Romance gets its name from Romanticism or the Romantic Era in history. Romanticism is a complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution. In part, it was a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature. Romanticism was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on politics, religion, education, and natural history.
The movement appealed to the revolutionary spirit of America as well as to those longing to break free of the strict religious traditions of early settlement. The Romantics rejected rationalism and religious intellect, in opposition of Calvinism, which involved the belief that the universe and all the events within it are subject to the power of God. The Romantic Movement gave rise to New England Transcendentalism, which portrayed a less restrictive relationship between God and Universe. The new religion presented the individual with a more personal relationship with God. Transcendentalism and Romanticism appealed to Americans in a similar fashion.
Transcendentalism exalted feeling over reason, individual expression over the restraints of law and custom. American Romance embraced the individual and rebelled against the confinement of neoclassicism and religious tradition. The Romantic Movement in America created a new literary genre that continues to influence modern writers. Novels, short stories, and poems began to take the place of the sermons and manifestos that were associated with the early American literary principals. Romantic literature was personal, intense, and portrayed more emotion than ever seen in neoclassical literature. America’s preoccupation with freedom became a great source of motivation for Romantic writers as many were delighted in free expression and emotion without so much fear of ridicule and controversy.
Perhaps the most ideal example of American Romantic literature is Little Women by Concord, Massachusetts’ own Louisa May Alcott. Some other New England authors influenced by romance were: Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Henry David Thoreau.
Yes, New England is “Romantic” in more ways than one! What is your favorite Romance?