Update: If a blog post can ever be said to be in honor of anyone, then consider this one in honor of Ruth Kligman. May she rest in peace.
In the comments section of my last post, Shya asked:
can someone write a truly romantic novel today? Or would it necessarily be a postmodern (or post-postmodern) exercise in romanticism?
I’d suspect that, even if we went back to Romantic Era, we’d have a hard time finding something “truly romantic.” As Pontius Pilate so insightfully asked Christ: Quid est veritas? (What is truth?)
So let’s leave aside truth for the moment, and try answering that question in a different way.
"Hi, I'm dead!"
It’s a very familiar story: Romanticism began in 1798 and ended in 1900, when it was replaced by Modernism. …Although maybe it wasn’t replaced until 1901; it must have taken a while back then, in those days before cellular phones and email, to “get the memo,” as we say today. How long did it really take for everyone to hear that they were to stop making Romanticist works, and start making Modernist ones? Why, in some of the outlying regions, Romanticism may have limped on until 1902—even 1903!
Pinpoint the year when Romanticism died, or when Modernism perished. Can you have two eras at one time? Some have argued that Postmodernism is over; have you heard? Stop making Postmodernist art! It’s sad; I liked Po-mo; I’ll miss metatextuality (plus I had a killer idea for a story that became self-aware, and demanded the right to vote). But there’s also an upside: no more Shrek movies! (Well, not after this year’s Shrek Forever After.)
All of this begs the question: What happens to eras? And what are they? Surely they exist—Modernism happened—and if they exist, they must have beginnings. Right? Modernism surely began at some point. Do they also have endings? When Modernism started, what became of Romanticism?
Let’s see if we can’t find out.