Chapter III The Romantic Period
English Romanticism, as a historical phase of literature, is generally said to have began in 1798 with the publication of Wordsworth & Coleridge''''s Lyrical Ballads & to have ended in 1832 with Sir Walter Scott''''s death & the passage of the first Reform Bill in the Parliament.
2. 识记 Historical & Cultural background
During this period, England had experienced profound economic & social change. The biggest social change in English history was the transfer of large masses of the population from the countryside to the towns. As a result of the Enclosures & the agricultural mechanization, the peasants were driven of their land； some emigrated to the colonies； some sank to the level of farm laborers & many others drifted to the industrial towns where there was a growing demand for labor. But the new industrial towns were no better than jungles, where the law was "the survival of the fittest." The cruel economic exploitation caused large-scale workers'''' disturbances in England.
（1） Influences of the Romantic Movement
Romanticism constitutes a change of direction from attention to the outer world of social civilization to the inner world of the human spirit. In essence it designates a literary & philosophical theory which tends to see the individual as the very center of all life & all experience. It also places the individual at the center of art, making literature most valuable as an expression of this or her unique feelings & particular attitudes & valuing its accuracy in portraying the individual''''s experiences.
（2） The Romantic views about literature
a. The Romantic period is an age of poetry. Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley & Keats are the major Romantic poets. They started a rebellion against the neoclassical literature, which was later regarded as the poetic revolution.
b. The Romantic period is also a great age of prose. The two major novelists of the Romantic period are Jane Austen & Walter Scott.
c. Besides poetry & prose, there are quite a number of writers who have fried their hand at poetic dramas in this period.
（1） Literary Terms
a. The Romantic Movement
It expressed a more or less negative attitude towards the existing social & political conditions that came with industrialization & the growing importance of the bourgeoisie. The Romantics felt that the existing society denied people their essential human needs, so they demonstrated a strong reaction against the dominant modes of thinking of the 18th-century writers & philosophers. Where their predecessors saw man as a social animal, the Romantics saw him essentially as an individual in the solitary state & emphasized the special qualities of each individual''''s mind. Romanticism actually constitutes a change of direction from attention to the outer.
b. The Gothic novel
It is a type of romantic fiction that predominated in the late 18th century & was one phase of the Romantic movement, its principal elements are violence, horror & the supernatural, which strongly appeal to the reader''''s emotion. With its descriptions of the dark, irrational side of human nature, the Gothic form has exerted a great influence over the writer of the Romantic period. Works like The Mysteries of Udolpho （1794） by Ann Radcliffe & Frankenstein （1818） by Mary Shelley are typical Gothic romance.
（2） Characteristics of Romantic literature in English history.
The Romantic period is an age of poetry Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley & Keats are the major Romantic poets. They started a rebellion against the neoclassical literature, which was later regarded as the poetic revolution. Wordsworth & Coleridge were the major representatives of this movement. They explored new theories & innovated new techniques in poetry writing. They saw poetry as a healing energy： they believed that poetry could purify both individual souls & the society. The Romantics not only extol the faculty of imagination, but also stress the concept of spontaneity & inspiration, regarding them as something crucial for true poetry. The natural world comes to the forefront of the poetic imagination. Nature is not only the major source of poetic imagery, but also provides the dominant subject matter. Wordsworth is the closest to nature.
To escape from a world that had became excessively rational, as well as excessively materialistic & ugly, the Romantics would turn to other times & places, where the qualities they valued could be convincingly depicted. Romantics also tend to be nationalistic, defending the great poets & dramatists of their own national heritage against the advocates of classical rules who tended to glorify Rome & rational Italian & French neoclassical art as superior to the native traditions. To the Romantics, poetry should be free from all rules. They would turn to the humble people & their everyday life for subjects, Romantic writers are always seeking for the Absolute, the Ideal through the transcendence of the actual. They have also made bold experiments in poetic language, versification & design, & constructed a variety of forms on original principles of structure & style.