Romanticism | Writing Forums
Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a non-profit community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists.

We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of participation level, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in their craft. Participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building skill level! There's so much more to explore!

Romanticism (1 Viewer)

Not open for further replies.


Senior Member
I'm writing an essay on Romanticism + Wurthering Heights for school. Here is a bit of it. WH will come into it later, but are there any comments about this section as an academic essay?

Imagination was the heart of Romanticism. The Romantics gave free reign to their imagination and emotion, pursing thoughts and feelings as far as they could go. They pondered the value of the individual and the ideal states of childhood and nature. Through their imaginings they saw the unity in all things, even in contraries. They wished to experience the Sublime – to experience both the extreme beauty and the extreme ugliness of life and nature. The desire for these extreme ideals and feelings was connected with their rebellion against reason and mediocrity. They idealised the primitive genius. These ideas are articulated in Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights.

The events of Emily Bronte’s life have a Romantic edge. The Romantics longed to escape the oppression of reality through an inner life, and imagined life of the ideal. From that ideal state of childhood onwards, Bronte and her siblings were absorbed by their imaginings. Many Romantics had difficulty adjusting to their reality; they preferred to spend their lives in their created worlds. All of the Brontes found the world of work and reality tiresome. Patrick Branwell Bronte turned to alcohol for an escape; Emily returned time and time again to her isolated childhood home in Yorkshire. She was drawn to the surrounding nature. In one of her poems, she shares her experience of a stormy evening on the ‘wastes’. She is entranced by the sublimity of nature’s fury and she ‘will not, cannot go’ from it. This fury of nature also appears in Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte writing tends towards the dangerous sublime rather than the peaceful sublime of a pastoral scene. Finally, to round out Bronte’s life as a Romantic writer, she – like Shelley, Byron and Keats – dies young. So do most of her characters: Linton, Catherine, Hindley, Isabella, Edgar, Heathcliff. (Melani, 28 March 2004) There seems to be an aspect in the idea of an early death that captured the imagination of the Romantics. Certainly, in Wuthering Heights, death itself is an extreme, emotional event. Catherine’s death scene is filled with extreme anger, sorrow and anguish. (Bronte, 1974, p147)

Bronte wrote her novel towards the very end of the Romantic period. By this time, principles of Romantic thought were well established. The Romantics valued imagination above reason. They determined this choice at a certain point in a long line of thought. Throughout the Enlightenment, philosophers and scholars tried to define the relationship between wit, fancy, reason and imagination. Wit was once connected with a quick imagination and intellect. However, as witty comments became fantastic, scholars began to distinguish between true wit and false wit. They decided that true wit occurred when imagination was governed by reason.

Common sense and a collective identity of mankind became more important with Enlightenment scholars. Their definitions of intellect deserted imagination and individualism for reason and general appeal. Hobbes, a scholar, commented that imagination (or fancy) undirected by judgement ‘is one kind of madness’.

Imagination and fancy came to mean the same thing. Imagination was described as a ‘decaying sense’ associated with the non-creative memory, and not intellect. Enlightenment thinkers chose reason as the sole component of wit and generally discarded imagination. (Babbitt, 1977, p22-25)

It was in this climate of thought that the Romantics emerged. They rebelled against it, in true Romantic fashion, and took reason’s antithesis – imagination – as their ideal. They disdained intellect, instead valuing individual thought and primitive genius. Blake wrote, ‘Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without Improvement are roads of Genius’. (McGann, 1993, p84)

Wordsworth and Coleridge, continuing what the Enlightenment scholars began, redefined Imagination and distinguished it from fancy. Wordsworth’s ‘Imagination’ was a ‘higher faculty’ than fancy, dealing with ‘underlying unity’ between objects and modifying these objects in infinite ways. Moreover, the results of the imagination were ‘not perceived by discursive reasoning, but rather by feeling’.

Wordsworth believed imagination and fancy had a few common attributes: ‘To aggregate and to associate, to evoke and to combine, belong as well to the Imagination as to the Fancy.’

Coleridge made a more definite devision between imagination and fancy. Imagination was the avenue through which men could infinitely create and re-create. Fancy however could only work with ‘fixitites and definites’, being ‘no other than a mode of memory’ modified by the will. (Landa, 2004)

The definitions provided by both the Romantics and the Enlightenment scholars are not absolute. Each group had a clear bias that their definitions depended on.

Lilian R Furst sums up the Romantic definition: ‘…to them it was not so much the faculty of forming images of reality as the gift for forming images which go beyond reality, images that are conjured up by the inner eye and that transform existential reality into some higher reality in song or dream’. (p129)

There will be more of course, but is this okay?
Not open for further replies.