Literary contexts

Image showing Romanticism on the one side, with a man looking at the countryside, and Modernism on another, with a man looking at the cityRomanticism is often about an artist's relationship to nature. Modernism is often about Man's relationship to society

We can deepen our understanding of many poems by thinking about how they fit into literary traditions such as the genre or form, or whether they reflect a particular literary movement such as Romanticism or Modernism.

Romanticism

Romanticism is a term used to describe developments in literature, art and music in the late 18th and early 19th century. Some key Romantic ideas include a focus on the power of nature, imagination, revolution, the world of children and the lives of people marginalised in society. Romanticism has been very influential and important British Romantic poets include Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, Byron, Blake.

John Keats’ poem To Autumn is an address to the season, celebrating its beauty and exploring its changes as winter is on the horizon. The poem is packed with images of natural, rural beauty. Observing Keats’ focus on nature as part of a Romantic tradition helps us see how the poem is about the link between humans and nature.

Consider

What other poems do you know which are about the natural world? They may have been written hundreds of years after Keats and other Romantics were writing, but you can still think about the effect of that tradition.

Themes

There are recurring themes in poetry such as:

  • love / relationships
  • power / conflict
  • time / place
  • youth / age

Thinking about how poems relate to these ideas can be helpful. You may not know this information from a poem itself, but it helps to research it separately. Remember to only write about details which are relevant to the question set.