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Nonsense, Fiction, and Miscellaneous Things

'My Antonia', Willa Cather: Part I
     Novels are fictive.  Novels of the romantic genre, it seems to me, are necessarily bucolic or halcyon.  Reality portrayed isn't the sobering tragic but rather the endearing pastoral.  When the tragic occurs within romanticism, I sometimes see the particular romanticism as 'wrong-headed romanticism'.  Some how, mistakenly, the tragic got mixed in with the romantic.  The same attitude of mine exists regarding other qualities i.e. absurdity, deceptions, etc.  It seems as though when I read romanticism, any kind of non-romantic quality belies the romanticism.  As if only idealized, pastoral, utopian can rightfully exist within a romantic prose. 
It seems plain to me that this view of romanticism is biased and mistaken.  Just as there exists various kinds of temperaments of characters within a novel, so too do qualities of romantic, tragic, absurd , etc exist side by side within a novel.  Of course romanticism  has a quality specific to itself;   An aura of utopia;   Security as opposed to vulnerability;  Perspectives which are not jaded because the causes of jadedness have not yet occurred for the characters.  My prejudice is that in the face of the real qualities of tragic, etc. , I  dismiss romanticism as being 'bumpkin-headed'; A pollyanna work, fanciful.   The pastoral seems 'bumpkin-headed'.  It gives romanticism it's fraudulent, mistaken quality.   However romanticism is just as valid as other qualities of fictive depictions.    
     "The garden, curiously enough, was a quarter of a mile from the house, and the way to it led up a shallow draw past the cattle corral.  Grandmother called my attention to a stout hickory cane, tipped with copper, which hung by a leather thong from her belt.  This, she said, was her rattlesnake cane.  I must never go to the garden without a heavy stick or a corn-knife; she had killed a good many rattlers on her way back and forth.  A little girl who lived on the Black Hawk road was bitten on the ankle and had been sick all summer.1

      The reader may ask about the above passage;  'How, in such rural, less knowledgeable medical of the time, is it that being bitten by a rattlesnake causes only sickness and not death?  If the passage seems fanciful, then maybe we should ask; 'Where is the threat of nuclear annihilation?' or 'What would Freud conclude?' since those concerns have, in today's world, validity.  It would be ridiculous - not to mention egocentric - of our time and era to ask those questions of a different era.     
This benefit to reading romanticism is in realizing this limit of our knowledge
.  What seems mundane or mistaken of 100 years ago only implies that what we are concerned with in these times will seem mundane or mistaken 100 years hence. Maybe the issue of nuclear annihilation will be irrelevant to the world of 100 years from now.  Or Freudian topics will be antiquated by then.  In effect, those current concerns aren't, necessarily, any more 'real' than the concerns of romanticism. It's a temperate thought.  
     Getting beyond the 'antiquities' of the past to an assaying of this 'antiquatedness' is not very difficult.  For example, in realizing that the less fashion conscious characters self-identify based on values other than fashion, or that a shared morality albeit more narrow-minded exists, or that a local economy is less demanding of resources, etc. 
Characters whose mindset is of the day to day functionalities of feeding and sheltering themselves is no less a reality than the contemporary characters of 'realism' ruminating on what life is about.  We all make choices.  Some people - as exampled by the characters and settings of romanticism - choose a less conspicuous lifestyle.  
      I suppose the best benefit of romanticism is it's alternativeness.  Post modernism for example is often seen as a development in literature.  Post-modernism can be more circuitous and perplexing than romanticism.  So romanticism provides an alternative way of viewing literature.  As if post-modernism were, metaphorically, a perplexing boyfriend/girlfriend of which one decided a return to a previous boyfriend/girlfriend of pastoral, romantic topics was a heck of a lot more contentful and sensible. 
So, there are benefits to reading romanticism for someone like myself who doesn't have an actual affinity for romanticism.  Of course it's a bit of a token or obligatory reading - one which replaces my preferred choices - so I don't read much of it.

1 My Antonia, Willa Cather,  pg. 16, Barnes and Noble Classics, ©2003
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