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The Romantic movement in England focused on one's connection to nature. In particular, poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge felt that you could have a very personal connection to nature through imagination and emotion--very convenient if you happen to be a poet! While there are a variety of characteristics to what people refer to as Romantic, the key components are: a reflection on the individual (this might be in the form of dialect, subject matter, or perspective), nature (in the power of nature, but also human nature), and what Coleridge called "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" or emotions. This might seem to encompass quite a bit of material--and it does. Percy Shelley takes a more classical approach in poetry, but his wife Mary writes one of the most important Romantic works in novel form, Frankenstein. While both Shelleys write in clearly different forms using entirely different approaches, each are considered Romantic because they satisfy the three basic requirements (a focus on the individual, nature, and emotions) and turn away from the literary style of The Age of Reason.
Concerning the characteristics of Romanticism (it's a proper noun, so it's capitalized), the enotes Study Guide on the subject says this:
Romantic literature is characterized by several features. It emphasized the dream, or inner, world of the individual. The use of visionary, fantastic, or drug-induced imagery was prevalent. There was a growing suspicion of the established church, and a turn toward pantheism (the belief that God is a part of the universe rather than separate from it). Romantic literature emphasized the individual self and the value of the individual’s experience. The concept of “the sublime” (a thrilling emotional experience that combines awe, magnificence, and horror) was introduced. Feeling and emotion were viewed as superior to logic and analysis.
Romanticism was, of course, a reaction against the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, the Neoclassical period. In addition to the above, some specific characteristics of poetry prevalent in the works of romantic poets are:
- poetic diction more closely related to common language
- medieval allusions (although many still placed great emphasis on the classical)
- common themes of childhood, unrequited love, and exiled heroes
Finally, if the preceding period was the age of satire, Romanticism was the movement of the lyric.
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