Romanticism was an intellectual movement that emerged throughout Europe during the period of the French Revolution and Napoleonic rule. In a reaction against the Enlightenment, romanticism emphasized the value of intuition, spirituality, folklore, dreams, and other forms of human experience that lie beyond the realm of reason.
Romanticism's intellectual foundations were laid largely by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. Rousseau's belief that human nature was corrupted by society and by material prosperity, and his interest in childhood, was reflected in the romantic movement's efforts to reform education and family life. Kant argued for the subjectivity of human knowledge. He theorized that, since humans share an innate understanding of the categorical imperative, morality must be something independent of sensory experience; this, to him, proved the existence of god. .
Romantic literature" meant slightly different things in different countries and periods. In general, it meant literature that stressed the imaginative elements, and was not bound by formal rules. Romantic literature peaked in England and Germany before France. English romantics such as Coleridge and Wordsworth excelled in poetry that dealt with themes including morality, mortality, and creativity. German romantics wrote a great deal of poetry, but almost all of the significant German romantic authors also wrote at least one novel. Goethe was the greatest German writer of the era, though he was a more complicated figure than the label "romantic" suggests. Faust was his seminal work.
Romanticism in religion stressed the individual's heartfelt response to the divine. Methodism developed in England in the middle of the 18th century as a reaction against deism and rationalism in the Church of England. John Wesley led the movement, preaching in open fields in western England. Methodists believe in Christian perfectibility in this life; the enthusiastic emotional experience is part of Christian conversion.