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This review is taken from PN Review 5, Volume 5 Number 1, October - December 1978.

ENCUMBERED AIR Romanticism, The Open University Press (Arts: A Second Level Course: The Age of Revolutions Units 33-4), £1.50.

No serious thinking can be done, with categories such as Romanticism and Classicism. So Valéry; and one wonders what those who prepared this volume would make of that remark. The subject is part of a larger whole, itself designated by a title which is not without parti pris-The Age of Revolutions. 'Romanticism', we are told here, 'is to cultural issues what "Revolution" is to the political, social and economic issues of the period.' Big words! One has the impression of cultural porters throwing around great sacks of potatoes, only they are light as air. What is being taught here? The student is hardly likely to have that depth of background in the music, art and poetry of the period which would enable him to question the categories, and yet that is where thinking begins. Is the course one in the bandying about of current categories?-which is admittedly what a great deal of talk about Art and Society really amounts to.

Presumably the real subject of this study is the kind of music, art and poetry which, so to speak, 'made it' socially in the period under discussion, or seems in retrospect to have done so. There must be a place for such studies, in the vast emporium of twentieth-century information, but it could hardly be an important one, unless for intellectual giants who have absorbed enough of the vast material to begin to generalize. One does not imagine that such people are numerous, even at Second Level. ...


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