Romanticism and Romance: My Takeaways

By Hannah Ong, Cedar Girls' Secondary School

I was given the opportunity to be the assigned journalist for this workshop, which was titled “Romanticism and the world beyond”. This workshop was extremely insightful for me personally as I initially thought that this workshop would just be about how to write love and romance in stories or novels, which I have always struggled with writing as I always felt awkward describing these topics therefore I was extremely excited to attend this workshop. However, when the workshop proved to be on anything but romance, my excitement did not dwindle as this topic of romanticism was a really interesting topic for me as well.

Many people have the misconception that romance is the same thing as romanticism, but that day I learned that romanticism was more than romance, although romance, which people have now coined as an expression of love and passion, is a subset of and is related to romanticism. Romanticism by itself emphasizes on inspiration which usually comes from nature. It is also based on subjectivity, so pieces involved to romanticism is heavily peppered with the authors own opinions, which made it a very controversial topic in the past and in the present, and primacy of individuals.

It was originally an English literary movement originating from the 18th century to counter the rapid progression of enlightenment, which was considered as the sciences and math. After the industrial revolution, “enlightenment” spread rapidly and self coined “romantics” started yearning for the simpler and less complicated form of the past, not appreciating the technological advancements that were happening around them, which was not necessarily a bad thing.

Something interesting I took away from this workshop was that Goth was the dark side of romanticism, which I would have never related these two polar opposite things together originally if I had not attended the workshop.

Another interesting thing I learned today that I did not know previously was how romanticism is still being used in today's context even though it was created so long ago. For example, Ed Sheeran's recent single, “Castle on the hill” is a form of romanticism. The song uses contemplation “I can’t wait to go home”, imagery “I’m on my way, driving at 90, down those country lanes, singing to tiny dancer”, retrospection “when I was six years old”, nature “tasted the sweet perfume of the mountain grass as I rolled down” and self-reflection “I don’t reckon I did it right”. In a more Singaporean context, the speaker raised the example of Gentle Bones, who is another artiste whose songs are also very self reflective.

However, romanticism is now facing some opposition. The problem romanticism is now facing is that with urban spaces and development, one can see less of nature around the city, which romanticism is heavily based on. With that avenue of inspiration gone, people will have to look for other ways and means to inspire themselves. Also, with people’s fast paced and busy lives, they rarely have time to self reflect or admire nature around them, more often than not; they will be glued to their mobile phones and not observing the things happening around them or the objects surrounding them. Also, romanticism may also include isolation as it is about focusing on oneself and nature’s elements. They may also be social stigmas of being too focused on the past as people like to look forward and not at the past.  

I personally identify with being a romantic, as I very often catch myself reflecting on what I have done unintentionally, and I yearn for an idealized and simple past, present and future. Although I do not particularly gain inspiration form nature, I usually do that by observing myself or people around me, I love to hear songs such as the previously mentioned Ed Sheeran song. I would probably never try my hand at writing any romanticism related pieces of writing, but I am able to appreciate writings involving romanticism.  

However, when I personally went up to ask the speaker a few questions that I had come up with previously, I asked her if writing about these kind of things would cause one to become self obsessed or depressed. In her answer, the speaker mentioned one may become melancholic after writing this kind of art from, but writing this can also become a way to vent out all these pent up emotions and at the same time can also be a means for other's to identify their emotions, thoughts and feelings with. She feels that it simply depends on whether the individual projects these depressing feelings outwards instead of leaving it to fester inside of his or her mind, through outlets such as poetry or song writing.   

Romanticism is not merely something to express yourself, it transcends that, it is to help others through times of weakness or joy.