“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality” (Edgar Allan Poe). Dark Romanticism is a literary movement that made waves that still resonate today within modern horror and pop culture, from Frankenstein to Dracula many recognizable names came from this era of writing. From the subjects covered by the many influential authors of the era to how it still has a place within modern writing, Dark Romanticism, a writing movement that began in England and moved to America in the 19th century, lays the foundations for genres like modern horror and sci-fi.
Whether it be Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein or Edgar Allan Poe’s narrative poem The Raven, the many authors and stories from this movement have become classic literature from a time dominated by the constant social, economic, and political changes. With the bars raised and examples set, Dark Romanticism paved the way for modern horror.
How it works
Easily one of the most prevalent themes within Dark Romanticism is that humans are inevitably corrupted by sin. For example, this subgenre had central themes of terror, insanity, and the supernatural, taboo topics often not explored in standard Romanticism. “In its extreme expressions of self-destruction and sin involving sheer terror.” (Gothic Literature) the literary movement was well known for its horror and supernatural subjects, defining the movement and separating it from traditional Romanticism.
Despite this, the movement did not stray too far from its origins, the subgenre of Dark Romanticism still held those same exaggerated topics as Romanticism but to a much darker degree (The Romantic Period). Overall, the central themes of Dark Romanticism were extremely important as they defined it as a subgenre and literary movement as a whole. It kept the exaggerated, imaginative base of Romanticism and implanted itself in the history of literature by pushing forth darker themes as well as individuality. In conclusion, Dark Romanticism was defined by its dark themes and imaginative writing. This lead to many of its writers to become iconic in the world of literature.
The writings of the most influential Dark Romanticism writers still hold up today as classic works of fiction and horror. When thinking of horror icons, many will be instantly drawn to say Frankenstein’s monster or Dracula. For instance, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is still read by many people and those who have not even read the book know of the iconic monster’s existence (Gothic Literature). These associations show that Dark Romanticism still has its place within the modern times, whether it be taking inspiration from Bram Stoker’s vampires or Mary Shelley’s concept of making a man through grave robbing.
As shown by the many Dark Romanticism authors still read today have people drawn to their writings for any of the number of reasons each story has as to why one should read it. Another author famous for his writings, Edgar Allan Poe, the man who essentially owned the movement. “His curiosity with psychological trauma, the supernatural, and experience with mental illness extended a degree of horror that is unparalleled.” (Gothic Literature). As evidenced by the relevance of these writings from over a hundred years ago, Gothic Romanticism still has a place within our modern era and kept that place through imaginative writing and expressions of anguish unparalleled in any works prior.
The era in which the literary movement of Dark Romanticism took place in was one of the greatest social and political change. Dark Romanticism took place post Civil War, a time of much change in almost all aspects of life. Many new movements and social developments moved the young country forward in such a small period of time compared to other countries (Social Change). In addition, the social changes spreading across the country sparked new movements within art and writing from the Second Great Awakening to Dark Romanticism.
The individuality and cultural changes pushed people to explore new areas of the arts. “A new capitalist economy enormously expanded wealth and laid the foundation for the industrial revolution that flourished in the 19th century” (Social Change). In the midst of a new era, the Industrial Revolution on the horizon and the Civil War in the past the social and cultural changes welcomed the new art forms with open arms.
Dark Romanticism is a subgenre of Romanticism as of its similarities and defining features. As previously mentioned, Dark Romanticism enveloped itself in the taboo, a major difference from Romanticism but was just as imaginative, both having exaggerated themes. The subgenre of Dark Romanticism still held those exaggerations but to a much darker degree (The Romantic Age).
It is evident that Dark Romanticism defined itself as both imaginative and terrifying, it exaggerated themes and kept it from breaking away entirely from Romanticism but was still able to define itself. The Romanticism genre was focused on the lighter things in life, transporting one to another world (Marshall). Furthermore, despite only being a subgenre Dark Romanticism ingrained itself as an influential literary movement. Its influences on modern writing have made the many authors and writings iconic within modern times.
Dark Romanticism is a literary movement that ripples are still felt more than a hundred years later. This subgenre and literary movement is one that is still enjoyed, analyzed many years after, even some drawing inspiration from them. As previously mentioned, Dark Romanticism paved the way for modern horror, it spawned icons of an era and movement. Among the many stories and authors that come up in discussions of Dark Romanticism those that come up are the writers who made the most impact on modern day horror (Gothic Literature).
Modern horror sets its roots deep within Dark Romanticism as much as it does into folklore. One way to put it, Dark Romanticism is a sort of grandfather to horror, shaking up a standard genre from the 19th century and inspiring authors for years to come. Even some of these stories like Frankenstein and Dracula still have relevance within pop culture (Kennedy). In the end, the literary movement of Dark Romanticism remains a period of influential writing that paved the way for modern horror in the years to come, and has characters that resonate within popular culture.