Romantic Literature Essay Topics/Thesis Ideas

Updated on July 22, 2016
The romantic period in England began with Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poetry by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
The romantic period in England began with Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poetry by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. | Source

Romantic Themes - Romantic Movement

As a rule, it's difficult to pinpoint the exact start of a major literary movement. With the English romantic movement, however, a single book is cited as the impetus. In 1798, two young poets, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, needed money to finance a trip to Germany, so they pooled some of the verses into a book, Lyrical Ballads. The collection was amazingly popular, and it enjoyed numerous reprintings. Most of the poems in Lyrical Ballads were penned by Wordsworth - only four were written by Coleridge. These two poets are usually referred to as the first generation romantic poets. They were soon followed by the second generation romantic poets - John Keats, Lord Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Other poets often included in this period are William Blake, Robert Burns, Walter Savage Landor, Leigh Hunt, and Robert Southey.

Although poetry dominated English romanticism, some important novelists also made contributions. These include Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, and Thomas Love Peacock. Romantic novels you might be familiar with are Frankenstein (Mary Shelley), Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott), Nightmare Abbey (Thomas Love Peacock), and Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, both by Jane Austen. If you've been assigned to write an essay pertaining to English romanticism, I'm offering you some romantic literature essay topics and thesis ideas, found below.

Neoclassical vs. Romantic

The literary period prior to the Romantic period is often referred to as Neoclassical, and the literature produced in each period was significantly different to the works published in the other period. This would make an excellent essay topic. To get you started, I made the table below:

Neoclassical vs. Romantic Literature

Neoclassical
Romantic
mostly written by the aristocracy
written by the common man
written for the aristocracy
written for the common man
structured
unstructured
planned
spontaneous
science and reason
supernatural and emotion
focused on the artificial
focused on nature
conformed
rebelled
used formal language
used vernacular
Romantic poets, especially Wordsworth, found solace and inspiration in Nature. One of Wordsworth's most famous poems is "Daffodils."
Romantic poets, especially Wordsworth, found solace and inspiration in Nature. One of Wordsworth's most famous poems is "Daffodils." | Source

The Impact of the Industrial Revolution

Many poems from the romantic period were in reaction to the Industrial Revolution, which changed England dramatically. Many people were forced off their small farms and out of their cottage industries. Such people had few choices. For the most part, they either had to move to big manufacturing cities to work in factories, or they had to go on the "public dole."

Cities became crowded, dirty, and smoke-ridden. Major rivers and streets were heavily polluted, and disease and vermin were rampant. Even small children were forced to work in factories, in mines, or as chimney sweeps in the horizontal chimneys of factories. Several romantic poems address this issue.

Another good essay topic would be how the Industrial Revolution impacted romantic literature, or how the feelings about the Industrial Revolution were reflected in romantic poetry. Some good examples of poems to use:

"The Tyger," by William Blake

"The Chimney Sweeper," by William Blake

"Jerusalem," by William Blake

"The World is Too Much With Us," by William Wordsworth

Coleridge's most famous poem, "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," tells of an ill-fated ship's crew.
Coleridge's most famous poem, "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," tells of an ill-fated ship's crew. | Source

The Use of Myth and the Supernatural

Here’s an idea for an essay on romantic literature: The use of myth and the supernatural. Several romantic authors were fascinated by the unusual, the exotic, and mythology. Even literary works that weren’t focused on mythology, for example, often included allusions to classical mythology. An example of this is Wordsworth’s mention of Proteus and Triton, both sea-gods from Greek mythology, in “The World is Too Much with Us.”

The works below use the supernatural and/or mythology as their main themes:

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Ode on a Grecian Urn,” by John Keats

“Kubla Khan,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Byron as a Romantic Hero

Lord Byron, a second generation romantic poet, led a tumultuous, scandalous life and is often referred to as a flesh-and-blood romantic hero. A romantic hero is a rebel who rejects the “proper” rules of society and is fiercely independent. Others might characterize the romantic hero as being powerful, brooding, and isolated. Romantic heroes are generally ruled by their emotions and intuition instead of by reason and logic. Sometimes society as a whole views these individuals as lacking morals.

Research Lord Byron’s life and decide if you think he fits the description of a romantic hero.

Wordsworth vs. Coleridge

Wordsworth and Coleridge were very close friends, and they often worked together. Even though both were romantic writers, they often used starkly different themes and explored different topics. Wordsworth saw positive power and inspiration in Nature, while Coleridge sometimes depicted Nature as violent and destructive. Also, Wordsworth enjoyed making the mundane appear fascinating, while Coleridge often attempted to make the supernatural and fantastic believable. You could create several essay topics along these lines.

Romantic Poets

Who's your favorite romantic poet?

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Questions & Answers

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      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        6 years ago from The Caribbean

        This hub takes me back to my advanced literature class. Wordsworth and Byron are two of my favorite romantics. I enjoyed this lesson. Voted up, useful and interesting.

      • Mmargie1966 profile image

        Mmargie1966 

        6 years ago from Gainesville, GA

        Wow, Habee! Excellent Hub! I learned a great deal of interesting information.

        Thanks~

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