Modern Romanticism 101 – A Guide

Modern Romanticism 101 – A Guide

There are three main focuses here at The Silver Petticoat Review. One, Romance. Two, Romantic Living. And three, Romanticism. For this page, we’re going to focus on Modern Romanticism in stories: a new movement we’ve created for today’s world. Our goal is to reignite the love and passion for imaginative stories of Romanticism.

In short, we describe Modern Romanticism as stories from 1900 to the present day influenced by the Romantic Era of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In short, we describe Modern Romanticism as stories from 1900 to the present day influenced by the Romantic Era of the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Below, we include a detailed checklist and guide for Modern Romanticism in entertainment. As well as a checklist of what Modern Romanticism isn’t. Beyond that, we include some examples to get you started in the world of Modern Romanticism. And then answer a few questions for clarification.

(There was inevitably some crossover with our Old-Fashioned Romance Guide.)

What is Romanticism & Modern Romanticism?

Before we can move on to the checklist, we first need to define what “Romanticism” is! As well as the difference between Romantic and romantic.

Romantic, with a capital R, means something very different from romantic or romance in general. Romantic with a capital R refers to the Romantic Period – better known as Romanticism (which also differs from romanticism).

Still, you may be scratching your head. What could possibly be the difference between Romanticism & romanticism? And what is the difference between Romantic & romantic?

Let’s explore.

According to the English Oxford Dictionary:

romanticism: The state or quality of being romantic.

Romanticism: A movement in the arts and literature which originated in the late 18th century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual.

Now, let’s look at romantic vs. Romantic. According to the English Oxford Dictionary:

romantic:

1.1 (of a person) readily demonstrating feelings of love.

‘he’s very handsome, and so romantic’

1.2 Relating to love or to sexual relationships.

‘romantic fiction’

2 Of, characterized by, or suggestive of an idealized view of reality.

‘a romantic attitude toward the past’

Romantic: Relating to or denoting the artistic and literary movement of Romanticism.

‘the Romantic tradition’

When we mention Romantic or Romanticism, we refer to the movement and the Romantics, not romance (as in stories only about romance, kisses, and flowers, or only including romantic qualities).

However, Romanticism as a movement can be pretty broad! So, we’ve decided to focus on the traits that fit the Silver Petticoat’s interpretation and the ultimate creation of Modern Romanticism and our site’s focus.

And while you can read about the historical movement in more detail HERE, I’ve included a few distinct traits of Romanticism which also pertains (in part) to our definition of Modern Romanticism:

  • Emphasis on Emotion, Feelings, and Intuition
  • All about passion – intense personal expression (artists expressing their beliefs)
  • Sublimity
  • Focus on Individualism (IE: Jane Eyre)
  • Love of Nature (L.M. Montgomery’s novels are lovely examples, as is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings), beauty, and the stars.
  • Appreciation for Childhood
  • Interest in the Common Man/Equality/Personal Freedom
  • Importance of the Imagination and Creativity; elevates imagination above gritty realism.
  • The glorification of the Past/Interest in the Past/may include idealization of rural life (for example, period dramas).
  • Nostalgia
  • Optimism and Idealism
  • It may be mystical or include elements of the Divine. spirituality (IE: Emerson, Thoreau)
  • May include the fantastical or supernatural elements (Frankenstein)
  • It might have mythological elements.
  • May show interest/influence from folklore or fairy tales.
  • Potentiality/Free Will/About the Characters and their Ability to Choose (and the consequences that come)

You can often find a Romantic story in Gothic Novels and stories with Byronic Heroes. And Jane Austen, as an example, belongs to the Romantic Period.

What then is the difference between (Classic) Romanticism and Modern Romanticism?

Romanticism Example 1: 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Modern Romanticism Example 1: 

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012). A vlog adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Romanticism Example 2: 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Modern Romanticism Examples 2-3: 

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Doctor Who TV Series

The difference is that Modern Romanticism is not “technically” part of the movement from the past and is rather stories from 1900 to the present day influenced by the historical movement.

What then is Modern Romanticism as defined by The Silver Petticoat Review?

While we don’t necessarily follow the Romantic movement to exactness, as again it’s broad, much of what we do cover is steeped in or influenced by the imaginative, fantastical/supernatural, individualistic, rural (IE: country or small-town life), poetic elements of Romanticism (and especially Dark Romanticism).

The definition: Modern Romanticism includes stories from 1900 to the present day influenced by the artistic and literary movement from the 18th to 19th centuries.

That’s our definition, and we’re running with it! (If you want to know more, make sure to check out our ABOUT!)

Any stories published (or filmed) from 1900 to the present day with a heavy Romantic influence would be considered Modern Romanticism.

On the other hand, we categorize all stories from the actual Romantic Period up to 1899 as Romanticism. We also categorize stories pre-Romantic Period that influenced the 19th-century movement as Romanticism as well. IE: Shakespeare, the early Gothic novel, fairy tales, and folklore, etc. 

To sum it up then, Modern Romanticism includes stories influenced by the movement from 1900 till the present day. In contrast, Romanticism encompasses stories pre-Romantic Era, through the actual historical movement, all the way to 1899.

So, here at The Silver Petticoat Review, we discuss old-fashioned romance (lowercase ‘r’) and Romance (with a capital ‘R’). We are the site of romance and Romance! Make sense?

Good, let’s move on to a checklist!

Modern Romanticism Checklist (Silver Petticoat Style):

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship of the Ring. Photo: New Line Cinema

Every story will not include every one of these characteristics. However, overall, it should holistically have some of these checkpoints. We’re looking for an “overall” feel.

  • It includes a few Romanticism elements from the checklist above – a popular artistic movement from the 18th to 19th century.
  • Realism is acceptable when presented as Romantic Realism or Romantic Naturalism (as in a story with “real” or “natural” problems but told in an imaginative, non-vulgar, elevated way). For example, Jane Austen novels or This is Us
  • It explores the beauty of language. Think Gilmore Girls, Anne of Green Gables, or The Hours. It may have flowery/poetic language and descriptions.
  • Written or Directed with an understanding of traditional storytelling. We’re looking for good storytellers because the roots of storytelling influenced Romanticism.
  • Humor uses wit and/or intelligent physical comedy rather than crudeness or belittling others; it lacks vulgarity.
  • Ignites the imagination.
  • Three-dimensional characters. We’re not worried about stories being overly politically correct or modern. Instead, we care more about the believability of a character. Usually, there’s a thematic purpose behind why a character is the way they are. Think of the TV show, Lost.
  • It includes real emotion. A good story makes you feel something from happiness to loneliness, hope, etc.
  • May consist of archetypal elements of fairy tales, folklore, mythology, or oral storytelling.
  • It has elements of optimism and idealism, non-cynical in a storytelling approach. That doesn’t mean a story has to be positive. We believe there is a difference between positivity and optimism. Optimistic stories can be dark but focus on the light at the end of the tunnel instead of just pure darkness.
  • Good often triumphs over evil in the end.
  • Embraces Happily Ever After (HEA) when appropriate to the story.
  • It also embraces tragedy and good drama when told through a Romantic lens.
  • Has something to say about the human condition. Read the classics. From Anne of Green Gables to Jane Eyre to Pride and Prejudice, these books all have something to say.
  • Has some element of truth. If a story doesn’t resonate with us, what’s the point?
  • Love stories should not be erotica. Romance is based on emotion and cerebral connections rather than lust. See our OLD-FASHIONED ROMANCE GUIDE 101 for a complete checklist.

While we love good, old-fashioned Romanticism, we should note that we’ve put a modern twist on it. We celebrate and appreciate equality and diversity. We’re looking for good writing using elevated language to express the writer’s truth rather than coarse and explicit contemporary realism.

We also aim to find stories from all over the world because every culture has stories worth sharing.

What Modern Romanticism (Silver Petticoat Style) Isn’t:

  • A story that doesn’t include Romanticism elements (we’re not against stories without the Romantic influence – it’s just not the Modern Romanticism genre).
  • Overly explicit or pornographic – whether sexually or violently. It needlessly objectifies or exploits people. 
  • Excessively vulgar, raunchy, profane, or crude.
  • Gritty Realism; Seedy.
  • They are written with an antagonistic attitude toward romance, stories with hope, etc.
  • It is overly cynical (not that a character can’t be a cynic, but there must be a purpose to the cynicism other than simply being a cynical storyteller).
  • It lacks human connection.
  • Unemotional
  • It focuses on pushing boundaries and the shock factor rather than on good storytelling.
  • It subverts genres thoughtlessly (there are exceptions, of course, where this works – but it has become overdone and is often just an attempt to undermine good storytelling in general solely for the sake of being original).
  • The story is lacking in human truth.
  • It doesn’t have a thematic purpose; it has a weak premise.
  • Too focused on political correctness and paints people as stereotypes rather than as human beings; lacks empathy; (Storytelling shouldn’t be used as a device to judge others and divide cultures. Stories should bring people together and help us understand our differences as well as our similarities.)

We should note in relation to concerning subverting genres that we’re okay with breaking the rules and being original. Romanticism is all about innovative creativity, after all. We also embrace genre mash-ups. 

What we’re not fans of is when writers purposefully try to undo archetypal truths cynically—for example, taking the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and adapting it into a story where they don’t end up together in the end. In that way, they undo the whole meaning of the tale (IE: transformation). And who wants to watch or read that?

And then, when it comes to genres, while mash-ups and originality are fantastic, there are specific genres where certain types of endings are expected. If you’re doing a romantic comedy, the two characters should “most of the time” end up with a HEA.

Storytellers should know what type of story they’re telling. Not all romances have happily ever after, and that is fine, but, again, storytellers should know their genre or genres. So, while we’re okay with rule-breaking, we feel storytellers should do it carefully. And not in a way that’s meant to subvert genres a storyteller dislikes or doesn’t understand.

Additional Thoughts On Modern Romanticism

David Tennant in Hamlet (2009). Photo: BBC
David Tennant in Hamlet (2009). Photo: BBC

Modern Romanticism (Silver Petticoat style) should have an optimistic, perhaps even a “light” quality. Even in the saddest, loneliest stories with elements of darkness, there should still be characteristics of hope or a message about the characters’ choices.

With a good tragedy, there’s a purpose behind it. The story raises important questions about humanity and has significant artistic merit. However, it should not be presented in a way that includes excessive and exploitative sexuality or excessive violence and profanity. Hence, our previous definition of “Romantic Realism.”

In all, Modern Romanticism (Silver Petticoat style) is about endurance and hope. When we finish a book or a film or a show, we want to walk away feeling uplifted, moved, inspired in some way. Not leave feeling heavy and grim. We believe in the goodness of humanity and believe that the same good should be represented in stories. We seek stories that are exemplary and lovely!

Dark Romanticism

However, this does not mean we don’t embrace “dark” stories. Gothic fiction, for example, is heavily influenced by Romanticism and is often quite dark. This is popularly called “Dark Romanticism,” which we love and embrace.

Modern Romanticism (Silver Petticoat style) focuses more on “how” a story is told. Some of the most emotionally moving tales have dark, violent themes – though always with a clear thematic purpose – and that makes all the difference. 

When it comes to characters, we embrace all kinds (including dark characters) with numerous backgrounds and beliefs. But we should be clear that we don’t promote racism, bigotry, abuse, etc. When these types of characters are presented, these traits are ideally shown as a flaw. 

There’s a difference between good storytelling with flawed characters and propaganda promoting negative behavior. However, we believe in the transcendental power of stories and embrace elements of transformation and redemption. We are also aware of cultural differences and take that into account.

The Importance of Imagination

scholar who walks the night
Scholar Who Walks the Night. Photo: MBC

“Imagination cannot change reality, but it can change people, and those people can change the world.” – Scholar Who Walks the Night

Fairy tales, happily ever after endings, stories infused with hope, imagination, and optimism are often sneered at in today’s critical, cynical world. As a society, we often celebrate pornography, gruesome violence, rape as entertainment, stories so dark with no resolution, unlikable characters, lack of emotion, etc., as if the deeper we sink into the seedy parts of life and society, the more “artistic” it is.

Well, we’re tired of the overabundance of these types of stories. Old-fashioned romance and uplifting, imaginative stories are becoming harder and harder to find.

However, we believe many people are out there like us who long for these stories to be more prevalent. And here at The Silver Petticoat Review, we embrace them, talk about them, and promote them. On a happy note, there’re many fantastic stories out there just ready to be watched or read.

Even if “unrealistic,” a great story can change us, inspire us, and make a difference. So, we celebrate the power of imagination and creativity – which you can find in Modern Romanticism.

A FEW EXAMPLES OF MODERN ROMANTICISM IN FILM, LITERATURE, & TV

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Photo: Sony Pictures Classics
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  • Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • A Place to Call Home (Romantic Realism example)
  • Amazing Grace
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Dare to Be Wild
  • Doctor Who/Sarah Jane Adventures/Torchwood
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Ever After
  • Finding Neverland
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Jane Eyre adaptations
  • Lark Rise to Candleford
  • Life is Beautiful
  • Lord of the Rings Trilogy 
  • Lost
  • Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
  • Monarch of the Glen
  • Poldark
  • Pride and Prejudice adaptations (especially the 2005 one due to the Romantic atmosphere).
  • Road to Avonlea/Anne of Green Gables
  • Sanctuary
  • Scarlet Heart: Ryeo
  • Star Trek: Discovery
  • Star Wars 
  • Stardust
  • Stranger Things
  • The Chosen 
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Good Karma Hospital
  • The Hours
  • The Indian Doctor
  • The Originals
  • The Scholar Who Walks the Night
  • The X- Files
  • This is Us
  • Victoria
  • Wild Mountain Thyme
  • Wuthering Heights adaptations

This list is by no means comprehensive, just a few examples!

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

What genres fit into Modern Romanticism?

Modern Romanticism can be a part of many genres though it’s often found in Genre (Paranormal, Gothic, Fantasy, etc.), Period/Historical, and Literary Fiction (or the film equivalent).

What constitutes excessive explicit content?

You usually know it when you see it! 

While it’s hard to define, we look for the overall “feel” of a story. A fantastic and uplifting tale may have a few explicit scenes or include some profanity, but it’s not done in a way that exploits. It’s more artistic than needlessly graphic, more thoughtful and emotional than pornographic.

There are also levels to “how” explicit a scene is. If it doesn’t move the story forward, why is it there? Is the purpose to excite and titillate the audience? Or is there an artistic purpose? We consider all that.

Sometimes a love scene or violence is necessary to a story, but one doesn’t need to become excessive in its depiction. For example, purposely disturbing the audience with gore, explicit rape, etc.

Typically, on our site, we’re looking for sex and violence to be more implicit than explicit as it often becomes exploitative and pornographic, but we also don’t expect every story to adhere to a PG rating. (Although we do love clean romance stories!)

Again, we take the holistic feel of a story into consideration.

No. While we typically aim to promote less explicit/offensive content, we’re not a religious-themed site inclusive of only one religion or perspective. We want to promote good stories for every audience and people of numerous backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures. We aim to have diversity.

However, that doesn’t mean we don’t include stories with religious themes. As long as the story consists of old-fashioned romance or Romanticism, we’re open to covering it. Stories can come from all faiths or the lack thereof. We’re on the lookout for good stories.

In all, we believe good storytelling unites people rather than separates them. It’s through stories we can learn to understand each other and embrace our differences. And we think that having an optimistic outlook is part of what Romantic Living is all about.

For more about what we cover on our site, see our ABOUTROMANTIC LIVING 101, and our OLD-FASHIONED ROMANCE 101 for answers to more questions! If you have any other questions about Modern Romanticism, please don’t hesitate to send us a message!

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