The Dark Romantics in American Literature



the American Renaissance in literature is actually a very specific part of the larger literary period the American Romantic period the Romantic period which lasted roughly from 1800 to 1860 experienced an explosion of uniquely American literature near the end of the time period this surge of American literary masterpieces from 1840 to 1860 is known as the American Renaissance during the American Renaissance writers could generally be placed into one of two subgenres or categories the dark romantics and the transcendentalists in this video we're going to look at the dark romantics to begin it's best to explain that dark romantic doesn't mean darkly romantic so we're not thinking about fifty shades of gray type thing here I'm sorry to disappoint you though both are exploring the inner workings of the mind instead we are talking about a sub-genre of writing that took a shadowy approach to the fantastical the romantic writers took an optimistic approach to the mystical aspects of the universe where sins are properly punished and those who are truly good are rewarded for example in Washington Irving's the devil and Tom Walker Tom Walker's punished for his greed it's a moral tale to warn against hypocrisy and evil on the other hand the dark romantics like had growlin Pope Nathaniel Hawthorne in Herman Melville sometimes called gothic were more serious and found that darkness and evil in those same aspects with evil taking over the good as a result they're writing typically has the following characteristics lots of creepy symbols horrific themes and psychological effects of guilt and sin a symbol is something that represents something else a red rose for example is a common symbol for love romance passion and vitality but if we change the color of the rose to black it becomes a symbol of something more sinister death loss and possibly evil authors use symbols to help readers make connections beyond the story itself sometimes objects in a story your symbols sometimes characters or symbols most people are familiar with a growl and Poe's poem The Raven which is a dark romantic piece of writing that is still popular today even the Simpsons have their own version in that poem The Raven is a symbol for death and hopelessness as it sits and watches the narrator who is slowly going mad Poe could have chosen any bird but he chose a bird who's known for hanging out at battlefields and picking away at the dead these connections through the use of symbols are intentionally made by the author and reinforce the overall meaning of the story for the dark romantics sin and evil were everywhere so their symbols often represent evil entities like devils and spirits these symbols often reinforce one of the many horrific themes found in the story a story's theme is a statement that the text seems to be making about the subject and for the dark romantics this statement was drenched and terrifying ideas in some cases they studied the struggles of human nature more specifically they believed that human nature was less than good so evil was able to take hold of a person like the Puritans before them they believed evil and sin were everywhere but it was not as easy to identify so it could easily lead to self-destruction it was not just human nature that harbored evil though the dark romantics also sell darkness in the external world the idea that our surroundings could be filled with evil fueled much of their writing encouraging readers to question everything around them Edgar Allen Poe a famous dark romantic writer encompasses this theme in his short story the fall of the House of Usher as despair takes over the home and deteriorates and finally collapses of course like many stories the dark romantics knew that good was always battling evil but unlike your typical superhero movie evil usually won out but it wasn't simply the presence of evil that fueled the dark romantics writing they wanted to explore the horrors of evil that were lurking in everyone this meant that they spent a good deal of time looking at the characters thought processes it's not enough to see the characters actions we need to see his or her reasons for committing those actions in the first place Poe wrote another story called the tell-tale heart that follows some murders increased paranoia after hiding a dismembered body under the floorboards if you put all of these components together you end up with more than your run-of-the-mill horror story these stories are more like the movies the Black Swan and American Psycho the follow the stream of consciousness deterioration of the mind been saying scream and saw which focus on actions these writers want to know why rather than how so they focus on the psychological or how the mind works with all of these horrific undertones and creepy symbols it shouldn't be a surprise then that the characters in these stories are not your average storybook hero's mostly though not always dark romantic writers want to explore the psychological effects of guilt and sin so we see characters who are harboring guilt for their sins and that guilt leads to the grotesque the fantastic or the morbid in other words these characters are often deranged or go mad it also means that the reader is often stuck in the characters mind watching it as it slowly deteriorates into that madness Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrates this concept in his novel The Scarlet Letter he tells the story of a minister whose affair with a married woman sends him into a guilt ridden self punishment and ultimately death so to sum up the American romantic period had an explosion of uniquely American literature at the end of the era from about 1840 to 1860 during this time the sub-genre of dark romantic writers include Edgar Allan Poe in nathaniel hawthorne used creepy symbols and horrific themes to look at the inner workings of the mind and to explore the psychological effects of guilt and sin the result is a collection of short stories poems and novels that forced americans to see that evil was lurking in us all

16 thoughts on “The Dark Romantics in American Literature

  1. Thank you you made many things clear i need another one about transcendantilism

  2. Finally found the song! It is a piano cover of Dangerous, by David Guetta

  3. Did anyone notice the background music is a piano version of Miley Cyrus.

  4. Shout out to everyone doing their homework last minute & rocking out to this piano music because they've lost their minds!

  5. That awkward moment when you realize they used a piano version of Wrecking Ball for the vid 🤔

  6. God, thank you so much for posting this! I can now use it without having to have a membership for his one little video!

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