Romantic literature is one of the most popular genres out there.
Though the term “romantic literature” may cause images of love and romantic relationships to spring into your mind, there is actually so much more to this genre.
It is an artistic movement with roots going all the way back in the 1700s.
While love and relationships are certainly part of this movement, it is full of many other interesting and unique qualities, as well.
If you would like to learn more about romantic literature, keep reading.
And although I will discuss many important elements of romantic literature in this article, one of the most important elements is emotion.
What is Romanticism?
Romantic literature, or romanticism, is an artistic moment that spread far and wide during the 1770s.
Not only did it dominate literature, it also found its way into music, art, and academia.
The true peak of this movement was about 1800-1850, but we still see its effects on our world today.
The effects of this movement are woven into just about every aspect of our modern life.
Politics, education, and social sciences all take influence from this movement.
Romanticism emphasizes the importance of nature, science, and industrialization.
It also has a great focus on emotions and individualism.
The aspects of this genre and this movement are far spread, and we see their influence all around us.
One Important Element of Romantic Literature
Romantic literature has five main characteristics.
These characteristics help define the movement and categorize literature, art, music, and so on, in the genre.
The main characteristics of romantic literature are:
- interest in the common man,
- strong senses and emotions,
- awe of nature,
- celebration of the individual,
- and the importance of imagination.
Each of these elements is equally important, but I will focus on one important element of romantic literature, and that is emotion.
While each element of romantic literature is necessary and important, emotion is perhaps the one that gives the genre such great draw.
People who connect emotionally to what they are reading tend to have much stronger feelings for the book than a book that they do not connect to emotionally.
Emotions play a massive role in our everyday life, and they are just as important in literature.
You may think that emotions such as love and adoration are the most important elements of romantic literature, and they are certainly important, but they are not the most important.
Virtually every emotion exists in romantic literature, but certain emotions are emphasized much more than others.
Trepidation, horror, and awe are some of the most important emotions in romanticism, but they are not the only ones.
They are, however, the emotions we will discuss here, because they are the defining emotions of the romanticism movement.
By definition, trepidation is a feeling of agitation about something that may happen.
It is similar to dread or apprehension.
Because romanticism embraces melancholy and sadness, trepidation goes right along with it.
In Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven, there is an overwhelming sense of trepidation.
Neither the reader nor the narrator knows what is happening or why, so it leaves us with a feeling of dread and worry that we cannot shake.
Trepidation is common in literature, but most often, the reader knows why the character may be feeling that way.
In romanticism, the reader has the same feeling of dread that the characters in the story do.
It allows the readers to truly lose themselves in the writing and feel what the characters feel.
We have likely all felt horror and fear at some point in our lives.
It is something that can happen quite often, actually.
It is a sudden and intense feeling of fear and sometimes disgust.
Some people seek out this feeling by watching horror films and attending haunted houses, but many people prefer to steer away from horror as much as possible.
The feeling of horror that we get from works of fiction is much different than the sense of horror we have when something terrible is happening in the real world, but they can be equally scary at times.
One of the most famous books from the Romanticism movement is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
If you are not familiar with the novel, it is likely that you are familiar with the monster that resides within its pages.
Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster using harvested limbs and organs from cadavers and other human sources.
What he creates leaves the reader and all of the characters in the novel with an immense sense of horror and fear.
Awe is not an emotion that we consider often, but it is an important one nonetheless, especially in romantic literature.
It is a feeling of respect and wonder, sometimes mixed with fear.
Awe tends to be a much lighter emotion than trepidation or horror.
However, it can have its dark side, too.
A person can be in awe of the beauty of nature, but they could also be in awe at the goriness of a murder scene.
How this emotion is used is largely up to the writer and up to the reader’s interpretation.
In romanticism, awe is usually used in association with nature.
There are countless examples of this throughout literature, but one of the most famous is Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
A prominent romantic writer, Thoreau often writes of nature and its beauty.
In Walden, he leaves civilization to live on his own near a pond in the woods.
It contains such beautiful imagery, and it is an iconic work of romantic literature.
With so many facets and nuances to romantic literature, it is hard to narrow down the most important ones.
They all work together to create stories that terrify, shock, and inspire us.
Romantic literature is full of beauty and fear, making it a fascinating movement to learn about.
And one of the most important elements of romantic literature is emotion, and we certainly feel a lot of it in this genre.
I hope this article answered your question and allowed you to think more critically about this great genre.
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