Romanticism Questions and Answers

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What were the main types and characteristics of literature during the Romantic period?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Romantic literature in all its many forms was primarily concerned with expressing subjective emotion. This represented a radical departure from the previously dominant Neo-classicism aesthetic, which held that works of art, including literature, should reflect timeless, universal truths. In other words, art should reflect reality, what was "out there" in the world, instead of giving expression to the individual artist's soul.

For the most part, Romantic writers sought to rediscover the truth-telling power of the emotions, a power that had been almost completely lost since the age of the Enlightenment, when reason had been privileged over the emotions. In getting in touch with their emotions, the Romantics believed that they would rediscover what it is that unites human beings with Nature. Modern science had separated man from nature, turning the latter into an object of study and exploitation. But man's emotional life could give him a completely different perspective, allowing him to feel his kinship with the world around him, to feel within his soul the essential oneness that unites every living thing in a comprehensive whole.

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Literature in all genres was composed during the Romantic period. Perhaps the form of literature most associated with the Romantic movement is poetry. Romantic poets composed long narrative works, such as Byron’s Bride of Abydos, The Giaour, and Don Juan or Wordsworth’s Prelude, but are also renowned for shorter pieces that have become classics school texts such as Shelley’s “To a Skylark” or “Ozymandias” or Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” The Gothic novel of authors such as Anne Radcliffe’s Udolpho and Walpole’s Castle of Otranto. What many of these have in common is exotic settings, intense emotional peaks, and protagonists or narrators with an unusual or “outsider|” viewpoint. Distinguished non-fiction authors include Thomas de Quincey and Leigh Hunt.

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