When we think of Romanticism in terms of literature, we typically think of the British Romantic poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, and Shelley. These writers published their poetry in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The defining characteristics of Romantic poetry include an emphasis on the imagination and individuality....
When we think of Romanticism in terms of literature, we typically think of the British Romantic poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, and Shelley. These writers published their poetry in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The defining characteristics of Romantic poetry include an emphasis on the imagination and individuality. Romantics were writing partly in response to the previous Age of Reason, so they also embraced the supernatural, the mysterious, the mystical. In the United States, a little later in the 19th century, writers like Hawthorne and Poe similarly wrote in modes that could take the reader beyond the literal, physical world that surrounded them. Hawthorne even wrote a definition of romanticism in a preface to his novel The House of the Seven Gables, in which he says the following:
[a romance]—while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart—has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer’s own choosing or creation.
Hawthorne is saying that romance, unlike what he calls "the novel," does not have to be strict in the way it portrays reality; instead, romance writers can have more license in terms of how the invent and describe the worlds in which their characters exist.
All of that said, Jane Austen's novels, while written in the same time period as the work of the famous British Romantic poets, focus on reality and contain no supernatural or fantastical elements. Austen's works are more commonly described as social novels, or even as social satires. Nothing that occurs in her novels, though, is mystical or mysterious. In fact, she depicts the sometimes harsh realities of love and marriage in the Edwardian Age. Pride and Prejudice, for example, portrays the Bennet family's (or at least Mrs. Bennet's) desperation to marry off five daughters and the tragic truth that Mr. Bennet must leave his property to an unpopular cousin because he has no sons. Elizabeth Bennet faces the tough truth that Mr. Darcy's family does not see her as his equal in terms of social status. In Persuasion, Austen writes of the somber love story of two older characters who eventually find themselves back to each other. These are all realistic narratives based on the social, cultural, and economic climate of Austen's England.
As another reviewer said, however, some of Austen's female protagonists, like Elizabeth Bennet, and Emma in the novel named for her, certainly have strong personalities and do exert their individual wills at times. That is probably the only real overlap, other than the time period, between Austen's work and that of Romantic poets like Shelley or Wordsworth.