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Difference Between Enlightenment and Romanticism

Many historical events have changed society to become a better place and contributed to humankind.


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These events play an important role in the condition of the world we are living in today. Example of such important events is the enlightenment and romanticism.

Both of these events have contributed to the literature aspect of the world. They have contributed to science, physics, arts, poetry all aspects of literature.

They took place around the same time that is around the 17th and 18th centuries. And therefore, both of them can be very confusing.

Following are some of the important differences, along with other information that can be useful to distinguish between both of them.

Enlightenment vs Romanticism

The difference between enlightenment and romanticism is that both of them are focused on and contradict different aspects of society. Enlightenment focuses on reasoning and knowledge of the people and contradicts religious superstitions and beliefs of people, whereas romanticism is focused on human emotions and feelings and hence contradicts the subjective expression of people. Both of them were also associated with a different side of society. Enlightenment was more associated with the intellectual and intelligent side of society, while romanticism was more associated with society’s creative and artistic side. They include different key individuals. In enlightenment, mainly key individuals were Newton, Bacon, Locke, Voltaire, etc., while in romanticism, they were Byron, Ramsay, and Chateaubriand, etc., except this they also differ in terms of time, inspired statements, and associated subjects.

Enlightenment vs Romanticism

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Enlightenment is the phase or period related to the intelligent and intellectual development of the world. This period mainly focuses on irrational logic, reasons, and people’s thinking power.

Some key individuals related to this period are Newton, bacon, etc., who have contributed to the science and physics fields.

During this, the people believe that science and knowledge give power and understanding towards religion and tradition.

Romanticism is the phase or period related to the artistic and creative side of the world. During this, poetry, painting, music, and literature has been flourished the most.

It was started at the end of the 18th century and was at its peak from 1800 to 1850. Unlike the enlightenment, it was mainly focused on the emotions and feelings of the people.

They believed that by understanding humans’ different perspectives and emotions, they could achieve stability in society.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonEnlightenmentRomanticism
Focuses onAge of reasonHuman emotions
TimeLate 17th to 18th centuryLate 18th century
Associated withNatural scienceArts and humanities
Key personsNewton, Bacon, Locke, Voltaire, etc.Byron, Ramsay, Chateaubriand, etc.
Inspired statementsI think, therefore, I amThe artist’s feeling is his law

What is Enlightenment? 

It is also called the age of reason. It initially started in Europe and then spread to North America. It took place from late 1600 to the end of 1700.

During this, the interest in science and reasoning increased to its peak. Following are some of the main ideas of this period:

  • Deism: it means they believe in god due to reasons, not because of revelation. During this period, deism was followed by many where there was no single perception o god made based on superstitions.
  • Liberalism: it believes in human rights and freedom. Under this, the complete freedom of expressing thoughts and ideas was given to the individuals. Liberalism became an important movement during this period, attracting western scholars.
  • Republicanism: Under this, the government will be chosen by democratic rule. And individuals will have democracy to participate in general elections.
  • Scientific Progress: during this period, scientific and physical progress was at its peak. Some of the important discoveries by famous scientists were made during this period only.

What is Romanticism?

It is also referred to as the Romantic Era. This period or movement was focused on inspiration, subjectivity, and human emotions. And all of these focuses were expressed in the form of art, music, and literature. 

It was initially started at the end of 1700 in response to the Age of Reason or Enlightenment in Europe.

Thinkers during this thought that importance on emotions, feelings, and thoughts should be given more than the importance given to reasoning and logical thinking.

They thought feelings were more important than being practical. 

During this period, music and art flourished most of the greatest artists in history belong to this period. All of them were used as a medium of expression of individuals’ thoughts and feelings.

Unlike the enlightenment, no scientific progress was made during this movement, but progress in humanities and arts has indeed happened. 

People respected each other feelings, despite their differences; this movement is also somehow linked to the French revolution as well. 

Main Differences Between Enlightenment and Romanticism

  1. Both of these events have led to some major changes in the world and are known to be historical events. Both were focused on different aspects mainly. Enlightenment mainly focused on rational reasoning and discovering knowledge, whereas romanticism was mainly focused on expressing emotions freely and human subjectivity.
  2. Both of them took place around the same time. But if the comparison is made on the basis of time, enlightenment covered the late 17th century and middle of the 18th century, while romanticism covered the late 18th century. This means enlightenment took place before the romanticism that took place later.
  3. They were related to different things. Enlightenment is more associated with subjects such as science and mathematics, which is the intelligent or intellectual side of the people, whereas romanticism was associated with humanities, such as music, painting, and poetry, which is the creative side of the people.
  4. Both of them are expressed using different statements. While expressing enlightenment statements, such as “Dare to know” or “I think therefore I am” by Sapere Aude and Cogito, ergo sum, respectively, while expressing romanticism is expressed by using statements such as, “The artist’s feeling is his law.”
  5. Both of the events include different etymologies. In enlightenment old English: enlighten means illuminate, while in romanticism, it is new English: romantic and French (beauties that are found in nature).
  6. Both of them also contradict different perspectives. Enlightenment contradicts superstitions and religions, while romanticism is the opposite of it and contradicts more subjective expressions and irrational feelings.
Difference Between Enlightenment and Romanticism
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