Romanticism Questions and Answers

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What are the main characteristics of Romanticism in literature? 

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Concetta Roderick eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Artistic (including literary) movements tend to be a response to the times in which they occur. In this case, Romanticism (late eighteenth century to mid-nineteenth century) was a response to the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment period.

Hallmarks of Romanticism in literature are the prioritization of emotion, individuality, and nature. There was a belief that nature was inherently good, whereas people and society tended more toward corruption. This was a rebuke of tradition and norms of "civil" behavior, allowing for more free expression. The resulting literature was much more emotional and intense than what had come before.

Horror was also very popular. This allowed for the Gothic and "dark Romantic" literary genres to flourish during this time, as readers and writers alike were looking for works that drew upon heightened, intense emotional response.

During this period, there was a strong inclination toward nostalgia. Anything medieval was perceived as inherently authentic, versus the increasing modernity of the industrial age.

Realism was the movement that followed, focusing on more ordinary subjects and presenting them with truth and accuracy.

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Romanticism was one of the major movements in literature and the arts in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe, Britain, and North America. It defined itself to a large degree as a rebellion against the neoclassicism of the preceding Augustan period and the hyper-rationalism of the Enlightenment. Rather than valuing symmetry, careful craftsmanship, and formal perfection, the Romantics emphasized intense emotions, individuality, and transcendence.

In poetry, the Romantics rejected the heroic couplet practiced by the British Augustan poets and the French alexandrine in favor of looser, more irregular forms such as the ode. Thematically, while Augustan work favored heroic epic, satire, and philosophical essays in verse, the Romantics wrote about nature, farm life (as opposed to a more idealized pastoral with nymphs and shepherds), the supernatural or fantastic, love, and the sublime.

One consistent theme in Romantic literature is that of the beauty of untamed nature. Another is that of the "Romantic hero," generally a solitary, angst-ridden creative genius, more at home in nature than society. Finally, the Romantics value creative imagination and deep emotion over reason and tradition.

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