The Romantic Movement
and Gothic Literature
Enlightenment (c. 1660-1790)
An intellectual movement in France and other parts of
Europe that emphasized the importance of reason, progress,
and liberty. The Enlightenment, sometimes called the Age
of Reason, is primarily associated with nonfiction writing,
such as essays and philosophical treatises. Major
Enlightenment writers include Thomas Hobbes, John
Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and René Descartes.
Neoclassicism (c. 1660-1798)
A literary movement, inspired by the rediscovery of
classical works of ancient Greece and Rome, that
emphasized balance, restraint, and order. Neoclassicism
roughly coincided with the Enlightenment, which espoused
reason over passion. Notable neoclassical writers include
Edmund Burke, John Dryden, Samuel Johnson, Alexander
Pope and Jonathan Swift.
Sturm und Drang (1770s)
German for “storm and stress,” this brief German literary
movement advocated passionate individuality in the face of
Neoclassical rationalism and restraint. Goethe’s The
Sorrows of Young Werther is the most enduring work of this
movement, which greatly influenced the Romantic
Romanticism (c. 1798-1832)
A literary and artistic movement that reacted against the
restraint and universalism of the Enlightenment. The
Romantics celebrated spontaneity, imagination, subjectivity,
and the purity of nature. Notable English Romantic writers
include Jane Austen, William Blake, Lord Byron, Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and
William Wordsworth. Prominent figures in the American
romantic movement include Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman
Melville, Edgar Allen Poe, Williams Cullen Bryant, and
John Greenleaf Whittier.
Transcendentalism (c. 1835-1860 )
An American philosophical and spiritual movement, based
in New England, that focused on the primary of the
individual conscience and rejected materialism in favor of
closer communion with nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s
“Self-Reliance” and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden are
famous transcendentalist works.
Five Main Romantic Themes in
American Literature
 Intuition (“the truth of the heart”) is more trustworthy than
 To express deeply felt experience is more valuable than to
elaborate universal principles.
 The individual is at the center of life and God is at the center of
the individual.
 Nature is an array of physical symbols from which knowledge of
the supernatural can be intuited.
 We should aspire to the ideal –to change what is to what ought to
Pre-Raphaelites (c. 1848-1870)
The literary arm of an artistic movement that drew
inspiration from Italian artists working before Raphael
(1483-1520). The Pre-Raphaelites combined sensuousness
and religiosity through archaic poetic forms and medieval
settings. William Morris, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel
Rossetti, and Charles Swinburne were leading poets in the
Romantic Characteristics
1. Emphasis upon subjective emotion and spontaneity
2. Love of one’s own national literature and literary forms
3. Wild, exuberant writing dealing with unexpected, exotic
and foreign topics
4. Objects contrasted with each other and arranged
5. Love of the country and nature
One of Romanticism’s key ideas is the assertion of
nationalism, which became a central theme of Romantic art
and political philosophy. From the earliest parts of the
movement, with their focus on development of national
languages and folklore, and the importance of local customs
and traditions, to the movements which would redraw the
map of Europe and lead to calls for self-determination of
nationalities, nationalism was one of the key vehicles of
Romanticism, its role, expression and meaning.
Neoclassical Elements
Romantic Elements
Formal essay
Mythical story
History book
Rhyming couplet
Supernatural tale
Formal portraits
True wit is Nature to advantage
What oft was thought, but ne’er so
well expressed;
Something whose truth convinced at
sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our
-Alexander Pope,
An Essay on Criticism, Part 2,
11. 297-300
…Then a wish,
My last and favourite aspiration,
With yearning tow’rds some philosophic Song
Of Truth that cherishes our daily
With meditations passionate, from
Recesses in man’s heart, immortal
Thoughtfully fitted to the Orphean
-William Wordsworth,
The prelude
Book 1, 11. 227-233
The Fighting Téméaire
J.M.W. Turner
The White Horses
John Constable - 1819
Liberty Leading the People
Eugene Delacroix
The Voyage of Life - Childhood
Thomas Cole
The Voyage of Life - Youth
Thomas Cole
The Voyage of Life - Manhood
Thomas Cole
The Voyage of Life - Old Age
Thomas Cole
Gothic Literature
 It was an offshoot of Romantic Literature.
 Gothic Literature was the predecessor of modern horror
movies in both theme and style.
 Gothic Literature put a spin on the Romantic idea of nature
worship and nature imagery. Along with nature having the
power of healing, Gothic writers gave nature the power of
destruction. Frankenstein is full of the harsh reality of nature.
Many storms arise in the novel, including storms the night the
Creature comes to life.
 The most common feature of Gothic Literature is the
indication of mood through the weather.
The Byronic Hero
This idea is based on the personality of George Gordon, Lord Byron who was
a stormy, sensitive, fiercely proud man.
The Byronic Hero is a mysterious, somewhat exotic creature whose
passionate intensity cuts him off from others.
They suffer from profound yearnings that are beyond the comprehension of
lesser persons.
Aware of their superiority, these Byronic Heroes are frequently aloof,
sometimes sullen.
They show disdain for the petty regulations of society.
They are sometimes imprisoned or become voluntary exiles, living examples
of the restless spirit of the Romantics.