Tim rational enlightenment movement. Even though it is

Tim Blanning’s book on ‘The Romantic Revolution’ focuses on
the epic Cultural Revolution that started to take shape around the middle and
the eighteenth and nineteenth century against the rational enlightenment movement.

Even though it is made clear that there is no specific starting point to this
Cultural Revolution, Blanning is keen to show that its roots run deep into the
medieval period of European history. The main point Blanning wants to discuss
throughout the book is how this time period is plagued with so many radical and
rapid changes that the only was to describe them is by stating ‘Revolution’;
the key ones being the economic Industrial Revolution, the Commercial and
communications revolutions let alone the American and French Revolutions. With
this being said Blanning wants to make it clear that the Romantic (cultural)
revolution deserves to have the same credit as the others due to its huge
cultural influences and how arguably it is still going on to this day.


From the start Blanning is trying to invite the reader to
really understand the culture of romanticism constantly referring to poems,
literature, paintings and opera’s all throughout the book. He does this in a
way that is engaging and informative, while at the same time supporting his
narrative, which is extremely effective. With this being said, he covers the
works of many iconic romantics of the era, from Rousseau to Kant, and from
Hegel to Goya. By using so many different sources readers can find themselves
visualising the bigger picture of romanticism and how these individual’s work
influences the work of others. An excellent example used early on in the book
was Ludwig Tieck’s influence on the influential painter Philipp Otto Runge from
his Novel Franz Sternbald’s Wanderings “not
these trees, not these mountains do I wish to copy, but my soul, my mood, which
governs me at this moment.” (p. 31). This paints a wonderful picture early on
in the book of what the core concepts of the Romantic Revolution were all
about, even if the reader knows little about this period; making it obvious
that the romantics believed that intelligence and knowledge came from within
ones self by focusing on their feelings and emotions.


From the perspective of someone who isn’t an expert in this
field, some parts of the book can appear to be overwhelming or just rather
intense with the vast amount of information that is presented. However, this
isn’t necessarily a bad thing just something that needs to be taken into
consideration due to the immense size of the topic that is being covered and
the small amount of space that Blanning chooses to cover it in.  He chooses to cover this topic with only
three large chapters with the first being ‘The Crisis Of The Age Of Reason’
that covers ‘ the cult of genius’ who were the main influencers in the rise of
Romanticism and especially focussing on Rousseau in good detail. The second
chapter entitled ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ covers the side of these great romantic
thinkers fuelled by how dreams and nightmares, drugs, insanity and the sexual
element of their inner selves was expressed through their work. The final
chapter ‘Language, History And Myth’ has to be the most effective one the book,
focusing on the core elements that drove the Romantic Revolution.


In this final chapter, Blanning goes into great detail on
his expertise in German history; the use of the Rhineland as a metaphor of
cultural significance that was shown in such novels like ‘The Pilgrims of the Rhine’ (p. 140) by Edward Bulwer Lytton, the
major role that the use of “the Volk” played in German Pride and the other major
role of German myth. The myths surrounding German culture, being described as
‘pious lies’ (p. 149), was also seen by Blanning as having been a great
contributor to German culture. Overall, even if at times the book did seem
overwhelming with just the pure amount of information given, Blanning still
somehow makes it extremely clear the point he wants to get across, making it
better is just the use of his sources being constantly scattered throughout the
dialogue of the book. Even though the length of his chapters are considerably
long, the overall length of the book isn’t big at all, making it even more
obvious how effective Blanning is at condensing so much information on this
hugely rich time period in just three themes.


Blanning does make references throughout the book of the
views of the enlightenment beliefs; however, more could have been said. The
main theme of the book is obviously on the Romantics, but these views can only
coexist with that of the oppressive scientific rational views of the
enlightenment. It would have been nice to see a bit more of this opposing side
than there already was in order to get a more general understanding of the
subject, however this is easily the view of someone learning the subject. On another
note it would have also been nice to see more on the rise of Comte’s positivist
views and the relationship it had with the decline of romanticism. Having said
this these are the only flaws I can find with this book, apart from the
occasional intensity of information. Blanning has done an amazing job of
successfully advancing the scholarly debate of what was descibred by Hegel as the
”absolute inwardness” that is the significant Romantic Cultural Revolution.

His ability to condense such a wide-ranging amount of information and sources
from all types of genres in just a short book is extremely effective; also, his
ability to make such rich information appealing to students let alone impress
experts in this field surely is a testament to this books achievement’s and
this historian’s knowledge.

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