Influence Of British Romanticism On British Literature
freedom of the mind and an idealistic view of human nature, Romanticism slowly crept out of Neoclassicism to become one of the most influential periods of British literature. It is the emergence of this new literary period called Romanticism that stirred an interest in those who were hungry for a new form of writing and thought. This idea, although relatively short-lived and lasting only from 1798-1832, had enormous effects on the philosophy and literature of the time while leaving its mark on the history of England. When describing Romanticism, an author once said:
This was a turbulent period, during which England experienced the ordeal of change from a primarily agricultural society, where wealth and power had been concentrated in the landholding aristocracy, to a modern industrial nation, in which the balance of economic power shifted to large-scale employers, who found themselves ranged against an immensely enlarging and increasingly restive working class (Abrams 1).
Writers of Neoclassicism have often been described as writing:
Most of their poems in heroic couplets, made their center of interest London, were preeminently satirists, had little patience with individual deviations from the dictates of common sense, and placed good manners on a higher level than personal emotion (Bell and Grebanier 13).
These characteristics of Neoclassicism were prominent in Europe for nearly a century, contributing to the British a yearning for change. This long-awaited change was brought about by Romantics focusing more on the sense, emotions, and imagination of each individual, rather than standards that were set by previous writers. The authors’ styles were more free than before while they focused on nature above all else.
This idealistic view of nature was started by French philosopher and Romantic forerunner Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau was a true individualist and strongly believed in the freedom of the human spirit. His most famous quote that characterizes his naturalistic views of life is, “I felt before I thought” (“Romanticism (literature)”). One influential author during the Romantic Period was Edward Gibbon who is known to be the greatest English historian of the Enlightenment. It was once said of him that:
The influence of his iconoclastic rationality was to be felt in the work of a new generation of writers who often distrusted reason and who earnestly sought to redefine the intellectual and political assumptions of its fathers (Sanders 333-334).
Just as Rousseau and Gibbon left their permanent marks on British literature and philosophy, the same can be said about author and scholar Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Although he pioneered Romanticism towards the end of the period, he made a considerable contribution to the literary side of Romanticism. Along with a few other notable authors of the time, 1773 marked the year that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote a group of
essays entitled Von deutscher Art und Kunst, meaning Of German Style and Art, in 1773. In these essays Goethe discussed the Romantic spirit as portrayed in German folk songs and the plays of William Shakespeare (“Romanticism (literature)”). Along with Von deutscher Art und Kunst, Goethe wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is said to be one of the most influential documents of Romanticism. Written in 1774 and translated in 1779, The Sorrows of Young Werther exalts a fresh sentiment and therefore set a new standard of mood and reflected in the Romantic works to follow. It has been described as having “a fashionable tendency to frenzy, melancholy, world-weariness, and even self-destruction” (“Romanticism (literature)”).
As style was vital to Romanticism, William Wordsworth is said to be one of the most important and influential poets of British literature. As a
poet his style was very free and naturalistic which was characteristic of Romanticism. Along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Wordsworth wrote Lyrical Ballads in 1800. In this work, “the two poets affirmed the importance of feeling and imagination to poetic creation and disclaimed conventional literary forms and subjects” (“Romanticism (literature)”). According to Rasnake, “Wordsworth’s disillusionment with the French Revolution” (Rasnake) was a key element in his chosen style and creative direction. The volumes of influential works authored by William Wordsworth brought about significant changes in the literary world. For example, different writing styles emerged with many having freer and more detailed, fast paced plots. Wordsworth combined an abundance of genres into one in order to make the plots so unique. A result of this was the tragicomedy, which was a collection of grotesque and sublime plots. He terminated the use of the three unities of time, place, and action, which were no longer tolerated in classical conventional tragedies. It has been said that:
An increasing demand for spontaneity and lyricism - qualities that the adherents of romanticism found in folk poetry and in medieval romance- led to a rejection of regular meters, strict forms, and other conventions of the classical tradition” (“Romanticism (literature)”).
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Romantic characteristics in the raven The era of Romanticism spans from the late 1700's to the mid 1800's following the French Revolution; therefore, «Romanticism» encompasses characteristics of the human mind in addition to the particular time in history when these qualities became dominant in culture. Romanticism depicts an artistic movement which emerged from reaction against dominant attitudes and approaches of Romanticism Romanticism is an artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 18th century and is characterized by a heightened interest in nature, emphasis on an individual's expression of emotion and imagination, a departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism, and rebellion against established social rules and conventions.
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