How does an artists vision change over his/her life time? When we use the label Beethoven, for example, does that refer to some kind of static referent? Listen to some early Beethoven (Symphony #1 or Piano Concerto #3), middle Beethoven (Symphony #5 or Piano Concerto #5) and/or late Beethoven (Symphony #9 or the last five String Quartets/Grosse Fugue). Do you hear commonalities? differences? Or, you could do the same with a different composer during this same time period.
Choose any of the Romantic artists featured (Constable, Turner, Friedrich, Corot, Cole, Bierstadt, Church, David, Gros, Goya, Gericault, Delacroix, Millet) and compare with any of the Realists featured (Courbet, Daumier, Manet, Harnett, Eakins, Tanner, Homer). How does a Romantic artist letting it all hang out (Delacroixs Liberty Leading the People) compare with, say, a Manet? Why might contemporaries be more shocked by a Courbet painting with his models fully clothed than by a nude painting done in a more traditional way according to the dictates of the neo-classical French Academy style?
Choose any of the Romantic authors featured in the book (Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, Keats, Whitman, Mary Shelley, Byron, Pushkin, Goethe, Heine, Sand) and compare him/her with any of the realist authors featured (Dickens, Twain, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Chopin, Ibsen). As a literary movement Romanticism was often associated with poetry; whereas, literary realism was largely associated with various nineteenth century novelists. Why this difference? How is a novel necessarily more real than a poemisnt it in a way even more fictional than poetry?Recall, too, that Wordsworth sought to use the real language of men as opposed to the more artificial literary language popular in the 1700s.
Probably the most important economic/social changes in Europe and the United States were brought about during this time by the Industrial Revolution. Choose any one example of art, music, or literature from this period and consider how it might have been impacted by this major change in peoples everyday life. For example, consider how the Romantics felt alienated from society and often sought to escape the oppressive materialism of the modern world (Fiero 5). Consider the feeling of relentless energy bubbling underneath music by Beethoven, as if fueled by some driving machinery. Think of how Wordsworth seeks to escape the din of towns and cities but at the same time being aware of a motion and a spirit, that . . . rolls through all things or Shelleys Wild Spirit which is moving everywhere. Think of the American Romantic landscape painters who wanted to document the templelike purity of Americas vast, rugged spaces (Fiero 21).