How does Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" connect with the American Romanticism period?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow connects with the American Romantic period in its use of the staple themes of Gothic literature, much similar to actual Romantics such as Poe, Wilde, Stoker, Shelley, etc.

The typical themes of Romantic/Gothic literature include:

  • The use of the supernatural
  • Dark atmospheres symbolizing a fear of the unknown
  • The inevitability of fate and death
  • A path leading to tragedy
  • Nostalgia and Fear
  • The battle of good versus evil

Whether Irvin was an actual Romantic or not usually does not impede that his works would possess qualities of another period or style. Sleepy Hollow follows the same lines of form and depth as Dracula, Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and most of Poe's works.

copelmat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Washington Irving served as a kind of role model and mentor for many of the American Romantics writing in the late 1800's--chiefly among them Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. Although not exactly a Romantic himself, Irving paved the way for many who were and serves as a kind of "bridge" between the Romantics and those that came before.

In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" we see the ideas and themes that eventually become hallmarks of the Romantic movement. Namely, the embracing of individualism and the rejection of strict religious intellect. The focus is much more on emotional response, rather than logic.

dixon349 | Student

It is my understanding that Washington Irving is before the Romantic period. If your teacher feels otherwise, see below for the description of writers in the Romantic period and their characteristics. Generally speaking, there are writers who cross-over or can be identifed as being in two periods simultaneously.

The Early National Period of American Literature saw the beginnings of literature that could be truly identified as "American". The writers of this new American literature wrote in the English style, but the settings, themes, and characters were authentically American. In addition, poets of this time wrote poetry that was relatively independent of English precursors. Three of the most recognized writers of this time are Washington Irving, James Fennimore Cooper, and Edgar Allan Poe.

The period 1828-1865 in American Literature is commonly identified as the Romantic Period in America, but may also be referred to as the American Renaissance or the Age of Transcendentalism. The writers of this period produced works of originality and excellence that helped shape the ideas, ideals, and literary aims of many American writers. Writers of the American Romantic Period include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman.


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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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