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THE ROMANTIC PERIOD. 1780 -1830. The French Revolution - 1789. English geographically removed from US revolution French tenets of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” were just across the Channel

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1780 -1830

The French Revolution - 1789

  • English geographically removed from US revolution

  • French tenets of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” were just across the Channel

  • Disillusionment ensues when the Reign of Terror oppressed become as violent and corrupt as those they overthrew, opening door for Napoleon

Romantic writers tended to be:

  • Optimists who believed in progress and human reform

  • Attackers of tyranny and the evils of

    • Industrialism

    • Urban blight

    • Pollution

    • Alienation of people from nature and each other

Nineteenth century advancements

  • First Reform Bill (1832) liberalized representation in Parliament, leading to a truly representative body

  • Industrial Revolution (1750 – 1850)

    • Move from cottage industries to factories

    • Slums developed

    • Child / slave wage labor

    • Industrial accidents and diseases

Reform Movements

  • For the children of the poor, religious training, medical care and education were nonexistent.

  • Reformers force Church and government to assume responsibilities:

    • Sunday schools

    • Hospitals

    • Prison reform

    • Child labor laws enacted


  • Nature is the principal source of:

    • Inspiration

    • Spiritual truth

    • Enlightenment


  • Focused on:

    • Ordinary people

    • Common life

    • Affirmation of worth and dignity of all humans

    • Repudiation of evils of a class system

Two Groups of Poets

  • 1786:

    William Blake and Robert Burns lead the transition in terms of subject matter, themes and style

William Blake

  • Blake lived in relative obscurity, explored concept of “contraries” pain and joy, success and failure, prudence and excess.

  • “Songs of Innocence” “Songs of Experience”

Robert Burns

  • Raised in incessant poverty in Ayrshire, Scotland

  • Limited formal education, but father inspired in him a love of literature

  • Mentally composed poems and songs in dialect while doing chores

  • In and out of love affairs, turns to drink and dissipation; dies at 37

  • Remembered for ability to express feelings and concerns of ordinary people in a natural, flowing idiom

Transition between groups

  • 1798: Wordsworth and Coleridge, bridging the two groups, publish Lyrical Ballads

    which asserted that:

  • ordinary life is best subject for poetry

  • everyday language best conveys feelings

  • feeling is more important than action

  • “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings…”

After Wordsworth and Coleridge

  • Byron, Shelley, Keats

  • WW and Coleridge become more politically conservative

  • Byron, Shelley & Keats, once their idols, denounce them as traitors to former ideals

George Gordon, Lord Byron

  • Reckless, bitter, in constant revolt against society

  • Epitomized Romanticism by his dedication to the cause of freedom and liberty

  • Remembered as a satirical poet

Percy Bysshe Shelley

  • Rebellious, scandalous, charismatic

  • Revolted against tyranny

  • Believed that the church, state, and commerce led to superstition, selfishness and corruption

  • Remembered as a lyric poet

John Keats

  • Mocked by critics for his Cockney heritage

  • Influenced by Shakespeare and Milton

  • Explored relationship between art and life

  • Believed that poetry should be the creation of concrete sensual images “in

    the service of profound creative thought.”

Gothicnovel develops

  • Stories set in medieval time

  • Ruined castles

  • Mysterious doors

  • Supernaturalism of all kinds

    • Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (1795) sets form for the genre (Stoker’s Dracula @ 1897)


  • 1789 – GW becomes President of US

  • 1804 – Napoleon crowned Emperor of France

  • 1815 – Battle of Waterloo

  • 1825 – First railroad built in England

  • Mozart’s Magic Flute

  • Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5


  • Poe writes Tamerlane and other Poems

  • Webster’s American Dictionary published

  • Austen writes Pride and Prejudice

  • M. Shelley pens Frankenstein

  • DeQuincey publishes Confessions of an English Opium Eater

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