Literary Romanticism – Information, characteristics and authors

We explain what literary romanticism is, its origin, time when it emerged and characteristics. In addition, its main authors and works.

literary romanticism goethe schiller
Authors like Goethe and Schiller expressed a tragic awareness of life.

What is literary romanticism?

In the history of literature, it is known as Romanticism, or as the literature of Romanticism, a one of the most important literary movements in modern Europe, emerging in Germany around 1770 and then popularized in the rest of the continent and in its American colonies until the mid-nineteenth century.

Obviously, it is the literary variant of a much larger aesthetic and philosophical movement, Romanticism, which emerged in the 18th century as a revolutionary reaction against the prevailing tendencies of the Enlightenment and Neoclassicism, as well as their values ​​of rationality. , universality and realism.

As in the other arts, Romanticism in literature opted for the exaltation of feelings, of national and popular stories, of the originality of artistic genius and a tragic consciousness of life.

It is important to make the caveat that “romantic” in this sense does not necessarily have to do with “loving”, as it is understood today. This last sense was imposed, in fact, after the decline of the romantic movement at the end of the 19th century.

Characteristics of literary romanticism

Literary romanticism was characterized by the following:

  • He valued the inspiration and subjectivities of the artist as the origin of literary production, for which it offered its writers wide quotas of freedom that contrasted with the rationalist and more restrictive literature of the Enlightenment.
  • Addressed issues of the national and popular imagination, as legends and folklore, as well as medieval and Greco-Latin myths, often preferring a pre-industrial, often bucolic or country imaginary.
  • In the field of poetry, lyricism prevailed and sentimental motives (which does not mean that the theme was always love), thus appearing the “lyrical self”.
  • Nationalism appears as a strong feeling in romantic literary works: love for popular tradition, for the land and people. As for the religious, a Christian vision is imposed.
  • The topic of the dead loved one was frequent in most poets and writers.

Origin of literary romanticism

literary romanticism samuel taylor coleridge
Authors like Coleridge brought literary romanticism to England.

Literary romanticism had its beginnings in pre-romantic German literature, one of whose greatest exponents was Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).

Secondly, its first manifestations are in the movement Sturm und Drang (“Storm and impetus”) in the middle of the 18th century, in which various artists and writers gave themselves full freedom of expression to explore their inspirations and subjectivities, taking sentiment and not rationality as a source of inspiration.

From Germany, romanticism spread to other European nations, producing very important literary references in England, France and Spain, and also in Tsarist Russia of the time. Later he continued in America and added important names in the United States and Latin America, especially Colombia, Cuba, Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela.

Authors and works of literary romanticism

literary romanticism victor hugo
Victor Hugo was one of the greatest authors of Romanticism and French literature.

Some of the names most commonly associated with literary romanticism, and his most outstanding works are the following:

  • Novalis (1772-1801). Pseudonym of Georg Phillip Friedrich von Hardenberg, was a German writer and philosopher of early romanticism, famous for his Hymns to the night and his novel Henry of Ofterdingen. His work is fundamentally poetic and is inserted in the so-called “magical idealism”.
  • Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805). German poet, playwright, philosopher and historian, considered together with the pre-romantic Goethe as the most important playwright in Germany. He is considered one of the most important voices of the bourgeoisie of the time, in his transition from absolutism to post-revolutionary life, and a good part of his work served as an inspiration to other German and foreign creators and musicians. Among all of it the dramas stand out The Maid of Orleans, William Tell and Don Carlos, as well as a diverse essay work.
  • Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843). German novelist and lyric poet, translator and scholar of philosophy, he subscribed not only to Romanticism, but also to the Idealism movement. His most famous works are Hyperion or the hermit of Greece, The death of Empedocles and The archipelago.
  • Georg Büchner (1813-1837). Playwright and prose writer of German nationality, who, had he not died so young, perhaps would have had the fame and appreciation of Schiller and Goethe. His theatrical works are represented all over the world, being the most famous Danton’s death and Woyzeck.
  • John Keats (1795-1821). British romantic poet, whose work was despised in life and highly valued in later times. Keats felt all his life that his work was in the shadow of the poets of the past, and only when he was near death was he able to produce his best works, including La Belle Dame sans merci, Ode to Psyche, Lamia and other poems, Ode to a nightingale and Ode to a Greek urn.
  • Heinrich Heine (1797-1856). One of the greatest German essayists and poets of the 19th century, considered the last poet of romanticism and who put an end to it. He was a militant utopian socialist, persecuted by the authorities and exiled towards the end of his life. Among his best known works are Travel paintings, Ballads, The romantic school and Florentine nights.
  • Victor Hugo (1802-1885). Poet, playwright and French romantic novelist, he is considered one of the great names in French literature, as well as a great politician and intellectual of his time. He is the author of such well-known and admired works as The Miserables, Our Lady of paris, The man who laughs, and many poems and plays.
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). Poet, critic and philosopher of English origin, he was together with William Wordsworth one of the founders of romanticism in Great Britain. He was part of the so-called Lakist poets of the early nineteenth century and his most famous works are Ballad of the Old Sailor, Kubla khan and Christabel.
  • William Wordsworth (1770-1850). One of the most important English poets of Romanticism, together with Coleridge, was the author of one of the poetic works that the movement imposed on the entire country: Lyrical ballads of 1798. His poetry was very innovative and sought a simple, immediate and everyday language to narrate the lives of ordinary people. Other of his famous works were The night meditations and the Ode written in a peasant cemetery.
  • Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837). Poet, philosopher, philologist and translator of Italian origin, he is the greatest representative of Romanticism in that country. His work, characterized by a deep pessimism, clings to the cult of heroes and the glorious past, in poems such as Chants, To the Italians or their Moral booklets.
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). American writer, poet and critic, well known for his work of crime and mystery stories, which made him one of the greatest cultists of the short story in the world. He was a renovator of the Gothic novel, and despite his early demise, many of his works are legendary, such as The Tell-Tale Heart, The crimes of the Rue Morgue, The well and the pendulum, The stolen letter or The premature burial, among many others.
  • Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870). Spanish poet and narrator, of late romanticism, also associated with post-romanticism, whose fame came to him after his death. His most famous work, Rhymes and legends, is a popular classic of Hispanic literature.
  • José María Heredia (1803-1839). Considered the first romantic poet in America and one of the greatest in the Spanish language, this Cuban author also exercised the offices of judge, lawyer, translator, novelist, playwright, soldier and politician. His extensive poetic work is very famous and well-known, as well as his dramas Atreus, Sila or The last romans.
  • Jorge Isaacs (1837-1895). Colombian novelist and poet who lived during the consolidation of the Republic of Colombia, is the author of a brief but fundamental work in the continent, composed of a book of poems in 1864 and his novel Maria from 1867.