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Open Classroom


3, 5, 10, 12, 17, 19, 24, 26 November 2009
Image of the Lecture

The participants summarise their talks

  • Giacomo Leopardi: preludes to an essential Romanticism
    Antonio Colinas

    Giacomo Leopardi (Recanati, 1798-Naples, 1837) is the most genuine representative of the Italian Romanticism, and one of the most outstanding of all of Europe. His work nurtures on the vigorous influence of the classics, but at the same time the literary modernity of his country sprouts from it, producing an aesthetic change, specially in the poems of his Canti (Chants), but at the same time with a revulsive thinking. He precociously began to learn from the Greek-Latin authors –his beloved antichi–, but soon, other readings from his father's rich library, his facility for languages, and his enclosed and complex life in the family palace, produced in him a mixture from where a new literary time would emerge, and precisely in a period when the history of his country is struck by foreign influences, like the French Revolution (also decisive in the life of another poet, Hölderlin), and especially the Napoleonic occupation of Italy.

    Thus, beyond the value and results of his huge work in different genres (poetry, theatre, narrative, essay, journals, letters), the rich personality of Leopardi, his late travels, and his friendship with liberals of his time, express a great anxiety for freedom that filled his short life with great finds and with the frustrating and negative paths of his philosophy, with a nihilism that would explode in his essays, dialogues, and thoughts, as well as his life experiences along his last days in Naples.

    A literary personality the size of Giacomo Leopardi can only be compared within the Italian Literature with the great masters that influenced him (Dante, Petrarca), as well as with other of his contemporary European poets (Novalis, Hölderlin, Keats, Shelley), who accompanied him in the huge task of bringing a new time to literature by using new words, a new light for knowledge, and through his verses, a more clear and emotional feeling.  

  • The Jena Circle or the Romantic philosophy
    Javier Hernández-Pacheco
    The idea of Romanticism, which began as an artistic movement, a philosophical theory, and an existentialist attitude, has gotten incorporated in our ordinary language with different luck, and to some extent, ambiguity, to the point that no one is never sure if it is good or bad to be tagged with this adjective. Thus, it is a term needing a certain semantic clarification. And this is what I pretend here, tracking the historical roots of this movement to the end of the 18th century. As Friedrich Schlegel expressed it, Romanticism is the result of the literary work of Goethe, the philosophy of Kant, and more specifically Fichte, and the dissemination from France of revolutionary ideas, within an emerging and juvenile German intellectuality. This way, it could not be further away from that ideal than the maudlin image of an artist hiding in his literature his creative incapacity and the lack of will to transform the historical circumstance. Romanticism has nothing to do either with what Goethe denominated "to the beautiful soul", or what Marx denounces in his critic of the utopian socialisms. Poetry is no hiding place, but rather the essence of the reality seeking fullness, and while this is not achieved, it is only a fragment of itself. And it is the responsibility of the artist, not only to give voice to this trend, but to practically contribute to the task that the world is in itself. This way, art is the recreation of the world beyond its factual limits, until making from all things that which everything wants to be: not only a better world, but the reflection of the fantastic. That indeed, is also called Idealism. 
  • Schubert, the Romantic that couldn't be
    Luis Gago
    Franz Schubert represents a unique case in the history of music. He was almost a strict contemporary of Ludwig van Beethoven, but in opposition to him, he hardly enjoyed any recognition while being alive. Both of them lived their adult lives in Vienna, one as the most famous and breaking composer of his time, and the other unsuccessfully fighting to make his genius known and get his works published and played. The early death of Schubert and the rapid hatching of musical Romanticism contributed even more to keeping his music in oblivion for decades, valued and appreciated only by a small circle of connoisseurs, headed by some of the greatest romantic composers. Only around the mid 20th century people began to be aware of the true dimension and seed for the future that his creations were, valuing not only his Lieder (he composed more than six hundred), which provided him with most of the fame he gained during his time, but also his management of the great shape or his harmonic innovations. Musicians like Benjamin Britten or Sviatoslav Richter revealed with their interpretations a more modern and tremendous Schubert than what had been presented until then. The Austrian was an intuitive composer who made himself, he hardly travelled and contrary to his predecessors like Haendel, Mozart or Haydn, or his successors like Mendelssohn, Liszt or Schumann, he did not have any contact with great European artistic personalities of his time. All of this makes him a unique case within the history of Western music. Classic by birth, many of his works point in a direction that not even the Romantic composers were able to peek. 
  • Lord Byron or the Romantic feeling
    Dámaso López García
    Maybe the figure of lord Byron is even more important that his own literary work. This is a trait he shares with other writers. The human example, the importance of the literary character, may indeed hide to some point the work of the author. Maybe in present times the name of lord Byron evokes the fullness of Romanticism, although his work is not precisely the most favored by the scholars of Romanticism.  The singularity of this condition is highlighted by the fact that Bertrand Russell devoted a chapter of his A History of Western Philosophy to the English poet. Coleridge spoke for a good part of his life about the philosophical poem that his friend Wordsworth was writing, The Prelude. Nevertheless, in opinion of Bertrand Russell, Byron should be counted among the first ones to be part of "the causes of change in the social structure". It is difficult to separate the characters from his work. As it is also difficult to separate the person from the character. In the Europe prior to the 19th century, there were isolated examples of authors who were satanic or considered cursed, there were Don Juanes, counts of Villamediano, or marquises de Sade, but the creation of a specific modern model was reserved for lord Byron, a model that was imitated and continues to be imitated seeking advantages. The reflections of that inner unhappiness, rebellious arrogance, the content for conventions, the aspirations to the absolute, and why not, the scornful aristocratic frivolity, either real of faked, are all elements that still now in the 21st century project their shadow. The origin of all of these traits, not isolated but in a contradictory set, can frequently be tracked back to lord Byron. 
  • Espronceda or Romanticism in Spain
    Leonardo Romero Tobar

    José de Espronceda was born on 1808, a key moment for modern Spain and a year around which other highly significant figures of Spanish Romanticism were also born, such as Cecilia Böhl (1796), Trueba y Cossío (1799),  Mesonero Romanos (1803),  Hatzenbusch (1806), Larra (1809), and Donoso Cortés (1809). Along these years some of the key works defining the profile of European Romanticism were published: Hyperion (1797),  the magazine Das Athenäum (1798-1800), Lyrical Ballads  (1798), Le Génie du Christianisme  (1802), Reden an die deutsche Nation (1807-1808)... The peculiarities of Spanish Romanticism finds on this circumstance one of its most characteristic traits, although not the only one, and it is no other than the chronological delay in regards to the European literatures. Espronceda and Larra, through their prematurity, managed to burn steps and overtake innovative romantic manifestations. The former by compromising almost as a teenager with radical political activity; the later by searching for his literary field at a very young age. Espronceda's exile in London and Paris (1827 –1833) puts him in direct contact with the lively contemporary European culture. Thus, public action and personal passion will be the to paths guiding his future existence until his unexpected death in 1842.

    The will for public intervention and sensibility towards the injustices of society are present in many of his prose or verse texts, and the burning pulse of his erotic experiences rewrite the themes and motivations of the new and ancient literary traditions. These harmonics sound insistently in his literary works. But the moving capacity of his lyric expression are not limited to this, because above all, Espronceda is a poet. An intense feeling of the rhythm and euphony, together with a refreshing capacity to die-cut brilliant images, trespass his style in an absolutely modern view of the world which pairs him with the most innovative poets of Romanticism. The unfolding of a lyric ego in the figure of a poet and his audience, and the ironic texture when it comes to organizing the poetic speech, are two suggestive components of a writing that returns to us a lyricist of full current value.

Fundación Juan March
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