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General concerns and subject matter of romantic prose

General concerns and subject matter of romantic prose

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Typically, the Romantic period is considered to have spanned circa. 1800-1840, and is characterised by the rise of post-Enlightenment literature. Romanticism first emerged as a reaction to the dominant discourse of reason that had developed as a consequence of modernity. Romanticists saw Enlightenment thinking as being too focused on logic and science, and sought to redress this balance through a prioritisation of the imaginative: Wordsworth and Coleridge, both key figures in the movement, called for “a certain coloring of the imagination to be thrown over the practice of literature” (Sandner, 2011, p.1). Central to this movement was nature, as was the supernatural and forces beyond logic and reason. Where the Enlightenment emphasised issues in the public sphere, Romantic prose privileges the individual, and those human emotions or unanticipated events that might give rise to irrational behaviours. This focus was rooted in a distrust of reason, or rather, the ways in which scientific advances were threatening the natural world: “Romantic writers and artists questioned the world around them, and some even felt contemporary Western civilization teetered at the brink of disintegration” (Schneider, 2007, p.7). We see such concerns played out in works like Frankenstein, a novel which problematises the nature of what it means to be human in an age of science and discovery: “what makes Frankenstein and important book […] is [that] it contains one of the most vivid versions we have of the Romantic mythology” (Christie, 2016, p.234).

References

Christie, W. (2016) The Two Romanticisms and other essays: Mystery and interpretation in romantic literature. Sydney, Sydney University Press.
Sandner, D. (2011) Critical Discourses of the Fantastic, 1712-1831. London, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
Schneider, J. (2007) The Age of Romanticism. Westport, Greenwood Publishing Group.