Romanticism in Literature

A Genuine Attempt to Understand Romanticism in Literature

Here, we make an attempt to understand what led to the development of romanticism in literature, and the characteristics by which this movement can be defined. Take a look.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2018
Romantic Literature
The romantic movement emerged as a response to the industrial revolution during the second half of the 18th century. Having originated in Europe, the movement quickly spread all over the world. With the rapid industrialization that took place worldwide, and the age of enlightenment, romanticism contradicted the beliefs that formed the very foundation of these periods. While the enlightenment age believed in focusing on human life, relationships and institutions with a scientific approach, the romantic movement in literature paid more attention to aesthetics and the surreal, and catered to emotions rather than succumbing to the practical approach that was then becoming the norm. Not only literature, the romantic movement resulted in the creation of other disciplines such as romantic music and romantic art. The influence of romanticism in literature was defined by some very specific characteristics, which we will discuss here.

Characteristics of Romanticism in Literature

In literature, romanticism was popularized by poets and authors such as John Keats, Shelley, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. These authors of romantic literature believed in creative expression through pieces of prose and poetry, a movement that soon began to affect the world in terms of emotions and relationships. Romanticism is alive in literature to this date, and traces of this genre can be viewed in some pieces of writing. Romantic authors made an attempt to view the mundane in a very extraordinary manner. A good example is the poem Daffodils by William Wordsworth. An analysis of Daffodils by William Wordsworth clearly exhibits many characteristics of romanticism, one of which has been mentioned above.

Another important characteristic of romanticism is the view of life in its minor aspects and not as a whole. In his popular work Defence of Poetry, Shelley argued that human beings must understand and learn to appreciate the little things that life has to offer, to make the pain and pleasure of another individual one's own, in order to truly comprehend the meaning of life. The basic effort of the romantic movement was to incorporate creative expression, transform the ordinary to the extraordinary, and experience emotions at not a superficial but at a deeply intense level.

All in all, the influence of romanticism in literature reflected a profound attempt to experience life more passionately, be it the self or another, be it an emotion or an object. Instead of focusing on a practical, logical or scientific approach, as popularized during the Enlightenment or the industrial revolution, romanticism was directed towards focusing within oneself for solutions and newness, and encouraged people to trust themselves and their instincts. Romantics also made an attempt to focus on nature, to give it importance above the scientific revolution that had overtaken the world. This they believed, would change the way the world was perceived, and would help individuals understand themselves better.

The romantic movement in literature also gave rise to a sub-genre, dark romanticism. While romanticism in itself focused on beauty and an 'out of the world view' of life, dark romanticism focused mainly on tragedies and horror. Though a sub-genre of romanticism, dark romanticism turned out to be almost an opposite of romanticism in itself. This sub-genre was more of an extension of American romanticism in literature, which later spread to other parts of the world. Some popular works of dark romanticism include those by William Blake and Edgar Allan Poe.

All in all, it can be said that the romantic movement that influenced literature restored hope in the human race; hope for the fact that not everything could be mechanized and rendered lifeless. By coming a full circle, romanticism taught people how to experience pleasure in the little things in life, to think out of the box, to dream, and to explore. In today's day and time, romanticism, the definition of which has been reduced to pure mush, will regain lost ground. Not everything can be looked at with a practical approach, not everything has to be logical. By returning to the beliefs of romanticism, one may in effect, be able to bring back to life that little hope, that little desire to dream and believe, and make life a little more colorful, to say the least.
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