Difference Between Romanticism and Dark Romanticism

Main Difference – Romanticism vs Dark Romanticism

Romanticism and Dark Romanticism are two interrelated literary movements. Romanticism is a literary, intellectual and artistic movement that originated in Europe towards the late 18th century. Dark Romanticism is a literary subgenre of Romanticism, characterized by evil or darkness. This is the main difference between Romanticism and Dark Romanticism.

What is Romanticism

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. Romanticism was a reaction against rules, conventions, and traditions. Literature in the Romantic period gave more importance to self-expression. Romantics believed that literature should be guided by warm emotions, not reason or intellect. They also gave more significance to individual uniqueness by emphasizing on the rights and dignity of the individual.

Poetry was the dominant form of literature during this period. Many prominent poets such as Wordsworth, Blake, Keats, and Shelly belong to the Romantic period. Their poetry is characterized by the emphasis on intuition over reason and the pastoral over the urban.

Nature played a significant role in Romantic literature. Delight in unspoiled natural scenery and the rural life was a major theme. This might be a response to the industrial revolution that characterized urban areas. In addition to the theme of nature, medievalism, Hellenism, pastoral life, and supernaturalism also served as common themes in Romanticism.

Main Difference - Romanticism vs Dark Romanticism

William Wordsworth

What is Dark Romanticism

Dark Romanticism is a literary subgenre of Romanticism that came into being in the late eighteenth century. The name Dark Romanticism was given by the literary theorist Mario Praz in 1930, based on the characteristics of this genre. As its name suggests, this genre is set apart from the mainstream Romantic literature through the recurrent use of dark themes such supernaturalism, sin, evil, personal torment, and self-destruction. They used dark and mysterious images and contain characters such as devils, monsters, vampires, ghouls and ghosts. The Dark Romantics often portrayed outcasts from society. According to the critic G. R. Thompson, the following features are the main characteristics of Dark Romanticism.

Fallen man’s inability fully to comprehend haunting reminders of another

Supernatural realm that yet seemed not to exist

The constant perplexity of inexplicable and vastly metaphysical phenomena

A propensity for seemingly perverse or evil moral choices that had no firm or fixed measure or rule

A sense of nameless guilt combined with a suspicion the external world was a delusive projection of the mind

Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville are the prominent American authors of this movement. Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Shelley are significant British authors of this movement.

Difference Between Romanticism and Dark Romanticism

Edgar Allen Poe

Difference Between Romanticism and Dark Romanticism


Romanticism is an artistic and literary movement which originated in the late 18th century, characterized by subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual.

Dark Romanticism is a subgenre of Romanticism characterized by its preoccupation with sin, evil and darkness.


Concepts such as nature, pastoral life, and medievalism were often used in Romanticism.

Themes such as supernaturalism, sin, evil, and self-destruction were often used in Dark Romanticism.


Romanticism focused on the individual rather than the society and emphasized on self-expression.

Dark Romanticism often focused on outcasts of the society and their personal torment.


Romanticism is characterized by writers like Wordsworth, Keats, Blake, Percy Shelly, Lord Byron, etc.

Dark Romanticism is characterized by writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Mary Shelly.Difference Between Romanticism and Dark Romanticism - infographic


Thompson, G. R., ed. “Introduction: Romanticism and the Gothic Tradition.” Gothic Imagination: Essays in Dark Romanticism. Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1974: p. 6.

Image Courtesy:

Edgar Allen Poe (Public Domain) via Commons Wikiemdia

William Wordsworth By probably 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 

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