"CLASSICISM is Health, ROMANTICISM a Disease." Please comment.Please answer in detail

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The statement is quite interesting.  In my mind, it makes the argument that the totality and sense of complete transcendence that was offered in the Enlightenment age was needed as a condition of human happiness.  This comes from the idea that rational thought and science, if properly applied, could solve what ails the human heart in both literal and figurative terms.  Conversely, it views the subjectivity and doubt caused as a result of the Romantic period as a disease precisely because it sought to undermine such a condition.  One’s appreciation of the statement is  going to be dependent on how they stand on this issue of totality.  In my mind, if one embraces the idea that there can be a sense of totality present, a sense of complete security in that every question has an answer and can be found with enough patience and focus, then the statement is valid.  Consider how the Romantic would look at Keats’ closing quote to “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”  The Classicist thinker is going to suggest that such an ending resolves nothing.  The idea that there is a limit to “one all need to know” is simply preposterous because individuals with reason and rationality can solve anything and understand any particular challenge such as beauty and truth.  These are elements that can be resolved and articulated without a sense of vagueness and ambiguity.  At the same time, if one does not believe in this totality, that there is a sense of incomplete within the human predicament, that all humans can know is their own subjective consciousness and to understand this is “all ye need to know,” then the statement is going to be seen as false and actually quite the opposite.  The Romantic thinker would see Classicism as the disease, as a way of falsely configuring human consciousness to become conformist and eliminating the spirit of individual exploration and subjective consciousness that has defined much in way of human endeavor.  In the end, the quote will be seen in two different ways, depending on how one’s orientation is geared in accepting either Romantic or Classicist sensibilities.


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