Raymond Williams, a famous theorist, claims that ideologies (or just influential ideas or philosophies) have a way of sticking around in a culture long after the ideology’s popularity or dominance dies out. He said ideologies can still exist as a sort of residue in a culture even hundreds of years after the heyday of that ideology. That’s one reason why you are required to take a Literature class–to understand where the ideas in your world came from.

Let’s test that by making a list of examples of Romantic or Transcendentalist expressions from our own time period, some 200 years after the beginnings of Romanticism. Point to an example of Romantic thought from our world and explain why it is Romantic. I’ll go first:

Even though most of the young people attending Bonnaroo could probably not define Romanticism, the whole festival seems to be, in part, an expression of Romantic thought: people abandon the norms of civilization for something they see as being freer or more natural (alternative or little clothing), people indulge in mind-altering drugs (some of which purport to wake the individual into heightened states of consciousness), people dance around communally like primitives who “feel” a sense of connection or being that they believe cannot be attained via reason and rationality, people purchase clothing and food and piercings and tattoos and even instruments that they feel represent primitive cultures as a way of saying these cultures knew truths that the traditional modern world has lost, people express ideas regarding Nature and the Earth and our connection to the natural world that border on spirituality, etc. etc. And so this would prove that Romanticism is still around today as a sort of residue in our culture even though most people who express Romantic thought have never studied Wordsworth, Coleridge, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, etc.


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