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Dark Romanticism

Explore the Vile Side of Freedom With Dark Romanticism

A literary sub genre, dark Romanticism, has been widely read but rarely referred to in those terms. In this article, we tell you, what the main characteristics of this genre are and who the main authors of this movement were.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
"Fallen man's inability fully to comprehend haunting reminders of another, supernatural realm that yet seemed not to exist, the constant perplexity of inexplicable and vastly metaphysical phenomena, a propensity for seemingly perverse or evil moral choices that had no firm or fixed measure or rule, and a sense of nameless guilt combined with a suspicion the external world was a delusive projection of the mind - these were major elements in the vision of man the Dark Romantics opposed to the mainstream of Romantic thought." - G.R. Thompson

It can be quite difficult to understand the literary sub genre known as dark Romanticism. This becomes an even more difficult task because there is no proper definition for the genre from which it emerges; Romanticism. While according to some experts, it was a period where authors spent a majority of their literary talent praising the Almighty, others believe that the literary period was more influenced by the economy of the market. There are many people who believe that in order to understand the genre completely and fully, it is important that you feel the poetry and novels that make up the literary period. While it was defined in a myriad ways, to define dark Romanticism, people generally pointed their finger towards the Gothic literature that was published in the 1700s.

An Overview

If you look out for a definition, you will be hard pressed to find one, that suits your purpose. It is generally defined as a phenomenon or a literary and historical movement, wherein authors and poets revolted against the classical ways of writing and expression. In stark contrast to the Age of Enlightenment, during which there was a blind faith in reason and materialism, proponents of this genre talked about feeling, and imagination. Many historians and experts believe that the reason this genre sprung to fame was because of a reaction to a society that was fast becoming industrialized and mechanical. Authors often preferred writing tales of horror and terror. They reveled in describing the tragedies that often befell human lives. Some of the most famous authors of this genre were William Blake, Bram Stoker, and most importantly, Edgar Allan Poe.

In order to understand the literary genre, it is important to understand its various characteristics. Most authors who wrote in this style had a tendency to write about subjects that were not only gloomy and morose, but had elements of the morbid and grotesque. Dark Romanticism is widely considered to be the most popular sub genres of American literature due to the degree of illogical elements that were so seamlessly blended into the genre. While Romanticism believed that real life was quite dreary in comparison to imagination, proponents of its 'darker' sibling believed otherwise. They believed that human beings were equally capable of evil and good. While advocates of the former tried and ignored the evil and sociopathic behavior of man, the latter group, took it as a duty to remind the world of the evil doings of man.

One of the characteristics common to both groups was the belief that emotions, and intuitions meant for a lot, and accounted for more than logical reasoning. They paid a lot of attention to the many mysteries of life that were impossible to explain by reasoning. Despite their focus on the morbid and tragic, they never were cynical, nor did they emphasize on the same. Their showcase of the evil of human beings was a tribute to the struggles that human beings overcame in their life.

While dark Romanticism was a literary genre that was most popular in America, there were some British authors who also contributed greatly to this genre of literature. This included authors like Samuel Coleridge and Mary Shelley.
Gothic literature
Edgar Allan Poe