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The Roots of Romanticism

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  987 ratings  ·  103 reviews
The Roots of Romanticism at last makes available in printed form Isaiah Berlin's most celebrated lecture series, the Mellon lectures, delivered in Washington in 1965, recorded by the BBC, and broadcast several times. A published version has been keenly awaited ever since the lectures were given, and Berlin had always hoped to complete a book based on them. But despite exte ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 4th 2001 by Princeton University Press (first published 1965)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
The Roots of Romanticism, Isaiah Berlin
The Roots of Romanticism is the long-awaited text of Isaiah Berlin's most celebrated set of lectures, the Mellon Lectures, delivered in Washington in 1965 and heard since by a much wider audience on BBC radio. For Berli, the Romantics set in train a vast, unparalleled revolution in humanity's view of itself. They destroyed the traditional notion of objective truth in ethicsm with incalculable, all-pervasive results. In his unscripted tour de force Berlin su
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps the singularly most impressive thing about this superb book is that the Mellon Lectures upon which they are based were delivered, for the most part, extemporaneously—a fact exceedingly difficult to comprehend when the breadth and depth of the material delivered to what was doubtless an enraptured audience is taken into consideration. In the introduction, Berlin advocate John Gray accedes that the latter herein is making a large claim, possibly exaggerated about the encompassing nature an ...more
Isaiah Berlin is probably still the world's most famous historian of ideas, and made his mark in history with his 'two concepts of freedom', as well as by retrieving, for the benefit of lay and academic audience alike, what is now called the 'counter-enlightenment'. After his retirement, we are told by Henry Hardy, the editor of the present book, he was planning on writing a large book on the closely related subject of romanticism, but passed before the project came to fruition. The present volu ...more
Ralph Palm
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A few thoughts:
A great read if you're at all familiar with the figures discussed (18th and early 19th century philosophy types). If not, I imagine it might be hard to follow. I bet it would make an ideal teaching tool, though--as an accompaniment to a reading of the primary texts of the period. For example,
"Professor, WTF is Fichte and/or Schelling trying to say?"
"If you'd like further explanation, read Berlin's *Roots of Romanticism*, page X for next week."
--Next week--
"Oh, okay. That makes a l
Thomas Neal
Jun 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Historian and philosopher Isaiah Berlin traces what one might regard as a more traditional account of the development of Romanticism in Europe, connecting the movement with a series of important developments in European history and literature, such as the French Revolution and the writings of Goethe. Berlin does not take on the task of offering a precise definition of Romanticism; he instead circumscribes the movement within a more general trend of philosophical, political, and economic discours ...more
Brook Finlayson
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Demands and rewards re-reading.
Gary D.
May 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After this book, I see Romanticism everywhere, within me, without me...
E.B. Kerouac
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
    Romanticism is portrayed as an aesthetic movement in literature, painting, music, architecture, criticism, and historiography. Nineteenth-century romanticism was characterised by the avoidance of classical forms and rules, it can also be seen as the rejection of  precepts of order, harmony, balance, and rationality that epitomised neoclassicism; it was to some extent a reaction against the Enlightenment, rationalism, and physical materialism. Romanticism emphasised the individual, the subjec ...more
Nikos Gouliaros
This erudite book brilliantly unveils currents in the evolution of (western) thought and sensibility from the 18th through the 20th century. The fact that, consisting of lectures, it just cannot offer an all-encompassing narrative of romanticism might be an actual blessing, making it more concise and to-the-point. My 'problem' with such histories of thought though is that they are just practically impossible to 'prove', that they can feel a bit constructed; how can one prove that fascism would n ...more
Harry Croxford
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This collection of lectures provides one of the most insightful and lucid overviews of Romanticism's emergence against and through Enlightenment thought. Berlin's expansive and eloquent way of speech translates perfectly into a compelling prose-style. Although lacking in conventional academic citation and taking great liberty with the accuracy of certain quotes in the style of Vico before him, this by no means detracts from the work. One should treat this book as an articulate overview of what B ...more
Shane Avery
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
hard to write anything disparaging about that which is written so amazingly well (they were lectures unintended for publication...), but Raymond Williams does a much better job situating Romanticism. everything seems to add up to value pluralism with berlin, and his history of ideas approach is bound to limit the scope of his conclusions... the romantics held the unwashed masses in contempt, a point which berlin misses; they also more than often dreaded the forms of modern political protest whic ...more
João Ritto
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is the transcript of a lecture series of Isaiah Berlin on the roots of that intellectual movement we know as Romanticism. Despite being a transcript of spoken word, it reads well as an essay, testifying to the intellectual and communicative power of Berlin.

Some years ago I read Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy and I remember he criticized severely Romanticism as an irrational movement responsible in part for ideas that would develop into fascism. Berlin, however, has a
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
this is the clearest, most straightforward exposition of Romanticism that I have encountered. I'm sure that some would say that it is over simplified, but Berlin's willingness to strip things down to what he considers the essentials was very helpful for me. I feel much better prepared to read fuller treatments of the many authors he discusses. The fact that he also puts the romantic movement of the early nineteenth century in historical perspective [a German movement reacting to the French Revol ...more
Jun 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Berlin’s 1965 Mellon Lectures provide what is possibly the best introduction to the origins of philosophical Romanticism in late 18th-century Germany. Think Herder, Fichte, Schiller, etc. His introductory lecture also provides a fine summary overview of the late Enlightenment, against which the Romantics rebelled. My only caveat: While Berlin is often quite engaging, don’t attempt to read the middle lectures collected here while feeling sleepy and riding a commuter train.
Mar 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
whoooooosh. this went over my head. damn lecture series-ness. although it was an interesting take on the rift between the french and german ideologies of history. but. still. this man must speak in clear and not boring sentences.
Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
Herein reproduced is the series of Mellon Lectures, delivered unscripted in Washington DC in 1965, in which Isaiah Berlin successfully reconciles the noble savage with Parisian poets leading lobsters around on strings thereby creating a convincing definition of the Romantic Movement.
Apr 09, 2021 rated it liked it
A compelling overview of the Romantic movement, and their thought. In these lectures, Berlin seeks to explore the roots of the movement, revealing how it burst onto the world in the 19th century; as well as explore the main thinkers and their contributions. Romanticism is of necessity difficult to define, due to the various self-contradictory threads it contains and the individual personalities of its proponents.

However, certain features can be delineated. The movement for Berlin, is characteris
Daniel Solomon
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
I haven't read these transcripts, but I have listened to the full set of lectures on youtube and can strongly recommend them in either form. Berlin captures very well a set of ideas that have served as perhaps the main counterpoint to enlightenment/rational-empiricism in the modern world. The romanticism he presents is at the origins of much of modern individualism, the quest for personal authenticity, the 'just do it' philosophy underlying many people's choices when they try to let their emotio ...more
Michael Belcher
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-changers
With the greatest possible enthusiasm, I recommend this 10-star book (5 stars are too few) to anyone wanting insight into our current zeitgeist of Trumpian individualism from the point of view of a 60s intellectual able to wrestle two centuries of philosophical thought (the 18th and 19th, specifically) into a compulsively ingestible form. The system of symmetrical rationalities that undergirded the Enlightenment are pitted against the irreducible flow of Romantic fervour, with Berlin able to pin ...more
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This slim volume consists of six lectures Isaiah Berlin gave in the US. Berlin’s prose is unique: not only is his eloquence unrivalled but any reader who feels the urge to summarize and discard certain irrelevant paragraphs will realize that Berlin has already done this for you. Every sentence is carefully constructed, every word is thoughtfully picked and this results in an indispensable work for anyone who is interested in the history of ideas and their implications.

(The cover art on the Prin
Reuben Woolley
Jul 11, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 — Berlin is really interesting and it’s written (spoken?) beautifully, but in a book that argues primarily that Romanticism is defined by its hatred of absolutism and finite boundaries, he completely disregards the idea that romanticism can’t be defined or bordered very easily itself and gives a really tight timeline and set of writers to discuss, which was v disappointing and I think probably comes from the fact that it was a lecture series first.
Michael A.
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very lucid and helpful discussion of Romanticism. A bit disappointed at the seemingly rushed conclusion of "Romanticism gave us liberalism". Would have liked to read a bit more expounding on that, even if I would have disagreed anyway. The discussion of existentialism qua romanticism was very good...could probably read a whole book on that.

I don't think I really know enough to judge if this were an accurate portrayal of Romanticism, but it seems like a great introduction.
Sabina Schmitz
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What is Romanticism and where did it come from?
Reading Berlin’s book is like having a conversation with a really intelligent friend. From my understanding, this book originated from his previous lectures, which he was reluctant to transcribe. I’m glad they were.

To me, Romanticism now describes the origins of will, the demolition of structure, and the pursuit of the unattainable.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating introduction with a very accurate comprehension, but dear lord, what a boring ending! I feel bad for accusing the liberals being soft and nice — sometimes, quite unfortunately, these can be vices and errs.
Mar 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to give, anything written by Mr Berlin, less than 5-stars. I wish, more people could pack so much in so few words, without getting all obscure and impenetrable. In well below 200 pages, a feast of ideas was introduced, all along the thread of Romanticism. Curiosity well-fed, I should say. ...more
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The exuberance of his wording is just haunting, with a critical insight and clear grasp of romanticism. Inspiring lecture.
Jan 01, 2020 added it
Outstanding defense of Romanticism as a metaphilosophy replacing the philosophia perennis and the enlightenment belief in it. Dangerous at times to the reader
Isaac Slomianski
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing school for artists!
Deago Bramford
Mar 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, history, philosophy
I am half way through the book. It's a great work by Isaiah Berlin. I'm glad they got compiled into a book. ...more
Abrar Balkhi
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Berlin belongs to the tradition of those European thinkers whose main intellectual endeavour was scathingly directed against the eighteenth century European movement known as the enlightenment. He is well aware of the fact that the enlightenment was not a uniformed and monolithic movement but rather comprised of such disparate figures such as Voltaire, Diderot, Fontenelle, La Mettrie and even the disgruntled Rousseau. Nonetheless the movement , in his view, boils down to these three core intelle ...more
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Sir Isaiah Berlin was a philosopher and historian of ideas, regarded as one of the leading liberal thinkers of the twentieth century. He excelled as an essayist, lecturer and conversationalist; and as a brilliant speaker who delivered, rapidly and spontaneously, richly allusive and coherently structured material, whether for a lecture series at Oxford University or as a broadcaster on the BBC Thir ...more

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