Compare the Romantic Period to the Age of Reason

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Stephen Holliday eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Neoclassic Period (the Age of Reason) extends from about 1680 c.e. to 1780 c.e. and had several important effects on English literature: Poets like Dryden, Pope, and Swift tended to imitate Greek and Roman classical forms like the ode, the panegyric, satire, which were very formal in design, and poets often let the form of the poem dictate the diction (words) that they used.  They avoided writing about nature as an uncontrolled and uncontrollable aspect of world--the wild ocean, the seasons, natural landscape--and instead focused on more orderly aspects of nature such as formal gardens and stars, which they liked because they moved in regulated orbits.  Literature focused on intellect rather than emotions, and religion was based more on what one could observe about the workings of God in the world and less on faith.

Romanticism, which was  a reaction to the formalities of Neoclassicism, developed about 1790 c.e. until about 1870 c.e. and is characterized by an interest in nature in its "raw" state, that is, wild and unpredictable; literature written by Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Goldsmith, Gay and others focused on common people and rural life, and the Romantics became very critical of what the Industrial Revolution had done to both cities and rural areas.  We see a resurgence of interest in early English literature, particularly of the Medieval Period, and we begin to see new forms of literature--Gothic Romances, historical novels, nature lyrics, sentimental comedies.