Romantic realism

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Romantic realism is art that combines elements of both romanticism and realism. The terms "romanticism" and "realism" have been used in varied ways,[1] and are sometimes seen as opposed to one another.[2][3]

In literature and art[edit]

The term has long standing in literary criticism.[4] For example, Joseph Conrad's relationship to romantic realism is analyzed in Ruth M. Stauffer's 1922 book Joseph Conrad: His Romantic Realism. Liam O'Flaherty's relationship to romantic realism is discussed in P.F. Sheeran's book The Novels of Liam O'Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism. Fyodor Dostoyevsky is described as a romantic realist in Donald Fanger's book, Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism: A Study of Dostoevsky in Relation to Balzac, Dickens, and Gogol. Historian Jacques Barzun argued that romanticism was falsely opposed to realism[5] and declared that "...the romantic realist does not blink his weakness, but exerts his power."[6]

The term also has long standing in art criticism.[7] Art scholar John Baur described it as "a form of realism modified to express a romantic attitude or meaning".[8] According to Theodor W. Adorno, the term "romantic realism" was used by Joseph Goebbels to define the official doctrine of the art produced in Nazi Germany, although this usage did not achieve wide currency.[9]

Novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand described herself as a romantic realist,[10] and many followers of Objectivism who work in the arts apply this term to themselves. As part of her aesthetics, Rand defined romanticism as a "category of art based on the recognition of the principle that man possesses the faculty of volition",[11] a realm of heroes and villains, which she contrasted to Naturalism. She wanted her art to be portrayal of life "as it could be and should be".[12] She wrote: "The method of romantic realism is to make life more beautiful and interesting than it actually is, yet give it all the reality, and even a more convincing reality than that of our everyday existence."[13] Her definition did not limit itself to the positive though. She considered Dostoyevsky to be a Romantic Realist too.[11]

In music[edit]

"Realism" in music is often associated with the use of music for the depiction of objects, whether they be real (as in Bedřich Smetana's "Peasant Wedding" of Die Moldau) or mythological (as in Richard Wagner's Ring cycle). Musicologist Richard Taruskin discusses what he calls the "black romanticism" of Niccolò Paganini and Franz Liszt, i.e., the development and use of musical techniques that can be used to depict or suggest "grotesque" creatures or objects, such as the "laugh of the devil", to create a "frightening atmosphere".[14] Thus, Taruskin's "black romanticism" is a form of "romantic realism" deployed by nineteenth-century virtuosi with the intent of invoking fear or "the sublime".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stauffer, Ruth M. (2006) [1922]. Joseph Conrad: His Romantic-Realism. Kessinger Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 1-4286-5840-8. It would be wearisome even to enumerate the books and essays that have been written in all languages to define these two terms.
  2. ^ Abercrombie, Lascelles (1963) [1926]. Romanticism. New York: Barnes and Noble. p. 61. For there is an element directly opposed to romanticism : it is realism. The true antithesis, then, is between romanticism and realism.
  3. ^ Cowardin Jr., Samuel Pendleton; More, Paul Elmer (1939). The Study of English Literature. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 138. And it follows as a corollary that realism is, on the whole, the opposite of romanticism; for, as we have seen, romanticism is usually bound up with idealism.
  4. ^ Becker, George J. (1980). Realism in Modern Literature. New York: Frederick Ungar. p. 102. ISBN 0-8044-2031-9. Essentially exhibiting a paradox, this term has come into being among critics and historians in an attempt to characterize writing of the nineteenth century which is incompletely realistic.
  5. ^ Barzun, Jacques (1975) [1943]. Classic, Romantic, and Modern (revised second ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-226-03852-1. I now want to argue against this postponement of the realistic label and to suggest that on the evidence just set forth, romanticism is realism.
  6. ^ Barzun, Jacques (1975) [1943]. Classic, Romantic, and Modern (revised second ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-226-03852-1.
  7. ^ Goodrich, Lloyd; Baur, John I. H. (1961). American Art of Our Century. New York: Frederick A. Praegar. p. 121. Romantic realism, long a powerful movement in American painting, has unquestionably waned since 1940. It has never disappeared, and some of its finest examples are recent ones, but it is significant that most of the painting reproduced here are by artist now dead or well past their middle years
  8. ^ Goodrich, Lloyd; Baur, John I. H. (1961). American Art of Our Century. New York: Frederick A. Praegar. p. 121.
  9. ^ Dahlhaus, Carl (1985). Realism in Nineteenth-century Music. trans. by Mary Whittall. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-521-26115-5. The vague universality of the term 'romantic realism', which helped it to become a catchphrase, led eventually to political misuse as well. ... T.W. Adorno, paradoxically enough, cited Joseph Goebbels, who had spoken of 'romantic realism', evidently in order to signify his approval ...
  10. ^ Rand, Ayn (1971). The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy Of Literature (revised ed.). New York: Signet. p. 167. ISBN 0-451-14916-5.
  11. ^ a b Rand, Ayn. The Romantic Manifesto.
  12. ^ Rand, Ayn (1995). Berliner, Michael S (ed.). Letters of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton. p. 243. ISBN 0-525-93946-6.
  13. ^ Rand, Ayn (1995). Berliner, Michael S (ed.). Letters of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton. pp. 242–243. ISBN 0-525-93946-6.
  14. ^ Taruskin, Richard (2005). The Oxford History of Western Music. Volume 3: The Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 255 and 264. ISBN 978-0-19-516979-9.