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Introduction For A Dark Romanticism Anthology English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1374 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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From the late -18th to the mid of 19th century, new Romantic attitude begun to characterize culture and many art works in Western civilization. It started as an artistic and intellectual movement that emphasized a revulsion against established values, like social order and religion. Romanticism exalted individualism, subjectivism, irrationalism, imagination, emotions over reason and senses over intellect.

   Somewhere at the end of XVIII century Gothic motifs were seen here and there in Romantic literature, and soon Gothic style became widely used by romantics. 

Gothic is closely related to romanticism. Romantic literature is filled with emotions, imagination, melancholy, and the same is used in the gothic literature.

The authors of gothic poetry were Southey, Wadsworth, Coleridge. Each of them left its own image: Southey – an “old woman from Berkeley,” Wadsworth – a “Lucy Gray”, Coleridge – an “ancient mariner ” and “Christabel”.

Before beginning an insight of the Dark Romanticism anthology I want to take the reader through the specialized explaining of the Romanticism period – its style, its ideas, historical issues, its atmosphere… Can you imagine the epoch?

Romantic writing is smart, interesting, fascinating and astonishing. Whether you enjoy historical settings, exoticism, mysteries of life and the mysteries of existence, or any number of other themes, the dark romanticism literature is for you.

Dark Romanticism is a literary style that looks at the darker aspects of people. Why do people make the choices they make? Why do people do the things that they do?

It is difficult to make certain characteristics of this style, because everyone finds something new in it, something close to his character and world outlook. Everyone has his favorite dark hero,

The first characteristic that can be pointed is that it emphases the tragic dimensions of life. It emphasizes the tragedies in life and how people react, how people struggle and overcome them. Some people fight with dark sides of life, some people like it.

For example, a lot is dealing with death, sin, pain, the loss of a love, divorce, heart-ache, hardship. And it’s not stressing only life, but also making a trip about how things go on, like how people behave as result of those tragedies.

Dark Romaniticism is not just negative, absolutely not. As we all have this within us: angels and beasts, ideals and sins. We all have this inside, but do we allow them to come out? Or do we fight it? Why do people make bad choices?

Dark Romanticism is interesting because it deals with human fights with dark, human relationship to god. It makes readers think.

Gothic style, as a part of dark romanticism literature and art, is a genre that makes readers feel and experience great emotions. Gothic literature is melancholy, it is often overly dramatic, it creates feelings of gloom, mystery, and suspense, and tends to the dramatic and the sensational. (Philip F. Gura)

It contained elements of darkness and mystery: incest, diabolism, mysteries of life and the mysteries of existence. As Gothic literature intended to awaken the readers imagination, terror was one of the main devices employed for this effect.( Philip F. Gura)

The main genre of Gothic literature was a gothic novel – a work of mystical-minded heroes who most often are the ghosts, vampires, or people with dark mysterious and dark past and no less dark in this, monks, mystics. 

The Gothic romance is often called Dark Romance, as restoration of old, the appeal to folklore, hoaxes – all this brings them closer.

All the works of the Dark Romanticism anthology have a lot in common, so to say the following features: 

1. The plot is built around a secret, for example: someone’s disappearance, of unknown origin, unsolved crimes, disinheritance. And it is important, that disclosure of secrets is delayed until the very end!  The central mystery is usually added to the secondary, and is also disclosed in the final. 

2. The story is surrounded by the atmosphere of fear and terror, and unfolds in a continuous series of threats to peace, security and honor of the hero and heroine. 

3. A gloomy and ominous scene supports the general atmosphere of mystery and fear. Most Gothic novels take place in an ancient, abandoned, dilapidated castle or monastery, with dark corridors, forbidden rooms, the smell of decay and poked servants, spies. The situation includes the howling wind, dark forests, desolate wasteland, opened, the tomb – so everything that can increase the fear, both in the heroine, and thus the reader. As the major events are often performed under the cover of night. 

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4. In the early Gothic novels, the central character was a girl. She is beautiful, charming, virtuous, modest, and in the final she gets marital happiness, social position and wealth. But, along with common to all romantic heroines features, she has “sensitivity”. She likes to walk alone in the forest glades, and dream in the moonlight at the window of her bedroom, she cries and at the decisive moment she faints. As for the man being a main hero, he is usually either an idealized image of a young man of such “freedom fighter”, not afraid of anything around, any male villain, who destroys the life of heroes of the novel, a tyrant and a despot. 

5. The plot requires the presence of the villain.  As usual, a villain displaces the main heroine from the center of the reader’s attention, he becomes full of power and is usually the engine of the plot.

So let’s see a number of classic images, characters, typical for Dark Romanticism: the castle, moan, a giant, bloody dagger, a candle, bones, skulls, mysterious voices and whispers, witch, ghost, ancient book, etc.

Common to all works is a philosophy based on a predetermined, unchangeable fate, no matter how characters are struggling with. Also the Gothic literature is fatalistic: it allows to believe in something supernatural, unusual, in its ability to somehow influence the course of life.

William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Percy Shelley showed their belief in the goodness of man and his future, but other writers of that period were less optimistic. Lord Byron and Mary Shelley, for example, spoke about the likelihood of a spiritual union of people with the supernatural. (Wayne, Tiffany K. )

In works of dark Romanticism, the writers showed outcasts from society: Byron’s “Manfred and Cain”, Samuel Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner” and Mary Shelley’s “Victor Frankenstein”. These Romantic writers explored mysterious, monstrous, and the supernatural, creating powerful and imaginative works in literature and art.


The dark romanticism style appeared late in the 18th century as part of the Romantic movement in the literature and arts. This movement represented a reaction against the Enlightenment, that had dominated at that time .

This style in literature and art is used to be called Gothic, because much of its inspiration was drawn from medieval buildings and ruins, many of which are Gothic in architectural style.

So, what is Gothic literature? With confidence we can say that this is something essential to man, as fear has always been and always will be. And people are interested in such feeling as fear, and therefore the relevance of Gothic is obvious. Going deep into the world of dark and inexplicable, the reader can feel nervous, and suffer a wide range of emotions, that not like in daily life experience.

Woks cited:

1. Wayne, Tiffany K. (2006) Encyclopedia of Transcendentalism. Greenwood Press

2. Philip F. Gura (2002) American Transcendentalism: A History. Modern Library; Modern Library edition 

3. Norton Anthology of English Literature, The. The Romantic Period: Topics Introduction. 20 February 2006. http://www.wwnorton.com/nael/r omantic/welcome.htm.


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