Dr. Hareshwar Roy


The Classicism and the Romanticism are literary movements. The term Classicism refers to the admiration and imitation of Greek and Roman literature, art, and architecture. Order, maturity, harmony, balance and moderation are important qualities of Classicism. The Romanticism might best be described as anti-Classicism. This movement stressed human emotion and thoughts and emphasized the individual, the imaginative, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental. Popular romantic authors include people like Burke, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Keats, Byron, Gordon, Burns, Southey, Cowper, Shelley, Scott, Goethe, Lamb, De Quincey, Carlyle, Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.


Classicism and Romanticism developed so gradually and exhibited so many phases that a perfect definition is not possible. In general, Classicism can be defined as a style in literature that draws on the styles of ancient Greece and Rome.   Classicism is based on the idea that nature and human nature could be understood by reason and thought. It has attached much more importance to reason than imagination. More broadly, Classicism refers to the adherence to virtues including formal elegance and correctness, simplicity, dignity, restraint, order, and proportion. It is often opposed to Romanticism. The Romanticism can be viewed as an artistic movement, or state of mind, or both. It is a revolt against the Neoclassicism of the previous centuries and rebellion against established social rules and conventions.


Toward the end of the eighteenth-century, Romanticism emerged as a response to Classicism. While the Classicists thought of the world as having a rigid and stern structure, the romanticists thought of the world as a place to express their ideas and beliefs. Classicists and Romanticists differed in their views of nature. Classicism was based on the idea that nature and human nature could be understood by reason and thought. On the other hand, Romanticists viewed nature as mysterious and ever changing.


Classicist and Romanticists also differed on their approaches towards reason and imagination. Classicism attached much more importance to reason than imagination because imagination could not be explained by their laws. The Romanticists, however, emphasized that reason was not the only path to truth. To the Romantic writers, imagination was ultimately superior to reason. Classicists thought that it was literature’s function to show the everyday values of humanity and the laws of human existence. The Romantics stressed the human potential for social progress and spiritual growth.”


This discussion can be concluded by saying that both the movements played significant role in the development of literature. The classicism showed its strong effect in the field of writing in Augustan period. This ideal was followed by Dryden, Pope, Johnson and Swift. The term Romantic as a designation for a school of literature opposed to the Classic was first used by the German critic Schlegel at the beginning of the 19th century. From Germany, this meaning was carried to England and France.  Wordsworth and other literary figures of the 19th century strengthened the Romanticism in England.


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