Dark romanticism  

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Elements of dark romanticism were a perennial possibility within the broader international movement Romanticism, in both literature and art.

Like romanticism itself, dark romanticism arguably began in Germany, with writers such as E. T. A. Hoffmann, Christian Heinrich Spiess, and Ludwig Tieck – though their emphasis on existential alienation, the demonic in sex, and the uncanny, was offset at the same time by the more homely cult of Biedermeier.

British authors such as Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Shelley, and John William Polidori, who are frequently linked to Gothic fiction, are also sometimes referred to as Dark Romantics. Their tales and poems commonly feature outcasts from society, personal torment and uncertainty as to whether the nature of man will bring him salvation or destruction. Some Victorian authors of English horror fiction, such as Bram Stoker and Daphne du Maurier, follow in this lineage.

The American form of this sensibility centered on the writers Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville. As opposed to the perfectionist beliefs of Transcendentalism, these darker contemporaries emphasized human fallibility and proneness to sin and self-destruction, as well as the difficulties inherent in attempts at social reform.

French authors such as Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud echoed the dark themes found in the German and English literature. Baudelaire was one of the first French writers to admire Edgar Allan Poe, but this admiration or even adulation of Poe became widespread in French literary circles in the late 19th century.

Edgar Allan Poe was a representative of the darker strains of American Romanticism
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Edgar Allan Poe was a representative of the darker strains of American Romanticism

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Dark romanticism is a literary subgenre that emerged from Romanticism popular in nineteenth-century Europe and the United States. Key writers of the darker strains of Romanticism include E. T. A. Hoffmann in Germany, Lord Byron in England, Edgar Allan Poe in the United States and Charles Baudelaire in France.

Dark Romanticism is connected to the gothic novel. The 'gothic' sensibility flourished in most European literatures. Every European country had its own terminology to denote the sensibility of the gothic novel. In France it was called the roman noir ("black novel", in Germany it was called the Schauerroman ("shudder novel"). Italy and Spain must have had their own, but I am unaware of their names as of yet. In nineteenth century France there also flourished a literature of horror on a par with the English Gothic novel or the German Schauerroman. It was christened 'le roman frénétique'.

Prominent Anglophone examples

Elements contained within the following literary works by Dark Romantic authors make each representative of the subgenre:

Relation to Gothic fiction

Popular in England during the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries, Gothic fiction is known for its incorporation of many conventions that are also found in Dark Romantic works. Gothic fiction originated with Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in 1764. Works of the genre commonly aim to inspire terror, including through accounts of the macabre and supernatural, haunted structures, and the search for identity; critics often note gothic fiction's "overly melodramatic scenarios and utterly predictable plots." In general, with common elements of darkness and the supernatural, and featuring characters like maniacs and vampires, Gothic fiction is more about sheer terror than Dark Romanticism's themes of dark mystery and skepticism regarding man. Still, the genre came to influence later Dark Romantic works, particularly some of those produced by Poe.

Earlier British authors writing within the movement of Romanticism such as Lord Byron, Samuel Coleridge, Mary Shelley, and John Polidori who are frequently linked to gothic fiction are also sometimes referred to as Dark Romantics. Their tales and poems commonly feature outcasts from society, personal torment, and uncertainty as to whether the nature of man will bring him salvation or destruction.

See also

Die Elixiere des Teufels, Genealogy of the Cruel Tale, dark culture, The Romantic Agony, black comedy




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Dark romanticism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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