is a summary of the lecture translated from one written by Monsier Doumic himself.
We shall not go to the writers of the Romantic School for a definition of Romanticism. These writers are too deeply engaged in the movement. We shall explain the production of the phenomenon by the general laws of life. An ideal becomes antiquated; another ideal is formed to take its place.
The classic ideal is marked by the predominance of reason over the other faculties. Hence the three characteristics of classic literature of France. I. It is impersonal; it considers what is general, common to all men; it does not take differences between individuals into account.- II. It has no comprehension of the diversity of various epochs, and does not take an historic point of view. III. It does not have a feeling for the exterior of things; it is not picturesque. This classic ideal was worn out towards the end of the 18th century; another was to take its place.
It is to Jean Jacques Rousseau that we must attribute the renovation of French literature. Now the characteristic of this writer is his leaning towards sensibility. He is mobile, restless and capricious. He believes thatinature is good, that society is bad. He introduced himself to the world in his "Confessions." It was under his influence that French literature was to undergo a great change.
According to this new ideal, man was to be studied, not in his common characteristics, but as an individual, not in general but in particular.
We may distinguish these two schools by the sensibility exhibited in them. Thus sensibility appears in French literature; at first it is called "sensible" and develops into the "comedies larmoyante" and into the idyll. Sensibility shows itself again in the correspondence of the time: the passion of love dominates the letters of Mlle. de Lespinasse; an abnormal and unsatisfied ambition in the letters of Madame Roland.
But sensibility exposes us to all sorts of deceptions. Our desires can never be completely satisfied. Hence a certain melancholy which seized everyone and was later to be called "le mal du siecle." Sensibility is not merely the faculty of feeling emotions, but also that of undergoing sensations.
For a long time no attention was paid to exterior things, to landscapes for instance. Bernardin de Saint Pierre and Chateaubriand were the first to describe landscapes. Then writers and painters came to be allied. Diderot wrote his "Salons"; literature began to borrow some of the methods of art. Changes in the life of races began to be the subject of study.
Thus the new ideal is marked by sensibility and imagination, and makes a place for the individual, for historic truth and for the picturesque idea. It was in political and social circumstances that this ideal was realized. I. The disappearance of the old state of society which had supported classicism. II. The influence of English literature and the falling off of Greek and Latin studies-III. The warlike feelings of the times were transferred to the field of literature.
Romanticism began in 1820 with the publication of Lamartine 's "Meditations." Then the movement went from lyric poetry to the drama in the preface to "Cromwell." The failure of the "Burgraves" marks the decline of the school.
The Romantic movement was one of emancipation. It freed certain faculties which had been too long confined and which deserved to be developed.
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