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The Romantic Age. 1798-1832. Clarification. The word “romance” originally referred to highly imaginative medieval tales of knightly adventure written in the French derivative of the original Roman (or romance ) language, Latin. romance as “freely imaginative idealizing fiction”.

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The word “romance” originally referred to highly imaginative medieval tales of knightly adventure written in the French derivative of the original Roman (or romance) language, Latin.

romance as “freely imaginative idealizing fiction”

comparison with 18 th century
Comparison with 18th Century


Late 17th-18th century

Romantic Age

Late 18th-early 19th century

Imagination and emotion

The particular

Value of the individual

Freedom, individuality

Revitalized interest in medieval subjects and settings

  • Reason and judgment
  • The general or universal in experience
  • Values of society
  • Authority and rules
  • Inspiration from classical Greek and Roman authors
historical background
Historical Background
  • Political and economic change
  • Revolution and Reaction
    • American and French Revolutions => democratic principles, individual freedom
    • Disillusionment
  • Industrial Revolution
    • Urbanization
    • Exploitation
context characteristics
Context => Characteristics

Democratic idealism, insistence on rights => interest in language and experience of common people, artistic freedom

Urbanization and exploitation => love of natural world/remote settings, concern for downtrodden and oppressed

Aspiration and disappointment

characteristics with emphasis on nonconformity
Characteristics (with emphasis on nonconformity)

Love of nature

Faith in the individual

Power of intuition and imagination

Yearning for the mysterious

Revolutionary zeal

Contempt for the strictness and rigidity of previous generation


picmine micenip



Common man





romanticism and the english language
Romanticism and the English Language
  • Largest dictionaries in different languages:
    • 1. English: >600,000 words
    • 2. German: 185,000 words
    • 3. Russian: 130,000 words
    • 4. French: 100,000
  • Why?
romanticism and the english language1
Romanticism and the English Language

English is the most hospitable and democratic language that has ever existed, unique in the number and variety of its borrowed words.

Anglo-Saxon = foundation, but more than 70% of words have been imported

“English speech, the sea which receives tributaries from every region under heaven” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“that glorious and imperial mongrel, the English language” –Dorothy Thompson

romanticism and the english language2
Romanticism and the English Language
  • The following are words that became part of the English language as a result of England’s great economic expansion:
    • India: bandanna, bungalow, calico, cashmere, china, cot, curry, juggernaut, jungle, loot, nirvana, polo, punch (as a beverage), thug, verandah
    • Asia: gingham, indigo, mango, typhoon
    • New Zealand: kiwi
    • Australia: boomerang, kangaroo
    • Africa: banana, boorish, chimpanzee, gorilla, gumbo, zebra

Open a dictionary at random and examine the etymology of the words listed at the top of fifteen pages.

Record the earliest source for each word. Words noted as AS or OE are native; the rest are borrowed.

What is the ratio of native words versus borrowed words?

Among the borrowed words, what percentage are derived from Latin? From Greek? From French? From other languages?

Compare and discuss implications.

the divided romantic hero
The Divided Romantic Hero


Outsider/outlaw who challenges the divine and social order of things

Isolation => contradiction

In the world vs. above the world

Faust, Napoleon

wordsworth and coleridge
Wordsworth and Coleridge
  • Fathers of the English Romantic movement
  • Wordsworth
    • the natural or the commonplace
    • the importance of memory
  • Coleridge
    • the supernatural or fantastic
    • the nature of joy
william wordsworth
William Wordsworth
  • Poetry consistently autobiographical
  • Persistent ideas:
    • The dignity which the individual finds within
    • The philosophical strength found in nature
  • Mystic idealism
  • The merging of the “supernatural” and the “natural”

In the summer of the year 1797, the author, then in ill health, had retired to a lonely farmhouse between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in Purchas's Pilgrimage: "Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were inclosed with a wall." The author continued for about three hours in a profound sleep, at least of the external senses, during which time he has the most vivid confidence that he could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort. On awaking he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here preserved. At this moment he was unforunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter!

byron shelley and keats
Byron, Shelley, and Keats

Found older poets too conservative

Byron: living to the fullest, fairness and justice

Shelley: faith in human nature, beauty

Keats: art of poetry, transience

Sir Walter Scott: novelist

Charles Lamb: essayist


“And yet a little tumult, now and then, is an agreeable quickener of sensation; such as a revolution, a battle, or an adventure of any lively description.”

  • "The great object of life is sensation—to feel that we exist—even though in pain.”
                  • -George Gordon, Lord Byron

Worlds on worlds are rolling ever

From creation to decay,

Like the bubbles on a river

Sparkling, bursting, borne away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

john keats
John Keats

Poetry “should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject.”


A lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter.