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19th century Romanticism in France - Research Paper Example

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Man, however, is not perfect. He errs, sometimes wantonly. That which in theory was conceived as a concrete principle or standard can in practice prove to be eminently malleable…
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19th century Romanticism in France
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Download file to see previous pages He bathes himself in the emotional zeal and beliefs of the French Revolution and greatly admires Napoleon Bonaparte. He outwardly professes to be a monarchist all the while secretly reading Rousseau’s Confessions by candle light. For Stendhal then, Sorel serves as a means of expressing the pain many French Romantic thinkers and writers felt when trying to reconcile the lofty ideals of the eighteenth century Enlightenment with the realities of the French Revolution.
It is important to recall that throughout the eighteenth century France was the philosophical heart and soul of the Enlightenment. Its language was most often the preferred prose for its expression. French after all was the language of Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and Condorcet (among others). In their ideas, however, there already developed a troubling dichotomy: the belief that science could answer any question and that man, if he so chose, could better himself using that same science. The eighteenth century’s “rising middle class proclaimed new political ideas: democracy and patriotism. It had a new conception of morality: civic virtue and heroism” (Antal 1935, p. 160). The Enlightenment sought to apply science and “rationalize” every part of society. Thus it was irrational for a king to have absolute power. It was rational for the people to determine things. If only the latter were the case then society’s ills would be no more. Of course the end result could not have been farther from these ideals: with the French King beheaded and the social order laying ruins, France of the 1790’s was the place of murder, mayhem, and inhumanity. The ideals of “liberty, fraternity, equality” were a mockery. And when Napoleon brought order he did so only after crowning himself emperor and thus demonstrated that order in France was only possible if there was a strong monarch.
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