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Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History Essays

  • Romanticism


Théodore Gericault

Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct

Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct

Alfred Dedreux (1810–1860) as a Child

Alfred Dedreux (1810–1860) as a Child

The Start of the Race of the Riderless Horses

The Start of the Race of the Riderless Horses

Horace Vernet

Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Gericault (1791–1824)

Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Gericault (1791–1824)

Inundated Ruins of a Monastery

Inundated Ruins of a Monastery

Karl Blechen

Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds

Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds

John Constable


Eugène Delacroix

Royal Tiger

Royal Tiger

Stormy Coast Scene after a Shipwreck

Stormy Coast Scene after a Shipwreck

French Painter

Mother and Child by the Sea

Mother and Child by the Sea

Johan Christian Dahl

The Natchez

The Natchez

Wanderer in the Storm

Wanderer in the Storm

Julius von Leypold

The Abduction of Rebecca

The Abduction of Rebecca

Jewish Woman of Algiers Seated on the Ground

Jewish Woman of Algiers Seated on the Ground

Théodore Chassériau


The Virgin Adoring the Host

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Ovid among the Scythians

Ovid among the Scythians

Kathryn Calley Galitz Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

October 2004

Romanticism, first defined as an aesthetic in literary criticism around 1800, gained momentum as an artistic movement in France and Britain in the early decades of the nineteenth century and flourished until mid-century. With its emphasis on the imagination and emotion, Romanticism emerged as a response to the disillusionment with the Enlightenment values of reason and order in the aftermath of the French Revolution of 1789. Though often posited in opposition to Neoclassicism , early Romanticism was shaped largely by artists trained in Jacques Louis David’s studio, including Baron Antoine Jean Gros, Anne Louis Girodet-Trioson, and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. This blurring of stylistic boundaries is best expressed in Ingres’ Apotheosis of Homer and Eugène Delacroix’s Death of Sardanapalus (both Museé du Louvre, Paris), which polarized the public at the Salon of 1827 in Paris. While Ingres’ work seemingly embodied the ordered classicism of David in contrast to the disorder and tumult of Delacroix, in fact both works draw from the Davidian tradition but each ultimately subverts that model, asserting the originality of the artist—a central notion of Romanticism.

In Romantic art, nature—with its uncontrollable power, unpredictability, and potential for cataclysmic extremes—offered an alternative to the ordered world of Enlightenment thought. The violent and terrifying images of nature conjured by Romantic artists recall the eighteenth-century aesthetic of the Sublime. As articulated by the British statesman Edmund Burke in a 1757 treatise and echoed by the French philosopher Denis Diderot a decade later, “all that stuns the soul, all that imprints a feeling of terror, leads to the sublime.” In French and British painting of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the recurrence of images of shipwrecks ( 2003.42.56 ) and other representations of man’s struggle against the awesome power of nature manifest this sensibility. Scenes of shipwrecks culminated in 1819 with Théodore Gericault’s strikingly original Raft of the Medusa (Louvre), based on a contemporary event. In its horrifying explicitness, emotional intensity, and conspicuous lack of a hero, The Raft of the Medusa became an icon of the emerging Romantic style. Similarly, J. M. W. Turner’s 1812 depiction of Hannibal and his army crossing the Alps (Tate, London), in which the general and his troops are dwarfed by the overwhelming scale of the landscape and engulfed in the swirling vortex of snow, embodies the Romantic sensibility in landscape painting. Gericault also explored the Romantic landscape in a series of views representing different times of day; in Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct ( 1989.183 ), the dramatic sky, blasted tree, and classical ruins evoke a sense of melancholic reverie.

Another facet of the Romantic attitude toward nature emerges in the landscapes of John Constable , whose art expresses his response to his native English countryside. For his major paintings, Constable executed full-scale sketches, as in a view of Salisbury Cathedral ( 50.145.8 ); he wrote that a sketch represents “nothing but one state of mind—that which you were in at the time.” When his landscapes were exhibited in Paris at the Salon of 1824, critics and artists embraced his art as “nature itself.” Constable’s subjective, highly personal view of nature accords with the individuality that is a central tenet of Romanticism.

This interest in the individual and subjective—at odds with eighteenth-century rationalism—is mirrored in the Romantic approach to portraiture. Traditionally, records of individual likeness, portraits became vehicles for expressing a range of psychological and emotional states in the hands of Romantic painters. Gericault probed the extremes of mental illness in his portraits of psychiatric patients, as well as the darker side of childhood in his unconventional portrayals of children. In his portrait of Alfred Dedreux ( 41.17 ), a young boy of about five or six, the child appears intensely serious, more adult than childlike, while the dark clouds in the background convey an unsettling, ominous quality.

Such explorations of emotional states extended into the animal kingdom, marking the Romantic fascination with animals as both forces of nature and metaphors for human behavior. This curiosity is manifest in the sketches of wild animals done in the menageries of Paris and London in the 1820s by artists such as Delacroix, Antoine-Louis Barye, and Edwin Landseer. Gericault depicted horses of all breeds—from workhorses to racehorses—in his work. Lord Byron’s 1819 tale of Mazeppa tied to a wild horse captivated Romantic artists from Delacroix to Théodore Chassériau, who exploited the violence and passion inherent in the story. Similarly, Horace Vernet, who exhibited two scenes from Mazeppa in the Salon of 1827 (both Musée Calvet, Avignon), also painted the riderless horse race that marked the end of the Roman Carnival, which he witnessed during his 1820 visit to Rome. His oil sketch ( 87.15.47 ) captures the frenetic energy of the spectacle, just before the start of the race. Images of wild, unbridled animals evoked primal states that stirred the Romantic imagination.

Along with plumbing emotional and behavioral extremes, Romantic artists expanded the repertoire of subject matter, rejecting the didacticism of Neoclassical history painting in favor of imaginary and exotic subjects. Orientalism and the worlds of literature stimulated new dialogues with the past as well as the present. Ingres’ sinuous odalisques ( 38.65 ) reflect the contemporary fascination with the exoticism of the harem, albeit a purely imagined Orient, as he never traveled beyond Italy. In 1832, Delacroix journeyed to Morocco, and his trip to North Africa prompted other artists to follow. In 1846, Chassériau documented his visit to Algeria in notebooks filled with watercolors and drawings, which later served as models for paintings done in his Paris studio ( 64.188 ). Literature offered an alternative form of escapism. The novels of Sir Walter Scott, the poetry of Lord Byron, and the drama of Shakespeare transported art to other worlds and eras. Medieval England is the setting of Delacroix’s tumultuous Abduction of Rebecca ( 03.30 ), which illustrates an episode from Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe .

In its stylistic diversity and range of subjects, Romanticism defies simple categorization. As the poet and critic Charles Baudelaire wrote in 1846, “Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor in exact truth, but in a way of feeling.”

Galitz, Kathryn Calley. “Romanticism.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004)

Further Reading

Brookner, Anita. Romanticism and Its Discontents . New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux; : , 2000.

Honour, Hugh. Romanticism . New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

Additional Essays by Kathryn Calley Galitz

  • Galitz, Kathryn Calley. “ The Legacy of Jacques Louis David (1748–1825) .” (October 2004)
  • Galitz, Kathryn Calley. “ Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) .” (May 2009)
  • Galitz, Kathryn Calley. “ The French Academy in Rome .” (October 2003)

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Romanticism Essay

Hi teachers, could you help me find the grammatical and spelling mistakes I made in this essay about Romanticism? could you also give me some recommendations?

Romanticism is a movement that made social sciences like poetry its subject of interest. This movement was originated in north America and Europe where the society was in a rapid development and the industrial revolution was at its culmination in the early 1800s. Unlike the Enlightenment which also took place at that period, Romanticism glorified the emotions and the feelings of the writer rather than his rationality and objectivity. In addition, Romanticism is known for its reverence and interest in nature because nature can be a shelter from troubles, difficulties and pains of life and individuals contemplate it individually. Further, Romanticism preferred the use of mental images and creativity over reality and facts. While the Enlightenment and Romanticism took place in the same period, their emphasis and subjects of interest were completely different and their thinkers were different as well.

Firstly, romantic poets are great worshipers of nature and have a great emotion toward it because nature is God's creation and can give them a relief from their life owes. An example that they were interested in nature is what John Clare said in his poem 'I am' in which he said "into the nothingness of scorn and noise, into the living sea of waking dreams". Another reason why Romantics were interested in nature is that the industrial revolution cause a lot of troubles for people and brought negative effects on nature and humans. For example, John Keats recommends escaping to nature by saying "in some melodious plot of beechen green, and shadows numberless'. This line means that the beauty of nature and solitude can give our minds great help to relax.

Secondly, Romanticism glorifies individuals' creativity and the use of imagination over facts and reality, which are very important for the Enlightenment. For example, George Byron says in the poem "darkness" "the bright sun was extinguished and the stars did wander darkling in the eternal space". In this line, he imagined that the sun and the stars were without light, and thus the earth was dark too because what happened to the sun. Also, Poets tended to not hide their feelings and emotions. For example, John keats says "I have been half in love with the easeful death", which means that death is longed for, which is abnormal because death is usually hated and feared, but because of the society's restrictions and troubles it has become waited.

Finally, Romantics were known for preferring solitude and discovering the mysteries of life individually over social life and living with the society and pursuit its development because this development has lead to a lot of wars and destroyed nature and animals' habitats. One of the poets who showed this tendency is John Clare in his poem 'I am'. For example he said "I long for scenes where man hath never trod". This solitary life can give them a connection with God because we usually are closer to God when we worship him individually. Another poet who favored solitude over being within the society is John Keats. For example, he said that he might drink something heavy and fade to the forests where there are no troubles. He also urged the nightingale to fade into the forest and enjoy life's wonders and beauty.

In conclusion, Romanticism is a group of poets who emphasized the role of nature in our lives and the state of being alone when contemplating nature and worshiping God. They also tended to employ their feelings and emotions in their poems. Further, Romantics tended to escape to imagination in which they can get what they want because in reality this is difficult to achieve. All in all, no one can deny the role of romantic poets in enriching social sciences, especially literature and poetry.

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Romanticism - List of Essay Samples And Topic Ideas

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. Essays might delve into its key characteristics, major figures, its impact on art and literature, and its contrast with Enlightenment ideals. A substantial compilation of free essay instances related to Romanticism you can find in Papersowl database. You can use our samples for inspiration to write your own essay, research paper, or just to explore a new topic for yourself.

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The Connection Between The Natural Scene and The Speaker’s State of Mind in William Wordsworth’s "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"

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William Wordsworth’s Expostulation and Reply: a Neoclassical and Romantic Analysis

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From the late 18th to the mid-19th century.

Romanticism was an artistic, historiographical, literary, musical, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe somewhere between 1770 to 1850. This movement is typically emphasized individualism, imagination and strong emotion.

In literature, Romanticism presented such themes as the cult of "sensibility" with its emphasis on women and children, the isolation of the artist or narrator and respect for nature. The Scottish poet James Macpherson influenced the early development of Romanticism. An early German influence came from Goethe with the novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther". The poets such as Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, Byron were the key figures in Romanticism in English literature.

Nature was a main source of inspiration in the visual arts of the Romantic Movement. Romantic artists depicted nature as beautiful, powerful, unpredictable and destructive. The most known artists of the movement was Caspar David Friedrich, J. M. W. Turner, Thomas Bewick, Samuel Palmer, John Constable.

The term “Romanticism” appeared in music from the 1820s until 1910. The Romantic Movement in music was marked by emphasis on individuality, personal emotional expression, freedom and experimentation of form. The most known Romantic composers in Europe were Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn, Frédéric Chopin, Hector Berlioz, Felix Mendelssohn, and latest works of Ludwig van Beethoven.

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romanticism essay

119 Romanticism Essay Topics & Examples

In a romanticism essay, you can explore a variety of topics, from American literature to British paintings. For that task, these ideas of romanticism collected by our team will be helpful!

🏆 Best Romanticism Ideas & Essay Examples

  • ⭐ Simple & Easy Romanticism Essay Titles

📌 Most Interesting Romanticism Essay Topics

👍 good research ideas on romanticism, ❓ essay questions on romanticism, 💯 free romanticism essay topic generator.

  • Nature as the Mean of Expression in Romanticism The period of Romanticism is characterized by its address to nature, in other words, the world was perceived through the nature.”It is characterized by a shift from the structured, intellectual, reasoned approach of the 1700’s […]
  • Gothic Romanticism in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Nathaniel Hawthorn’s “The Birthmark” In the film “The Black Swan” directed by Darren Aronofsky, Nina struggles to fit into the ultimate role of the play “The Swan Lake”, as the Black Swan, even though she is comfortable playing the […]
  • Light vs. Dark Romanticism As the narration continues and Katrina is wooed by Crane, Irving interrupts and expresses his imagination about the challenging and admirable nature of women.
  • The History of the Romanticism Period Romanticism refers to the period of intellectual, artistic and literary movement in Europe in the first half of nineteenth century. The supporters of the Romantic Movement point to the spontaneous and irrational display of powerful […]
  • Between Romanticism and Modernism The first of the modernists in music sought to begin new dimensions and depths in music through the use of non-conventional instruments and novel sounds.
  • The French Revolution: Romanticism Period Romanticism was anchored in the work of the poets which was evident in the daily lives of the society. Besides, the role of women in romantic literature was significant, thus; they were greatest poets and […]
  • Feminism Builds up in Romanticism, Realism, Modernism Exploring the significance of the theme as well as the motifs of this piece, it becomes essential to understand that the era of modernism injected individualism in the literary works.

  • Romanticism Period in Art 3 It is against this scope that this paper aims to explore the aspect of romanticism in the history of painting by considering the works of artists such as Kauffmann, David, Delacroix and Gros.
  • Romanticism in Frankenstein: the Use of Poetry in the Novel’s Narrative Although the dark and horrific motifs of Frankenstein may appear to contrast with the bright tones and subjects of such poetry, there is a clear connection, as established in the text, between the poetry of […]
  • Ethnocentrism, Romanticism, Exoticism, and Primitivism as Depicted in James Cameron’s “Avatar” Ethnocentrism is depicted in most scenes of Avatar; the film outlines Na’vi’s ways of life and the way the protagonist is forced to profess the culture before being admitted into the community.
  • Art influences Culture: Romanticism & Realism In addition, the paper also highlights issues of the time and influences of the later works on the art world. Realism presented events of the society as they happened in reality.
  • Romanticism and the Modern Theatre The statement by the Romantic writer confirms the need to involve ordinary people in the theatre. The relationship between Faust and the devil in Goethe’s play is different from that in the traditional myth.
  • Romanticism, Baroque and Renaissance Paintings’ Analysis It is possible to focus on such artworks as the Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar Friedrich, The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio, and Raphael’s The School of Athens.
  • Nineteenth Century Romanticism The works of early composers, writers, painters, and poets evolved from the onset, and in the increased quest for perfection, a spirit of romanticism was born.
  • Romanticism in Seascape Painting by Jules Dupre In particular, it is important to examine the stylistic peculiarities of this artwork and the way in which it reflects the cultural trends that emerged in the nineteenth century.
  • Romanticism in Wolfgang Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther It is the fruitless reconciliation of the impulsive and sensitive to the society that makes Young Werther’s journey so powerful. What is even more interesting is that this general tone is what led to the […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe, an American Romanticism Writer Poe’s three works “The fall of the house of Usher”, “the Raven” and “The Masque of the Red Death” describe his dedication to literature and his negative attitudes towards aristocracy.
  • The Age of Romanticism: Dances Articles Analysis On the one hand, it seems that these two writings have nothing in common except the intentions of the authors to make contributions to the field of dance and choose the theme of ballet for […]
  • American Industrialization, Romanticism and Civil War In the article, the Romantic Movement Romantic impulse meant the liberation of the Americans to a point of freedom regarding respect and love.
  • Baroque and Romanticism Art Periods and Influences The above two works of art depict great disparities in art as a result of communal, political, and economic factors of mankind during the periods.
  • Gustave Courbet: Revolutionary Artist of Romanticism While the clergy is visible from the background of the work, the decision by the painter to focus on the dog in the foreground was even more appalling.
  • Romanticism. Hawthorne’s “My Kinsman, Major Molineux” One of the most typical traits of romantic literature is the prevalence of emotions, setting the natural world above the created world, and the most important, freedom of an individual.
  • Neoclassicism and Romanticism: Comparison They were the two poles of architectural thinking on the side of Neoclassicism was a rational, objective, almost scientific method of thought, which put reason in the first place among human abilities.

⭐ Simple & Easy Romanticism Essay Titles

  • Wordsworth’s Romanticism in Tintern Abbey Poem The tone of the poem is calm and meditative and Wordsworth describes the “landscape” and compares it to the “quiet” of the sky: “The landscape with the quiet of the sky”..
  • Nature in 18th Century and Romanticism Literatures The anxiety inherent in a sketch – the feeling of being unsettled – leads Goldsmith to other stylistic choices, most notably the creation of illusions and the reliance upon sentiment, both of which smooth away […]
  • The Age of Romanticism and Its Factors Characteristics of the genre identified by Welleck include a “revolt against the principles of neo-classicism criticism, the rediscovery of older English literature, the turn toward subjectivity and the worship of external nature slowly prepared during […]
  • Chopin: Musician Who Had Effect Romanticism Music At the beginning of the musical period known as Romanticism Frederic Chopin was born in Poland. The piano was his chosen instrument and one that he mastered at a very young age.
  • American Romanticism of “The Minister’s Black Veil” In the story Hawthorne pondered upon the three ways of making God’s word clearer to people. The author himself and his main hero saw the mission of a clergyman in explaining the Bible to the […]
  • Enlightenment and Romanticism: Comparison In the wake up of the feminist and historicist takes to pieces of the older Romanticism, particularly Bloom’s “creative thinker corporation” and the Wordsworth-centered verse of consciousness and the natural world, one has to inquire […]
  • Romanticizing Literature, Visual Arts and Music During Romanticism 1800-1850 As “it emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental”, the Romanticism period inspired many artists in the field of literature, painting, music, […]
  • British Romanticism and Its Origins It was partially a rebellion against aristocratic social and political standards of the Age of Enlightenment and a response against the scientific explanation of nature and was exemplified most powerfully in the visual arts, music, […]
  • Tristan and Isolde Opera Romanticism The Tristan and Isolde drama is influenced by a wide range of things. Wagner uses the voices to show what is in the thoughts of Isolde and her attendant.
  • Romanticism and Victorian Literature Comparison In this respect, literature can be proud of the Romanticism and Victorian literature, because of their gradual framework and applicable emergence due to the significant events, such as the French Revolution, American Revolution, the defeat […]
  • Romanticism: Paintings by Francisco Goya The first painting depicted a nude woman in the Western art and the second painting was painted after controversial thoughts from the Spanish society over the meaning of The Nude Maja.
  • Revolution and Romanticism in Europe and America The analysis of romanticism presentation on the basis of Rousseau’s theory is to be reflected through the atmosphere of French revolution period. Romanticism of Rousseau appeared to be close to the approach of ‘primitivism’, characterizing […]
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Poetry: British Romanticism There can be no doubt as to the fact that Romantic writers and poets strongly opposed the ideals of the French Revolution; however, this was not due to these ideals’ rational essence, but because, during […]
  • Gothic Romanticism of Edgar Allen Poe When the thought of today, the nineteenth-century writer Edgar Allan Poe is remembered as the master of the short story and the psychological thriller.
  • Restoration Literature and Romanticism: Common Facts All in all, the period of Restoration in the English literature can be described as the vindication of mind, intellectual values and political interests. The diction of this period is soft, inspiring, light and moving.
  • Romanticism. Artists Associated With the Movement Art dealt mostly with issues of motive and realism while other forms of art dealt with the darkness of the community on one hand and its magnificence on the other.
  • Features of French Romanticism in Camille Saint-Saens’s Music It is important to analyze Camille Saint-Saens’s works in the context of French Romanticism because the composer often combined the elements of French Romanticism with features typical of other movements and music styles like habanera.
  • Neo-Classicism, Romanticism, and Rococo Thus, in the second half of the eighteenth century, the neoclassical style was widely popular in Europe. This style contradicted the coldness and simplicity of neoclassicism.
  • Romanticism in Modern Ecological Literature The current efforts by humans to safeguard the environment, coupled with the onset of ecological literature, not only indicates that romanticism never disappeared but also proves that the romantics were right. The artists were critical […]
  • Romanticism as an Ideological and Artistic Trend Romanticism in painting rejected the rationalism of classicism and reflected the attention to the depths of the human personality characteristic of the philosophy of the Romantics.
  • Renaissance and Romanticism: Concepts of Beauty Titian, as a representative of the Renaissance, depicted a portrait of a girl in compliance with all the canons of his time.
  • Researching of Musical Romanticism The critical characteristics of musical Romanticism could be seen in the stress on uniqueness and individuality, the expression of one’s emotions, and freedom of form and experimentation.
  • Romanticism, Realism, and Modernism in Literature Romantic literature is characterized by several key traits, such as a love of nature, an emphasis on the individual and spirituality, a celebration of solitude and sadness, an interest in the common man, an idealization […]
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Romanticism
  • The Three Different Features of Romanticism in The World is Too Much With Us, a Poem by William Wordsworth
  • Romanticism And Realism: Examples Of Mark Twain And Herman Melville Novels
  • William Cullen Bryant and American Romanticism
  • The American Renaissance: Transcendentalism, Romanticism and Dark Romanticism
  • The Influence Of The French Revolution Upon British Romanticism
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  • Tom Sawyer as a Representation of Walter Scott’s Romanticism and Tradition in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a Novel by Mark Twain
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  • What Were the Material Causes of the Rise of Romanticism?
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  • What Are the Similarities Between Romantic Literature and Early Victorian Literature?
  • How Has Romanticism Diminished Throughout Popularity?
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  • What Were the Characteristic Features of Poetry During the Romantic Movement?
  • Why Did Romantic Writers Reject Rationalism?
  • What Are Some Characteristics of Romantic Poetry?
  • Why Is Imagination Closely Linked With Romanticism?
  • What Is the Contribution of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, and Shelley to the Romanticism?
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Critical Essay Understanding the Romantic Period

The romantic period is a term applied to the literature of approximately the first third of the nineteenth century. During this time, literature began to move in channels that were not entirely new but were in strong contrast to the standard literary practice of the eighteenth century.

How the word romantic came to be applied to this period is something of a puzzle. Originally the word was applied to the Latin or Roman dialects used in the Roman provinces, especially France, and to the stories written in these dialects. Romantic is a derivative of romant, which was borrowed from the French romaunt in the sixteenth century. At first it meant only "like the old romances" but gradually it began to carry a certain taint. Romantic, according to L. P. Smith in his Words and Idioms , connoted "false and fictitious beings and feelings, without real existence in fact or in human nature"; it also suggested "old castles, mountains and forests, pastoral plains, waste and solitary places" and a "love for wild nature, for mountains and moors."

The word passed from England to France and Germany late in the seventeenth century and became a critical term for certain poets who scorned and rejected the models of the past; they prided themselves on their freedom from eighteenth-century poetic codes. In Germany, especially, the word was used in strong opposition to the term classical.

The grouping together of the so-called Lake poets (Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey) with Scott, Byron, Keats, and Shelley as the romantic poets is late Victorian, apparently as late as the middle 1880s. And it should be noted that these poets did not recognize themselves as "romantic," although they were familiar with the word and recognized that their practice differed from that of the eighteenth century.

According to René Wellek in his essay "The Concept of Romanticism" ( Comparative Literature , Volume I), the widespread application of the word romantic to these writers was probably owing to Alois Brandl's Coleridge und die romantische Schule in England ( Coleridge and the Romantic School in England, translated into English in 1887) and to Walter Pater's essay "Romanticism" in his Appreciations in 1889.

The reaction to the standard literary practice and critical norms of the eighteenth century occurred in many areas and in varying degrees. Reason no longer held the high place it had held in the eighteenth century; its place was taken by imagination, emotion, and individual sensibility. The eccentric and the singular took the place of the accepted conventions of the age. A concentration on the individual and the minute replaced the eighteenth-century insistence on the universal and the general. Individualism replaced objective subject matter; probably at no other time has the writer used himself as the subject of his literary works to such an extent as during the romantic period. Writers tended to regard themselves as the most interesting subject for literary creation; interest in urban life was replaced by an interest in nature, particularly in untamed nature and in solitude. Classical literature quickly lost the esteem which poets like Pope had given it. The romantic writers turned back to their own native traditions. The Medieval and Renaissance periods were ransacked for new subject matter and for literary genres that had fallen into disuse. The standard eighteenth-century heroic couplet was replaced by a variety of forms such as the ballad, the metrical romance, the sonnet, ottava nina, blank verse, and the Spenserian stanza, all of which were forms that had been neglected since Renaissance times. The romantic writers responded strongly to the impact of new forces, particularly the French Revolution and its promise of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The humanitarianism that had been developing during the eighteenth century was taken up enthusiastically by the romantic writers. Wordsworth, the great champion of the spiritual and moral values of physical nature, tried to show the natural dignity, goodness, and the worth of the common man.

The combination of new interests, new attitudes, and fresh forms produced a body of literature that was strikingly different from the literature of the eighteenth century, but that is not to say that the eighteenth century had no influence on the romantic movement. Practically all of the seeds of the new literary crop had been sown in the preceding century.

The romantic period includes the work of two generations of writers. The first generation was born during the thirty and twenty years preceding 1800; the second generation was born in the last decade of the 1800s. The chief writers of the first generation were Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, Southey, Blake, Lamb, and Hazlitt. The essayist Thomas De Quincey, born in 1785, falls between the two generations.

Keats and Shelley belong to the second generation, along with Byron, who was older than they were by a few years. All three were influenced by the work of the writers of the first generation and, ironically, the careers of all three were cut short by death so that the writers of the first generation were still on the literary scene after the writers of the second generation had disappeared. The major writers of the second romantic generation were primarily poets; they produced little prose, outside of their letters. Another striking difference between the two generations is that the writers of the first generation, with the exception of Blake, all gained literary reputations during their lifetime. Of the writers of the second generation, only Byron enjoyed fame while he was alive, more fame than any of the other romantic writers, with perhaps the exception of Scott, but Keats and Shelley had relatively few readers while they were alive. It was not until the Victorian era that Keats and Shelley became recognized as major romantic poets.

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John Brenkman

An introduction to romanticism.

  Originally Appeared in: Contexts and Comparisons: A Student Guide to the Great Works Courses | Published: 1991

“Romanticism” is a notoriously difficult term to define. The word itself apparently derives from the narrative form called the “romance,” a kind of fiction that dealt with improbable and extraordinary events. Associated with medieval tales of chivalry written in the Romance languages, French in particular, by the seventeenth century the term “romantic” signified a tendency toward the imaginary or the fabulous, and suggested a rejection of the merely factual. The word persisted as the usual label for the major trends in European literature between 1760 and 1850. Critics today continue to designate this era the “Romantic period,” a time when writers seemed preoccupied with certain recurrent themes, particularly, the self, nature, and imagination, and when the crucial historical event of the period, the French Revolution of 1789, profoundly affected every literary project and shaped every writer’s cultural, moral, and political values.

Nonetheless, the writers we confidently call Romantics or those we typically consider the major authors of the Romantic period, actually espoused various philosophies, held different political outlooks, and wrote in widely divergent styles. Moreover, many of the writers in question changed their own views radically in the course of their careers. 

Is it then possible, or even desirable, to link writing from so many languages and countries (Germany, France, England, Scotland, Italy, Spain, Russia, the United States) across a ninety-year span, especially when the writers’ ideas and styles do not fit neatly into a single world view? In this chapter, we will point to some of the shared characteristics that justify the linkage, recognizing all the while that European literature from 1760 to 1850 presents a special challenge to critics and historians of culture. Do not expect a unified intellectual and artistic movement. Instead, let us view Romanticism as a range of responses to similar social and aesthetic problems, as a set of competing historical interpretations trying to make sense of complex political and social changes, and as a cluster of stylistic innovations whose precise meaning always lies in the literary and the historical context the writer was trying to affect.

Romanticism and the Enlightenment

Romantic writers shaped their beliefs and their efforts in response to the Enlightenment, the intellectual movement that ripened throughout the eighteenth century. The Enlightenment, as we have seen, valued scientific inquiry over religious doctrine, based political and philosophical discussion on appeals to reason rather than faith or tradition, and valued the judgment of individual conscience over religious or secular authority. The Enlightenment held out the promise of a society that would be rationally organized on the basis of the deliberation of free individuals.

Intellectuals throughout the eighteenth century gravitated toward the ideal of a society shaped by reasoning and the free exchange of ideas partly because they made their living as a social group from writing, teaching, and preaching. The enlightenment of society would require just the practices and skills that intellectuals themselves possessed. In assessing the powerful new ideals and values that were articulated in the name of Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the leading German philosopher of the time, wrote an influential essay entitled “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?'” (1784). His definition sounds the crucial theme:

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! [Dare to be wise!] Have courage to use your own undertanding!

Kant knew that radical new values were embodied in this idea, especially since the Enlightenment he advocated would require “the freedom to make public use of one’s reason in all matters.” Whether it was a question of the arts, the sciences, religious doctrine and church organization, or indeed laws and legislation, there had to be freedom of conscience and of speech. Such freedom, once institutionalized and exercised, was bound to challenge the power of the church officials, aristocrats, and monarchs in whose hands authority had resided for centuries. 

Kant nevertheless was convinced that this freedom would foster Enlightenment without actually tearing at the deeper social fabric and cultural traditions. He believed any changes prompted by free discussion and rational decision would be gradual and peaceful. How could he advance such radical ideas and yet expect only harmonious change?

First, his radical idea of freedom also contained a more restrictive clause, for this new freedom was to be exercised only by those he deemed properly prepared: “By the public use of one’s own reason I mean that use which anyone may make of it as a man of learning addressing the entire reading public.” Kant expected debate to be conducted by civic-minded intellectuals addressing a literate public; while he viewed this process the basis for universal discussion, the “public” in 1784 could not in fact have included peasants and laborers, who made up the bulk of the society’s population but were not taught to read and write. Nor did Kant consider women potential active participants. The ideas for change would, in short, be generated by a homogeneous social group and would be addressed only to the middle and upper strata of society. A second source of Kant’s confidence in gradual, peaceful change was his commitment to the monarchy of King Frederick II (the Great), King of Prussia. Once again his radical assertions were tempered by orderly expectations. In his radical voice, Kant spurned all reliance on mere tradition to justify laws or structures of government, advancing his most democratic theme: “To test whether any particular measure can be agreed upon as a law for a people, we need only ask whether a people could impose such a law upon itself.” At the same time, though, Kant fully expected peaceful transformations and an obedient populace. The people would not actually impose laws on themselves. Only the monarch would. In Kant’s view, an enlightened monarch would find guidance in the public’s enlightened discussion. The enlightened monarch could then, according to Kant, say, “Argue as much as you like and about whatever you like, but obey!”

Eighteenth-century writers were deeply attracted to the double prospect of radical freedom of speech combined with peaceful social transformation. Their attitudes were further reinforced by the relative homogeneity of their own reading public. They really were creating a realm of free discussion among equals. But all that changed after 1789….

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    In Romantic art, nature—with its uncontrollable power, unpredictability, and potential for cataclysmic extremes—offered an alternative to the ordered world

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    Romanticism is a movement that made social sciences like poetry its subject of interest. This movement was originated in north America and

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    Romantic music emerged in the 18th century, emphasizing personal experience, intuition and spontaneous emotion. There are four principal ideals of Romanticism:

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    The Romantic Era was a time when people embraced imagination, emotion, and freedom – quite a contrast to the preceding Neoclassic Era, which emphasized the

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    Romanticism is a revolt against rationalism. The poets and authors of this time wrote about God, religion, and Beauty in nature. The romantics held a conviction

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    Romanticism was an artistic and literary movement, which developed a new sensibility toward nature. In particular, it focused on the emotions that nature

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    Writing a romanticism essay? Interested in the period's art and literature? Explore the ideas of romanticism with our titles for

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    ... Romantic School in England, translated into English in 1887) and to Walter Pater's essay "Romanticism" in his Appreciations in 1889. The reaction to the

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    Nonetheless, the writers we confidently call Romantics or those we typically consider the major authors of the Romantic period, actually espoused various