Modernism and the Arts Midterm
1) The Enlightenment, also referred to as the Age of Reason, was a movement during the
late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that emphasized rationalistic thought, individualism,
and human reason. Traditional authorities grounded in faith were challenged by the rise of
modern science, which produced numerous discoveries and inventions such as the telescope.
Enlightenment thinkers embraced the notion that humanity could be improved through rational
change. Romanticism, which arose in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was a direct
contrast to the Enlightenment. It was a literary and artistic movement that concentrated on
emotions, creative imagination, and selfexpression. Romanticism is characterized by a love and
worship of nature, devotion to beauty, and the belief that imagination is superior to reason.
In Madame Bovary, the character Emma embodies Romanticism. She is selfcentered and
feels that she was born into the wrong social class by some twist of fate. Her selfproclaimed
sense of superiority led her to become increasingly bitter that she was stuck in a world where no
one shared the same romantic ideals as her. Emma’s life had no meaning in it other than her
fantasies that would never be realized, which made her almost incapable of deep feeling. Even
her love affairs were devoid of real substance; Leon and Rodolphe represented idealized love.
Rodolphe pretended to be a hopeless romantic to reel her in and use her for pleasure, but
proceeded to kick her to the curb once he grew bored with her neediness. Leon on the other hand
engaged in an affair with Emma because he “loved” her, but it became evident that he only loved
her looks once he got to know her better and became disgusted with her true personality. In stark
contrast to Emma is Monsieur Homais, the town pharmacist who likes to think of himself as a
man of science and reason and symbolizes the Enlightenment. He is a pompous member of the
bourgeoisie who tries to impress the townsfolk by prattling on about theories he really knows
nothing about. As an atheist, he frequently argues with the town priest, trying to prove that there
is nothing enchanted or mysterious about the world. Homais’ vanity is validated at the end of the
novel when he is awarded the Legion of Honor medal that he had long been striving to acquire,
demonstrating the triumph of rationality over romanticism.
In Crime and Punishment, Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin represents both the Enlightenment and
Romanticism. He is a man of new thinking and when he comes to meet Raskolnikov he tries to
appeal to him by using lofty phrases and talking about progressive ideas and reforms. Luzhin is
selfabsorbed and wishes to be Dounia’s benefactor, ‘saving’ her from a bad reputation and life of
poverty so that he feels like the hero. On the other hand, even though Raskolnikov is a low
mimetic character he possesses some of the characteristics of a romantic hero. He is searching for
meaning in life and does not want to live confined to the rules of society. He has deluded himself
into believing that he is this overman that has the right to transgress moral law as he pleases,
which leads him kill the pawnbroker and Lizaveta. Raskolnikov is forced to suffer in the
purgatory of his own guilt and is nearly driven mad by it until he realizes that Sonia’s selfless
love has the power to redeem him. Through suffering seven more years in prison and embracing
the healing power of love he will be able to atone for his sins and be reborn a new man.
Part Two of Notes from Underground is an attack on the Romanticism that Dostoevsky
thought was infecting the Russian soul. The Underground Man is a young man in his twenties
who is heavily influenced by romantic literature and dreams of everyone looking up to him like a
noble hero. His vanity leads to him believe that he is superior to others in society, which makes it nearly impossible for him to care about anyone around him. One of the best examples of
romanticism of the dream is that the Underground Man sees even his mistakes in terms of the
“beautiful and lofty”, not as ordinary transgressions but glorious ones (Dostoevsky, 58). He is
forced to come to terms with the fact that he is not the intellectual man he thinks he is and that
society will never respect him in the way that he wants, which leads him to become spiteful, self
loathing, and isolated in his later years. The Underground Man cannot accept Liza’s love (even
though she is the deeper meaning that he has been searching for in life) due to his own
shortcomings. He wanted to be the one to save her, not the other way around, and detests her for
it. The Underground Man is too bitter and knows he cannot rise to her level so he very rudely
rejects her, passing up his chance for redemption. 2) The plot of Crime and Punishment is a fall tragedy due to the fact that it is a murder
mystery, which follows the fall of the protagonist Raskolnikov, as he is slowly driven mad by his
developing conscience and fear of getting caught. Raskolnikov violates the moral law of the
universe because deep down he believes that he is super human and has the right to decide who
lives and dies. Raskolnikov is a lowmimetic character; the day before the crime he overhears that
Lizaveta will be out of the house and the coincidence is so great that he loses all reason and starts
to feel that he was preordained to commit the crime. He becomes subject to foolishness,
forgetting major details and losing control while committing the crime. Afterwards he tries to
rationalize it with all kinds of justifications that place the cause of his actions outside of himself.
At one point he firmly believes that he killed the pawnbroker as an act of humanitarian kindness
that would benefit the people of the city she was sucking money out of, while another time he
tells Sonia “I know myself it was the devil leading me” (Dostoevsky, 414).
In Part V Raskolnikov reaches a turning point in his life when he finally confesses his
crime to Sonia who has been acting as his conscience, revealing his true nature to her but also to
himself. Sonia is a lowmimetic character because even though she is a kindhearted, Christlike
figure she has also been subjected by her father to sinful deeds in order to sustain her family. The
novel concludes with Raskolnikov being arrested and sentenced to suffer in Siberia for eight
years, but in the Epilogue Dostoevsky combines tragedy with the notion of resurrection.
Raskolnikov has months of suffering and solitude to reflect of his deeds and he finally is able to
come by the knowledge that he was wrong and that Sonia’s love could redeem him. Even though
further knowledge and suffering were still required of Raskolnikov, the promise of rebirth was
imminent. Like Sonia and Raskolnikov, the other characters in the book are lowmimetic, even
though Dounia and Razumihin can be seen as reasonably the most noble characters in the book.
Madame Bovary is a fall tragedy filled with lowmimetic characters. Emma’s story
exemplifies one of the defining qualities of tragedy that our destinies may not be realized and
reinforces the fact that romantic plots are not adequate enough to explain all of life’s journeys.
Emma is ruined by her romantic education and fooled by her own fantasies. She is constantly set
up for failure because she imagines herself to be this noble woman deserving of a better life and
finds faults in almost everyone around her who does not share the same ideals as she does.
Emma’s bitterness becomes more selfdestructive and selfdeluding with time and she begins to
think that the rules do not apply to her as she cheats on Charles at will and revels in it. Her selfish
actions destroy not only her own life, but also the lives of her husband and daughter. Faced with
no way out of her financial hardships and refusing to sell her body, Emma poisons herself with
arsenic. The final twinge of irony is that her death was tough and realistic, not the romantic
departure from the world that she imagined.
The characters in Madame Bovary are lowmimetic because they are very mundane and
in most cases not afraid of being immoral to satisfy their own desires. Rodolphe lives his life
chasing pleasure and in that he is reduced to manipulating women to use them and is never able
to form a meaningful relationship. Leon is foolish enough to think that he loves Emma even
before he took the time to find out what her true personality was like. Charles is foolish in an
entirely different way; he loves Emma blindly and cannot see how unhappy or unfaithful she is
right under his nose. Due to the fact that Charles is too stupid to realize that he is trying to relate
to his wife in all the wrong ways, he is lured into a false sense of security by Emma’s pretenses.
Homais is a disreputable pharmacist and only befriends Charles in the first place to distract him from noticing. He is foolish in the sense that he does not strive for anything truly meaningful in
life; he is content to wallow in his vapid existence and only longs for things that will validate him
as a man of ‘importance’, such as the Legion of Honor medal.
The plot of Notes from Underground is a winter irony because it is a play on
Romanticism and how it affected Russian culture. The Underground Man’s selfloathing and
isolation from society stem from his romantic fantasies as a young adult and his desire for others
to realize his ‘superiority’. He is an ironic character controlled by his vanity that possesses no
distinguishing attributes that make him special. The Underground Man cannot control his
environment, as he is not a man of action. For example, when the Underground Man insults
Zverkov at the dinner that he invited himself to he tells the men that he knows that they want him
to leave but he is going to stay anyway. For three long hours he sits in silence waiting for the men
to talk to him while they carry on their dinner and do not even acknowledge his presence. The
Underground Man’s quest for deeper meaning in life is unfulfilled by his own hands when he
cannot accept Liza’s love. Since the reader’s view of the characters in the novel is shaped only by
the Underground Man’s warped perceptions of them is it hard to classify them as anything but
lowmimetic. The degree to which they are subjected to folly and vice is however ambiguous
because one cannot tell if the Underground Man is exaggerating his interactions with them or
not. 3) Emma is a hopeless romantic who views herself as a woman possessing all the qualities
of the higher class but doomed by fate and her marriage to be tethered to a middleclass
existence. She feels suffocated by the small town that she lives in and the averageness of the
people around her. Her romantic longings cause her to resent her husband, chase men who only
love her looks, and ultimately ruin her and her family’s lives.
Charles Bovary is a mundane and passionless man who is easily manipulated by his wife.
His narrow cultural upbringing hampered his ability to imagine his own idealized version of the
world like Emma does; rather he sees things as they literally are. Charles acknowledges that he is
not a skilled doctor and is actually afraid of treating peopl