Why is poetry considered to be the most important knowledge of the Romantic period?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Poetry, as defined by Wordsworth, is seen as "the spontaneous overflow of emotions."  It is the realm of poetry where the Romantic thinkers felt that "the artist is able to focus their emotional state of mind in being able to engage in full emotional expression.  In the Romantics' mindset, this is accomplished through poetry, and through the power within it.  The poet was seen as one who was able to "see into the life of things" and through poetry, a specific type of spiritual liberation was able to be perceived and realized.  Romantic thinkers preferred poetry because of its freedom from conventions that might have stifled creativity.

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In addition to the above, another element that contributed to the predominance of poetry over other written art forms during the period in which Romanticism dominated the arts, was the availability of the poetic form known as the lyric, or personal poem. 

The periods before Romanticism, the neoclassical, The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, all emphasized the big picture.  It was the age of satire and satirists took on big government, big religion, big social issues.  But Romanticism was interested in the personal.  Swift takes on poverty by satirizing the English government, as well as the wealthy English and Irish.  Blake takes on poverty by looking at individual chimney sweeps.  Romanticism deals with the personal.

And poetry allows writers to be personal more than any other literary art form.  A novel, for instance, may have personal elements contained in it, but in general, it is not personal.  A novel is a fictional narrative.  Poetry provided the vehicle Romanticism needed to relate the personal.  

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Since Romanticism stresses the importance of intuition and emotion over the rational process, poetry is the best expression of the individual's experience in the world, along with the individual's interpretations of this experience.

With poetry, believed to be the highest form of literature for the Romantic, the writer can most easily communicate his/her individual expression as well as the concept of the "sublime," a thrilling experience that unifies awe, magnificence, and horror. 

Such Romantic poets as William Wordsworth, John Keats, William Blake, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Gordon, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge of England; and Victor Hugo, Alphonse de la Martine, and Charles Baudelaire of France; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William Cullen Bryant of America clearly demonstrate the poetry that emphasizes intuition over reason, and the pastoral over the urban; in addition, poetry provides him the freedom of using a new language over the traditional forms.  Poetry, for the Romantics was not a framed canvas as is a novel; rather, it was a tableau on which they could paint in a much freer manner, expressing themselves in unconventional ways.

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