Using the Literature Book and additional credible, authoritative sources (no dictionary, encyclopedia, wikipedia-type sites, or spark-note/e-note-type sites), define all aspects of American Romanticism.

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Romanticism started out as a tiny fragment of American culture but has obviously come to be one of the biggest influences on art, music, architecture, and especially literature. Throughout American literature, it has become popular and notorious for its distinct focus on nature, philosophy, emotion, intuition, and psyche (Barney and Paddock). These are demonstrated through many works of American writers, especially ones of the subgenres known as Transcendentalism or Dark Romanticism. Transcendentalists chose to encompass their writing around the importance of finding individualism through nature and its forces (Langley). Their writing is typically very descriptive with a spontaneous train of thought revolving around various philosophical discussions and theories, usually about achieve “self-reliance” or individualism (Barney and Paddock). Dark Romantics chose to dwell in the dark corners of the psychological mind, which they accomplished through sinister themes, morbid symbolism, and mystery. Creativity and anti-conformity is idealistic of Romanticism and its counterparts (Barney and Paddock). Collectively, these are the main attributes that integrate Romanticism and its counterparts together in the interesting fashion that continues to capture the attention of many today.

American Romanticism can be broken down into many sub-genres, and one of the sub-genres is Dark Romanticism. There are many aspects of Dark Romanticism. One aspect is the use of mystery. The use of mystery is meant to make the reader feel fear and tension, like suspense (Werlock). Dark Romanticism is very dark and mysterious, and it is also sometimes called monstrous because some Dark Romanticists who depict gruesome situations or terrifying creatures. Dark Romanticism also focuses on the strange or the tragic (Werlock). The focus on the tragic is meant to make the poem or story feel dark and mysterious. Use of descriptive words also helps to contribute to making the Dark Romanticism work feel mysterious. Many Dark Romanticists spend large amounts of time describing the vegetation of the land, or the describe the setting in very high detail. The reader feels more involved in the story because of this because the reader can imagine the setting vividly (Stade). Another aspect of Dark Romanticism is the use of an object or person that represents sin and evil. In Edgar Allan Poe's "Dream-Land", he has sin and evil being represented in the form of ghosts and phantoms (Poe). Dark Romanticism is meant to be scary and evil, and all of the aspects listed above are large contributors to making the story appear dark and mysterious.

Romanticism is a great subject that has affected many people. It says on Bloom's Literary Reference that Romanticism refers to a literary, philosophical, and artistic style or theory that emphasizes nature as a guiding, elevated force, recognizes the central significance of individual experience, and—as a departure from the more stylized poetry and subject matter of the Augustan period—uses simple diction focused on rural and idyllic country life. There are different kinds of romanticism that we can break it down into, and the one that it used the most is dark romanticism. Edgar Allan Poe is one writer that we recongnize the most for these writings. Good romanticism writers are Poe, Nathaniel Hawtthore, Herman Melville..etc.

Nature was an important aspect of the Romanticism movement, especially American Romanticism since, at the time of the movement, America was expanding its borders westward and into boundless spaces of untouched nature. Nature had various purposes for the movement. For one, it was seen as a way for one to escape the common thoughts found in crowded cities in towns (Drake). Alone by oneself in the country, one could develop and pursue one's own thoughts without being influenced by the thoughts of others so close to them, just as Thoreau did when he went to live at Walden Pond (Thoreau). However, as Thoreau and the other Transcendentalists believed, the true purpose of the pilgrimages into nature was to figure out how to develop one's own unique thoughts even amongst the peer pressure found within the more civilized areas of the land (Thoreau). This was their true aim so that they could remain a part of society while staying separate from it. Nature also began to replace religion in the Romantic era as a source of truth, stemming from the idea that the world itself was intelligent (Drake). Instead of attending church to learn about God, people would look for God in nature because, according to the biblical book of Genesis, God created nature. The Romantics also viewed nature as and imagination stimulant, something to spur creative thought through experience with it, an idea that is not uncommon even today (Drake). Inspiration, according to the Romantics, could be found in naturally-occurring phenomena: for example, the last rays of the sun creeping over the dark waters of the ocean, or the blossoming of a cherry tree in the spring. Romanticism's legacy can also be found in its ideas about nature as many of these ideas are still found to be true by many people today, such as nature being a source of inspiration. However, does this mean that society should be spending more time in nature in order to form its own thoughts on nature?

“The romantic movement is characterized by a belief in the power of the imagination, a celebration of nature, and a fascination with the supernatural and the exotic as a reaction against the rational thought and scientific principles of the 18th-century Age of Reason” (Kruger). When it comes to this statement, would one assume that the descriptions of psychological illusions can be considered, exotic? What people can believe in though is the fact that the mistakes made in human behavior are “[reactions] against the rational thought" (Kruger). Although Dark Romanticism may have had some differences with the original Romanticism beliefs, there are many other beliefs in which the dark romanticists had in their writing that can be easily compared to the original Romanticist beliefs. If it was not for those beliefs, then this particular genre would not be considered the subgenre of Romanticism at all. It would also not effect the way in which people wrote stories after the Romanticism period. One of the most important details that Dark Romanticism shows readers are the emotional descriptions of human disposition. The reactions in which characters make in Dark Romanticism as well as their decisions are all a part of human nature. Although the regular Romanticist writers wrote a lot on nature, the Dark Romanticists focused more on human nature, which can be related to nature as a whole. The only difference about this is that descriptions on the importance of people are mentioned more than they are the birds, the trees, and the sky. As for the similarities, writers such as Henry David Thoreau or Ralph Waldo Emerson share their own thoughts, reactions, and decisions just as much as they mention about nature as a whole.

American Romanticism is made interesting by the different facets it has. General Romanticism features a reverence for nature and self-improvement. Transcendentalism focuses more on “transcending” the everyday through self-reflection and leaving a mark on the world. Dark Romanticism turns away from the lighter emotions of the other two and focuses on the heavy, somber emotions and the darker side of human emotions. The common thread that binds all of these together is their focus on the individual and the emotions felt by the individual. That theme remains constant, no matter which type of Romanticism is being studied at the time. This was very important at a time period when America was undergoing many changes and coming into its own. The broad range of Romanticism certainly guaranteed that everyone would be able to read something that they enjoy. People often disregard the impact that literature has on history, and Romanticism is no different in that regard. It was so important in shaping the culture of America during the time it was written and even in today’s society. The different types of Romanticism can be seen as an analogy to the American people: so different, yet all bound together by a common characteristic.

Many people think Romanticism writings deal with romance. Some of the stories do have an element of romance to them, but the main piece of Romanticism is nature “Romanticism has very little to do with things popularly thought of as "romantic," although love may occasionally be the subject of Romantic art” (Melani). Nature affects Romanticism authors in many ways. Items in nature symbolize things in the author’s world. For example, in the story, “Song of Myself” by Whitman, he talks about the grass being something bigger than it actually it. He calls the grass a “handkerchief of the Lord.” (Melani). Nature is also a big part of Romanticism because the author can form nature into what he or she needs it to be. They can have nature “as a healing power, nature as a source of subject and image, nature as a refuge from the artificial constructs of civilization” (Melani).

Romanticism was all started, “particularly in reaction to the 18th-century writers, whom romantic writers perceived as dull and unimaginative” (Werlock). It began to thrive in the 1800’s and soon became a recognized style of writing in both Europe and in the United States. There are always comparisons between romanticism and realism; “critical quarrels over the precise nature of the romantic mode of writing—particularly over whether the term is confusing or overly confining—romanticism certainly can be distinguished from realism in that it seeks truth, or the ideal, by transcending the actual, whereas realism finds its values in the actual” (Werlock). The individual is the center of life in Romanticism and big parts of it are the feelings and reactions to events in life.


American Romanticism is a pretty broad literary period. Within Romanticism, there is Transcendentalism, Fireside Poets, and even Dark Romanticism. Although Romanticism is the broad spectrum, it is also a sub-category itself. One of the main focuses in Romanticism is nature. Nature is the way to finding the higher meaning in life. When you become one with nature, you develop morally and spiritually (Langley). That was really a focus within Romanticism. They wanted to show the beauty of nature as the path that leads you to ultimate self-fulfillment. Although nature is a big focus in Romanticism, it is not the only focus. Romanticism is a very broad literary period that includes many different classifications that have been tied together through their similar characteristics.


Transcendentalism is a major part of American Romanticism. This part of American literature had a strong focus on nature and the presence of God. Not only is God in nature important, but also the simply philosophical thoughts of an individual (Quinn). This can be seen in many works by different authors of the literary genre of Romanticism. Often, Edgar Allan Poe references Greek mythology in many of his works; it can be seen in “The Raven” as well as “The Coliseum.” Both have strong references to the Greeks with the symbolism of the bird and of the Fates in each work respectively. When speaking on the importance of God, Ralph Waldo Emerson said that it is easiest to find it in nature, which is one of the most important aspects of American Romanticism as a whole. The use of religion, philosophy, and mythology in literature is one aspect that was truly mastered by many of the American Romantic literature writers.


One trait of Romanticism writing is the use of a Romantic hero. A Romantic hero is typically a younger male. The character himself may not physically be youthful, but instead he might possess “youthful qualities” (Langley). If this is the case, the man is not necessarily young but is probably athletically fit and still leading a life of excitement and adventure. However, his daring and adventurous lifestyle is very pure (Langley). A Romantic hero does not partake in adventure for the sake of raising his self esteem; the hero is usually trying to achieve a goal for the common good or in order to help someone out. His actions are “innocent and pure of purpose” (Langley). A Romantic hero tends to lead his own life; he may stay away from the general public and avoid living by the government’s standards (Langley). Instead, all of his reasoning is based off of what he feels is right. A Romantic hero leans steadily on his own intuition instead of the government’s laws (Langley). Overall, the Romantic hero is just searching for the “higher truth in the natural world” (Langley). In doing this, the character does everything within his power to bring a light into the world that is much different than those that are already shining. The Romantic hero proves himself to be a strong individual with a unique sense of nature and his inner self.

American Romanticism was a movement throughout much of the 1800s that involved cultivations in art and literature. In literature, most Romanticism writers focused on the beauty and mystery in nature, such as Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” in which he described his journey into the wilderness for over two years to connect to nature. Later in the time period, Dark Romanticism became quite prevalent in the works of probably the most notable author of the time, Edgar Allan Poe. To me, Romanticism was a movement that advanced thoughts and imagination into creativity. It set up a basic thought train, causing many variances from the previous Rationalist thoughts, sparking a new-wave trend of imagination.


An important part of Romanticism was the comradery of the time, men from all walks of life felt a certain bond. It took a certain type of person to farm and work the land during this colonial time. Men had a mutual respect for each other for their shared hardships. As described by Miss Kartha as nationalism

Nationalism: The Romantics borrowed heavily from the folklore and the popular art. During the earlier periods, literature and art were considered to belong to the high class educated people, and the country folks were not considered fit to enjoy them. Also, the language used in these works were highly poetic, which was totally different from that which was spoken by people. However, Romanticism changed all this. Their works were influenced from the ballads and folklore that were created by the masses or the common people, rather than from the literary works that were popular. Apart from poetry, adopting from the folklore and ballads is also one of the very important characteristics of Romanticism in music. As the Romantics became interested and focused on developing the folklore, culture, language, customs and traditions of their own country, they developed a sense of Nationalism which reflected in their works. Also, the language used in Romantic poems were simple which was usually used in everyday life. (Kartha)

The idea was not about national pride which was in no short supply, the idea was about the nationalism of trusting your fellow citizens, as seen in stories of the time if a traveler needed a place to stay for the night he was given room and food. People helped each other the best they could because of the idea that they were all in this together and they needed to help each other trough it. In the story the Lightning Rod Man the main character immediately lets the traveler in and allows him to warm himself up by the fire. It was not even a question of whether he should let him in. These were the kind of ideas that produced such literary ideas as emotions over rationality when poeple felt they could be them self around other people.


During the period of literature that we have titled American Romanticism, many qualities that proved to be the foundation of this philosophy were greatly contrasting to the previous period of Rationalism. One of such aspects is the major quality of imagination taking priority over reason and logic and being “our ultimate ‘shaping” or creative power” (Romanticism). This leaves a broader and more artistic subject and philosophy for the period to be based on. For example, nature falls into this category as being a more specific category for imaginative writers to focus on. Most writers of this period greatly celebrated nature as an escape from society and viewed it as a large inspiration (Brians). Nature serves as the most important concept for writers to depict because it incorporates all the qualities of Romanticism itself. For instance, Rousseau found nature to be the source of many of his literature because he could “commune with nature” and let his imagination be free (Brians). All of the aspects of American Romanticism, such as imagination and nature, can all be linked together to become an intricate philosophy.

“Romanticism refers to a literary, philosophical, and artistic style or theory that emphasizes nature as a guiding, elevated force, recognizes the central significance of individual experience, and—as a departure from the more stylized poetry and subject matter of the Augustan period—uses simple diction focused on rural and idyllic country life” (Imbarrato).

Romanticism can be seen as the opposite of classicism. Where classicism puts emphasis on sticking to traditional thoughts and ideas, Romanticism emphasizes forming new art forms and creating new genres that were not established before. Romanticism puts a lot of focus on individuality and staying true to yourself (Barney).

“For the Romantic writer, the individual soul or imagination was paramount; at times, the heroic aspect was illustrated by a character's stand against a community that censured the individual..” (Barney).

“Another side of Romanticism was revealed in the histories of Francis Parkman and William Hickling Prescott. .. They evoked the past not as a model for the present but instead as a way to identify with heroic individuals of the past who transcended their times and created, like the heroes of gothic romances, new worlds by the force of their will” (Barney).

American Romanticism was the literary period in response to Rationalism, the literary period that was based on science, logic, reason, and knowledge. Romanticism is the opposite of this, based on emotions, religion, myth, patriotism, and self reflection. There are different sub-genre's of Romanticism, including Transcendentalism, the Fireside Poets, and Dark Romanticism. Each of these are within Romanticism, but express other characteristics. Transcendentalism deals with understanding life through thought process and intuition. An example of transcendentalism writing is Henry David Thoreau's work, Walden. In Walden, Thoreau goes out into nature by himself to study it, and in connecting with nature, he hopes to live his life by nature's philosophies. He looks at the individual animals, studies how they live, and uses those lessons to live his own life."The smaller red champion had fastened himself like a vice to his adversary's front, and through all the tumblings on that field never for an instant ceased to gnaw at one of his feelers near the root, having already caused the other to go by the board; while the stronger black one dashed him from side to side, and, as I saw on looking nearer, had already divested him of several of his members. They fought with more pertinacity than bulldogs" (Thoreau). Thoreau describes this with much detail--more than we really need, very common to the Romanticism Literary Period--and his study of the ants reveals his Transcendentalism. Another time genre of Romanticism is the Fireside Poets. These poets included authors such as Whittier, Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell. They wrote poems about emotions, religion, and patriotism. Many times, nature was used as a metaphor to describe a certain emotion. Many of the poems dealt with love. Some common symbols of nature associated with this would be flowers, the ocean, and sunshine. "We saw the slow tides go and come,/ The curving surf-lines lightly drawn,/ The gray rocks touched with tender bloom/ Beneath the fresh-blown rose of dawn" (Whittier). In this poem, John Greenleaf Whittier expresses his dream of the sea and legacies. The final sub genre of Romanticism is Dark Romanticism. Dark Romanticism deals with the darker side of human nature such as greed, lust, and sin, death, dark mythical creatures, and suffering and grief. Out of this came the American short story and mystery stories. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe were both very influential in this time period. Both used illusions, imagery, and metaphors to create a dark tone and to hide a figurative message in the poem or story. In Eldorado, by Edgar Allan Poe, it tells the story of a knight who wasted his life in search of Eldorado (Poe). Even though it is a story dealing with a mythical treasure, it relates to Poe's own life and his disappointments in material treasures. Dark Romanticism is very apparent in that work, also in The Raven, another Edgar Allan Poe poem. Even though there are sub genre's in Romanticism, they still share the same basic characteristics that define the American Romanticism Literary Period, the influence of emotions on the work, religious topic, patriotic feel, the use of mythical creatures, and the connection of the work with the author.


Perhaps the most enchanting and thrilling aspect of Romanticism is Dark Romanticism. Dark Romanticism explores the human psyche, exploiting the truth behind previously unfathomable aspects of the human mind and human nature. Valuing the truth revealed in nature and individuality, Dark Romanticism can reasonably be categorized under the larger umbrella of Romanticism, though idealistic views regarding the world were not generally present (Werlock). Like other Romantic works, Dark Romanticism possesses many aspects of nature while also stressing the importance of individuality (Werlock). What sets Dark Romanticism apart from other works of the same literary period is in part due to the fact that Dark Romanticism explores the human mind and all of its flaws (Werlock). Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne are two very prominent authors of works categorized as Dark Romanticism (Werlock). In their various works, both Poe and Hawthorne exploit what it truly means to be human, flaws and all. This can be considered a very large part of the movement of Romanticism in that Romanticism sought truth (Werlock). What better way to exploit the truth then to go to its very source, the human mind. Dark Romanticism is arguably one of the most captivating aspects of Romanticism because no one is entertained with conformity and the "norms" of society. Thinking outside of the box (creative thought) is greatly stressed throughout the works of Romanticism authors (Werlock). Many, if not all, works considered Dark Romanticism leave the reader thinking far after they have read the story or poem. This aspect of Dark Romanticism is most intriguing. The works of the Dark Romanticism authors possess substance, really making the reader question his or her beliefs. Correspondingly, mystery is also a large part of Dark Romanticism (Werlock). This overwhelming sense of mystery only adds to the intrigue of Dark Romanticism. Overall, Dark Romanticism possesses many aspects of Romanticism, while still having its own unique sense of style and purpose (Werlock).

There are many different characteristics of Romanticism, and they are all used in works during that time. The authors really emphasized intuition and feeling over reasoning and thinking, because they believed that one's heart would always lead them in the right direction. They believed that inner experiences and imagination are vital to life, and they were very creative because of this. They do not enjoy civilization, because they think it is not pure and is too spoiled, so they prefer, pure, untouched nature. They actually thought that nature's beauty was the way to an individual's spiritual and moral development, because of the purity of it all. They believed beauty and truth lived in exotic, beautiful places, one's imagination, and in things that are supernatural. They were very inspired by the myths of the past, and they drew heavily from some of their characteristics. They also looked back to legends of old and folk tales that had been passed down through many generations. They believed in the wisdom of the past, and they preferred to look backwards than looking ahead to the future or to progress of any form. They want to really get across the importance of the individual, and they prefer youthful people that still have their innocence. They thought it was okay for people to commit crimes if their motives were good and pure, because they thought that individual intuition was more important than the law. They believed that poetry was the most important form of writing, and they also thought it was the most pure, which was very important to them. Characteristics in Romanticism are very important, and they are how one can tell what period a story is from.

The Romanticism period in American literature has had a profound effect on millions of Americans even though they may have no clue as to what the period was, much less was about. There are many different aspects a person could go into that all describe the period on a whole but the one I am focusing on is the aspect of escapism. Escapism is the belief that a person needs to escape from the world of society to go and search their souls for some answer, or re-center themselves (Strickland). This idea shows up a few different times throughout the ranks of the numerous authors of this period. Thoreau went away for two years to a beautiful spot to write his famous work “Walden” and Hawthorne spent twelve years by himself at his familial house before he married and got back in touch with society (Merriman). It was during this time that Hawthorne developed his unique style of writing and even a few sketches that are still unique today (Merriman). Escapism was commonly practiced because it tended to include going away to some secluded place, which generally meant Nature, which was one of the main focuses of the whole period (Strickland). Escapism is still prominent today, with people going on vacation, especially during the winter, simply to relax and get a new perspective on things.

One of the most intriguing ideas of the Romanticism is the fact that so many different ideas can be found in this one genre. The most prominent example of this is the huge contrast between poems and stories that depict traditional Romanticism aspects and those that contain characteristics of Dark Romanticism. Romanticism usually seems so optimistic and ideal and in some cases, entirely unrealistic (“Dark Romanticism”). In a lot of ways, Dark Romanticism is a lot more believable while still mysterious and daunting. For example, stories written by traditional Romantics often contain main characters that seen to be without flaws and have unfailing wisdom. Dark Romanticism is much more realistic because the characters actually do have flaws, and perfection is nearly nonexistent. These characters in Dark Romanticism seem to be prone to terror, loss, sadness, and self-destruction, while characters in traditional Romanticism are seen as ideal heroes (“Dark Romanticism”). Even if characters in Dark Romanticism do try and make changes for the better, these attempts typically fail and make things even worse than they already were.

Leading up to the Romantic period in the 1800's, there were two events that inspired the American Romantic period. These two events were the development of deism, and westward expansion in the United States. Deism is the belief that was used by all types of people with different religious backgrounds that stated that God made it possible to find natural laws through reason, and that they best way to follow this concept of Deism was to "do good for others" (Langley). This idea influenced the Romantic period because people started to almost follow their own beliefs rather than the guidelines set by the church, forming a more idealistic America and shaping the majority into Romantic people. The other event that inspired the Romantic period was the expansion westward of a large population of Americans in the early 1800's. Since people were exploring and that they had never explored before, this inspired the idea of including nature in one's writing and the idea that nature will always lead to truth (Langley). Finally, after the majority of the American population had adjusted to these new ideas, it sparked a new style of writing that was based on nature and good morals, which is known today as the American Romanticism period.

Romanticism is a style in the fine arts and literature which emphasizes passion rather than reason, and imagination and intuition rather than logic. It also favors full expression of the emotions, and free, spontaneous action rather than restraint and order (Lipking). More times than not, the hero in the story is not a hero like most people would think, but instead is a rebel or outlaw (Lipking). The writers often write of far away places and the medieval past, folklore and legends, and nature and the common people, as well as the supernatural, as the writers were trying to get away from the modern world (Lipking).



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