1800 - 1860s

The Romantic Period

Key notes:

  • Romantic does NOT mean lovie-dovie
  • It does put an emphasis on nature
  • Imagination is more important than reason and logic
  • Civilization is bad Nature is good
  • Individual freedom is important
  • Nature is the way to find God
  • Progress is bad
  • Poetry is the highest expression of the imagination
  • The Americans during this time did not want to be sophisticated and educated, they wanted to be as different from the English and the Europeans as they could

Here is the powerpoint of the Romantic Period notes.

American Romantic Notes Handout

O.K., G.I. Joe is a Real American Hero, but just not one that completely fits the Romantic kind of hero.


The American Hero

During the Romantic time period, the ideal American hero often had these characteristics:

  • Young (or at least acts young)
  • Innocent and pure
  • Sense of honor higher than society’s honor
  • Has knowledge of people and life based on a deep understanding, not based on education
  • Loves nature
  • Quests for a higher truth

The first American Hero is Natty Bumppo. He is a character written by James Fennimore Cooper (Mark Twain had issues with Cooper - click here for more). Bumppo went by a varietry of names: Hawkeye, Long Rifle, Deerslayer, Leather Stocking.



We are watching The Last of the Mohicans, my personal favorite of the Bumppo novels and one of the few movies that are actually better than the book (mind you, the book's not bad; however, you need to be a lover of literature to really get into it).

The battle scene at Fort William Henry is based on an actual battle. In the real history, the British did not get to take their weapons. Here is an account of the real battle.

During class we took notes. Here is the handout.

After we watch the movie, we will take an OPEN NOTES test. Anything written on the handout will be allowed to be used on the test.

See the trailer

Here are some things you should know for the open notes test:

  • Know the character types for: Haweye, Uncas, Chingachgook, Major Duncan Heyward, Cora Monroe, and Magua
  • There will be matching for: Haweye, Uncas, Chingachgook, Duncan, Cora, Alice, Magua, Colonel Monroe, and General Webb (when in doubt do NOT choose Webb)
  • Know the relationship between Hawkeye and Chingachgook and Uncas.
  • Who: does Cora love? is the Christ figure? is the Greyhair? commits suicide? is the dark haired woman? is in love with Alice?
  • This takes place in 1757 during the French Indian War
  • This story is told in 3rd person omniscient point of view
  • Know what sedition means

The extra credit question will be: In the book, Magua hates Monroe because he gave him ____________.

Can't remember me telling you in class? Try Spark Notes. What kind of awful teacher am I to refer my students to Spark Notes?



These are the archetype notes taken while watching The Last of the Mohicans

I. Water
sea - eternity, life, mystery
rivers - flowing of time, change in life, barrier to undead
stagnant water - death, wrong, a life with no meaning, unfulfilled life
rain - a new beginning, death, purity

II. Sun
rising sun - beginning, birth
sun moving across the sky - time passing
setting sun - the end, death

III. Circles, spheres, eggs
completion, God, infinity, female

IV. Spears, guns, swords, etc.
male power

V. Wind, breath
inspiration, God or the gods speak, warning, inspiration

VI. Colors
White (light) - purity, good
Black (darkness) - chaos, unknown, death, evil
Red - blood, violent passion, violence, female
Green - life, envy, growth



Ralph Waldo Emerson is the most famous of the Transcendentalists.

We read the first chapter of Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson in class. The chapter can be found on the right hand side of the screen. I have highlighted parts that are important and will be on the test.

If you wish to read the whole essay, you can do so at this web site.

Personally, my favorite line is:

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!

Here is the star hunt we had assigned this week to see if looking at the stars was really peaceful.

I love looking at the stars. Alas, in our day of street lights and parking lot lights, many of the stars are washed out. If you like looking at the stars, I suggest going to:
Sky and Telescope
There is also a group out there trying to get rid of :light pollution. Here is their site:
Dark Skies


Emerson's transparent eyeball idea is a famous one often quoted from Nature.



Perhaps if Bruce Banner would go out into nature more, he wouldn't get upset so easily.









VII. Ship/boat
voyage, life quest

VIII. Desert
death, hopelessness, alone

IX. Gardens, Forests
paradise, life, beauty

X. Nature
goodness, God

XI. Christ Figure
one who sacrifices him/herself to save others

XII. Snakes
trickery, deceit





from Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

When we speak of nature in this manner, we have a distinct but most poetical sense in the mind. We mean the integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects. It is this which distinguishes the stick of timber of the wood-cutter, from the tree of the poet. The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men's farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title.

To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, -- he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece. In good health, the air is a cordial of incredible virtue. Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, -- no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, -- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, -- master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both. It is necessary to use these pleasures with great temperance. For, nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs, is overspread with melancholy today. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. To a man laboring under calamity, the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it. Then, there is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population.

Henry David Thoreau

We read the text book selection of Walden, or Life in the Woods. Anyone willing to check out a book and scan these pages (192-204), I will give extra credit.

Know what he did in the woods when not building his house and how long he stayed in the woods.

Extra Credit assignement (given in class and due Monday, March 3rd)

Read Resistences to Civil Government and answer #1-7 on page 217.
Read p. 270 (Ghandi) and 221-2 (MLKjr) and answer #1-5 on page 223.


The Fireside Poets

Definately not Romantic in their style, these guys were for a long time known as THE American poets. Now, not so much.

We read Longfellow's "The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls" You can read it here:

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveler hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveler to the shore.
And the tide rises, the tide falls.


To understand this poem, we paid attention to the fact that the Fireside Poets were really into convention, so we noted a few things:

The rhyme scheme (tracking the rhyming pattern by assigning a letter to the end of a line - each letter represents a sound) - In this poem, the first line ends with falls - so we give that line the letter A. The second line ends with calls - this rhymes with the first line, so it too has the letter A. The third line ends with brown - this is a new sound, so it gets the next letter, B. The fourth line ends with town - that rhymes with brown, so it gets the letter B. The last line in the first stanza ends with falls - so it gets the letter A.

This gives the first stanza the rhyme scheme AABBA. By going through all three stanzas, we can see that the rhyme scheme is AABBA - AACCA - AADDA

We can see that since he doesn't stray from this format, he must want a consistent sound to it. This fits the subject of the poem, the tide. The tide is very consistent and does not stop.

Next we noticed that the words "The tide rises the tide falls" was repeated often. This is call repetition. Anytime a poet feels the need to repeat himself or herself, it is usually important. We checked our archetype notes and found that since other natural things that cannot be stopped (the sun, rivers) tend to mean time passing, the constant tide might also mean that.

Now, with this knowledge, we looked at the plot of the poem. A traveller hurries into town as the night falls, misses all the actions of the tide wiping the beach clean, and then leaves early morning. The traveller will never come back. We interpretted this to mean that time is always moving. We must stop and check out things for ourselves. Don't wait, you might not get another chance.



This is the poem you will need to read on the test and be able to interpret:

Rainy Day by Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.



You will also want to know at least one other Fireside Poet other than Longfellow.











The Extra Credit on the test is: How much did Thoreau spend on his building supplies?









The answer to the extra credit it: $28.12 1/2