ENG 2653: Romanticism vs. Realism

So this week we’re talking more about Romanticism vs. Realism in writing styles. We read Lord Byron’s “When We Two Parted,” Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty,” and John Keats “Ode to a Nightingale.”

As soon as I heard the term “romanticism,” I thought of a passage from Orson Scott Card’s book Characters and Viewpoint in the Writer’s Digest Elements of Fiction series. I’ve read this book multiple times because it’s one of the few books on writing that I own, character is one of my favorite aspects of most fiction, and it’s just a really good book.

Anyway, in the section I’m thinking about, Card talks about the differences between the hero and the common man. According to him, the characters we love to read about and write about work on this sort of pendulum that swings between Romantic and Realistic. People start out wanting extraordinary, larger than life characters (Romantic) but these become melodramatic and unbelievable, so the pendulum swings toward more realistic, believable character. But, these quickly become boring and mundane, so the pendulum starts swinging back the other direction.

In all actuality, this aspect of the Romantic tradition (the larger than life characters) doesn’t seem to have much to do with the poetry we’ve been reading in my class. Instead, things like reclusive writers and a special attention to nature; two things I tend to find boring. I did really like Byron’s poem, though it’s incredibly depressing. Besides, I love a reason to re-read the Orson Scott Card book.

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