American Romanticism, also called the American Renaissance, marked the first maturation of American letters. It was a time of “excitement over human possibilities, and a high regard for individual ego.” (Woodlief) The American people believed in the natural goodness of man, and that in a natural environment, man would behave well; however, man is hindered by his surrounding civilization. Faith in emotion, spontaneity, and sincerity were all markers of truth during this time. During the Romantic movement, the way one expressed himself was valued more highly than the way one presented himself or the way he was seen by others. Throughout Romanticism, nature was thought to be a source of instruction, delight, and a way to quench man’s thirst for knowledge and understanding. Writers connected back to their literal “roots”, finding inspiration and wisdom in nature. They often wrote about the contrast between the pleasant simplicity of nature and the unnatural constraints of society.
This period, from 1828 to 1865, was when America began to regard itself as independent, after setting itself apart from Britain. New writers and artists influenced the individuality and uniqueness of America through their work. This new, creative fire ignited a separate, growing culture that, over time, gave birth to the America known today.
The Romanticism movement flourished, being fed by poetic accounts of nature; literature bathed in imagery, irony, and originality; and works involving subjects from freedom and equality to guilt and salvation. “The American brand of romanticism developed its own character, especially as these writers tried self-consciously to be new and original.” (Woodlief) The development of this movement was aided by the amount of cultural free time given for literature and art; practical matters such as “the essential of making a living and establishing political independence had been squared.” (Woodlief) The “glory years” were from 1850-1855, a surprisingly short period of time. This short-lived literary outburst may have been related to the conflicts that would soon lead to war.