Trends in Preromanticism and Romanticism: A detailed list

An Outline of Trends in Preromanticism through Romanticism


  • faith in the instinctive goodness of human beings: Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, "An Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit"; Characteristics
  • faith in the relatively high moral and religious value of sympathy or benevolence (School of Sensibility): Steele, Careless Husband (drama); Geo. Akenside, The Pleasures of Imagination; Samuel Rogers, The Pleasures of Memory; Richardson, Pamela; Stern, Tristram Shandy.
  • Accurate observation of nature, though without mysticism, sometimes with the suggestion that nature has a religious significance (Thomson, the Seasons
  • Elegiac interest: in death, mutability, mourning, melancholy (Graveyard School): Blair’s "The Grave"; Gray’s "Elegy in a Country Churchyard"
  • Interest in humanitarian movements and reforms (origin of labor standards, child labor laws, slave trade, mental health, and penal reform
  • Interest in kindness toward animals
  • A democratic attitude: insistence on the rights and dignity of man, and on the freedom of the individual socially and politically
  • Attacks upon wrongs in the established order or in conventional usages: political, economic, social, or educational
  • Interest in the state of nature: the "noble savage" preference for the simple life of earlier ages, primitive religions, folk-poetry.
  • Interest in the medieval period as a age of faith, chivalry, and poetry
  • Attacks on Pope and other neo-classical authors
  • Revival or imitation of older forms of verse: ballads, sonnets, blank verse, Spenserian stanzas etc.
  • Use of local dialects and color
  • Translation or imitation of Oriental tales, Scandinavian, or old Celtic tales or literature
  • Development of the historical novel, the Gothic school, and the School of Terror
  • Development of literary theories and literary criticism, stressing the relatively greater importance of the imaginative, emotional, intuitive, free, individual, and particular over the rational, formal, and general.
  • Exaltation of Shakespeare, Spenser, and Milton
  • Period of violent and Revolutionary spirit, especiallyAmerica and France.


  • Interest in German aesthetics and philosophy: Kant, Schiller, Schlegel Bros, Schelling Goethe, and in Italy, Spinoza and in Spain, Calderon.
  • Pantheism
  • Madness
  • Breaking aesthetic, artistic, and perceptive boundaries of time and space (Dante, Milton, Virgil)
  • Struggle of artist to discover or create a higher order in a chaotic universe
  • Society is not normative, but part of the meaningless world.
  • Visionary imagination, not simply dream, but often nightmarish.
  • Implies variety, rather than homogeneity; details, particulars, "fine isolated verisimilitude" first, and broad, general truth only later.
  • Fragmentation, incompleteness, and ruin (as modalities which are part of the phenomemology of human awareness; McFarland says, are the diasparactive triad—breaking into pieces—are at the very center of life; Hegel says, "In existence there is a permanent incompleteness which cannot be evaded" (städige Unganzheit—which cannot be evaded).
  • Individuality
  • Implies transcendence
  • Romantic ego is confessional (from Rousseau and Montaigne), autobiographical, portraits of the self
  • Romantic consciousness: self as measure/problem
  • Nature as subject matter, as model and guide, as repository of physical, moral, and spiritual value capable of inspiring the creative mind; as guide for, and insight into, man’s life whereas classicist starts with man and treasures nature only insofar as it confirms prior ideas about what man is.
  • Idealism, particularly among the younger Romantics, fascination with a world beyond reality, though selfdom conceived of in a conventional religious sense.
  • Imagination as the means of reaching truth through creativity rather than, or at least superior to, rational, logical, ratiocination, subject to development—maturation and decline.
  • Increased awareness and sensibility to themes of mutability in self and nature
  • Despair, disillusionment, or dejection—the Romantic equivalent of doubt or loss of faith in formerly held hopes and belief.
  • Implies "romance," as exotic, new, even strange and fresh experience, advemture
  • Whereas the classicist relives and conforms to tradition (the values of the experience patterns proven by time), the Romantic discovers what s/he hopes are new values, new experience patterns, and his/er impulse is to rebel against any restriction upon that process of discovery, that quest for new and higher truth.

Key Terms in Romanticism:

Organicism, subjective, emotion, intuition, self, ruins, mountains, crags, vistas, conversation in poetry, lyric, ode, lamp, energy, tragedies, Plato vitalism, memory, darkness, caves, action, demythologized universe, psychological, childhood, yearning, striving, sublime, desire, guilt and remorse, rebellion, futurity, symbolism, Negative Capability,

Key terms in Neo-Classical

Deism, objectivity, general mechanistic, rational, epic, satire, mirror, logic, thought (reason), aristocracy, tabula rasa, Rules and reguations, society, wit, comedies.


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