Romanticism in British Literature

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Romanticism in British Literature

Romantic as a term, has come to mean many things, and that in itself means nothing at all, the variety of the possible meanings all reflect the complexity of romanticism, and the ideals it represents. Romanticism started around the start of the french revolution and and reflected opposite ideals of the enlightenment, and brought deeper reflection into poetry. The movement also started a new style of art, subjecting individualism, freedom of rules, and devotion to nature. Literature turned against the church, refuting the ideals of scientific stance for the fight of good vs evil and personal beliefs. Romanticism reflected heavily in british literature and caused changes in the pursuit of human connection and relationships, ways books were written, and brought the beginning of folk- spirit.

Romanticism as a movement is defined as a deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature; a general exaltation of emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect; a turning in upon the self and a heightened examination of human personality and its moods and mental potentialities (Britannica). Ideas of the enlightenment, and the industrial revolution were opposing views of romantics because those entities represented values of progress and rationality, not simplicity, and naturalness. The rural and the idea of minimal invasion of humans upon the natural world spread throughout Europe and would ultimately impact arts, and literature but society at large. Romantic cultural influences permanently altered the ways in which human emotions, relationships, and institutions were viewed, understood, and reflected into onward growth of humanity.

In the continuation of romantic influence in the human arts new styles, and representation of ideas strayed away from what was common into new and complex. Ideas started to change after the enlightenment ended in the 1790r's and became a manifesto for romantic poets, and a new style of analysis of the folk-spirit was characterized by the sentiment in characters and their experiences. The folk-spirit presented in the works of William Shakespeare flourished during this time as a few of his works were heavily tied to a national cultural identity (Emerick). Shakespeare also became popular for his works like A Midsummer Nightr's Dream for the fairytale elements that were a new style of writing that birthed from the romantic era. Authors who refuted the materialistic practices in their writing and opted for more of the potential beauty in nature, and human emotion were highlighted further than those who focused more on scientific perspectives. Once a powerful influence, the church began to lose hold among people and it was rigid, and set values that were reason over passion (Bramwell). Without common ground with european citizens the church lost hold, influence, and tradition as well as losing many people altogether.

Furthermore, the literary products changed positions on economics, politics, morals, and human interactions. Idealistic positions in life, such as royalty or elevated social status from riches, were replaced with the belief that through close attention, and effort most ordinary experiences in the human life could become extraordinary. In order to experience the new elevation in ordinary life many authors included new characteristics within their characters and the ways problems were faced, presented. Such values included creative expression accompanied with the belief of using extraordinary outlooks to elevate oneself into a higher plane of living, more intensely felt emotions in the quest to find oneself, and initiate stronger or deeper connections within others and society. The spontaneous and common outpours of emotions, almost as a confession, followed common emotions such as affection, longing, and sorrow. Shakespeare had many soliloquies, and monologues that followed the poetic outpour, these of which continued to influence writing, and character composition by allowing audiences to connect deeper with literature in the aspect of common human emotion. Economic, and political writings reflected opposite of industrialization and the advancement of technology because romantics believed these were inverting the prosperity of nature and hindering mankind's ability to create lifestyles with naturalness, and simplicity. With the growth of industry came social distruction between women, men, and minorities, and romantics wanted to redefine means of being modern in respects to early forms of feminism and being a citizen.

Along with values such as these the invention of the gothic horror novel flourished because of the ties into emotionalism. Gothic horror introduced the observational nature of human activity and exploration. Melodramas flourished for the intense sadness, and alienation encouraged by deeply felt emotions adding the position for narrators to give insight of emotions for the experiences of the characters. Authors in the romantic era were not confined to just functional writing, works ranged all the way into controversial outspoken social issues in oppression, retakes into childhood expression, and the revolution of imagination. Truly this was the beginning steps into the culture of rebellion. The writing of social injustice, and oppression arguably still effects journalism in modern times, and likely affected the beginning of commercialism many years after the romanticism era ended. Books such as The Jungle , The Lines We Cross, are examples of the outspoken controversy made popular by romantic writers that have still influenced literature today.

For many, romantics found the formals ways of life to be confining, and the subjectiveness approach literature took in some directions had a changed philosophical view. With the industrialization came a newer middle class, which has many entrepreneurs, and those brave enough to turn rags to riches by seeking their own vision. These actions tied into more factors of romantic literature by enlightening the human experience to struggle and by expressing ones vision to become meaningful in others or society. This struggle was seen as the natural way to conquer ordinary life, becoming unique in the will of man.


  1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. Romanticism. Encyclop dia Britannica, Encyclop dia Britannica, Inc., 6 Dec. 2017, Web.
  2. Richardson, Alan. British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind. Google Books, Cambridge University Press, 2004, Print.
  3. Emerick, Carolyn. Folklore's Roots in the Romantic Era & Nationalist Movement. The Vkisch Folklorist, Eruopa Sun, 29 May 2017,
  4. Bramwell, Bevil, and OMI. Romanticism and the Church. The Catholic Thing, The Catholic Thing, 29 Apr. 2017,
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Romanticism in British Literature. (2019, Jun 14). Retrieved April 13, 2024 , from

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