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Introduction to Romanticism

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  • Introduction to Romanticism


    The Romanticism time period occurred in America from about 1800-1850. Romantic writers saw themselves as revolting against the "Age of Reason" and its values.  They celebrated imagination and intuition versus reason and calculation.  Romantics also valued individualism versus social conformity.  Essentially, romantics believe in the natural goodness of man, that man in a state of nature would behave well but is hindered by civilization.

    It is important to think about the Romantics as feelers, while the Rationalists were thinkers.  Writers of this time period based their writings on the supernatural and human psychology.   Romantic literature is personal and intense; it portrayed more emotion than ever seen in neoclassical literature.  America's preoccupation with freedom became a great source of motivation for Romantic writers as many were delighted in free expression and emotion without so much fear of ridicule and controversy.  They also put more effort into the psychological development of their characters, and the main characters typically displayed extremes of sensitivity and excitement.

    Furthermore, American Romantic writers believed that poetry was the greatest witness to the power of the imagination.  As literary models, American Romantic poets used poems established by European Romantics.  Poets such as Longfellow, Bryant, Whittier, Lowell, and Holmes were referred to as the Fireside Poets because of their comfortable subjects appealing to families.


    Essential Questions

    • How can we use literary theory to examine writing from the Romantic era?
    • How will knowing the parts of the sentence help me with my writing?

    Key Terms For Romanticism



    Romanticism Overview

     The Romanticism time period was a reaction against Rationalism.   It emphasizes feeling and intuition over reason and rational thought.   When you think of the word romantic, you think about love and relationships, but this is actually not a characteristic of Romanticism at all.  There are five characteristics of Romanticism that all begin with the letter "I": Intuition, Imagination, Innocence, Inspiration, and Inner Experience.

    Common features of Romanticism also include looking to the past as well as to nature for guidance and wisdom.  The exotic and supernatural were also embraced.  Washington Irving is a famous writer of the Romanticism time period.  Edgar Allan Poe and Nathanial Hawthorne are considered Dark Romantics because they liked to explore the psychological effects of sin and the madness and derangement of the human psyche.  Fireside poets, such as William Cullen Bryant and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, also made a significant impact on American Romanticism.

     As we examine American Romantic literature, we will use the literary theories we took a brief look at last week (Feminism, Marxism, New Historicism/Cultural, and Psychoanalytic) to analyze the texts.

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