In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Romanticism

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Letters and Journals
  • Journals
  • Biographies

British and Irish Literature Romanticism
Tim Fulford
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 September 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0109


“Romanticism” is a retrospective, 20th-century name for a literary movement created, retrospectively, by critics and historians. During the period in which it supposedly flourished, the authors subsequently seen as its embodiments—William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley (all poets)—did not view themselves as parts of a united movement. Moreover, they wrote under the influence of, and in alliance with, writers not considered “Romantic” at all. Accordingly, this article considers them as part of lively and contested literary culture that in the years 1780–1830 saw the rise of women writers and laboring-class writers to eminence and inaugurated the popularity of the magazine essay, the Gothic novel, and the historical novel. The period also gave rise to political journalism of lasting power, to Orientalist and travel writing, to antislavery literature, to the cults of sensibility and the picturesque, and to an unparalleled closeness between literary and scientific writing. All these contexts and genres, much explored by critics and historians since the 1980s, are featured in this article.

Introductory Works

The expansion of the canon of works studied and the development of new scholarly methodologies have rendered it difficult to introduce the field in one volume. These two works do an excellent job: Gaull 1988 offers a fast-moving progress through most aspects of the culture of the period; Roe 2005 offers a greater variety of critical approaches.

  • Gaull, Marilyn. English Romanticism: The Human Context. New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1988.

    A highly readable, information-packed survey of Romantic-era writing and culture, ideal for new students. Gaull discusses authors individually, but also key genres and political and cultural issues.

  • Roe, Nicholas, ed. Romanticism: An Oxford Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    An accessible and thorough handbook, with contributions by many eminent critics, to the literature and culture of the period. Topic-based essay discussions and bibliographies provide a helpful introduction to debates in the scholarly field, as well as to the period itself.

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