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Let me be clear at the outset that the term romanticism eludes exactness of meaning and definition. The term refers to an artistic, intellectual and cultural movement in late 18th century Europe, an ideological reaction against the Industrial Revolution (to choose the Blakean phrase, "the dark Satanic mills"). More generally an anti-mechanical attitude towards life with the emphasis on the emotive responses to nature, it was a rebellious discourse against the aristocratic social and political norms of the Enlightenment.
The movement had its roots in the German proto-Romantic Sturm und Drang movement which validated intuition and emotion over the ideals of rationalism. French Revolution tilled the soil for the emergence of the literature and ideologies of Romanticism. In English literature, the rise of the Gothic cult in fiction, the poetry of Blake and Burns, the publication of the Lyrical Ballads(1798) led to the appearance of a new kind of literature opposed to the neo-classical or Augustan tradition. Supernaturalism of Coleridge's poetry, the naturalism of Wordsworth, Shelley's revolutionary idealism, Keats's sensuousness ans pictorial excellence, Byronic heroism and Walter Scott's revival of the medieval past in his historical novels constituted the substance of Romantic literary output in English.
To sum up, it can be said that romanticism is broadly a philosophical attitude to life, and precisely an artistic-literary movement with strong emphases on:
* imagination and emotion rather than on rationalism and scientism;
* nature and the supernatural;
* ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity as borrowed from the French Revolution;
* sensuousness and pictorial qualities;
* revolutionary zeal and urgency for social change:
* subjective, intuitive and imaginative approaches.
To be romantic in literature within the context of 16th and 17th century is to be a rebel: against the heckneyed rules of neo-classicism. It also means a heightened sense of imporatnce of man and his intuitive powers.
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