Comparison Contrast of Romanticism and Realism Essay

Comparison Contrast of Romanticism and Realism

            Romanticism and Realism are separate artistic periods that overlapped each other for almost a decade, and even though they are remarkably different, there are similarities as well.  Romanticism was an intellectual movement in the arts from seventeen ninety until eighteen seventy.  It was a rejection and reaction to Classicism and the Enlightenment focusing on the individual, bias, illogical, creative, spontaneous, emotional, and the transcendental.  Realism was also an intellectual movement that reflected the time period.  It began in approximately eighteen sixty-one and lasted until nineteen fourteen when World War began.  Realism was an attempt to describe the world without idealization.

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            The similarities of Romanticism and Realism are not as many as the differences, however they do exist.  Both began in Europe and quickly spread to America.  They were also shaped by the events of the day.  Romanticism was a result of the stifling of the creative mind during the Age of Reason while Realism took place as a consequence of the political and social issues.  The Civil War in the United States and the urbanization due to the Industrial Revolution caused the people of the time to reject the mystical effects of Romanticism.  However, both artistic movements focused on nature and the effects on society.  A focal point of each was the poor and working class and the injustices that were plagued them.

      Both Romanticism and Realism were unique in their elements.  Romanticism embodied the following: emotion over reason, the senses over the intellect, heightened examination of human personality and its moods and mental potentials, preoccupation with the genius, preoccupation with the hero, focus on passions and inner struggles, focus on the dark hero, the artist and his/her creative spirit is more important than the strict adherence to formal rules and traditional procedures, obsessive interest in folk culture (folk tale), obsessive interest in the medieval era, obsessive interest in the mysterious, experimentation in science, quest for pure beauty, the use of the far away (in the past), nature as a place to find God, fascination with the supernatural, and a fascination with the exotic. (P. Reuben) Realism, on the other hand can be described as the direct opposite of these elements.  The Realist incorporated the elements of rejection of the idealized, larger-than-life hero of Romantic literature, entailed description of ordinary characters and realistic events, an emphasis on characters from cities and lower classes, an avoidance of the exotic, sensational, and overly dramatic, use of everyday speech patterns to reveal class distinction, and a focus on the ethical struggles and social issues of real-life situations. (P. Penrose)

      These differences were due primarily because life had drastically changed for people.  Times were no longer idealistic and the art must reflect it.  Each artistic movement will always be inclined to reflect the situations of the time period that they cover, but there will continually be areas that are the similar.  This is true for the simple reason that while society and technology is constantly changing hence transforming their taste in art, people will always want to be entertained.

Works Cited


Reuben, Paul P. “Perspectives in American Literature – A Reference Guide.” 21 Feb. 2007


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