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The Romantic Imagination and National Feeling

  • The nationistic movement that started among a tiny group of elite people slowly spread to make its influence felt throughout society.

  • Romanticism was more widespread both in its origins and influence. No other intellectual movement has had comparable variety, reach, and staying power since the end of the Middle Ages.

  • National feeling with its beginning in Germany and England in the 1770s, by the 1820s had swept through Europe, conquering even the French.
  • This feeling traveled quickly to the Western Hemisphere, and in its musical form has triumphed around the globe.
  • When John Williams created the sound of the future in Star Wars, it was the sound of 19th-century Romanticism--still the most popular style for epic film soundtracks.

Beginning in the last decades of the 18th century, it transformed poetry, the novel, drama, painting, sculpture, all forms of concert music and ballet. It was deeply connected with the politics of the time, echoing people's fears, hopes, and aspirations. It was the voice of revolution at the beginning of the 19th century and the voice of the Establishment at the end of it.

This last shift was the result of the triumph of the class which invented, fostered, and adopted as its own the romantic movement: the bourgeoisie. To understand why this should have been so, we need to look more closely at the nature of the style and its origins.

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