What is Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in late 18th century Western Europe. It stressed strong emotion, imagination, freedom within or even from classical notions of form in art, and overturning of previous social conventions, particularly the position of the aristocracy. It followed the Enlightenment period and was in part inspired by a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms from the previous period, as well as seeing itself as the fulfillment of the promise of that age.
In a general sense, "Romanticism" was the group of related artistic, political, philosophical and social trends arising out of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe. But a precise characterization and a specific description of Romanticism have been objects of intellectual history and literary history for all of the twentieth century without any great measure of consensus emerging.
Arthur Lovejoy, the founder of the "history of ideas," attempted to demonstrate the difficulty of this problem in his seminal article "On The Discrimination of Romanticisms." Successive generations of scholars have engaged with this question, with some believing that a general description of Romanticism is possible, and others arguing against it. Similarly, some scholars see romanticism as completely continuous with the present, some see it as the inaugural moment of modernity, some see it as the beginning of a tradition of resistance to the Enlightenment, and still others date it firmly to the direct aftermath of the French Revolution. The topic is complex enough that most "characteristics" taken as defining Romanticism have also been taken as its opposite by different scholars.
Still, in common usage, Romanticism is often understood as a set of new cultural and aesthetic values. It might be taken to include the rise of individualism, as seen by the cult of the artistic genius that was a prominent feature in the Romantic worship of Shakespeare and in the poetry of Wordsworth, to take only two examples; a new emphasis on common language and the depiction of apparently everyday experiences; and experimentation with new, non-classical artistic forms.
Romanticism also strongly valued the past. Old forms were valued, ruins were sentimentalized as iconic of the action of Nature on the works of man, and mythic and legendary material which would previously have been seen as "low" culture became a common basis for works of "high" art and literature.