Thursday, May 28, 2015

Literary Look: European Romanticism

Today's Literary Look post is on European Romanticism. Admittedly, this is a movement that I haven't read much from myself, so I hoped that in doing this post I myself would learn more about the movement and the works and I certainly have. As always, this will be a very long post, so thanks in advance for sticking with me, and please let me know your thoughts on the movement, the works mentioned in this post, or any thing important I forgot.

Links go to the pieces of work themselves, or more information
on a topic or subject.

General Information:
Romanticism was an intellectual movement that moved through out all of Europe in the late 1700's and early 1800's, and the movement impacted all areas of intellectual thinking including art, theology, science, and even politics. The movement was a response to the Neoclassicism movement which included a return to Classical Greek and Roman influences with emphasis on logic, wit, technical precision and order. The Neoclassicism movement was full of satires, essays, and parodies.(Authors such as Alexander Pope and Jonathon Swift were a part of this movement.) The movement has also been said to have been a response to the Industrial Revolution. Romanticism placed an emphasis on feeling and emotion especially feelings of horror, terror, or awe. As you can see, Romanticism is quite the opposite of Neoclassicism, and the feelings of awe and terror were quite often depicted with the help of nature and religious imagery.

The German poet Friedrich Schlegel was the first to apply the term Romanticism to this movement, and he defined it as, "Literature depicting emotional matter in an imaginative form." American Literature also experienced a Romantic movement that I will discuss in a separate post. 
This website  has a couple of really great definitions of Romanticism and Neoclassicism if you would like to read more.    

The below group of poets are considered to be the key figures in the romantic movement. Romantic poetry can be very difficult to read and extremely lengthy. Poems usually consist of elevated language and mythological and religious allusions that can add to the difficulty of reading these poets.
William Wordsworth- Wordsworth's and Coleridge's collection of poems titled Lyrical Ballads (1798) is widely considered to be the launch of the Romantic Era. Wordsworth was Britain's Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850. His major works include "I wondered Lonely as a Cloud" and his semi-autobiographical (and very lengthy poem) "The Prelude" is considered his masterpiece.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge- As mentioned above, he aided in the founding of this movement along with Wordsworth, but Coleridge was also a literary critic and philosopher. He published very important critical works on Shakespeare, as well as the poems, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner " and "Kubla Khan." Coleridge's critical works are responsible for many literary terms used today, such as 'the suspension of disbelief'.
Lord Byron- Lord Byron is a very interesting character. He was very well traveled, and was known for his flamboyancy and love of excess, large outstanding debts, and self-imposed exile. He had many love affairs with both genders, fathered a number of children with different women, and there was even rumors of scandalous liaisons with his half-sister. He fought in the Greek War for Independence and died at the age of thirty-six as a result of fever contracted from his time in the war. Byron spent a lot of time with the Shelleys (more on them in a minute) and had an affair with Marry Shelley's stepsister. The Greeks were in anguish over the death of Lord Byron, and it is rumored that his heart remains in Greece, while the rest of his body is buried in England. (Westminster Abbey tuned his body away because of his "questionable moralities,") His most well-known works include, "She Walks in Beauty" and "Don Juan."

Percy Bysshe Shelley- Shelley was considered a radical in both his poetry and political views and did not achieve high recognition until after his death. Many publication were afraid to post his works because of how radical they were. He was married to Marry Shelley (author of Frankenstein) and was an influential poet in the founding of the Romanticism literary movement. Shelley is listed as influential to many writers and poets. Shelley drowned a month before his thirtieth birthday, and there has been much suspicion and speculation surrounding his death. His major works include, "Ozymandias" and "Ode to the West Wind"   
William Blake- Blake was much older than his counterparts in the Romanticism circle, and was a painter, poet, and print-maker. Blake was highly influenced by religion and highly religious himself, although he didn't like organized religion and was hostile towards The Church of England; his works tend to focus on "The body of God and human existence itself." He was influenced by both the French and the American Revolutions. One of his most well-known collections is Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience .

John Keats- Keats is the romantic poet that I am most familiar with. His poetry and letters are notoriously romantic (romantic with a little 'r' refers to love and romance, Romantic with a big 'R' refers to the movement and overall idea of the movement). Keats died very young, at the age of twenty-five, of tuberculous and the letters he wrote to his beloved Fanny Brawne when he knew he was dying are quite touching and arguably some of the best love letters ever written. Keats is well-known for his Odes (a lyrical poem addressed to a particular subject, usually an object or animal, that often has an elevated style and no regular meter) from 1819 which include, "Ode on a Grecian Urn" "Ode on Indolence" Ode on Melancholy" Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode to Psyche." Interestingly, Keats poetry was not well received until after his death, and he is now one of the most widely studied English poets. I recommend checking out his love letters, and his two most widely read Odes: "On a Grecian Urn" and "To a Nightingale." Keats was also very much loved by my favorite person in history: Oscar Wilde.    

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley- Mary Shelley (wife of Percy who is mentioned above) wrote Frankenstein, one the most well-known English novels, and one of the first science fiction novels, at the age of nineteen. The novel started as a short story that was composed over a short span of a few weeks while Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley (Godwin), and her step sister Claire (who was pregnant with Lord Byron's baby) were stuck inside because of the heavy rains in Geneva. The novel has a really interesting origin story, that includes Shelley's "Walking dream" of a student looking over the "Thing" he had created. Although I have not yet read the original novel, I have read this beautiful Graphic Novel Adaptation, and I understand that the novel is a very complex and powerful piece of writing, that touches on enormous themes. John Green's Crash Course video on this novel is fantastic and I highly recommend you check it out.   

Alexandre Dumas- Dumas is a French author, whom I am rather unfamiliar with besides vague details. I have not read any of his works, but they are of course infamous and highly praised. His life work amounts to approximately 100,000 pages of writing, as he wrote fiction, plays, magazine articles, and travel books. His well known novels include: The Three Musketeers, and The Count of Monte Cristo. In the style of wealthy French-Men, Dumas had many affairs and children out of wedlock. His son, also named Alexandre Dumas would become a well-known and praised author himself.

Wander Above the Sea of Fog by Capar David Friedrich
This image often accompanies the text of Shelley's Frankenstein and the Romantic Movement.

Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix 
The French Revolution inspired those who were not witnessing it first hand more than those who were, and the English poets mentioned above were especially influence by the Revolution. This is the painting of the French Revelation and I am sure you recognize it, at least from the Cold Play album if nothing else!  

The Wikipedia page on Romanticism  gives a great overview of the movement and links to each author, plus lots of examples of visual art from the movement.

There is so much more from this movement that I would like to cover, but I highly encourage you to do more research on what interests you, and let me know what you find out!

My American Romanticism Post


  1. Great post, Mallory! This is a great introduction to the movement. :)

    I ended up doing a module on Romanticism at uni and I have to be honest I didn't like it all that much - I'm much more of a Victorian girl! But as you know I do love Frankenstein, and I think Keats's poetry is lovely - I particularly love his poem 'Lamia', which I recommend reading if you haven't already. :)

    I have yet to read any Dumas despite owning copies of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. I'm determined to cross The Count of Monte Cristo off my TBR one day, it's just so huge! Despite owning a physical copy I'm considering downloading it onto my kindle to see if I find it less intimidating when I can't see how thick it is. ;)

  2. I hear ya! I haven't had that much experience with this movement because I find that the poetry can be kinda tough to get through. Keats is the one I am most familiar with and the one that I enjoy the most out of this group, and I REALLY need to read Frankenstein. I don't think I have read that Keats' poem so I will look it up for sure.
    I have heard so many great things about The Count! It is just such a huge commitment, especially while I am still reading for classes. I hope to tackle it one day- the Kindle idea is brilliant!
    Thanks for stopping by Jess!