What is the main difference between neoclassicism and the romantic period when it comes to poetry?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my mind, the primary difference between both was the view of society as well as individual expression.  Neoclassicist poets were more concerned with the notion of a collective entity or social view of the individual, whereas the Romantic were more driven by a sense of uniqueness to the individual and separation from the social order.  Whereas the Romantics saw the Neoclassicists as striving for a sense social conformity, they viewed themselves as seeking to liberate the individual from these constraints.  Additionally, there was a greater emphasis on technique and adhering to these poetic forms for the Neoclassicists, whereas the Romantics were focused on poetry and art being "a spontaneous overflow of emotion."

kc4u | Student

The neoclassical poets like Dryden and Pope primarily deal with the intellectually constructed satirical genre and approach poetry from a highly elitist point of view where rationality and decorum become more important than anything. They follow nature and compose a kind of allusive objective work of poetry, urban, cynical and nonchalant. Wit and a highly prescriptive sense of discipline govern their poems. The Romantics like Wordsworth and Coleridge, on the other hand de-elitize poetry, trying to restore to poetry the democratic spirit of day-to-day language, staging a return to nature, prioritizing emotion and imagination over reason and decorum and opting for the lyrical or subjective poetry of self-expression. They value the power of spontaneous poetical creation more than the prescriptions of a fixed literary genre.