Notes towards a definition of Romantic Nationalism
Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
While the concept ‘Romantic nationalism’ is becoming widespread, its current usage tends to compound the vagueness inherent
in its two constituent terms, Romanticism and nationalism. In order to come to a more focused understanding of the concept,
this article surveys a wide sample of Romantically inflected nationalist activities and practices, and nationalistically inflected
cultural productions and reflections of Romantic vintage, drawn from various media (literature, music, the arts, critical
and historical writing) and from different countries. On that basis, it is argues that something which can legitimately be
called ‘Romantic nationalism’ indeed took shape Europe-wide between 1800 and 1850. A dense and intricately connected node
of concerns and exchanges, it affected different countries, cultural fields, and media, and as such it takes up a distinct
position alongside political and post-Enlightenment nationalist on the one hand, and the less politically-charged manifestations
of Romanticism on the other. A possible definition is suggested by way of the conclusion: Romantic nationalism is the celebration
of the nation (defined by its language, history, and cultural character) as an inspiring ideal for artistic expression; and
the instrumentalization of the expression in ways of raising the political consciousness.
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