Chapter I. Romanticism in american literature of the XIX century


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Late romanticism

1.1. The creation and impact of dark romanticism
Herman Melville was born on August 1, 1819 in New York into the family of a merchant. His mother Maria Gansevoort was the daughter of a general who took part in the American Revolution of the 18th century. Melville's paternal grandfather was also a famous fighter in the Revolutionary War and a participant in the Boston events. Instead of fairy tales, the boy heard stories about the famous “Boston Tea Party”; On the fireplace of the family home there was a bottle of tea - a symbol of my grandfather’s revolutionary past. Herman's childhood passed happily in a large, friendly family with 8 children, in an atmosphere of conversations on political and literary topics. Herman began to read early, he was guided by his elder brother Gansevoort, who knew history, Latin poetry, Romanesque antiquities well, and spoke French.3
Herman studied at a New York school, then at the so-called “Academy” in Albany . The sudden death of his father, who died from shock at the news of the complete ruin that had befallen him, turned Melville's life upside down. The boy at that time was not even 13 years old, the poverty of his family horrified him, he tried his best to help his mother: he became a clerk in an Albany bank to enable his sisters to continue studying at school, helped his brother Gansevoort , who opened a fur shop, worked in the summer on a farm his uncle Thomas in Pittsfield . And he studied all the time, without breaking with the school, which he graduated from in Albany in 1835.
When the impractical Gansevoort , like his father, went bankrupt, Herman went from Albany to Lansingburg and spent the whole winter of 1838 studying topography there in order to later get a job on the Erie Canal. For the first time in 1839 he begins to be published in Lansingburgh newspapers. Unable to find work as a topographer, Melville was hired as a sailor on a packet boat traveling between New York and Liverpool, and in the winter of 1839 he taught in Greenbush . When the school is closed, Herman goes to 1840 to the West to Uncle Thomas, makes a trip along the Mississippi River, which he later humorously describes in “A Disposing Man.” In 1841, spurred by acute need, Melville became a sailor on the whaling ship Acushnet , heading to fish in the southern seas. A series of wanderings and almost fantastic adventures that befell the young man Melville begins. Hunger and the captain's cruel treatment of the sailors forced Herman to flee the ship in July 1842 along with another young sailor Green, whom he later described in his books under the name Toby. Herman lands in Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, is captured by cannibal savages in the Typei Valley , escapes from them, joining the crew of the ship "Lucy Ann" - an Australian whaler. Accused of mutiny, Melville, along with the entire crew of the ship, is imprisoned on the islands of Tahiti. For several months in 1843, he wanders around the islands of the archipelago, makes a short trip on the ship "Charles and Henry", spends the summer of 1843 in Maui and Honolulu; in August of the same year, he voluntarily became a sailor on an American warship in Honolulu and returned to his homeland.
The impressions of the experience were so strong and extraordinary that Melville spent the entire fall and winter of 1844 working on a book, describing his time in captivity among cannibals.
Melville's first work, " Typee " ( Turee : A Real Romance of the South Sea ", 1846) appeared simultaneously in the USA and England. This year Melville experienced great grief: his beloved brother Gansevoort died ; It was he, as secretary of the American consulate in London, who helped publish Herman’s first novel. In " Typee " the writer retained all the real details his adventures in the Marquesas Islands - escape from the ship, captivity among savages, escape and how his leg hurt, and how he parted with a friend. The destinies and characters of the sailors - bizarre and sometimes terrible - their struggle with the elements, their meager and joyless life were captured with great expressiveness in this early book of Melville. In the center of attention he placed the nature and life of the inhabitants of the legendary, mysteriously terrible Marquesas Islands.
"Type " was a great success. Washington Irving saw “it in proofs in London and appreciated the “masterful execution” of the plan. New York reviewers praised "one of the most enjoyable, beautifully written works to come from an American pen." In the March issue of the New York magazine “Spirit of the Times” (“ The Spirit of the Times "), which was edited and published by William T. Porter for a quarter of a century, fragments from " Typee " appeared ; the novel was commented on and its style was called “charming.” The writer was inspired by success.
“Until the age of twenty-five, I did not develop at all,” he later wrote to his friend Hawthorne . “Only from the age of 25 do I begin to live.”
A year after Typee , its sequel appears, Omoo : A Narrative . of Adventures in the South Seas ", 1847). “A wonderful book ,” the newspapers wrote and called the author “The Defoe of America.” Both works quickly gained wide popularity, and the author’s name became known in the USA and Europe. Melville settles in New York, marries his daughter Chief Judge in Boston Elizabeth Shaw, makes literary acquaintances, determines her future as the future of a professional writer, the third book, Mardi, and a Voyage Thither”, 1849), which was a philosophical and allegorical work, was not successful. They talked about the new novel at random; he was clearly not understood. In American Review " wrote that "Mr. Melville was unfortunately defeated"; other magazines openly scolded the author of Mardi for being metaphysical and abstract and gave primitive and vulgar advice.4 There were also reserved praises (“ epigrammatic thought”, “whimsical fantasy”). Only the Zeitgeist magazine and its editor William Porter warmly welcomed Melville's new novel.
That same year he published a new book: “ Redburn ” (“ Redburn , His First Voyage ", 1849), the plot of which was woven into the story of Melville's earliest sea voyage as a cabin boy from New York to Liverpool on the packet boat St. Lawrence in June 1839. The hero of the story is a young idealist with Puritan inclinations Wellindborough Redburn - staunchly resists vice and tyranny. The description of the slums of Liverpool represents the best pages of the work. At the same time, the author glorifies here small, but festive joys for a person’s heart: the hero of the novel finds a hotel in London where his father once stayed, admires the splendor the capital, along the streets of which his father set foot, and this rewards him for the difficult journey, the insults and humiliations he endured.
Having prepared the third book in the same year, 1849, Melville took a trip to Europe in the fall to organize the publication of a new novel. Staying in England, meeting and arguing with writers and philosophers strengthened Melville’s attraction to the philosophy of Hegel, Kant, later Schopenhauer. Returning from England, he settled in Pittsfield . Here he acquires a farm and names it " Arrowhead " (Arrow). This place attracts him not only with the beauty of the landscape, but also with its interesting neighborhood: nearby, in Lenox , in the “little red house” Hawthorne lived , the neighbors were the famous actress Fanny Kemble , the writer Oliver Wendell Holmes; Friends and writers could come from New York.
The secluded life on the farm was more conducive to work than living in New York. But even here Melville did not find “peace and spiritual coolness.” In the quoted letter to Hawthorne, he complained bitterly about financial difficulties. “I am cursed with dollars,” he wrote, “and the insidious Devil is always laughing at me through the open door. My dear sir, I have a presentiment that work will squeeze everything out of me, and I will perish... What I would most like to write is closed to me - they will not pay for it. However, I cannot write something completely different.”
The year that passed from the autumn of 1850 was a time of enormous creative tension and titanic labor. Melville felt like a slave chained to a galley. He would get up before light, chop wood or take a walk, then sit down at the table, and only at four or five o’clock in the afternoon would his wife manage to force him to go down to the dining room and eat. Acute pain in his eyes, of which he repeatedly complained, prevented him from rereading what he had written. He had to keep entire chapters and sections in his memory books. He was endlessly tormented by the possibility of the novel's commercial failure. All this gave rise to enormous nervous tension and fatigue, which broke through one day in the words addressed to Hawthorne : “And if ever, my dear Hawthorne , in the eternity to come, you and I will sit down in a shady corner in paradise; and if we manage, even by smuggling, to smuggle champagne there, ten bottles (after all, I don’t believe in sober heavens), we will stretch our holy legs on the holy grass, we will move the glasses so that the ringing goes through the heavenly bushes, and we will talk... Oh, my fellow mortal, how we will talk about the many things that lead us to despair; the earth will be just a memory for us, and its destruction will be a thing of the past.”
Apparently, the situation on the farm had changed by the summer of 1851. Melville no longer found the necessary peace and solitude there. Long visits from relatives, inevitable household chores - all this distracted him from work. At the beginning of June he decided to run away back to New York, this time without his family, to finish Moby Dick. He wrote to Hawthorne about this intention : “... I’ll go to New York, shut myself up in a small room on the third floor and work like slave, on “ The Whale”... This is the only way I can finish it now.”
Another two months of hard work passed before the novel was completed. However, the concept of completeness is relative here.5 Melville added the final point out of necessity. He would willingly continue to work on the book further. He ended the thirty-second chapter of Moby Dick with the words, most likely written in the summer of 1851: “God forbid me from completing anything. This whole book is just a sketch; even less so - a sketch of a sketch. Oh Time, Strength, Money and Patience!” But there was no more time, energy, or money, and at the end of July Melville wrote the cherished word “end.”
"Moby Dick " Dick ; or the White Whale ") was published in the USA in Harper's edition in November 1851; it had been published in London a month earlier. Some newspapers screamed about "Mr. Melville's catastrophe", others admired the author's "wild imagination", others reproached him for his mixture factuality and unrestrained fiction. But they gradually agreed that the novel was becoming “as popular as other books by this author.” Smart critics pointed out the lack of mannerism and imitation, the dynamism of the action (“Moby Dick” is full of animation and energy), and the ability to give “a stunning picture of sea adventures.” There have been weak attempts to compare the novel with the works of Walter Scott and Fenimore Cooper. But much more often they talked about the freshness, novelty and high drama of Moby Dick. The philosophical meaning of the novel was not discovered at that time, and journalists were of little interest in their superficial reviews. "Moby Dick" will be assessed from this side only after Melville's death, but even then from a biased position. Only in “The Zeitgeist” was it said that the author of “Moby Dick” combined the features of a “philosopher, painter and poet”; the note about the novel in this magazine was of a very unusual nature.
Need tirelessly drove Melville . He was forced to write stories for Harper's Magazine ". The stories were sometimes melodramatic (for the needs of female readers), but most often philosophical: the magazine was respectable.
Melville had no luck here either: in December 1858, his manuscripts were burned in the magazine publishing house. He wrote stories and sketches for other magazines, such as the Putman Monthly.
In 1852, his novel “Pierre” (“ Pierre ; or The Ambiguities "), or, as the author himself called it, "The Truthful Fool." “Pierre” is a novel about murder and suicide, about ardent and unbridled passions. On the one hand, this work is a tribute to the unpretentious tastes of the public, demanding entertainment and an intriguing plot (Melville had to think about the requirements of the book market, about the sale of the novel), on the other hand, it is a daring, desperate challenge to bourgeois society - evidence of the same as in Moby Dick , if not more, of Melville's romantic rebellion.
Pierre Glendinning , a rich, handsome, gifted young man, falls in love with the beautiful Lucy Tartan, whom he intends to marry. Suddenly it is discovered that the young woman in the neighboring village is his sister: the daughter of his deceased father and his French mistress. Pierre is confused crushed by the discovery: how could his beloved, revered father, an example of nobility for his son, deceive his mother, abandon his daughter in poverty and shame? Pierre faces a moral dilemma: if he openly recognizes Isabelle as his older sister, he will thereby discredit his father's memory in the eyes of others and break his mother's heart; if he doesn’t admit it, he will become an accomplice in his father’s crime. Loving Lucy Tartan, the young man decides to abandon her and marry Isabelle , thereby restoring justice and not denigrating the memory of his father. Pierre's decision meets resistance from his mother; she renounces her son. Pierre and Isabelle flee to the city and seek help from their cousin and friend Glen Stanley. But he, knowing that now he himself may turn out to be the heir to the Glendinnings’ wealth , refuses Pierre. Pierre must seek income to support himself and Isabelle ; he begins to write a novel, hoping to publish it. But a new misfortune overtakes him: he has sensual lust for his sister, and is shocked by this discovery - was it really an unconscious carnal desire that was at the basis of his noble deed? Meanwhile , Glen Stanley, wanting to remove Pierre from family wealth, publicly insults and disgraces him. The publisher who had intended to publish Pierre's novel is now refuses the manuscript. All Pierre's plans and hopes collapsed. He kills his treacherous cousin and is thrown into prison. Lucy dies of grief. Pierre and Isabelle take poison together.6
This amazing melodrama, which the author himself treated ironically, was written “for the public.” And yet, one feels that the author has not yet cooled down from the passions of Moby Dick, that he is ready to destroy and break into pieces the so-called “immutable canons” of bourgeois morality, “generally accepted” decency, frozen ideas about “duty”.
In 1856–1857 Melville toured Europe and the Holy Land and thereafter for three seasons lectured on sculpture, travel and the South Seas from his travel records. His last sea voyage dates back to 1860, when he sailed to San Francisco on a clipper ship under the command of his brother Thomas. In 1863, Melville sold the farm to his brother Allan and returned permanently to New York, where in 1866 he received the position of customs inspector, which he held for the next nineteen years. In 1866, Melville's first collection of poems, Battle Scenes, or War from Different Points of View, was published. Pieces and Aspects of the War ). A long narrative poem about the Holy Land, Clarel , was published in 1876. Having received some inheritance and leaving the Customs House in December 1885, Melville devoted the rest of his life to desk studies and literary work . At his own expense, he published two volumes of poetry - “John Marr and other sailors” ( John Marr and Other Sailors , 1888) and " Timoleon " ( Timoleon , 1891) - and left behind the manuscript of a short novel "Billy Budd , Fore-Mars Sailor" ( Billy Budd , Foretopman ). The last work of criticism these days is placed in second place in Melville’s creative heritage - after Moby Dick. It tells the story of a young and innocent British sailor who is hanged for the murder of a cruel officer.
Herman Melville died on September 28, 1891. The newspapers of his hometown belatedly noted the death of a man “who lived in his youth with cannibals and wrote two books about it.”
The history of literature knows many cases when descendants “discovered” great artists whose work was not noticed and appreciated by their contemporaries. Such was the fate of Chatterton and Keats in England, Hölderlin in Germany. Such is the fate of Melville. It would hardly occur to anyone today to doubt Melville’s right to occupy a place on the American literary Olympus. His name is mentioned in the same breath as the names of Poe, Whitien and Twain. Several dozen monographs have been written about him, and the number of articles has exceeded a thousand. Moby Dick is considered the most significant American novel of the 19th century. Meanwhile contemporaries considered Melville to be a third-rate author. For them, he was, in the words of the writer himself, “Melville of the Marquesas Islands,” “a man who lived with cannibals.”
Melville's fame among his contemporaries was brief. His first two stories (“ Typee ” and “Omu”) were received with enthusiasm by the reading public, but by the mid-1850s he had already been forgotten, and if they were remembered, it was as a writer who “had either gone crazy, Otherwise I’ve lost my way.” The consequences of long-term oblivion are still felt today. Despite Despite the great fame and enormous popularity that Melville's works acquired in America in the 20th century, a critical scientific edition of his works has not yet been carried out. Some of his novels are published in America not only without the necessary comments, but in a shamelessly abridged and truncated form. The only relatively complete collection of Melville's works was published by Constable in England. It is, of necessity, considered definitive, although it contains many errors in the text and in the comments.
Weaver's monograph Herman Melville, Sailor and Mystic, was published . Throughout the twenties, many of Melville's books were republished. Major historians of literature, culture and social thought devoted sections of their works to Melville. A number of monographic studies have appeared, specifically devoted to the life and work of the forgotten genius. "Moby Dick" has become a reference book every cultured American. Melville's images inspire modern artists (R. Kent, B. Robinson, D. Wilson), poets ( Hart Crane , W. G. Auden ), musicians ( Ghedini ). Moby Dick now exists not only as a book, but as an opera, ballet and film, not to mention a significant number of dramatic versions (plays, radio plays and television plays). Melville is no longer perceived today as a “famous American writer”, but as a classic of world literature. The number of research articles and books on Melville increases every year. The literature about him is enormous. There was even a special, somewhat ironic term “ Melville” Industry ". However, not all books and articles reveal to us the true picture of Melville’s life and work. In essence, there are almost no serious studies of Melville’s work in its connections with social reality, socio-philosophical thought and fiction of the mid-19th century. In the general stream of modern Melvillianism they occupy an insignificantly small place. You can count them on your fingers. Most American literary scholars are trying to study Melville's life and work in the spirit of the traditions established by D.H. Lawrence in his famous collection of psychoanalytic essays on American literature. The publication of this collection coincided with the awakening of interest in Melville's work. Lawrence was then at the zenith of his fame and had enormous authority, and Freudian ideas in these and subsequent years became increasingly widespread in American bourgeois literature and literary criticism. Due to these circumstances, a peculiar tendency arose to approach Melville's works as documents for the “ psychobiography ” of the writer. Many researchers see Melville’s artistic tools in Freudian ideas and try to provide a psychoanalytic basis for the plot, characters and actions of the characters, forgetting that Melville’s work was based on other philosophical foundations. Even such serious specialists as M. Bowen , N. Arvin , R. Chase, were unable to “break away” from this tradition and from time to time plunge into obscure discussions about religious “ pratypology ”, psychoanalytic myth-making, all kinds of complexes, etc.
However, the influence of the Lawrence tradition is only one of the factors determining the methodological orientation of modern works on Melville, and probably not the most important.7 It seems to be a matter of general principles of modern American bourgeois literary criticism as a whole. With all the variety of schools and trends available to the eye, from the “new critics” and Jungians to the comparativists of the Chicago school, their combines a kind of aggressive subjectivism and outright disregard for historicism as a fundamental principle of literary research. In this regard, Malcolm's testimony is not without interest. Cowley , who wrote in one of his last books that "in the interpretation or 'reading' of the modern critic, a work is rarely 'just' a poem, a drama or a novel... it becomes a myth, based on Jung's theory of the collective unconscious, or a complex exercise in linguistics . The critic easily finds here Telemachus in search of his father, Odysseus descending into the underworld, a ritual of rebirth, an exorcism... a study in classical allusions, a theological commentary to the Fall of Man, or even ( as one literary critic “established” in relation to Melville’s story “Billy Budd ”, lumping together Freudian and Christian symbols) cannibalism, ritual murder and eating the host ”.
Melville was particularly “unlucky” in this sense. The specific nature of the artistic structure of his works, abundantly saturated with symbols and allegories, provides wide scope for any kind of subjective interpretations. From the above, of course, it does not follow that the huge research literature on American romanticism and Melville’s work is generally devoid of any value. American literary scholars have identified and published a colossal amount of historical, literary and biographical documents. It is impossible, for example, to imagine a modern study of Melville that does not rely on Jay 's Chronicle Leyda or the monograph by Charles Anderson, who carefully collected all the facts related to Melville’s sailor service. An invaluable source is the collection Melville's letters tracked down and published by Davis and Gilman . The enormous bibliographic work done by historians of American literature evokes a sense of gratitude. Nevertheless, the problems of American romanticism, as well as the work of Herman Melville, in its connections with social reality, with socio-political and the ideological movements of the era, with the literary and aesthetic struggle of his time are still not properly studied.
In the 60s of our century, Melville became the prey of Freudian psychoanalysts in literary criticism. Distortion of a writer’s creativity and literary manner is accomplished in different ways. Yes, Willard. Thorpe , who wrote the preface to Moby- Dick , portrays Melville as a "natural genius" who showed no effort in writing his books and did not care about his literary prowess. Professor at Colorado College at Greeley, author of a documented biography of Herman Melville, Tyrus Hillway , on the contrary, represents the writer in intense creative work, says that Melville, a romantic in his early influences and a realist in his intellectual quests, could never overcome this contradiction - neither in his worldview nor in his books. T. Hillway’s thought would be almost correct if further “romanticism” and “realism” were not defined in a very strange way: the first comes from the writer’s heart, says T. Hillway , the second comes from the mind; the struggle is supposedly taking place between the sentimental and rationalistic principles in Melville’s work.
No American writer is subject to such subjectivist interpretations as Herman Melville. James E. Miller considers Melville's works so encrypted that he offers the reader his Guide to Herman Melville. “ Melville’s characters ,” he writes, “wear two kinds of masks: those who hide behind the mask low goals, and those who wear the mask unconsciously and mistake it for their own face.”
Articles in collections, special chapters in monographs and textbooks, dissertations. It's time for a book.
The author is aware that he has not exhausted the topic indicated in the title. American romanticism and Melville's work can provide material for several dozen monographs. Circle limit the issues under study, historical and literary phenomena and problems were inevitable. The task of this work is different: to show the inconsistency of the concept of a lonely genius, popular in foreign Melville studies, and to present Melville's work in its living and deep connection with reality, with the socio-political struggle of the era, with the social thought and literary life of his time.
It should be noted that the works of Herman Melville are distinguished by the artistic diversity of the narrative, thanks to which he achieved the highest originality and originality of prose. A strong fusion of heterogeneous genre principles was the basis of the writer’s creative success, his greatest achievement in the development of the American novel.
Documentary narratives that create an element of authenticity, combined with unlimited imagination, extensive journalistic digressions, philosophical reflections, deep psychoanalysis, social conditioning of the heroes' destinies , realistic descriptions of everyday life, retrospective narration, irony of various shades, sarcasm and tragedy - form a complex genre and stylistic unity, called synthetism (or syncretism) in literary criticism.
Thus, the main feature of the Melville artistic system is the extraordinary combination of perspectives of the realistic and symbolic vision of the world by the writer, the masterful ability to synthesize two types of thinking: rational (logical) and mythological.

Romanticism was the earliest to spread in European countries. And the development of romanticism in the United States is associated with the assertion of national independence. American romanticism is characterized by great closeness to the traditions of the Enlightenment, especially among the early romantics (W. Irving , Cooper, W.K. Bryant ), optimistic illusions in anticipation of the future of America. Great complexity and ambiguity are characteristic of mature American romanticism: E. Poe, Hawthorne , G.W. Longfellow and others. Transcendentalism stands out as a special movement here - Melville, Emerson , G. Thoreau, Hawthorne , who glorified the cult of nature and simple life, rejected urbanization and industrialization.

The center of the artistic system of romanticism is the individual, and its main conflict is the individual and society. The emergence of romanticism is associated with the anti-enlightenment movement, the reasons for which lie in disappointment in civilization, in social, industrial, political and scientific progress, the result of which was new contrasts and contradictions, leveling and spiritual devastation of the individual.
A romantic hero is a complex, passionate personality, whose inner world is unusually deep and endless; it is a whole universe full of contradictions. Romantics were interested in all passions, both high and low, which were opposed to each other. High passion is love in all its manifestations, low passion is greed, ambition, envy. The romantics contrasted the life of the spirit, especially religion, art, and philosophy, with the base material practice. Interest in strong and vivid feelings, all-consuming passions, and secret movements of the soul are characteristic features of romanticism.
We can talk about romance as a special type of personality - a person of strong passions and high aspirations, incompatible with the everyday world. Exceptional circumstances accompany this nature.8 Fantasy, folk music, poetry, legends become attractive to romantics - everything that for a century and a half was considered as minor genres, not worthy of attention. Romanticism is characterized by the affirmation of freedom, the sovereignty of the individual, increased attention to the individual, the unique in man, and the cult of the individual. Confidence in a person’s self-worth turns into a protest against the fate of history. Often the hero of a romantic work becomes an artist who is capable of creatively perceiving reality. The classicist “imitation of nature” is contrasted with the creative energy of the artist who transforms reality. A special world is created, more beautiful and real than the empirically perceived reality. Romantics passionately defended the creative freedom of the artist, his imagination, believing that the genius of the artist does not obey the rules, but creates them.
J.K. _ Paulding, in his essay “National Literature,” wrote: “The American author must free himself from the habit of imitation, dare to think, feel, and express his feelings in his own way, learn from nature, and not from those who distort it. Only this will lead to the creation of national literature. This country is not destined to forever trail behind literary glory, and the time will certainly come when freedom of thought and action, which has given such a rise to the national genius in other areas, will produce the same miracles in literature.”9
All the basic conditions for the development of American literature were present: a young, energetic nation, well-versed writers, suitable topics, a growing publishing industry, bookstores, schools, libraries. All that remains is to create a truly original national literature that would not be perceived as a provincial branch of English literature. And for this, as it turned out, patriotism and ardent desire alone were not enough. An original idea was needed that could spiritualize the nation and direct the development of its literature in a new direction.
Such an inspiring “idea” was the romantic movement, which had long been unfolding in European countries, but came to America two decades late. The reason for this delay was not only and not so much the “cultural backwardness” of the United States; the fact is that only by the 1820s were the prerequisites for the emergence of romanticism formed here - a historical moment of crisis and uncertainty, hopes and disappointments. In Europe, it was associated with the results of the Great French Revolution of 1789-1793 and the formation of capitalist society. In the USA, as we remember, a powerful rush of inspiration after the tangible victories of the American Revolution and the country's gaining of independence began to gradually subside towards the end of the second decade of the 19th century and resulted in bewilderment regarding the fate of culture in a democratic state.
However, inspiration did not completely leave the nation for a very long time, as it was constantly fueled by a new impulse - the movement to the West and the exploration of vast spaces, which opened up new opportunities. Romanticism remained the leading trend in US literature until the Civil War between the North and the South, and only after it, when industrial capitalist society in its sharpest and most stable outlines was finally established in the US, did the breeding ground for all kinds of aspirations and doubts disappear, and therefore and for a romantic feeling. When the free fund of uninhabited lands in the West was exhausted and, as a result of Reconstruction, the remnants of both southern aristocracy and the Puritan spiritual culture of New England disappeared, the era of romanticism in the United States also ended.
Let us recall that the romantic era in America was at the same time the era of the formation of national literature, and therefore interest in issues of national specificity in art became especially acute. America thirsted for spiritual self-affirmation, and national literature was to become one of his main means.
The specificity of American romanticism consisted, firstly, in shifted chronological boundaries compared to European ones and an extremely long period of dominance - from 1820 to the end of the 1880s and, secondly, in a closer connection with Enlightenment rationalism. As in Europe, the connection between Romanticism and the Enlightenment had a negative-continuity character, but here the component of continuity was more clearly expressed: the work of some Romantics (W. Irving , J.C. Paulding ) began in line with Enlightenment aesthetics, in addition, in the works of Romantics Americans, even such famous “ irrationalists” as N. Hawthorne , E. Poe, G. Melville, there was practically no moment of discrediting the human mind, denying its capabilities.
American romanticism was intended to reflect the new patterns of social life, the emerging norms of new social institutions. The transition from a colonial social system to a nationally independent state made every American immensely proud of their homeland. Patriotism and a passionate, almost fanatical faith in American democracy were born. The noisy War of Independence cast a heroic veil over the recent past—isn’t this a fertile field for the work of a novelist!
For its time, romanticism was the most effective method of artistic exploration of reality; without it, the process of aesthetic development of nations would be incomplete.
The experience of the past century and a half gives us now the opportunity to see the vulnerable, albeit characteristic, features of romanticism. So, for example, American romantics, like European ones, went straight from the life of an individual to an assessment of the life of the country as a whole, bypassing such links as the family, social and state institutions. This is also a historical feature - the desire to generalize with minimal experience; on the other hand, there is a desire to understand the particular and the general in their unity.10 It affected this is in many ways - primarily in the furious denunciation of the work of the romantics, in the grandeur of the symbolism, in the presence of the genre of utopia and satirical pamphlet.
It is noteworthy that the early romantics - Irving and Cooper - did not have heroes with a broken psyche, so characteristic of European romanticism. The literary heroes of Irving and Cooper do not know disappointment, internal division, or internal conflict. Their spiritual world is complete, they always know what they want, what they stand for or what they are fighting against; not because life itself was not difficult, but because such was the educational tradition that was still alive in literature, rationalistically straightening the reflection of reality in fiction, and the optimism born of the revolutionary time of the struggle for independence was alive in the hearts of writers (and their literary heroes). While speaking out against the “distortions” of the socio-political system, these writers continued to believe in its principles. Irving from a young age, and Cooper throughout his life was characterized by vigorous social activity; Cooper is “boiling in the fire of political passions.”
The situation is different for Edgar Allan Poe, who entered literature a quarter of a century later than Irving and almost two decades later than Cooper. He opens a galaxy of late American romantics (although he died earlier Irving and Cooper). Edgar Allan Poe is interested in the scientific achievements of his time, contemporary philosophy and literature, hates the “merchant world”, but is far from politics. Rejection of the “spoiled century” gives rise to the theme of loneliness in his work; In his work, a person is opposed not only to a “crowd of money-grubbers and vulgarities,” but is also forced to fight the “dark forces” of his own psyche. In his poetry, themes of grief , melancholy, and suffering arise . Edgar Poe does not accept either the norms of bourgeois life or the dogmas of bourgeois society. His works are designed in mournful and gloomy tones.
Hawthorne and Melville, who entered literature eight to ten years before Poe's death, complete the series of late Romantics and the historical evolution of this literary movement in the United States. They not only lost faith in the justice of the socio-political system, they developed hatred for it (for example, with this feeling Hawthorne speaks of the US state emblem at the beginning of the novel “The Scarlet Letter”).
Problems of the classical heritage formed an integral part of the debate about national literature. We must not forget that for at least a century and a half, American tastes were educated on English literature, and they themselves, being colonists, considered themselves English. Since the time of the first settlements, they have become accustomed to seeing “their” writers in Shakespeare, Milton, etc. The thought of giving up this spiritual “property” seemed unbearable to them. This kind of concern, probably caused by the activities The enthusiasts who demanded a complete cultural break with England and the “immediate” creation of their own literature were shared by many participants in the discussion. These included Cooper and Lowell, although both were proponents of American literary self-determination. While defending the idea of the national identity of American literature, they were forced at the same time to fight against extremes and peculiar nationalist “excesses,” which was at the same time a struggle for the classical cultural heritage. And the greatest value in this inheritance was, of course, Shakespeare. Naturally, not a single polemical article or lecture was complete without Shakespeare. Shakespeare became a weapon, an argument, a banner in literary battles. Never before has the great English playwright been so famous and popular in America as during these years.
However, there was another reason for the general interest in Shakespeare, probably no less significant. A kind of “revival” of Shakespeare that accompanied European romanticism, a huge passion for Shakespearean drama, attempts to comprehend and interpret its principles - all this to some extent affected the American philosophical and aesthetic thought. The attitude of American romantics towards Shakespeare was complex.11 The aesthetics of American Romanticism was still heavily influenced by European theories (especially English and German) romantics. Shakespeare was perceived in America not only directly, but also through Coleridge, Lamb, Schlegel, etc. This gave rise to a very curious idea about Shakespeare, about the meaning of his great artistic discoveries, about the essence of his creative genius.
Among the numerous essays, notes, and statements about Shakespeare that can be found in American magazines of this time, the most characteristic is the work of Emerson , part of the series “Representatives of Humanity” (1850). With all the individual originality of assessments, this essay gives us the most accurate idea of the general attitude of American romantic criticism towards Shakespeare American romantics did not just read Shakespeare and not only read from him what was especially close to them. They, so to speak, “ read ” into Shakespeare pantheism , a kind of romantic symbolism and a transcendental- emblematic interpretation of nature and human consciousness. Emerson saw one of the most important signs of Shakespeare's greatness in the fact that Shakespeare (like Dante and Homer) knew “that a tree has a meaning not only because apples grow on it, and bread - that it can be eaten, and land - that it can be eaten.” plow and build roads on it: that all these things bring a second and more beautiful harvest to human consciousness, being emblems of it thoughts and expressing throughout its natural history a certain silent commentary on human life.”
G. Melville's attention was attracted by certain problems in Shakespeare's work, both the most general and more specific: the problem of the relationship between good and evil in the modern world, the complexity and inconsistency of human nature, the nature of human wisdom and human madness, the motives of human social behavior, the nature of connections, determining social life, the relationship between state and private interests and - above all - problems of human morality.
But not only Shakespeare influenced Melville's work. Fenimore Cooper was also the writer’s idol. Cooper was the founder of the American maritime novel. Figuratively speaking, " Redburn ", "The White Peacoat" and "Moby Dick" are the literary descendants of Cooper's "The Pilot". Whatever Melville may have said about the difficulties associated with the unpoeticism of whaling, the very possibility of writing a novel about whalers was undoubtedly discovered to him by Cooper, the author of the first experiments in this field (Sea Lions and Colony on the Crater). And the fact that Melville reviewed The Sea Lions in 1849 probably has a lot to do with the idea of Moby Dick. However, if we take a broader view, we see that Cooper and Melville are connected not only by the sea and whales. In the history of the American novel of the Romantic era, these two writers played opposite roles. And this opposition contains an invisible dialectical connection between them. Cooper, who stood at the origins of the American novel and is not without reason considered its “father,” was an experimentalist by his artistic temperament. One after another, he introduced various types of novels into American literature: historical (“Spy,” “ Lionel Lincoln, or the Siege of Boston”), morally descriptive, maritime (“Pilot,” “ Red Corsair ,” “Sea Lions”), satirical ( “ Monicins ”), social (“Houses”), utopian novel (“Colony on the Crater”), etc.
One of the most important elements in the development of romantic thought in America was the discovery and then investigation of the social evil that accompanied bourgeois-democratic progress. The discrepancy between the Enlightenment ideal and the actual practice of bourgeois democracy became obvious soon after the War of Independence. It was recorded in the works of the first American romantics - Freneau , Irving , Cooper. Nevertheless, the idea of the American social system as the best order of society remained valid at least until the mid-thirties of the 19th century. Any evil was thought of at that time as a temporary deviation from the norm, an accidental violation of a just principle - that is, as an alien and transitory phenomenon. However, the next generation of romantics had to abandon such an idea. They pictured reality as a truly Shakespearean mixture of freedom and tyranny, progress and retrograde, wealth and poverty, selflessness and acquisitiveness. Social evil began to be perceived now not as a deviation from the norm, but as an integral part of it, as an integral element of the system.12
Throughout its development, romanticism in the United States underwent a certain evolution. Since the early 20s of the 19th century, a whole cohort of romantic writers acted as the founders of original American literature, which was an urgent need for the newly formed self-awareness of the nation. The front of the work was outlined: the artistic and philosophical exploration of America - its nature, history, morals, social relations - a task partially begun by poets and prose writers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the forerunners of the American romantics, such as F. Freneau , H.G. Brackenridge , C. Brockden Brown.
Now the movement for the development of national heritage, now defined as romantic nativism (from the English “ native ” - “native”, “national”), has received an unprecedented scope. Romantics with unprecedented enthusiasm devoted themselves to exploring their native country, where nothing had yet been comprehended, and much was simply unknown , and discoveries lay in wait at every step. The country of America had a huge variety of climates and landscapes, cultures and lifestyles, and specific social institutions.
The pioneers of romantic nativism in the United States were W. Irving and J. Fenimore Cooper, and by the end of the decade, national literature could already boast of undoubted achievements, including “The Book of Sketches” (1820) by W. Irving , “Poems” by W.K. Bryant , three future Cooper novels pentalogy about Leatherstocking - "The Pioneers" (1823), "The Last of the Mohicans" (1826), "The Prairie" (1827), as well as "Tamerlane and Other Poems" (1827) by E. Poe.
In the early 1830s, writers from the Southwest (Kennedy, Sims , Longstreet , Snelling ), and a little later writers from New England (young Hawthorne , Thoreau, Longfellow, Whittier ) joined the rapidly growing romantic movement. By the 1840s, romanticism in the United States was gaining maturity and the initial nativist enthusiasm gave way to other sentiments, but nativism as such did not disappear altogether, but remained one of the important traditions of American literature.
Teaching justice and perseverance in the face of adversity is one of the noble tasks of art. The books of Herman Melville served this purpose, and a reflection of their light remains in everyone who read them.
In my opinion, Melville is excellent in describing the sea. It is sacred to him. The work "Moby Dick" describes friendship, love, adventure and the sea. It would seem that everything is as usual, but this is exactly what we expect when we pick up Melville’s book. Thanks to him, readers become dreamers too. And this is what we lack so much today.

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