Romanticism describes an artistic and intellectual movement that started in the latter part of the 18th century and had a powerful effect on many areas of art, literature, music, and thought. The characteristics of Romanticism include a focus on strong emotion, awe of nature, and a break from following rigid structure. These and other characteristics arose, to an extent, from a desire to rebel against the scientific rationalization of the natural world that was occurring due to rapid increases in scientific progress. As such, emphasis was placed on the power of nature, the importance of imagination, and the use of mythical and religious symbolism.
Some of the characteristics of Romanticism are based in thematic rather than stylistic concerns. Much romantic literature, for instance, focused on isolated and heroic artist figures in unpleasant or difficult situations. Romantic literature also addressed the human psyche in new ways, placing importance on the unconscious and the imagination that was generally lacking in classical literature. Some literature from the Romantic movement took on supernatural or occult subjects, and many early important works in the horror genre originated from this movement. The vast power of nature and the powerlessness of man against nature was another of the prominent thematic.
Romanticism also has several stylistic characteristics that contrast with the structure, formality, and restraint common in classicism. These writers held imagination and creativity above formality and structure, so many defied literary conventions of the time. They practiced less restraint than their classical counterparts and were more likely to use words and phrases highly evocative of emotion and less based in precise concrete meaning. Classical writers tended to follow very explicit rules that specified what they should and should not do in their literary work, which was starkly different from Romanticism.
Another of the characteristics of Romanticism is a focus on mythology and religion. The focus was not, however, always full of humble awe and respect — many romantic writers provided reinterpretations of myths that varied substantially from the source material. Religion in particular was treated with much less respect and awe than in past literary practices. Writers were likely to use religious imagery because of its beauty and effectiveness in conveying emotionally-charged meaning. Romanticism is not, however, defined by pious and deferential respect for the religious themes addressed, and writers freely used religious ideas for their own purposes.