Victor Hugo defines Romanticism as "Liberalism in Literature." Justify this statement with reference to 19th Romantic thought.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that there is much validity in Hugo's statement.  The fundamental precepts of liberalism are found in Romanticism.  For example, liberalism's stress on individual rights is very close intellectually to the idea of placing primacy on the subjective experience.  Both elements seek to locate power and understanding the nature of the universe with the individual and not an external force.  Liberalism's stress on individual freedom and the idea of the individual being able to pursue any path is similar to Romanticism's idea of being able to break from conformist notions of the good and allow individual choice to determine how life is to be lived.  The liberal idea of power coming from the people and democratic self autonomy is similar to the Romantic idea of individuals acting on their own subjectivity and being the agent of action in their own world.  Finally, the element of social transformation which is intrinsic to liberal thought is found in the Romantic call for individuals to transform what is in to what should be.   The Romantic demand for social change is echoed in the liberal pursuit of social justice.  In these ways, Hugo might have been accurate in suggesting that Romanticism was "liberalism in literature."

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