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Literature Glossary

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Romanticism

Definition:

Let's talk about feelings. Come on, you're safe with Shmoop. Open up. Let it all out. Pour your soul onto the page. What do you get?

Romantic literature, that's what. See, romanticism was all about unabashed emotion. Wordsworth would never bottle himself up. Coleridge would never play his cards close to the vest. Nah, they'd rather go for a walk in the beautiful Lake District, let their imaginations run wild, and then return home to write it all down on some spare parchment.

That brings us to our next point. Not only were the Romantics all about the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," they were also all about Nature with a capital N (at least, for the most part). They believed that nature could have a powerful and beneficial effect on the artist if he went out and immersed himself in it. They didn't seek inspiration from the bustling masses in London; they sought it from solitary mountaintops.

Why were these guys so big on feelings and nature and all that jazz? Well, they weren't too happy with that whole Enlightenment fiasco. They thought reason and rationality were a load of codswallop, and that imagination was the cat's meow. They believed in freedom and spontaneous creativity, not order and imitation like those snooty neoclassicists.

Now that we've given you the lowdown on Romantic principles, we'll give you the nitty gritty details:

Who were the Romantics? Painters, philosophers, poets (anyone whose profession begins with a P anyways). When it comes to Romanticism, the poets, though, were king. Meet the big six: William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron.

Ladies wrote during this time too, of course, though they don't get talked about as much as those strapping Romantic outdoorsmen. Charlotte Smith wrote poems while Frances Burney and Mary Shelley wrote novels.

When was Romanticism? Most scholars cite the beginning of Romanticism around the same time the French Revolution went down—1789, to be exact. It reached its peak in the early 1800s, but began to fade in the mid-19th century with the rise of Realism and the Victorian era.

What is Romantic writing all about? See for yourself. Take a gander at some of the classics:

All done? Awesome. Take a hike. Preferably among the daffodils.