Romanticism

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What are the six main characteristics of Romantic literature?

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Some of the main characteristics of Romantic literature are a focus on the writer or narrator’s emotions and inner world, a celebration of nature, beauty, and imagination, a rejection of industrialization and organized religion, and the inclusion of supernatural or mythological elements.

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The Romantic movement lasted from about the 1770s to the 1850s. While the Romantic sensibility permeated multiple artistic mediums, in literature, it often manifested in passionate poetry and stories of individualism, the sublime, and heightened emotion.

Here are some key characteristics of the movement.

A love of the natural world: Nature was often lionized in Romantic verse. The Prelude by William Wordsworth is perhaps the most famous example of the Romantic appreciation of the spiritual renewal to be found by spending time in the countryside.

An emphasis on the supernatural: Gothic literature came into vogue during the early years of the Romantic movement with Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto. Later gothic novels such as Matthew Gregory Lewis's The Monk would refine Walpole's formula, emphasizing the presence of demons, angels, ghosts, and other beings beyond the corporeal world.

A celebration of one's inner world, emotions, and individuality: For the Romantics, the individual's feelings and experiences were of the utmost importance. A novel like Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther focused on the intense emotional pain felt by a young man experiencing unrequited love. The mystical poems of William Blake emphasized an inner world totally freed from worries about convention.

Critical attitudes toward organized religion: Many Romantic writers were critical of organized religion, often finding it oppressive and inconducive to true transcendence or experience with the divine. Some such as Percy Shelley were open atheists, but others like William Blake were unconventional in their spiritual beliefs.

Fascination with the past: For the Romantics, the past was seen as free of the corrupting influence of modern industrialization. As a result, Romantic novels and poetry were often set in antiquity or the middle ages.

Critical attitudes toward industrialization and the city: Hand in hand with their love of nature, the Romantics abhorred industrialization's effects on the natural world as well as its effects on the health of the human psyche. After all, if nature is a spiritual restorative, then an industrial world is its antithesis, as seen in the nightmarish urban cityscape of William Blake's poem "London."

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Lists will vary slightly in how they name the following features of Romantic literature, but those below represent the gist of what the Romantic poets were seeking to write and what makes it different from most poetry that came before. Because Romanticism was such a powerful force in poetry, it often seems today to simply be what poetry is, but it represents a profound break with the past.

An emphasis on nature: If there is one feature that far and away typifies Romantic poetry, it is taking nature as its subject. The Romantic poets loved nature as a expression of the divine, as a sublime force that would bring us close to the Godhead, and as an emotional solace. Nature moves the emotions, lifts the soul to a higher level, is the antidote to civilization's corruption, and is endlessly a subject that the Romantics explored. In a shift from the past, nature is almost never seen as an enemy or dark force, as it is, say, in Beowulf but as a supreme expression of the Good.

An emphasis on idealizing the common person: After nature, idealization of the common "man" is the trait most associated with the Romantic poets. Impressed in various way by the ideals and fervor of the French Revolution, these poets wanted to celebrate ordinary people and show them in the best possible light in order to promote ideals of universal brotherhood. It can't be emphasized enough that, despite a few lone antecedents like Thomas Gray, this is a new thing. Poets before the Romantics used "shepherds" as color or to evoke the Classical age, but these shepherds were never real people. The lower classes were most often depicted as clowns, if depicted as all. The Romantics, in contrast, portrayed the lower classes as filled with dignity and grace, whose simple lives could be a model that the upper classes could learn from.

An emphasis on simplicity: Our language has changed, so sometimes Romantic poems don't seem simple to understand, but the Romantics put great emphasis (on the whole) on using simple, accessible language that everyone could easily understand.

An emphasis on lyricism: Lyricism is the expression of emotion. Over and over again, Romantics try to capture emotions in verse.

An emphasis on the supernatural: The Romantics moved away from the rationalism of Neoclassic poetry to examine the whimsical, including fairies, folktales, and magic.

An emphasis on memory/the past: The Romantics had a special interest in the color and magic of the Middle Ages, but they also emphasized the solace that a store of happy personal memories could bring.

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The following are courtesy of my AP Senior English teacher, Andrelle E. McKinsey, more than a decado ago (and I still use them when I teach seniors for a nice reference)...

Characteristics of the Romantic Age & Romantic Literature

1. Individuality/Democracy/Personal Freedom

2. Spiritual/Supernatural Elements

3. Nature as a Teacher

4. Interest in Past History/Ancient Greek and Roman Elements

5. Celebration of the Simple Life

6. Interest in the Rustic/Pastoral Life

7. Interest in Folk Traditions

8. Use of Common Language

9. Use of Common Subjects

10. One Sided/Opinionated

11. Idealized Women

12. Frequent Use of Personification

13. Examination of the Poet's Inner Feelings

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What are some characteristics of Romantic poetry?

Romantic poetry is distinct from other types of poetry for many reasons, mainly because of its emphasis on the self, exploration of the natural world, and celebration of intense emotions.

Romantic poets were interested in the minds of everyday individuals, and we can often find lyricism (the expression of emotion) in Romantic poems, since these poets explored intense human feelings. Romantic poets also wrote for everyday audiences, so they used simple language that was easy for people to understand. This marked a departure from previous poetry movements like Neoclassicism, in which poets used literary elements like allusions to reference events or figures from history and mythology.

Romantic poets were also interested in the natural world. Romantic poems usually celebrate the beauty of natural elements like clouds, flowers, and bodies of water. These poems also sometimes celebrate memories and the happiness that personal memories can bring to an individual.

For example, we can see these characteristics of Romantic poetry in poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," for instance, features a speaker who is by himself and encounters a field of daffodils that make him think of the stars. After the experience, he often thinks back to the daffodils and is filled with joy. Here, we have a distinctly Romantic poem, because it emphasizes solitude, nature, memory, and emotions.

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What are some characteristics of Romantic poetry?

Romantic poetry became popular in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Poetry of the Romantic period typically demonstrated the following qualities:

An appreciation of nature: In Romantic poetry, nature is sometimes depicted as calming and joyful, such as in William Wordsworth's "The Daffodils," and sometimes as dark and mystical, as in John Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale." Nevertheless, people engage with nature in ways that define and shape their character and conflicts.

Introspection / focus on emotions: A wide range of emotions are explored in Romantic poetry as speakers reflect on various challenges. The speaker of "My Heart Leaps Up" by Wordsworth finds incredible joy when beholding a "rainbow in the sky." The speaker of "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe grieves the loss of his beloved, who "lived with no other thought / Than to love and be loved by me." The emotional landscape of Romantic poetry is varied, demonstrating the wide range of the human experience.

Attention to the supernatural or gothic: Romantic poets didn't shy away from exploring themes of the supernatural. Poe's poetry leaned toward gothic themes, portraying dark settings and mysterious conflicts. This is evident in "The Raven," which is set on a dreary December evening around midnight and features a bird who taunts the speaker by repeating only one word: "Nevermore."

Celebration of creativity: Romantic literature followed the period of the Enlightenment, which celebrated reason and logic. Instead of embracing logic, Romanticism turned its focus toward possibility and imagination. Thus, William Blake's poem "The Tyger" uses extended metaphors to examine the relationship between God, evil, and humanity; furthermore, the poem raises more questions than it answers. Keats's poem "When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be" examines the possibility of dying young and before one has the opportunity to fulfill their creative potential.

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What are some characteristics of Romantic poetry?

Characteristics of the Romantic period include:

  • a return to (or respect for) nature
  • idealization of women and children
  • an interest in the past (especially medieval)
  • championing personal freedom
  • melancholy
  • the supernatural and the occult
  • imagination and emotion

There are variations on these characteristics, and some reviewers will include more or fewer. This is what I have used in the classroom.

The respect for nature (or a return to nature) was driven by the Romantics distress over seeing the environment spoiled and polluted by factories and mining in England's Industrial Revolution. Personal freedom was something most Romantics supported, especially the American and French Revolutions. Melancholy, or sadness, is also often seen in the poetry of the Romantics. Changes to the world around them (nature) and the plight of the less fortunate would have been some causes for melancholy.

Those less fortunate were the poor, and women and children, who had no rights and were often victimized. These were the people who worked for pennies in the many factories springing up as a part of industry. They were forced to work long hours. And poverty was such that losing a job was the difference between life and death. Even if a woman was pregnant, to stop working was not an option. In coal mining, exploitation was rampant. Children, because of their small size, would climb into hard to reach spaces. The loss of a hand or foot—or life—was not unusual among the children—however, working any number of years would many times lead to death caused by breathing coal dust.

An interest in the past (especially the Middle Ages) hearkened back to a time when honor guided the lives of Arthur's knights (as Romantics saw it)—when chivalry and love were infused in Arthurian tales (such as those collected and translated by Sir Thomas Mallory).

Interest in the supernatural and the occult, as well as the use of imagination or presence of emotion, are closely linked. "Supernatural" referred to anything above or beyond the norm in this world. Supernatural things today often include ghosts, poltergeists and aliens. During that time, God was considered to be supernatural, as well as ghosts, witches, spirits, etc.

The imagination was also often a major element in poems of the Romantic writers.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, an epic poem that includes a majority of the characteristics of Romantic writing. For example...

At length did cross an Albatross (62)

This refers to the bird the mariner (sailor) kills. This is a violent act against nature, for which the mariner will be punished. Coleridge also goes to great lengths to describe the beauty and majesty of nature on the mariner's journey. All of this shows a respect for nature.

"Life-in-Death" is a supernatural character in the story. She is the "mate" of Death; she saves the mariner from death when the other sailors die:

The Night-Mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,

Who thicks man's blood with cold. (190-191)

Other-worldly creatures and the description of the living things under the water are a few examples of imagination in the poem.

The Wedding Guest, to whom the mariner tells his tale, experiences melancholy:

He went like one that hath been stunned,

And is of sense forlorn:

A sadder and a wiser man,

He rose the morrow morn. (619-622)

Knowledge brought him sadness.

These elements are not present in every poem, but generally, many are included in Romantic poetry.

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What are the characteristics of Romanticism?

Romanticism as a literary movement marked a period when authors, and society in general, became much less trusting of the church and other institutions and much more interested in recognizing the worth and power of the individual and individual experiences. Enhancement of personal perceptions through use of drugs became acceptable, dreams and visions were recognized as being significant and worthy of serious consideration and interpretation, and emotion was considered more important than intellect. Reflecting many of these viewpoints, poetry was the favored form of writing during the Romantic period.

Prominent authors of the Romantic movement include Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Shelley, and William Wordsworth.

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What are the characteristics of Romanticism?

Excellent question, highlighting as it does a key literary period. Before starting my answer, I have included some links below that you may find helpful in answering your question. To understand Romanticism one of the best ways is to read some of the works of the Great Romantics such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. A key word to focus on is nature. To understand the concept of nature in the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge you need to understand that Romanticism was a kind of revolt to Classicism - the literary movement that came before Romanticism. Romanticism therefore moved away from focussing on reason and man's ability to work out situations and focussed more on the restorative power of nature and how it provides balm to us as mankind. Key to the poetry of Wordsworth is the location of the Lake Distict in England, UK, a place of great natural beauty, where Wordsworth in particular spent lots of time. You may want to read poems such as "Tintern Abbey" and consider what it says about nature. These pointers combined with the links below should help you towards an answer.

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What are the characteristics of Romanticism?

While romanticism can be applied to a time period and a range of expressions (general attitudes, literature, art, etc.), a common way to explain the characteristics of romanticism is to apply it to the literature of the time.  

The previous literary time period was the Age of Reason.  As the name implies, logic and reasoning were placed above all else.  It makes for some cold reading.  That said, some wonderful writers and works were produced during that period, including Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine to name a few.  

Romantic literature is a sort of revolt against the Age of Reason.  Unlike the name implies, romanticism is not focused on romantic love.  Romanticism instead focuses on the senses, feelings/emotions, and imagination.  Another shift is in the subject matter of romantic literature.  While the Age of Reason tended toward society (cities), romanticism shows a definite focus on nature, so much so that nature itself became more important or powerful than man.  Art from that period illustrates this concept because while a human might be in the scene, he or she is usually not the focal point of the art nor are they painted/drawn very large.  

Nature essentially became a source of divine inspiration and revelation for romantics.  In a way, it's a bit New Age.  They attempted to experience a "oneness with nature," to use a cliche. 

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What are the characteristics of Romanticism?

The Romantic movement in England focused on one's connection to nature. In particular, poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge felt that you could have a very personal connection to nature through imagination and emotion--very convenient if you happen to be a poet! While there are a variety of characteristics to what people refer to as Romantic, the key components are: a reflection on the individual (this might be in the form of dialect, subject matter, or perspective), nature (in the power of nature, but also human nature), and what Coleridge called "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" or emotions. This might seem to encompass quite a bit of material--and it does. Percy Shelley takes a more classical approach in poetry, but his wife Mary writes one of the most important Romantic works in novel form, Frankenstein. While both Shelleys write in clearly different forms using entirely different approaches, each are considered Romantic because they satisfy the three basic requirements (a focus on the individual, nature, and emotions) and turn away from the literary style of The Age of Reason.

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What are the characteristics of Romanticism?

Concerning the characteristics of Romanticism (it's a proper noun, so it's capitalized), the enotes Study Guide on the subject says this:

Romantic literature is characterized by several features. It emphasized the dream, or inner, world of the individual. The use of visionary, fantastic, or drug-induced imagery was prevalent. There was a growing suspicion of the established church, and a turn toward pantheism (the belief that God is a part of the universe rather than separate from it). Romantic literature emphasized the individual self and the value of the individual’s experience. The concept of “the sublime” (a thrilling emotional experience that combines awe, magnificence, and horror) was introduced. Feeling and emotion were viewed as superior to logic and analysis.

Romanticism was, of course, a reaction against the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, the Neoclassical period.  In addition to the above, some specific characteristics of poetry prevalent in the works of romantic poets are:

  • poetic diction more closely related to common language
  • medieval allusions (although many still placed great emphasis on the classical)
  • common themes of childhood, unrequited love, and exiled heroes 

 Finally, if the preceding period was the age of satire, Romanticism was the movement of the lyric.

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What are the salient features of Romanticism?

Revolution that swept Europe and America around 1776 created within artists a new appreciation for imaginative, unrestrained literature and other art forms. The Romantic literature that flowed out of this period embodies several key characteristics:

Imagination: Consider the following lines from John Keats's "La Belle Dame sans Merci":

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.
I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
Keats combines an emotion—love—with imagination. He has become enamored with a fairy woman. This isn't a realistic portrait of love or adoration, but that is key to the Romantic movement. There are endless possibilities, thanks to the imaginative power of literature.

Idealism: Consider the following lines from Lord Byron's "She Walks in Beauty":

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

In this poem, the narrator presents this impeccable beauty, one that even the brightness of day impairs because it is too "gaudy." At the conclusion of the poem, the reader learns that this woman's innocence and virtue match her immeasurable beauty. She encompasses the ideal characteristics of women at that time.

Emotion: Consider the following lines from William Blake's "A Poison Tree":

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

Here we see a cautionary tale regarding harboring anger. The narrator notes that when he told his friend of his discontent, he ended the animosity. However, when he withheld this information from his enemy, the anger grew. Literature of this time period often reflected the emotional spectrum, both positive and negative experiences.

Nature: Consider the following lines from William Wordsworth's "Daffodils":

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

In this poem, the narrator conveys that this beautiful memory of a scene of daffodils often lifts his mood when he is feeling rather gloomy. In this poem, the daffodils "dance" in "sparkling waves of glee." This idea of turning to nature for inspiration is key to the Romantic movement.

Simplicity: Consider the following lines from Percy Shelley's "To a Skylark":

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

In these lines, we see that the narrator sees beautiful art in the simple call of a skylark. It was inspired by a simple evening walk that Shelley took with his wife, Mary.

In each poem, there are characteristics of the Romantic movement that overlap, but these authors and these excerpts show that the Romantic movement was a shift from the neoclassicism period prior to it, which focused on reason, order, and tradition.

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What are the salient features of Romanticism?

Romanticism was a literary and intellectual movement that lasted from the late eighteenth century through the mid-nineteenth century. Classic examples of Romantic novels are Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Though academics consider Romanticism difficult to define—the movement developed differently in European countries than it did in the US—there are a few key features we can talk about.

The first is important: Romanticism was reactionary. The movement was, at least in part, a response to the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment. Rather than focusing on science, logic, or reason, as was the zeitgeist on both sides of the Atlantic, Romantic writers were nostalgic, looking to a simpler past for inspiration. Much as we, as contemporary readers, may look back to the pre-internet era with some sentimentality (remember when we looked things up in an actual encyclopedia instead of Googling everything?), Romantic writers fondly remembered a pre-industrial era.

Which brings us to our second point. Romantic writers expressed emotion and imagination, engaging with aesthetics and the beauty of the natural world. In the poetry and novels of the era, emotion was more important than reason or science. It stands to reason that Romantic writers also rejected some of the structure or rules that had previously governed both novels and poetry, experimenting with freer styles.

All of this could be summarized with a third point: Romanticism is about the individual and his or her thoughts and experiences, not the trends or tendencies of a larger society.

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What are the chief characteristics of the Romantic period?

One of the most significant aspects of Romanticism was its emphasis on the strange and the mysterious. To a large extent, Romanticism was a reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, which had privileged reason as a source of knowledge about ourselves and the world around us. Most Romantics welcomed the progress that the Enlightenment had made in getting rid of some of the fanaticism, superstition, and obscurantism—the deliberate withholding of knowledge from people—associated with various pre-modern authorities, most notably the Catholic Church.

Yet there was also a widespread consensus among Romantics that the Enlightenment had gone too far in its project of disenchanting the world. Even with all the huge strides that had been made in natural science, Romantics insisted that there was a still a lot about the world that we could not know and indeed never would.

The world was full of mystery, and Romantic art, in all its various forms, sought to explore this mystery in considerable depth. Whether it was through Gothic novels such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the poems of Wordsworth (which presented nature as deeply infused with a sublime, almost supernatural force), or the spiritual landscapes of the German painter Caspar David Friedrich, Romantics wanted to draw our attention to a world of mystery, a world which stubbornly defied all attempts at categorization by the thinkers of the Enlightenment.

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What are the chief characteristics of the Romantic period?

There are a few tell-tale characteristics of the Romantic Period. many times people hear Romantic Period and believe that all of the texts during this period were about love. While love may exist as a side note in the text, it is far from a defining characteristic of the period.

1. Writers and artists of the Romantic Period (1800-1860-depending on what school you adhere to) created their works as an answer to the previous period (Age of Reason). Therefore, the Romantics valued their own perceptions and feelings over ones which were "forced" upon them by the preceding period.

2. In this quest for individaul feelings came an new appreciation of nature and freedom to explore one's own imagination. Writers, such as Washington Irving, and artists, such as Francisco Goya, wished to show the emotion of their works by playing with the color and emotion of their pieces.

3. Artists of this period also tended to focus on symbolism and myth. This is explored through their own understanding of personal perceptions of nature and the supernatural.

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What are the main characteristics of Romanticism in literature? 

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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What are the main characteristics of Romanticism in literature? 

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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