Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes



"Romanticize" is the verb form of Romanticism.

(Oxford English Dictionary)

1.trans. To make romantic or idealized in character; to make (something) seem better or more appealing than it really is; to describe, portray, or view in a romantic manner.

2.intr. To indulge in romantic thoughts, words, or actions; to speak or think in a romantic or idealistic way.


Dr. White's example:

Students often romanticize the lives of Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson. In reality their lives were as limited, dreary, and conflicted as most of our lives, and none of us would ever have reason to think of them if they hadn't written great literature.

Instead of processing the reality of Poe as a hard-working alcoholic struggling for financial and emotional security and lurching from job to job in American cities, people imagine he was like the narrators in some of his stories—an independently wealthy, possibly insane drug addict living in a gothic mansion in Europe.

Poe died under circumstances that numerous writers have developed as a fabulous mystery or conspiracy, but really his end was probably just sad and pathetic.

Discussion question(s): Why do readers turn Poe into a character from Romantic literature?

What positive and negative tendencies does this tendency show about the human mind? About the impulse toward Romantic appeals and away from the standards of the Enlightenment or Age of Reason?

How do teachers of literature manage or direct these varying impulses or values?



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