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Oxford: Frederick Hall, 1916. 1

<sc>lecture i</sc> <sc>the origins: what is romanticism?</sc>

Contemporary intellectual movements in France must be understood as in large measure a reaction against the “romanticist” attitude of the nineteenth century. During the nineteenth century several conflicting tendencies were manifested, but they may all be traced to a common source. The germs of all these tendencies are found in Rousseau.

Short sketch of Rousseau’s life.

His public career consisted in a struggle against

Authorityin matters of religion.

Aristocracyand privilegein government

His main tendencies were

Exaltation of the personaland individualabove the typical.

Emphasis upon feelingrather than thought.

Humanitarianism: belief in the fundamental goodness of human nature.

Depreciation of formin art, and glorification of spontaneity.

His great faults were

Intense egotism.


Romanticism stands for excessin any direction. It splits up into two directions: escape from the world of fact, and devotion to brute fact. The two great currents of the nineteenth century–vague emotionality and the apotheosis of science (realism) alike spring from Rousseau.

<sc>lecture ii</sc> <sc>the reaction against romanticism</sc>

The beginning of the twentieth century has witnessed a return to the ideals of classicism. These may roughly be characterized as formand restraintin art, disciplineand authorityin religion, centralizationin government (either as socialism or monarchy). The classicist point of view has been defined as essentially a belief in Original Sin–the necessity for austere discipline.

It must be remembered that the French mind is highly theoretic– directed by theories–and that no theory ever remains merely a theory of art, or a theory of religion, or a theory of politics. Any theory which commences in one of these spheres inevitably extends to the others. It is therefore difficult to separate these various threads for purposes of exposition.

The present-day movement is partly a return to the ideals of the seventeenth century. A classicist in art and literature will therefore be likely to adhere to a monarchical form of government, and to the Catholic Church. But there are many cross-currents. Our best procedure is to sketch briefly the relation of politics, literature and religion, and then consider the work of a few representatives of these three interests.

Politics: General feeling of dissatisfaction with the Third Republic, crystallising since the Dreyfus trial. Hence two currents: one toward syndicalism, more radical than nineteenth-century socialism, the other toward monarchy. Both currents express revolt against the same state of affairs, and consequently tend to meet. Nationalismis an independent movement, but tends to associate itself with monarchism.

Religion: Neo-Catholicism is partly a political movement, associated with monarchism, and partly a reaction against the sceptical scientific view of the nineteenth century. It is very strongly marked in socialistic writers as well. It must not be confused with modernism, which is a purely intellectual movement.

Literature: Movement away from both realism and purely personal expression of emotion. Growing devotion to form, finding expression in new forms. Disapproval of dilettantism and aestheticism. Expression of the new political and religious attitudes in literature.

We shall consider men of letters only as they represent political, religious, or philosophical tendencies.

<target target-type="anchor" id="page_473" /> <sc>lecture iii</sc> <sc>maurice barrès and the romance of nationalism</sc>

Barrès illustrates the transition between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries.

His two phases:

Begins as an exponent of egotistic aestheticism in the “nineties”, comparable to J. K. Huysmans and Oscar Wilde. His early novels. Novels of Italy. Bérénice.

His entrance into politics as a deputy. In his later novels he returns to the scenes of his childhood–Lorraine. Becomes the champion of the irreconcilables of Alsace-Lorraine.Barrès’s later novels: Les Bastions de l’Est; Colette Baudoche.

These novels illustrate two features of nationalism: growing spirit of revenge against Germany, and the cult of the soil–the local, as contrasted with the Parisian spirit–which has been taken up by...

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