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Theodora Goss
Posted on Sunday, April 17, 2005 - 10:49 am:   

What does this phrase mean to you?

I was thinking about the definitions and categories we've been discussing on the transrealism thread, and it seemed to me that this was an important one to add to that discussion. But it just came to me--I'm not sure what it means yet. A quick google search revealed two uses: (1) the rejection, by late twentieth-century writers, of the early twentieth-century rejection of romanticism (if that makes sense--the Victorians and modernists rejected romanticism, and more contemporary writers rejected that rejection, embracing romanticism again), and (2) a new wave movement in the 1980s that included singers like Adam Ant (she says, hand upon her heart--who was not in love with Adam Ant?).

What I mean by it is a literature that embraces, rather than rejecting, (1) fantasy, (2) beauty of style, (3) emotion and even idealism, while remaining fresh and contemporary. Like the writing of Sonya Taaffe, Tim Pratt, and many of the other younger fantasy writers.

I don't know if this will make sense to anyone else, and it's something I've just started thinking about. But I wanted a term that describes what I think is going on in fantasy--a fantasy that is fully engaged with contemporary life, but has a different attitude toward it than mainstream literature. It's not fantasy in its genre corner, but fantasy the way Coleridge wrote fantasy, as another way to approach the real.

Perhaps I should have written this as an essay first, and taken the time to put my thoughts together coherently. But I wanted to introduce the term first, and then think about it . . .
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des
Posted on Sunday, April 17, 2005 - 03:14 pm:   

Christopher Priest seems a good example of this with Dream of Wessex, Infinite Summer etc...
des
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Dunmore
Posted on Sunday, April 17, 2005 - 03:28 pm:   

An interesting question!

Just speaking quickly off the top of my head, I would be cautious about using this term as a description for the kind of fiction you wish to describe.

The reason that strikes me firstly as the main one is that New Romanticism could too easily be taken as an attempt to recreate a former kind of literature rather than describe a kind of literature that is relevant to the here and now.

A retention of certain ideas that have gone before is essential or even inevitable in the development of contemporary forms, but these ideas would, surely, undergo significant transformations when applied to the immediate contingencies of another time and place. A whole new series of descriptions are necessary, I feel, to describe a whole new series of things going on in the literature of now, as opposed to the literature of then. Perhaps by reinvoking a former movement or period there is a risk of creating a distraction away from the here and nowness of the current form, to the point that it may even make the literature of today seem somehow secondary to the literature of yore it appears to expressly owe its origins to.

I would say also that the invention of a more original terminology to describe something more specifically has a certain amount of potency about it. Not everyone is happy or comfortable with creating names that indicate succinct categories where perhaps there isn't a category at all--but who can deny the certain effect that the naming of something has in terms of its appeal and inspirational impact? "Cyberpunk", for example, would be a good example of what I mean. It's a bit hackeneyed now, maybe, but the term was a perfect one to describe something utterly relevant to its own time--plus the uniqueness of the term drew attention to the uniqueness of certain aspects of the works it referred to. Using a term that reinvokes a previous form would perhaps only serve to draw attention away from the uniquer qualities of the works it's attemptinig to describe.

Well, I hope this makes sense and is ultimately helpful. I thought it would only amount to a couple of sentences but it kind of grew.

Which reminds me of a time when I grew a beard as a youth (my very first one) and someone asked me, 'What's it like having a beard?' and I replied, without thinking, 'Well, it kind of grows on you.'

But the whole question of this kind of terminology is quite amazing really. A whole school of modern theorists, beginning mainly with Foucault perhaps, have shown how labelling "movements" and periods or categorising things in this way is in many ways illusory and without foundation, yet we always feel the need and the desire to do it, and will continue (in spite of Foucault and co.) to do it. And not without good reason, I feel, because there is something powerful about what is perceived as a collective rather than sporadic activity. It's that kind of spirit of collaboration, perhaps, too often absent in many art forms, that can really make an impact and--dare I say it?--change the world.

In the end, though, there's no substitution for originality (whether or not there is such a thing!), so I would avoid any kind of term that gestures too openly to previous epochs.

And, you know, I would also be careful about using the term transrealism, even though it's a fine term. The reason being that it seems to invoke an opposition to realism which, maybe, could be seen as an apology for its difference or divergence from realism, if you see what I mean, and therefore might seem like an admission of its inferiority to realism, if you see what I mean again.

Enough, though. I've gone on far too long as it is.

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des
Posted on Monday, April 18, 2005 - 12:54 am:   

New terms (recommended to be new and mint condition by Dunmore) could be off-putting, as people think one is being pretentious and it takes a lot for neologisms to work through into natural language: like Interstitiality (which I think is ideal for the ideas above), Nemonymity (Nemoguity), Equipoise (is that a neologism?). Transrealism...

des
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des
Posted on Monday, April 18, 2005 - 02:21 am:   

Sorry, Interstitiality is not strictly a neologism, either;
maybe it's being used interstitially itself with a new meaning/context!
des
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Dunmore
Posted on Wednesday, April 20, 2005 - 10:53 am:   

I never really thought of it that way, Des, and think it's a fair point.

Taking this into account, I'd say that it's a very tricky business trying to get the balance right with introducing descriptive terminology which is intended to name or summarise something where common strains are seen to persist.

My own feeling now, I'd say, is that it's imperative to come up with a neologism (thanks for the word, Des!) that has that extra bite, so that if and when it does take hold it won't lose grip so easily.

It could be that if the term is TOO specific (which the examples Des gives seem to me to be) then it won't take hold so readily at all.

Then of course there's the challenge of coming up with a term that doesn't sound pretentious. A tricky business indeed. Perhaps simplicity is the key.

I'd still say, though, that using a term the invokes an established form is taking something of a risk.

Neo-Classicists, for example. What on earth were they all about?
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 09:06 pm:   

I promise I'm going to respond to this thread very soon! I meant to tonight, but had a teething baby. But I do have a lot I want to add . . .
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, April 22, 2005 - 04:05 pm:   

Don't even think about having to respond! It's a great question you've asked, and it has got some people thinking. That's the important thing.

Who are we to stand in the way of a teething baby!

Actually, how could anyone stand in the way of a teething baby?

That would be impossible.

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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, April 22, 2005 - 06:36 pm:   

And I hope I didn't sound too negative above. It struck me afterwards that it might have seemed so. Really, though, I found the question so very interesting that I responded, accordingly, with so much zeal.

Nay--too much zeal!
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, April 23, 2005 - 10:55 am:   

Would you mind if I throw a mama joke at him? I've got a good one.

Anyway, I haven't read the whole thread but I do admire the Romantic poets.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2005 - 08:38 pm:   

I'm going to respond to this thread, really, and in this century. I just have a long response and haven't yet had time to write it all down. But part of it has to do with those frou-frou skirts that are all the rage this month (at least judging by my local Gap). Which isn't at all a derogatory term: I like frou-frou.
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Valda Kreslina
Posted on Sunday, March 12, 2006 - 10:07 am:   

The reason why at least some kind of unity in perception of terms is welcome is that wide range of differences among ideas understood under those popular terms like "romanticism", "new romanticism", "neo romanticism". As soon as the discusion involves material of more than just one national literature and we have to use the same terms for different authors, the conversation gets difficult due to sometimes even opposite definitions of the terms used.

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