Symbolism was a literary and artistic current that in 1880 -90s was developed in France and then became popular in other countries. The French symbolists are considered predecessors of decadence movement – the artists of the late 1800s, who wanted to rid the literature of social morality and utilitarianism.
The symbolism was drafted in the 1880s in France as a reaction against naturalism in the novel, especially as it was represented by Émile Zola, and Parnass-school plastic-pictorial poetry. They tried to regenerate and renew idealism and romanticism of the early 1800s. Instead of positivist naturalism, social engagement and realistic depiction of reality symbolists wanted to engage the inner life and renunciation of society and social problems. Most Symbolist writers were poets.
The precursors were E.A. Poe, Baudelaire, and A. de Vigny. Symbolists were inspired by German composers and especially by Richard Wagner and of English poetry and in painting mainly by Pre-Raphaelites. The immediate predecessors of symbolism were proclaimed Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Tristan Corbière, and Paul Verlaine.
Symbolists elevated the art to a religion. They devoted themselves to art for art’s sake; a thought that can be traced to Schiller. According to the symbolism, poetry was not responsible for photographic replica of the reality; it should instead try to capture the soul of things. While Parnass School described a landscape, symbolism searched to evoke its mood. In contrast to the clarity, logic, and precision, which ruled in the previous school, what symbolism pursued was obscure, mysterious, and even incomprehensible. It divides with the Pre-Raphaelite great fondness for allegory and they created theories based on Poe’s way of telling their stories, as he hides under the apparent sentence another, deeply symbolic. Symbol should occur by itself without any conscious effort and in a naive mind, that not even once did to distinguish between the visible and its abstract content. These theories relate to Dante, to some German nyromantiker and Richard Wagner’s conception of poetry.
In technical terms, symbolism struggled for larger metric freedom. To understand this part of the direction it must be remembered that the French perception of lyrical language processing had been more tradition-bound conservative than the Germanic and romance in France failed to implement the same freedoms in verse treatment in Germany or England. It was this freedom that they now sought to win part by considering Alexandrine less conventional, part by writing so-called free verse.
Symbolism can be traced back to the 1880s beginning when some young poets first independently, then in closer association, began publish small, usually short-lived, journals in which they published their verse and fought for their ideas.
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