Start Free Trial

What are the main features of romantic poetry?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Romantic poets tend to focus on the experience and feelings of the individual, the revelation of essential truth, and the sublimity of nature. Romantics believed in the importance of the individual's emotions and especially emphasized the representation and production of intense emotions. Their ideas often ran counter to those espoused by Enlightenment philosophers who focused on empiricism and the rationalism. The Romantics privileged emotion over logic because they felt that feelings were more fundamental to the human experience than logic; we must be taught to reason but not to feel. They also wrote quite a bit about nature and natural objects as well as the wealth and truths revealed by nature and its effects on the individual. Solitude also often plays a vital role, as the revelation of truths in nature most often occurs when the individual is alone with his or her own thoughts and feelings.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I'll focus this answer on English poetry of the Romantic Period, which extends from about 1795 to 1875.

Poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, Byron and others, in a reaction to the rational, scientific, mechanistic view of the world depicted in the literature of the eighteenth century, began to emphasize concepts like sensibility (how one feels about life); love of nature; a return to primitivism and an interest in the past (for example, the Celtic revival); mysticism and an interest in the individual.

We have poems like Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," which speaks to the poet's re-invigorated interest in nature after viewing the ruins of a medieval abbey, Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," which is, in part, about the mis-use of nature and the cost of ignoring nature's help, Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," taking as its model the medieval romance and as its subject the self-realization of the individual.  Each of these is in almost direct opposition to the highly-structured poetry of the eighteenth century that dealt with societal and cultural issues rather than the development of the individual as the Romantics did.

The Romantic Period poets tended to focus on an individual's experience in the world, and so their poetry tried to analyze a person's unique experiences and attitudes toward those experience rather than make generalizations about society's experience or attitudes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think that there can be different understandings of critical or "main" features in Romantic poetry.  I think that one main feature of Romantic poetry is the emphasis on self.  There is a primacy that Romantic poetry places on the experience of the individual.  The subjective experience is something that strikes at the very heart of Romantic poetry.  This subjective experience is something that distinguishes Romantic poetry from other forms of the discourse in the role it plays in praising in the individual and their own perception of the world.

As the subjective experience is one of the main features of Romanticism, I believe that the emotive exploration of this condition is another main feature of Romanticism.  The praising of emotions and the affect of the individual is a significant part within Romantic poetry. The emotive condition of being in the world is something that animated much of Romantic poetry.  In contrast to the scientific and detached claims of the Enlightenment, subjective emotions became praised within the poetry of the Romantic thinkers.  In this, the exploration of emotions becomes a significant part of Romantic poetry.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial