Romanticism

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Is melancholia a central aspect of Romanticism?

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Melancholia refers to a feeling of depression, profound sadness, and even despair, and though some Romantic literature can depict or evoke feelings of sadness or despair, these feelings are certainly not a requirement of Romantic literature.

Romantics did champion intense emotion, believing that, because we are born knowing how to feel things deeply, intense emotions must somehow be more integral to the human experience and to human nature than, say, logic (which we have to learn to use). They also believed that nature had the power to inspire and better us. Many Romantic poems, for example, take nature and human emotion as their subject, and sadness is not necessarily always part of that. The sublimity of nature can cheer a person up, can help a person remember the past, can assist someone who needs to reassess their priorities, or can even help a person recall the beauties of living or what it was like to be young.

To be sure, melancholia is an intense emotion, and so it does appear in many Romantic texts, as it is natural and can be beautiful or even instructive, too. Therefore, I would argue that intense emotion is a central aspect of Romanticism but not necessarily melancholia, sadness, or despair.

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