Romanticism was a cultural and artistic movement rooted in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe and highly influential among American writers and intellectuals of the nineteenth century. Its emphasis on the experiences and the autonomy of the self as the primary basis of knowledge and truth greatly influenced cultural constructions of American masculinity and its key concepts of emotion and nature shaped perceptions and definitions of the American male.


Perhaps the central element of Romanticism's definition of manhood is individualism. In particular, American writers influenced by Romanticism—including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman—emphasized the idea that the individual was, by nature, divine. The intuitive, emotional self, thoroughly grounded in nature and divinity, was therefore the most reliable source of truth. ...

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