The Romantic Period - Crestwood Local Schools

English 11 Indicators:
Reading Applications: Literary Text 2 – Analyze the
historical, social, and cultural context of setting.
Reading Applications: Literary Text 6 – Recognize
characteristics of subgenres and explain how choice of
genre affects the expression of a theme or topic.
The Romantic Age was full of change. It was an age of
political revolution (the American Revolution had
succeeded along with an ongoing revolution in
France). It was also an age of industrial and
agricultural revolution, particularly for Britain.
In 1807, gas street lights began to appear in London; just
over 20 years later, the principles of electromagnetic
induction were discovered, which led to the Age of
Electricity. Between 1798 and 1832, railroads sprang up
in England and continental Europe, photography was
invented, and the first U.S. patent was granted for a
device known as the typewriter.
Romanticism: A Movement of Protest
Romanticism was the movement that reflected upon
and responded to these dramatic changes. It
dominated intellectual and artistic life well into the
early 19th century and was considered a movement of
Jean Jacques Rousseau – “Father of Romanticism”:
 “Human society is based on a contract between the
government and the governed.”
 His ideas helped inspire the French Revolution.
 Humans, left in their natural state, are essentially
“good and happy.” (“Noble savages”)
 Evil is not a result of human nature, but of society’s
Other Influential Intellectuals:
 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany
 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Britain (Rejected the world
of science and industry)
 William Wordsworth, Britain (England’s greatest
Nature Poet; friends with Coleridge)
 William Blake, Britain (Poet who contrasted the
innocence of childhood to the destructive effects of the
Industrial Revolution)
 Noah Webster, American (Made it his goal to prove
that the new nation’s language was as good as its
mother tongue.)
Key Characteristics of Literary Romanticism:
 Focus on the Imagination – Romanticism turned
away from 18th century emphasis on reason and
pretense and embrace imagination and genuineness.
Many Romantics turned to a past or an inner dream
world that they felt was more picturesque and magical
than the ugly industrial age in which they lived.
 Focus on the Individual – Romantic-era poets and
writers rejected the public, formal, and witty works of
the previous century; they preferred language that
spoke of personal experiences and emotions.
Romantic writers championed the value of the
individual human being. Because of this, Romantic
writers turned away from organized authority and
strove for individual freedom.
Key Characteristics of Literary Romanticism:
 The “Byronic Hero” – Because of the focus upon the
individual’s freedom and the turning from
pretensions, the heroes of Romantic literature were
often passionate yet flawed individuals: intellectually
searching, incapable of compromise, forever brooding
over some mysterious past sin, painfully yet defiantly
alone. Romantics celebrated “heroes” such as Cain,
Faust, Prometheus, and Napoleon. These “rash rebels”
were hailed or resurrected in reaction to a world in
which order and restraint ruled the day.
Key Characteristics of Literary Romanticism:
 Focus on Nature – Romantics though of nature as
transformative; they were fascinated by the ways
nature and the human mind “mirrored” each other’s
creative qualities. They saw nature as beautiful, but
they were more concerned with how nature could
evoke strong emotions. Romantic writers had a strong
sense of nature’s mysterious forces.
The Gothic Novel
With the focus on the imagination in Romantic
literature grew a stronger and stronger
concentration on the supernatural and the
mysterious. A whole new genre of literature of this
type became known as the “Gothic.” The earliest
Gothic tales included The Monk by M.G. Lewis,
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, and
Frankentstein by Mary Shelley. The intention of
the Gothic novel?—To make readers’ blood run
Characteristics of Gothic Tales:
 Eerie Subject Matter: Gothic tales focus on the
mysterious the eerie, the fantastic, the supernatural
and the macabre (morbid). The Gothic novel was one
way in which people of the Romantic Age expressed a
sense of helplessness about forces beyond their
control: frightening revolutions and
industrialization’s unsettling economic changes.
 Isolated Settings: The Gothic setting is usually
remote—haunted castles, eerie forests, graveyards,
ruins, and wildly picturesque and often overgrown
landscapes. Imperfection is, in a sense, “glorified” and
ruin is enhanced. The unpredictable aspects of nature
reflect human aspirations and failures.
Characteristics of Gothic Tales:
 Melancholy Atmosphere: Gothic tales use dark
atmosphere to create mood. The remote setting
creates an often gloomy or pessimistic atmosphere and
sense of despair for the reader. (Ex: Mary Shelley uses
the icy mists of the Arctic and the bleak windswept
Alpine glacial fields to emphasize spiritual and social
isolation of the characters.)
 Rebellious Protagontist (Byronic Heroes): Gothic
heroes are usually trapped in gloom and unable to
appreciate uplifting circumstances. They are
descendants of Cain, Satan, and Prometheus. They
are heroic in their rebellion but pathetic in their

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