Main Difference – Neoclassicism vs Romanticism
Neoclassicism and romanticism are often considered to be opposing movements. The main difference between neoclassicism and romanticism is that neoclassicism emphasized on objectivity, order, and restraint whereas romanticism emphasized on imagination and emotion.
This article explores,
1. What is Neoclassicism?
– Definition, Features, Writers
2. What is Romanticism?
– Definition, Features, Writers
3. What is the difference between Neoclassicism and Romanticism?
What is Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is a movement in literature that drew inspiration from the classical age. The writers of this period tried to imitate the style of Greeks and Romans. This movement, which was a reaction against the renaissance, lasted from about 1660 and 1798. John Milton, Alexander Pope, Voltaire, John Dryden, Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe are some well-known neoclassic writers. Parody, essays, satire, novels and poetry are some popular genres in this movement.
Neoclassicism was based on classical themes and forms. Structure, restraint, simplicity, decorum, order, logic, and objectivity were the main features of neoclassical literature. These were classical virtues which neoclassical writers admired and attempted to imitate. In his “An Essay on Criticism”, Alexander Pope describes the benefits of order and restraint as follows.
“Tis more to guide than spur the Muse’s Steed;
Restrain his Fury, than provoke his Speed;
The winged Courser, like a gen’rous Horse,
Shows most true Mettle when you check his Course”
This movement can be typically divided into three periods:
- The Restoration Age (1660 to 1700): This period marks the British King’s restoration to the throne. It is marked by Classical influence.
- The Augustan Age (1700 to 1750): The Augustans believed that their period was similar to that of Augustus Ceaser in Rome, which was a period of tranquility and stability.
- The Age of Johnson (1750 to 1798): Also called the Age of Transition, this stage was marked by the upcoming Romantic ideals and influence and slow transition from neoclassical ideals to romantic ones.
What is Romanticism
Romanticism is a literary movement that lasted from about 1789 to 1832. This can be described as a reaction against industrial revolution and neo-classicism. The main feature of this movement is its emphasis on imagination, subjectivity, and emotion. William Wordsworth words in his preface to Lyrical ballads describes this emphasis on imagination and emotion as follows:
“For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: and though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply.”
William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walter Scott, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelly, and William Blake are some famous writers in the Romantic Movement. This movement drew inspiration from Medieval and Baroque eras and its main themes were nature, legends, pastoral life, and supernatural elements.
Difference Between Neoclassicism and Romanticism
Neoclassicism:Neoclassicism lasted from about 1660 and 1798.
Romanticism: Romanticism lasted from about1789 to 1832.
Neoclassicism:Neoclassicism emphasized on structure, restraint, and objectivity.
Romanticism:Romanticism emphasized on imagination, emotion, and subjectivity.
Neoclassicism:Neoclassicism drew its inspiration from Classical age (Greeks and Romans).
Romanticism:Romanticism drew its inspiration from Medieval and Baroque eras.
Neoclassicism:Greek and Roman history, bravery, restraint, and courage were major themes in neoclassicism.
Romanticism:Nature, legends, and pastoral life were major themes in romanticism.
Neoclassicism:Neoclassical writers used a calm, rational tone.
Romanticism: Romantic writers used a spontaneous, sometimes moody tone.
Neoclassicism:John Milton, Alexander Pope, Voltaire, John Dryden, Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe are some well-known neoclassic writers.
Romanticism:William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walter Scott, Percy Bysshe Shelley are some well-known writers of this movement.
“Alexander Pope circa 1736″ – Attributed to Jonathan Richardson – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, online database, Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
“William Wordsworth” – Attributed Margaret Gillies (1803-1887)From en:, uploaded 13:55, 12 October 2002 by Magnus Manske – “Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.” (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
Neoclassicism vs Romanticism
Neoclassicism and Romanticism are two periods of artistic, literary, and intellectual movements that show some differences between them in the history of the Western culture. The period of Neoclassicism was from the 18th century to the early 19th century. On the other hand, the Romanticism flourished towards the end of the 18th century. This is one of the main differences between the two periods of neoclassicism and romanticism. Though they affected many fields such as literature, architecture, and art, we can observe most characteristics of each period in the fields of literature and art. Let us find out more about both neoclassicism and romanticism.
What is Neoclassicism?
Neoclassicism was a movement that took place from the 18th century to the early 19th century. This was a movement that was visible in many fields such as art, literature and architecture. Neoclassicism draws its inspiration from the Ancient Greece and Rome where the culture and art were considered classical.
Since neoclassicism gave value to logic and reason, you can see that the neoclassic writers have paid much importance to logic and reason in their writings. When it comes to the subject matter of the works of the writers of the Neoclassicism period, you will see that the subject dealt primarily with the human beings. For example, these works spoke about the flaws of human beings. When it comes to art, you can see that the art of neoclassicism was inspired by ancient legends such as the Odysseus and Oedipus.
Literature or rather poetry in literature was a field that showed much of the characteristics of the neoclassical period. Diction and grammar were given ample importance during the neoclassical period. Works were written in grammatical style. Most works were impeccable in grammar. By reading a work written during the neoclassical period, a reader could see the mind and the description of the other person through the mind of the poet. That is because the society was explored and characters were given much more importance. Therefore, the feelings and the sentiments of the primary and other characters of the poem are given more importance and preference when compared to the individual feelings or the personal feelings of the poet in the case of neoclassical poetry.
The chief architects of the Neoclassicism period were John Dryden and Alexander Pope. Pope’s satirical verses inspired many a person during the neoclassical period.
Oath of the Horatii
What is Romanticism?
Romanticism was a movement that took place towards the end of the 18th century. This was a movement that was visible in many fields such as art, literature, and architecture. Romanticism draws its inspiration from movements such as the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.
Emotions were given much value during romanticism. That is why you can see that writers who belonged to the Romantic period giving importance to emotions and self-experience. Also, most works of the writers of the period of Romanticism are laden with descriptions of nature. This is because romanticism was more focused on nature rather than the society which was the focus of neoclassicism.
The liberal nature of the romanticism can be explored by the poetry that existed during the period. The language of the common person was used in majority of the works that belonged to the Romantic period. Diction was not given that much of importance by the writers of the Romantic period. By reading a work written during the Romantic period, a reader could see the mind of a poet. Personal feelings of the poet are reflected in the imagery of the poet in the case of romantic poetry. The primary character of the poem is not being recognized in any manner. He just comes and goes.
Wordsworth and Coleridge are two of the greatest of the Romantic period of writing. There are other writers too that made a significant contribution to poetry during the period of Romanticism. These poets include Keats, Shelley, and Byron.
Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog
What is the difference between Neoclassicism and Romanticism?
• The period of Neoclassicism was from the 18th century to the early 19th century.
• On the other hand, the Romanticism flourished towards the end of the 18th century.
• Neoclassicism draws its inspiration from the classical art and culture of ancient Rome and Greece.
• Romanticism was inspired by the Industrial revolution and the Enlightenment.
• Logic and Reason vs Emotions:
• Neoclassicism gave importance to logic and reason.
• Romanticism gave importance to emotions and self-experience.
• Society vs Nature:
• Neoclassicism examined the society.
• Romanticism examined the nature.
These are the differences between Neoclassicism and Romanticism.
Images Courtesy:Oath of the Horatii and Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
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