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What are the four basic tenets of Romanticism?

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Four of the most important tenets of Romanticism include nature, creativity/imagination, emotion, and the supernatural.

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The era of Romanticism can be analyzed as a pushback against the Enlightenment period, which emphasized science and skepticism. Romantics rejected these logical notions and championed creativity in their artistic works.

One of the four key tenets is the importance of nature. Romantics held nature as a kind of spiritual and aesthetic source. In their poetry, they often encouraged a return to the beauty and simplicity of the natural earth and a respite from industrialized society. Nature brought the individual closer to their truest, most innocent self. This helps to explain why some Romantics idealize childhood, as children are the ultimate example of a free thinker unbound by social mores.

Romantics also felt that imagination was more valuable than scientific discovery or tangible proof. They encouraged wayward thoughts and embraced creativity with no bounds. This includes a fixation on beauty and art. More importantly, Romantics tended to place the workings of the mind in higher regard than empirical realities. In much Romantic poetry, it can be said that external objects—such as trees and nightingales—are important inasmuch they evoke interior reflection and significance.

Emotion reigned supreme over logic in Romanticism. Just as the return to nature symbolizes simplicity and innocence, the faculties of emotion were held in higher regard than reason. Enlightenment prohibited emotion from infiltrating reason. Romanticism, which can be seen as a counter-Enlightenment movement, inverted that notion.

As an extension of imagination and emotion, Romantics used the realm of the supernatural quite often in their works. This allowed for endless possibilities and discoveries that contradict any realistic scenario.

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Emotion is more fundamental to the human experience than logic. Romantics believed that emotion was more important and basic in terms of being a person because we are born knowing how to feel deeply, but we must learn how to be logical and reasonable. They privileged emotion, therefore, over other modes of thought.

Imagination is more powerful and necessary than discovery. Romantics really championed imagination and the products of one's imagination over what could be discovered. Art was more meaningful to them than science.

The individual is more important than the collective. Because of their focus on human emotion and imagination, it makes sense that they would prize the individual over the collective. In fact, society could really be a corrupting or negative influence on an individual, which leads us to the next tenet.

Nature is a sure path to spiritual and moral growth. It was important for Romantics to get out into nature, in part because of the intense emotion and imaginative fantasies it could inspire. It's as though Nature can bring us back to a more fundamental or truer version of ourselves.

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Romanticism maintained several important values that contrasted heavily with the emphasis on logic from the Enlightenment. They prioritized feeling or emotion over reason, innocence over experience, nature over industry, and the supernatural over the natural.

Emotion was seen as authentic expression, and therefore paramount in not only writing, but understanding literature. Similarly, innocence was considered by Romantics to be man’s natural state, and therefore the most genuine person would be the most child-like. Interacting with the world corrupted man, but originally, he was born a blank slate. In the same way, man had corrupted the natural world, and so industry was a devastating force to the hills, trees, and lakes which ought to be preserved. The English Lake country benefited from the advocacy of the Romantics of the period, and its natural beauty was protected from the development of railroads and factories by fanatical believers in this concept. Finally, the Romantics had a fascination with the supernatural, and often included mystic or Classical references in their works.

Thus the main tenets of Romanticism were largely a reaction to the cold equations of the Enlightenment. It would eventually be balanced by the emergence of the Victorian authors and poets, who would take the Romantic’s emphasis on innocence and natural beauty, as well as the Enlightenment’s focus on strict rules for the roles man was meant to play.

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Four basic tenets of Romanticism are as follows:

Nature is good. Romantic poets such as Wordsworth believed that nature had a purity that was corrupted by civilization. He and the other Romantics believed that God and a redeeming spirituality could be found in nature. Many Romantic poems contemplate the beauty of nature and praise the peace and solace being in nature brings to the human soul.

Humankind is inherently good. It follows that if nature is good, humans in their natural state are good. It is civilization that corrupts the purity of the natural human or noble savage. Children, likewise, are inherently innocent until corrupted by society. This counters the Puritan notion that people are born with Original Sin.

Simplicity is good. This includes simple people, such as peasants, who were often ridiculed or ignored in poetry before the Romantic era. Poets like Wordsworth, however, wanted to exalt the common man and show his worth. Simplicity also extended to how verse was written: poets such as Wordsworth wanted to use the simple language of common people so that their poetry would be easily accessible.

Imagination is good. Romanticism reacted to what it considered the Enlightenment over-emphasis on reason. It celebrated the imaginative, including the supernatural. The interest in the supernatural and fantastic led to poems about the world of fairies and dreams and magical happenings found in poets such as Coleridge and Keats.

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