The Difference Between Romantic, Dark Romantic, and Gothic

All three of these literary movements are connected and entwined.   They have small differences among them, and that is what this blog post will discuss.   The Romantic literary movement had its roots in a rebellion against the industrial revolution.    Romantic literature and art desired to focus on feeling instead of on rational thought.   

Gothic literature came about around the same time, and for the same reasons, a rebellion against technological changes that were occurring with much frequency.   Dark Romantic literature bridges the gap between the two, and it is really how we get Gothic Romance as a genre within itself!

The master of the Dark Romantic work is probably Edgar Allan Poe!    He is the American author who exemplified Romanticism for America.   Other Romantics tend to be English, German, and French.

Gothic novels began in the late 18th century with the first one being Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole.   Following the success of Walpole’s story Ann Radcliffe became the epitome of Gothic writers!   This is also the same era that the Romantic poets began writing poetry that was a rejection of rationalism by focusing on strong emotions.   Both the Gothic and the Romantic had a deep focus on medievalism.

Romantic literature, especially poetry, was an important literary movement in England around the turn of the 19th century.    There are six main Romantic poets, three in the first and three the second generation.    Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge were in the first generation (the end of the 18th century).    Byron, Shelley, and Keats were in the second generation (early 19th century).    The Romantic writers focused on emotion over science, in a rebellion against the rational thought that dominated the world at the time!

While Romantics focused on optimism and positive emotion, Dark Romantics focused on pessimism and negative emotion.   The heightened nature of emotion is key in all three of these literary genres.   Gothic literature used heightened emotions to drive the novel forward!

Gothic Romance fused the Romantic and the Gothic.    All of the Gothic elements: mouldering medieval buildings, a young woman in a dangerous situation, and a villain to fight, are there.   The Romance elements come in with love stories being set among all of this, and they usually included a happy ending of some sort!    Even Wuthering Heights is a happy ending in my book, since Cathy and Heathcliff finally get to be together in death!   They even haunt the moors together as ghosts.

All the forms of Romanticism I have discussed here are interconnected, and sometimes hard to define.   There is no hard and fast definition of what makes something Romantic or Gothic or Dark Romantic.   This makes the study of these genres all the more interesting, and very fun to debate.    I hope you have enjoyed my overview of the types of Romantic literature!    Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is the cover of the Dover edition of The Mysteries of Udolpho.   I found the image on

Further Reading

  • The Romantic Poets Word Cloud Classics edition
  • The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte