The Romantic Period writers were different in many ways from the Enlightenment Age thinkers who came just before them. The writers of the Romantic Period were responding in many respects to changes that made society less personal and more industrialized (Kelly, 2016). Technology had developed to such an extent that people were being de-emphasized. By this, it meant that machines were stealing some of the humanity and individualism from individuals. The Enlightenment Age had made society more logical and rote, as well.
Thinkers laid out arguments according to dense logic, and emotion was often not considered in the mix. This created a political and social order that was much more rigid, and many of the Romantic Period writers did not think this was a good way for society to move forward. Rather, they believed that what makes human beings special is their capacity for individualism and emotion. Human beings, it seems, interact best with the world when they are out in nature and becoming true to themselves. In this way, the Romantic Period writers were pushing back against a society that had taken people out of nature, placed them in concert with machines, and taken away the individualism that had long powered the human spirit (Jarvis, 2015).
The Enlightenment Age was all about figuring out the next new thing. It was about exploring the mind and utilizing the hard sciences to push society forward. There was a belief that the most valuable thing one could contribute to society was this kind of understanding. People began to be valued by their contributions to technology and industry. The Romantic Period writers wanted desperately to return society to a time when people were valued on the basis of being people, with their emotional state being a subject of inquiry and their individual qualities respected regardless of the logic and innovation they bring.
- Jarvis, R. (2015). The Romantic Period: The Intellectual & Cultural Context of English Literature 1789-1830. Routledge.
- Kelly, G. (2016). English Fiction of the Romantic Period 1789-1830. Routledge.