Reaction against Classicism (Enlightenment), which stressed reason, clarity, balance,
order – empiricism. Romantics saw Enlightenment as reductive of human potential—
mechanical, impersonal, and artificial.
A lot of people say it started with Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher who stressed
the creative power of the mind and saw nature as a responsive mirror of the soul.
Romanticism emphasized imagination, emotions; freedom and individualism in looking
at nature, humanity, society
Looked to nature and the past to reveal qualities of the human spirit.
Romantic ideas were revolutionary. Paralleled growing sense of nationalism in America.
In Europe, Romantic thinking influenced and was influenced by the French Revolution.
In England, Romantic ideas were associated with social reform.
emphasis on imagination as key to revealing the innermost depths of human spirit
focus on the individual
revolt against political authority and social convention
cultivation of emotion and sensation for their own sakes
celebration of the beauty and mystery of nature
interest in the picturesque and exotic aspects of the past
enthusiasm for portraying national life and character
sense of idealism
paradoxical tendency toward free thought and religious mysticism
fascination with the supernatural and the gothic (the morbid, the melancholy, and the
Beyond literature, social reforms grew out of emphasis on individual dignity and human
rights -- abolitionism, women’s rights; gothic revival in architecture (medieval design
carried eye and imagination upward); painting -- sweeping landscapes capture Romantic
awe of nature
American romantic writers: Charles Brockden Brown, James Fenimore Cooper,
Washington Irving, William Gilmore Simms, William Cullen Bryant, Poe, Emerson,
Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Longfellow, Whittier, and Whitman.
Romantic musicians: Beethoven, Tchaikovsky,Berlioz, Schubert, Mendelssohn,
Romantic painters: Delacroix, Ingres, Corot, Millet, Goya
Poe borrowed from European gothic romances -- preoccupied w/ dark, irrational side of
the imagination (later Hawthorne)
By 2nd half of 19th cent., Romanticism yields to Transcendentalism (upheld goodness of
humanity, glories of nature, importance of individual)
British Romantic Writers: William Blake, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, Mary
Shelley, Charles Lamb, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Shelley, Byron
French Romantic Writers: Alexander Dumas, Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo, Rousseau,
George Sand, Stendhal, Balzac
German Romantic Writers: Grimm, Goethe, Heine
Russian Romantic Writers: Pushkin, Zhukovsky, Batyushkov
Always capitalize Romanticism.