Romancing the nation: the reconciliation of the individual and the collective in romantic nationalism




Della Zazzera, Elizabeth

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The connection between Romanticism and nationalism, like most aspects of Romanticism, is complex and manifests in diverse ways. This project seeks to examine how Romanticism in Scotland, France and Germany could emphasize individualism and nationalism simultaneously, and seeks to elucidate the ways both these concepts were understood by Romantic scholars. It argues that although the connection between Romanticism and nationalism was not necessary, Romantic sensibilities were often compatible with nationalist theory. Romanticism can thus be said to have laid the theoretical groundwork for the possibility of nationalism, by emphasizing history, imagination and the importance of the collective. However, in all those things the Romantics also focused on the importance of individuals: lauding historical heroes, the imaginative genius of the scholar, and the fulfilment of the individual through belonging to a community. It further argues that the Romantics were influenced by the Enlightenment scholars’ emphasis on the individual, but sought to move away from individualism as a universal principle toward an understanding of individualism that balanced uniqueness and belonging to a particular community. Moreover, it contends that Romantic nationalism can be distinguished from later nineteenth century integral nationalism, by its relative emphasis on the individual, diversity and cosmopolitanism, but that it contained within it elements of, and therefore perhaps the seeds for, more virulent nationalism.



Romanticism, Nationalism, Individualism