Their teacher had advised them not to read Tolstoy novels, because they were very long and would easily confuse the clear ideas which they had learned from reading critical studies of him. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn<
Foreign Literature of XIX Century
In Europe XIX Century started to the accompaniment of French Revolution echo. This revolution seemed to be the beginning of new era where Freedom, Equality and Fraternity will prevail.
But in time all hopes changed into disappointments. Historical events that were greeted by educated mankind became a drama. New Europe took hard revolution and wars and became a world of power of money, pursuit for profits and fall of morality; a world of degradation. Enlightened minds of XVIII cherished hopes and ideas about "Century of Intellect" but those hopes were not realized.
Against this background a new artistic method Romanticism came into the world. This method was a response to previous events.
In comparison with classicism Romanticism was more progressive tendency because it tried to open an inner life of individual, his feelings and emotions. Romanticism made a real artistic revolution because it met the spirit of contemporary time.
A term "Romanticism" came from a word "Romance" in a meaning "An artistic fantasy", i.e. "Like in a book", not in a real life. Renunciation of real life in works of poets-romanticists was dictated just by an idea about anti-aesthetic character of this reality.
A central topic "A Man and Society" that was peculiar to XVIII Literature was changed by new one "A Personality and Universe". A common idea for all romanticists was defiance to power of money. One poets denied a reality, they addresses to the past and idealized it; another tended to future.
Describing passion and unusual actions of hero poets-romanticists built their works according the principle "Vice versa". All heroes had not typical features of contemporary person, but opposite ones. If in modern society Evil, Mercenariness and Pettiness prevailed then poets-romanticists described heroes in their works as unselfish, kind and magnanimous people. Not object but subject, not reality but personality became a main principle of character construction in Romanticism.
According to Zhukovsky words "poet-romanticist looks at reality in the light of heart"
The significance of Romanticism was in the fact that romanticists opened the spiritual wealth of oral folk poetry, they proclaimed a freedom of creative work and threw off shackles of classicism. Poets-romanticists reinterpreted values of antiquity anew.
The first theorists of Romanticism were German poets - Shlegel brothers. German romanticism appeared in the end of XVIII Century and it gave such authors as Novalis, Tieck, Chamisso, Uhland, Lenau, Schiller and others. Just from Germany this artistic tendency spread throughout whole Europe.
In England the fist stage of Romanticism development corresponded to ninetieth years of XVIII Century. But English (and Scottish) romanticism had rapid development, its origin, peak and dying took the time of one generation living. That is why many English romanticists changed their ideology at the end of life. The first English romanticism was William Bleak, then appeared the representatives of "Lake School" W. Wordsworth, Coleridge, V. Scott, Milton, Macferson, Shelley and others.
In France Romanticism gave such names as Chateaubriand, Hugo, Vigny, Merime and others.
Romanticism became a powerful stimulus for development of Slavic national literatures: Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Hungarian, etc.
But it is incorrectly to speak only about Romanticism. A transition period from Classicism to Romanticism was known as Pre-romanticism and Sentimentalism, which had the features of coming tendency such as mysticism, exalted description of nature and hero's emotions, etc.
The second half of XIX Century was noted by arising of new conception - critical realism. It was born from Romanticism but then became the opposite of Romanticism tendency.