Romanticism – English literature: summary, main themes and characteristicsRomanticism was a cultural, artistic and philosophical movement that developed in the 18th and 19th century as a reaction to the exasperated and exaggerated rationalism which characterized the Enlightenment.
The first reaction came from the poets of the German literary movement of “Sturm und Drang”. It was characterized by a focus on the individual, on human creativity and feelings. Romantic artistic conception of nature was based on the theory of the philosopher Jean-Jacque-
Rousseau; he affirmed that man is born free but he society and reason change him, so he can return to his “state of nature” in order to feel free and in harmony with nature.
In English literary history the Romantic period began in 1798
(when Wordsworth and Coleridge published the Lyrical Ballads, whose Preface is considered the English Romanticism Manifesto) and finished in 1837 when Queen Victoria became queen.
Feelings and imagination become central themes of Romantic poetry: literature was considered by the artists as a form of introspection which gave importance to the individual.
The Romantics tried to escape from a too rational reality and for this reason they found their new aspiration in looking to the past, in particular through the rediscovery of the Middle Ages, a period that left more space for imagination and feelings.