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LCLC Summer Programme: Romanticism, A European Phenomenon

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

Throughout June, the LCLC is running a series of lectures, seminars, and workshops for students in Year 10, 11, and 12. The first of these was a lecture given by Professor Rüdiger Görner, Professor of German with Comparative Literature and Founding Director of the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations at Queen Mary University London. Here, Gabriella reflects on the key themes and ideas that she picked up on over the course of this session:

Why is the colour blue significant to Romanticism? Can we pin down a start date for the Romantic ‘epoch’? Why is Romanticism worth remembering? These were just a few questions that began our ‘Romanticism: A European Phenomenon’ seminar with Professor Rüdiger Görner from Queen Mary University. Despite very little prior knowledge of Romanticism, I learnt so much over the course of the session. Whilst it would be impossible to include everything mentioned, a few elements really stood out for me; the first being that the movement was arguably a reaction against the Enlightenment that had defined European culture for so long. Our exploration into Romanticism also included the ‘aesthetic’ response to the French Revolution, the belief in the ‘organic’ nature of state and society, Lord Shaftesbury’s Sensualism, the Romanticist attention towards the five senses and the key role of the ‘unterbewusstein’- German for subconscious.

Next, Professor Görner brought up the key concept of the musicality of men emphasised by the Romanticists. We also looked at Wordsworth’s The Prelude and Germaine de Stael-Holstein’s De L’Allemagne. However our seminar was not limited to just literature, and we also looked at the visual arts. We closely reviewed Turner’s The Opening of the Walhalla and its incredible rhythmicality despite its limitations as a 2-D painting. Danhausers’ Liszt am Flugel also has an undeniable musical element to it; Liszt plays the piano in the symbolic presence of Beethoven and Lord Byron, whilst great musicians and writers like Rossini and Dumas watch in awe. As we reached the end of the seminar, a philosophical approach was taken to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Shadow and Chassimo’s Peter Schlemihl; both of which present the shadow as an independent, intangible and darker side to ourselves. Ending our talk reviewing Romanticism’s influence on Freud and Jung’s ‘shadow’ archetype, I am left with a desire to further explore the history of Romanticism in French culture, which I hope to study at University.

I would like to say a massive thank you to both Professor Görner and Hollie Eaton for this brilliant insight into German Romanticism.

Gabriella Winship, The London Oratory School

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