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Romanticism Versus Enlightenment
Two portraits of Italian violinist Paganini, top by Delacroix, bottom by Ingres

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
William Wordsworth, for team Romanticism

"People aren't going to change, for better or for worse. Technology's going to be so cool. All in all, the future will be okay! "
Randall Munroe, for team Enlightenment

Some Eighteenth century people believed that reason and science are good and therefore things would just go on improving forever. This optimism characterized a period that came to be known as the Age of Enlightenment. Eventually, though, a sense of disillusionment and alienation from society began to spread, and the Romanticist movement rose up as a backlash. Romanticists believed that the advances made by the Enlightenment were creating a deeply unequal, oppressive, and conformist society - and that science and rationality could never hope to truly understand the world and the human personality. Though the Enlightenment and Romanticist movements are long gone, the general ideas behind each survive today.

Romantic and Enlightened themes are very common in fiction. For example, Enlightenment-themed science fiction might portray the future as a world of progress, friendship, brotherhood and Crystal Spires and Togas, with barbaric forces threatening the new utopia (e.g. Star Trek). Romanticist-themed science fiction might portray the future as an unpleasant Crapsack World, with high technology but low social quality, full of depression, dehumanization and alienation (e.g. everything Cyberpunk).

Romanticism and Enlightenment are also tied to the Dionysian (wild, visceral, ornate) and Apollonian (restrained, cerebral, classicist) ideals of aesthetics in the arts. Compare the Apollonian/Enlightenment musical style of Mozart with the Dionysian/Romantic musical style of Wagner, for example, or the Apollonian/Enlightenment style of ancient Roman architecture with the Dionysian/Romantic style of medieval Gothic architecture.

Writers and artists tend to gravitate towards Romanticism; scientists and (in most places) politicians favor the Enlightenment. Seeing as Most Writers Are Writers, Romanticism is generally overrepresented in media, with the exception of Science Fiction writers (and even there most well-known classics usually have a Romanticist message).

Compare to:
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: Romanticism is aligned with Nature, Enlightenment with Science. Related to this, as the trope suggests Nature is inherently 'feminine' and Science inherently 'masculine'. Depending on how the work treats these dynamics, Closer to Earth may make an appearance.
  • Elves Versus Dwarves: Elves are usually nature loving romanticists, dwarves are often on the verge of an industrial revolution. Can be inverted as well. The "Elves" could be an academic race being plagued by savage barbarians.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Romanticism accepts emotions as the only true way to understand the world, Enlightenment may believe that emotions are an impediment to rationality.
  • Harmony Versus Discipline: In general, Romanticism is closer to Harmony and Enlightenment is closer to Discipline, but with notable deviations—each side is much more complex than just Harmony or just Discipline.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Enlightened individuals see progress as a means to maintain order whilst Romanticists openly acknowledge and even embrace the potential chaos
  • Technician Versus Performer: Enlightened are Technicians, Romantics are Performers.
  • Magic Versus Science: If magic and science are both present, magic will be on the side of the Romantics and science will be the tool of the Enlightened. If there's no science to speak of and the conflict is The Magocracy versus the Anti-Magical Faction, magic will swap sides to the Enlightenment and the anti-magic forces will be Romantics. On the other hand, if magic and science are combined into a form of Magitek, Team Enlightenment will see this as valuable and progressive while Team Romanticism will see this as dangerous and soul-destroying.
  • Science Fiction Versus Fantasy: While there are many exceptions, science fiction (glorious future) tends towards Enlightenment, fantasy (glorious past) towards Romanticism. This occasionally leads to some Fandom Rivalry between the two, particularly SF readers (and writers, most notably including David Brin) who perceive fantasy as inherently reactionary.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Romanticism tends towards the cynical, but with a large amount of deviation. The Enlightenment is more complicated:
    • Enlightenment figures from the European continent, particularly (for some reason) Germany, really were idealistic and optimistic (take Kant and Leibniz as examples). Other Continental Enlightenment types (like Voltaire—no, not that one) were willing to admit that most Humans Are Bastards, but trusted in the virtue of some people to keep things improving.
    • Enlightenment figures from the British tradition tend to assume absolute cynicism—Humans Are Flawed animals and Machiavelli Was Right, in their opinion—and then proceed to create institutions that guide that cynicism to public benefit (think of Ethical Hedonism, Hobbes and Lord Mandeville's The Fable of the Bees). In other words, it's a position that transcends the Sliding Scale: They're idealistic about the big picture (society) because they're cynical about the small one (the individual).
  • Soldier VS Warrior: A Soldier is a fighter who fights out of loyalty to a country, leader or cause, and are usually more disciplined and collectivist, but seem to lack that certain "heart" that Warriors possess. A Warrior is a fighter who fights for glory, personal gain or some philosophy, and are more free-spirited and individualistic but tend to be more rowdy and shun the conformity of an organised army. Works with Enlightenment tones support Soldiers. Works with Romanticist tones prefer Warriors.

Tropes usually associated with Enlightenment:

Tropes usually associated with Romanticism:

Tropes shared between them, but handled in different ways:

  • Crapsack World/Dystopia: Enlightenment advocates will usually believe that "widespread ignorance causes Dystopia" (sometimes bringing up the era that they called the "Dark Ages") and squabble about how education will save us all from it. Romanticists, on the other hand, love deconstructing Enlightenment dreams into Dystopias themselves. For example, in Romanticist dystopian fiction, a Dystopia will usually be portrayed as an Enlightenment society that went He Who Fights Monsters and became the same dystopia that it was trying to solve (see also: Reign of Terror, Big Brother Is Watching, Crapsaccharine World, Full-Circle Revolution, and so on). Romanticists are also more likely to point out that "it is not too much ignorance, but too much conformity, that causes Dystopia". Romanticist visions of a Utopia tend to hark back to "a lost Golden Age" and bringing that back, rather than building something new; the Enlightened response is often that blind adherence to tradition leads to Dystopia.
  • Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: Romanticists believe that Curiosity Killed the Cast, or at least make us Go Mad from the Revelation and turn us into nihilists, the Enlightened do recognize that curiosity does have its flaws, but overall it can be used for further learning and self-improvement.
  • Democracy Is Bad: Although democracy tends to be an Enlightened philosophy, many Enlightened works and philosophers actually prefer a technocracy (e.g., Plato's The Republic, and the Federation from Star Trek). Romanticists are more varied in their positions; some want to return to old-fashioned feudalism, others advocate for a democratic system, and often their chosen form of government is whichever form is not in place in their society.
  • Fictional United Nations: Can be portrayed as either useful or useless in much the same way as Democracy Is Bad. The Romanticist sees the Fictional United Nations as hamstrung by the realities of international politics where powerful nations will still run riot over weak ones (see the League Of Nations). The Enlightened depict the job as tricky but not impossible, with the participants more inclined towards enlightened self-interest and willing to work together for the greater good.
  • Godwin's Law: Both sides have arguments that the Nazis belonged to the opposing side. Social Darwinism is mentioned below.
  • Green Aesop: Both sides are fond of these, though the Romantic version gets a lot more play in media. The Romantic Green Aesop is that humanity must live in peace and harmony with the natural world, often adding "or she'll kill us all." The Enlightenment version agrees that humanity must protect the environment, but argues for scientific and technological solutions to environmental issues, often amounting to deliberate re-engineering of the global ecosystem. In other words, they believe that humanity can win against Gaia's Vengeance while averting Gaia's Lament.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The (mostly British) Enlightenment acknowledges wholeheartedly that humans really are incredibly selfish, materialistic, pleasure-obsessed, aggressive, impulsive, short-sighted, miserable, and otherwise...bastard-y animals (just see Hobbes Was Right), and this selfishness is biologically and neurologically immutable (e.g. pain, fight-or-flight, fear, hunger, sex, and such). For cynical Singularitarian Transhumanists, the only method that will abolish this selfish gene is through evolution into The Singularity where pain is nonexistent (e.g. Instrumentality scenarios).

    Those following after the (mostly French) Continental schools of Enlightenment, by contrast, tended towards A World Half Full and Rousseau Was Right — that is, mankind is a blank slate which is mostly influenced by its environment, and thus not inherently "selfish" or "selfless" inasmuch as simply interested in self-preservation and seeking comfort. They believe that we don't need destroying humanity and recreating it anew, because our selfish genes can be harnessed for the Greater Good if they can be used as rewards for productive behaviour—this is why they advocate utilitarianism, democracynote  and to a lesser extent the incentives provided by industrial capitalism.note  Romanticists generally agree with the "bastardy animals" idea, but they tend to accept it and not the "utilitarianism converts bastardy animalness into prosperity" solution.
  • Inherent in the System: The Enlightened response is to say, "And so, we should make a better system," and then start squabbling about what "better" means. The Romantic response is more variable, but very often tends to be "And so, we should destroy the system."
  • Liberty Over Prosperity: Enlightenment tries its best to combine the two, Romanticists say the Enlightenment basically went He Who Fights Monsters and is slowly sacrificing Liberty for Prosperity (See the bit about Crapsack World below).
  • Perfection Is Impossible: Both sides tend to argue this (and accuse the other of seeking the impossible perfection), but with different alternatives. Enlightenment prefers to use laws and philosophy to make society better than it was before, confident their descendants will repeat the Reconstruction. Romanticism rejects this assumption, and often states that even attempting to make society better will make things worse.
  • Postmodernism: Both the Postmodern and Romantic movements basically emerged as a backlash against modernity and the Enlightenment. However, Postmodernism registers about equal scepticism towards both Romanticism and the Enlightenment, questioning the reality of Romantic concepts like authenticity, naturalness, and truth, while also questioning the usefulness of Enlightened concepts like progress, value, and objectivity. Postmodernism is thus viewed unfavourably by both groups, while it in turn views each as interesting and useful when taken with a grain of salt.note 

    For an example of how this works, consider the important proto-postmodern text Dialectic of Enlightenment, which critiqued modernism and Enlightenment as being nothing other than an extended, totalitarian form of the same (Romantic) primitive world-mythology that grips all people - "[M]yth is already enlightenment; and enlightenment reverts to mythology."
  • The Social Darwinist: Romanticists warn about the Enlightened's descent into amoral Evilutionary Biologists obsessed with Evolutionary Levels (Nazi comparisons galore). On the other hand, the Enlightened denounce Romanticists (more specifically, the Luddites) as savages glorifying the dog-eat-dog the-weak-get-killed-off brutal Crapsack World of the past (The Dung Ages comparisons galore).
  • Society Is to Blame: The Enlightened response is to say, "And so, we should change society," and then start squabbling about how to do it. The Romantic response is more varied.
  • Soldier vs. Warrior: The Soldier mindset is more in-line with the Enlightenment crowd, while Warriors are more subscriptive to Romanticism.
  • Straw Nihilist: Romanticists see the Enlightenment as converting humanity into a race of nihilists, thus in Romanticist works such nihilists are usually portrayed as Enlightened people who failed to find an objective proof for a "meaning in life" (For a contemporary version of this, see Cyber Punk, with high technology but existential angst). The Enlightened tend to see nihilists as Romantics who have abandoned rationalism but failed to find anything to replace it with. Existentialists, incidentally, are found on both sides.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: Romanticism believes that Measuring the Marigolds too much decreases the awe, Enlightenment believes that a deeper scientific understanding of the workings of the world can actually increase the awe through fuelling our curiosity.

Examples:

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    Anime 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has villainous examples from both sides of the spectrum. The artificial evolution committee SEELE is Enlightenment Utilitarianism to the extreme, with their TransHumanist ideology of using science to destroy the Angels, ascend the Evolutionary Levels, and assimilate humanity into The Singularity to abolish the physical/biological/existential selfishness that exists in every individual. SEELE is obsessed with the Future of Humanity, and thus they believe in a philosophy of Utopia Justifies the Means. They don't care about the present-day harm done to the people they manipulate, as long as Utopia arrives. On the other hand, Gendo is an extreme Romanticist Anti-Hero, who only cares about his dead wife and messiah Yui, he doesn't care if the world is destroyed, as long as he can see Yui again. Gendo symbolizes an obsession with the Past, an obsession with Yui. He lives in the Past and makes monuments to the Past, the Reis. He doesn't care about the Present, about living with his own son, Shinji. This obsession with the past reaches its logical extreme when Rei, his monument to the Past, turns everybody into primordial DNA soup that was life four billion years ago. Whatever their philosophies are, both of them don't appreciate the Present, and thus their obsessions reach their selfish and villainous extremes when they start ruthlessly manipulating other people, and thus in the end they are both Not So Different.
    • Shinji, who used to be in the extreme Romantic end of the spectrum, develops an Existentialist philosophy in The End Of Evangelion. In the end he appreciates his depressing individual life in the Present despite his full knowledge that it's a Crapsack World and individuality is painful, culminating in him deciding to reject Instrumentality, a False Utopia made of the extreme combination of both Enlightenment (as a utopian Singularity) and Romanticism (as mankind reverted to primordial soup and forcefully assimilated back into the Mother of All Mankind).
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross straddles the gap between Real Robot and Super Robot, but slams the dial hard towards Enlightenment.
    • Your mileage may vary slightly on that last point- for all its idealism, a key theme is that of the very transhumanist (transhumanoidist?), and warlike, Zentraedi being won over by good old-fashioned human concepts like love. So it does in a way play with Romanticism a bit.
  • Gurren Lagann, for all its seemingly Romantic emphasis on emotional intensity, falls hard on the side of Enlightenment. The ethos of the series having a very strong belief in the idea of progress and the ultimate perfectibility of the human (and beastman?) condition. The heroes may have "kicked logic to the kerb", but only with the aim of creating their own logic that works for them against all attempts by the anti-spirals to make them regress back to the level of barbarism; vehemently rejecting the idea that you can't evolve and progress without destroying yourselves. After the end credits, humanity - in league with several other species - is shown to have created a near-utopian society and on its way to show the universe itself who's boss.
  • Gundam:
    • The franchise in general is actually heavily Enlightened and idealistic at its very core — even in the worst of times. Sometimes it is deconstructed, but generally, humanity growing to live in space in a new age of science is the end result, and all other things are just consequences of it. The actual events are rather pessimistic though, ironically enough.
    • The Universal Century flip-flops back and forth on the scale. The proto-transhumanist "anti-Earth" note  ideology of Zeon Zum Deikun is highly Enlightened (supporting humanity moving away from Earth and evolving into Newtypes), but various series portray this as a bad thing, a good thing, or a good ideology corrupted by assholes. Incidentally, the Axis Zeon movement is highly Romanticist, as their leader Haman Khan believes that Humans Are Bastards and is (theoretically) fighting to restore the fallen Zabi family, but this faction is portrayed entirely negatively. Put another way, in the Universal Century, ideology is mainly an excuse for people to kill each other, and neither Enlightenment nor Romanticism comes off particularly well.
  • In Princess Mononoke, the forest gods and animals are Romanticist, and the humans living in Iron Town are Enlightened (especially in their industrial ambitions and egalitarian treatment of downtrodden types like lepers and ex-prostitutes). In the end, peace is achieved on Romanticist terms, with the surviving villagers deciding to work in harmony with the forest. The Romantic figures are destroyed entirely, and while Iron Town may be destroyed, it will be rebuilt better than before since its residents better understand their relationship to the natural world. The ending is more a dialectical "synthesis" and Re Construction, where the Enlightenment side accepts the Romantic "dystopia" critique and moves forward with a better understanding. That ending is actually very pro-Enlightenment, as a core value of the Enlightenment is rejecting dogmatism in favor of better ideas when one has more knowledge - which can include swallowing elements of the Romantic critique. In other words, an Enlightenment figure can evaluate a Romantic De Construction, say, "You're right!", and find a repair while still remaining entirely an Enlightenment figure.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes is based on a conflict between the Romanticist-based Galactic Empire and the more Enlightenment-based Free Planets' Alliance. Neither of these are treated as a particularly ideal society.
  • Origin: Spirits of the Past is complicated, on the one hand you have the Forest versus the industrialized nation of Ragna, on the other hand the Forest is anything but natural and destroyed the old civilization that Ragna (or at least Shunack) is obsessed with recreating.
  • One Piece is this, though it's more idealism vs. cynicism. One of the strongest themes running through the show is the power of dreams, and the ability to do anything if you want it hard enough, opposed by characters (especially Bellamy, in the Jaya sub-arc) who don't believe in the power of dreams or True Companions.
  • Witch Hunter Robin presents a Romantic notion of witchcraft with neo-Victorian costumes.
  • The Magical Girl genre generally tends toward Romanticism.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The cold ruthless Totalitarian Utilitarian Enlightened scientific Incubators who will do anything to harvest energy and reverse entropy, versus Homura's equally ruthless Romanticist Anti-Hero-ism who will do anything for the sake of protecting her beloved Madoka. Madoka provides a decision buffer in the Present between the two conflicting philosophies; she is disgusted upon both of them for their antiheroic extremism and manipulations, but also at the same time appreciates their intentions, knowing that Incubators try to prevent Heat Death and liberated mankind from the Stone Age, while Homura is doing her best to protect Madoka.

    It goes much deeper than that. Madoka transforms from a girl who hates herself to…a happy girl who essentially kills herself and disembodies her spirit in order to create a new system where all magical girls are saved while the Energy system is not compromised. Madoka let the Kyubey exist to prevent Entropy and give humanity civilization, only that the worst and unnecessary waste products of the Puella Magi system (witches) are gone. Given that she simultaneously assists Kyubey in his goal of preventing the heat-death of the universe, and that she gives up her self to help fix the world, it seems like a rather Enlightened work to me. If Madoka straight-up wished that Kyubey didn't exist and accepted her life as "naked and living in caves" while the universe dies from entropy, it would be Romanticist.
  • Black Lagoon is strongly romanticist from the art style and shot composition to character motivations to the heavy Rule of Cool in action scenes. Balalaika's rationalist ideology and fighting style, Enlightenment, make her that much more intimidating as a result.
  • The Patlabor franchise in general remains on the Enlightened end of the spectrum and relatively idealistic - even in the worst of times. Generally, humanity growing to live with mechs coexisting with them and how they are used in society is the end result, and all other things are just consequences of it.
  • Shakugan no Shana season 3 boils down to this: The Crimson Denizens led by the cold and ruthless Enlightened Yuji Sakai, with a belief that Utopia Justifies the Means, who tries to create a world where the Crimson Denizens no longer have to consume humans to survive, versus Shana's and the Flame Hazes' equally ruthless Romanticist Anti-Heroism who will do anything for the sake of protecting the Humans from being devoured by the Crimson Denizens. The Flame Hazes, eventually realizing that their current methods aren't working, give in and submit a rule the outright prevents the Crimson Denizens from consuming humans in any way, whom Yuji accepts. Judging how he succeeds in the end, this would make the series an Enlightened work.
  • Elfen Lied is heavily Romanticist. Japan is just a tool of manipulation by the Kakuzawas, who are Romanticist due to their motivations being based on folk bloodlines and history. The Kakuzawas try to wipe out and replace the human race with the genetically engineered Diclonius via spreading a virus that will result in its infectees siring Silpelit Diclonius. Even the Diclonius are Romanticist, as they rely solely on their emotions and instincts (although most of the reason is due to the emotional and social abuse they experience, which results in their their biological survival instinct fusing with their psychosis, which insists that humans must be eradicated or they will eradicate Diclonii), plus the fact that civilizing them is near-impossible due to their lethal Psychic Powers, combined with the awakening of their powers occurring at a childhood age, where they cannot understand between right and wrong, effectively making them Noble Savages at best and Always Chaotic Evil at worst (with the exception being Nana).
  • A Certain Magical Index has this as one of the central themes of the series and takes it to near-literal levels, with the Magic Side being Romanticism and the Science Side being Enlightenment. It reaches its pinnacle during World War III, and ultimately the Science Side wins, making the series more towards Enlightenment.
  • Death Note is generally Romanticist in character, with Villain Protagonist Light Yagami being a Visionary Villain who wants to make the world a better place by force, which appears on the surface to be a sign of evil Enlightenment. And by the end (especially in the anime), several characters (and the authors) simply point out that he's only doing what he does to satisfy his own ego and madness; he's actually a Romantic figure, and his support for the Enlightenment is just self-delusion. His main adversaries, meanwhile, are non-ideological and are essentially fighting him because that's what they do; while they disagree with Light, that's not really why they're fighting him. As a final note, it's worth noting that the actual Enlightenment voices in the show (Chief Yagami and courageous news reporter Koki Tanakabara) both come across extremely well in their support of the lawful actions of the police force and the constitutional government of Japan.
  • Sailor Moon is extremely Romantic, albeit a very idealistic and optimistic version. The heroines are reincarnated heroines from the lost Silver Millenium, led by a princess, they fight for and with The Power of Love, and their destiny is to create a beautiful new Crystal Tokyo in the future under a new Queen Serenity. The latter in particular has proven ripe fodder for many a Deconstruction Fic or plain old Dark Fic.

    Fan Fiction 

    Film 
  • Star Wars:
    • For the most part, it is a thoroughly romanticist work: While nominally a science fiction story, it is heavily inspired by high fantasy, with its Wagner-flavored music and the focus on larger-than-life heroes that are far above the common man thanks to an innate superpower (Force sensitivity). This is no more sharply contrasted than in the lush, vibrant Scenery Porn of the Old Republic and the cold, utilitarian appearance of The Empire.
    • However, the franchise is also one of the most well-known examples of Good Republic, Evil Empire (an Enlightenment trope), and when it comes to the Jedi and the Sith, the roles are reversed: the Republic/Rebellion-aligned Jedi preach stoicism and rationality (Enlightenment), while the Empire-aligned Sith preach letting one's emotions, especially anger, run wild (Romanticism).
    • In the Expanded Universe Luke decides Both Sides Have a Point, and seeks to unite both Enlightenment reason and Romantic emotion into the New Jedi Order, most notably by lifting the Old Order's ban on marriage.
  • Jurassic Park. The owner was a believer in Enlightenment reason with the cloned dinos, while the Romantic heroes sensibly pointed out the various problems in his park. While causing all the problems in the first place.
  • Fight Club is Romanticist, as befits anything based on the heavily Nietzschean-influenced work of Chuck Palahniuk. Palahniuk's novels often uses a Crapsack World to show the flaws of Team Enlightenment, have some Team Romantic protagonists show up and reject it, then break the protagonists into bits by the end of the novel. This certainly happened to the narrator of Fight Club, everyone in Haunted 2005, and the protagonists of Choke and Invisible Monsters. In both the film and book of Fight Club, the narrator ultimately rejects Tyler Durden's hyper-romantic goals, though the denouement in is radically different in the film and movie.
  • I, Robot has Romanticist elements. The hero bemoans the replacement of the cottage industry by robotic industry, and muses that he might be the "last sane person" on earth. The robot apocalypse is written to be the result of logic. The goal, ending humanities wars and self destruction, is noble, yet the only reason given for the particular choice of solution (totalitarian uprising) to that problem is the word "logic".
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai features this clash, although it is thoroughly subverted: Colonel Nicholson of Team Enlightenment believes so passionately in law and order that he ends up turning to Honor Before Reason, and collaborating with his Japanese captors in order to stay in command of his men. The wild, defiant Warden, representing Romanticism, ultimately behaves more rationally. At least compared to the Colonel. But the other contrast in the movie is between Nicholson and Shears. In this contrast, Shears represents the Enlightenment as he pursues his goals of survival and defeating the enemy by whatever rational means are effective. Nicholson, on the other hand, is the Romantic who puts the concept of honor ahead of those other goals.
  • The Sherlock Holmes movie in 2009 has Sherlock being largely pro-Enlightenment, in favor of reason, logic, and democratic government, and the movie's villain, Lord Blackwood, being largely pro-Romanticism, in favor of mysticism, monarchism, and a return to older ways of doing things. Seeing that Holmes is a hero protagonist, it seems obvious to say that the movie is pro-Enlightenment. However, Holmes is a freewheeling Bohemian who enjoys the arts alongside his other pursuits, while Blackwood is Scooby-Doo Hoax a fraud who wants to impose a new order of his making over the people of Britain. The actual answer is more complex than it at first seems.
  • True Grit is a movie about the End of the West, and Mattie firmly takes the side of Enlightenment. Rooster Cogburn is very Romanticist, as are most of the Ned Pepper gang, and La Boeuf is somewhere in the middle, trying to be Enlightenment but with a few Romanticist hang-ups.
  • Equilibrium is a clearly Romanticist work, as it is about an evil futuristic society where emotion is outlawed, and the extreme Enlightenment idea of suppressing all emotion through technology is definitely shown as wrong. However, the ending, while portrayed positively, never exactly comes clear on whether restoring human emotion is a good thing.
  • The first Pirates of the Caribbean film has an odd case of this (let's ignore the fact that the setting is actually when Enlightenment was just getting into its stride and Romanticism hadn't been born yet- the series is famous for its Anachronism Stew in more obvious ways). The very Romantic Elizabeth and Will struggle against the Enlightenment mentality of her father and presumed future husband, and... actually comes out the winner. The implication of the whole story is that Enlightenment is sensible, but wrong, and Romanticism is silly, but happens to be right (a Sparrowvian sentiment if ever there was one...)
  • Johnny Mnemonic is romanticist even for cyberpunk. Electronics are giving people neurological disorders and a pharmaceutical megacorp is withholding the cure, which the LoTeks want to steal and distribute. And then there's Johnny's own goal of having his wetware removed so he can regain his childhood memories.
  • Interstellar: the teaser trailer presents a rather Romanticist view of space travel - "because our destiny lies above us."
  • An element of Into The Storm. For example, it is the gist of the Halifax VS Churchill debate. Halifax (pro-enlightenment) is proposing a pragmatic way out for the British Empire to remain, while Churchill (pro-romanticism) is priorizing honor and duty instead of survival.

    Literature 
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is about classicism (enlightenment) vs romanticism.
  • Andrew Miller's Pure is set just before the French Revolution, before the days of Romanticism, but deals with basically this conflict. Should we sweep away the past and look rationally towards a better future, or is history too much a part of us, societally and emotionally?
  • Lord of the Rings is often read as a pro-Romanticist parable on the evils of industrialization. Which is what it is...except when it's not. J.R.R.T. was a much more subtle and sophisticated thinker than that, and his view was that both 'Reformers' (liberals, social planners, industrialists, Progress, Enlightenment) and 'Embalmers' (reactionaries, clinging to the past for its own sake, close minded, Romantics) were flip sides of the same bad thing, and both tendencies could be and were used by Melkor (the master of Evil) and his servant Sauron in their plots. The creation of the Rings of Power, for example, combined a Romantic desire to preserve the past and stop change with an Enlightenment faith in the power of Reason and Science and Logic to make the progression of time stop. Sauron played the Elves like a piano using both tropes, and thus brought about the creation of the Rings. Likewise, there was good in both the Enlightenment and Romanticism, and this too was shown to be true among those characters in the story who remained at least partly uncorrupted and loyal to God.
  • Rudyard Kipling is an example of both the good and bad sides of Enlightenment— he genuinely thought Western imperialism was helping the non-Western "savages", but tended to express that in a way we now perceive as condescending at best and racist at worst. He also had a romantic side to him as was expressed in his aesthetic appreciation of fishermen, soldiers, railwaymen, and all the various cultures in India. Really he was fascinated by anyone who lived differently from him.
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is distinctly Romanticist— it treats society (in the form of the Combine) as a corrupting force, suppressing and perverting emotion, and using technology to achieve its nefarious ends.
  • C. S. Lewis: ...Well, that's a complicated answer.
    • Tended to be suspicious of Enlightenment and more Romanticist in taste. Which is interesting as Lewis had a personality closer to The Spock than The McCoy. Though in The Four Loves Lewis once snarked that no one could really learn good and evil from "a vernal wood" unless they had an idea of it before hand and that someone could draw a lesson Wordsworth would not approve of as creatures in vernal woods spend a lot of time eating each other.
    • Lewis is on record, though, as saying, with regard to human relations (as contrasted to relations with other classes of being, such as beasts or God), he is a democrat because Humans Are Bastards and no individual or clique can be trusted with too much authority over their fellows. However, democracy has its own corruptions, notably "Demonic Democracy," described by Screwtape in "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," as social pressure that demands no one be excellent, since this would violate "equality."
    • Screwtape, a senior devil, continually advises Wormwood to rely on deception, jargon, and emotion to keep his human from acting morally and ethically. He wants the human thinking about "That was a phase," "This makes me happy," or "That idea is courageous," rather than the more banal questions, "Is this true?" or "Is this just?" Awakening the "patient's" reason would be a terrible idea according to Screwtape, as many of the decisions of the Hell-ward road have no rational justification at all. That's as enlightenment as it can get.
    • In his little-read The Pilgrim's Regress, Lewis had two allegorical characters named "Mr. Enlightenment." They were father and son, both negative figures. The father was a cocksure "village atheist" who dismissed philosophy, religion, and romanticism without looking into them, assuming we've Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions. The son was a pathological Freudian who claimed every disagreement with his position was a self-serving rationalization. "Pilgrim's Regress" is subtitled as a "defense of romanticism" (among other things). Later editions include a long postscript in which Lewis, a literature professor by trade, dissects about a dozen different meanings of "romanticism" and discusses each one.
    • In The Space Trilogy, we have alternating criticisms of Enlightenment and Romanticism:
      • In Out of the Silent Planet, the villain is an Enlightenment-style evil scientist who invents a spaceship so we can invade Mars, kill off the innocent Martians, and take it as a home for humanity's descendants. The Martian races themselves are clearly a harmonious mix of Romanticism (hrossa, pfiffltriggi as artists) and Enlightenment (seroni, pfiffltriggi as technologists).
      • In Perelandra, the same villain has flipped to the Romantic side, obsessed with a universal life-force that is "beyond good and evil" and getting all Byronic/Neitzschean/Wagnerian, trying to convince the heroine that rebellion against God is a good idea.
      • In That Hideous Strength, the new set of villains work for an Enlightenment dystopia that will eliminate organic life and reduce humans to disembodied brains.
    • In short, Lewis was less attached to either way of thought than to the idea that both should be used to serve good ends rather than bad ones.
  • Dune is a peculiar take on this, viewing a society that is decidedly Romanticist from a lens that could be either Romantic or Enlightened depending on how one chooses to see Frank Herbert.

    On one hand, Herbert deconstructs the Robot War in the series' backstory (the Butlerian Jihad), treating its effects realistically, but he doesn't seem to criticize the (Romanticist) premise of the trope. On the other hand, although he used—nay, made and codified—the (Romanticist) Feudal Future trope (which he presents as the logical conclusion of the changes wrought by a realistic Robot War), he does not present the Imperium as a particularly nice place to live for most people (regardless of whether a Corrino or Atreides is on the Golden Lion Throne), and is said to have commented that (Kevin J. Anderson's so-called prequels notwithstanding) the series is supposed to end with the establishment of a real democracy (in other words, Good Republic, Evil Empire=Enlightened).

    On the whole, Herbert tended to warn against the excesses of science, but on the other hand, he never rejected it as a force for good; being that his fundamental philosophy was "environmentalism," which seeks to protect nature (Romanticism) from the excesses of industry (Enlightenment) but often uses rationalistic justifications (Enlightenment) and the tools of science (Enlightenment) to do so. The only character in his oeuvre who might be seen as an Author Avatar is Liet-Kynes (and his father Pardot), who are decidedly Enlightened in outlook (their dream is to terraform Arrakis from a desert planet into a verdant, more ordinary planet, with oceans and plants and everything).

    Herbert's wiser characters in Dune recognize that the Universe is too big, complex, mutable, and powerful for Englightenment logic to ever entirely encompass: in that it's Romantic. Yet science and logic and politics and reason are not bad, as long as those using them remember that they have limits that they can not escape, and they can never entirely escape the tendency of the Universe to surprise them. (In that sense, he's rather like arch-Enlightenment guy Carl Sagan.)
  • The Baroque Cycle portrays some Enlightenment figures as almost latter-day superheroes.
  • "The Dresden Files" leans heavily towards Romanticism, with Dresden himself having made several disparaging comments towards modern science and technology. It's even built into the setting. Magic can easily disrupt modern technology.
  • Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time can have multiple interpretations but no matter how you cut it, comes off on the side of Romanticism.
  • H.P. Lovecraft, pioneer of the extremely cynical, Romanticist and Gothic Horror-laden Cosmic Horror Story genre, did like modern astronomy, and took a stance that's closer to Enlightenment (not the idealistic kind, but more similar to the British tradition that tended towards the Humans Are Bastards perspective). This is in contrast to fellow Weird Tales contributor Robert E. Howard was certainly a diehard Romantic who believed civilization was an aberration; obviously, this discussion came up often in their correspondence.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire might initially seem to be romantic, as the protagonists are mostly feuding nobles, but then it makes it pretty clear exactly how much life sucks under absolute monarchy.
  • Shadows of the Apt has the magical and highly traditional Inapt races (Romantic) and the forward-minded, technologically-oriented Apt races (Enlightenment).
  • David Brin, of course, is one of the most vocal critics of Romanticism (or "Pining for Feudalism") in the SF&F community.
    • The Uplift series is an unusual example, essentially every alien race in the series is more technologically advanced than Earthclan, but they are utterly stagnant due to all their technology coming from the Library handed down from their ancestral species. Whereas humans prefer to use as much technology that they developed themselves as possible and have often used their interest in scientific advancement to their advantage.
    • In The Postman the Holnists represent romanticism with their campaign of conquest aimed at making themselves the feudal lords of post-apocalyptic America, while Gordon's reformed United States and Cyclops represent enlightenment.
    • Also a central theme of Brin's most recent novel, Existence. The new aristocracy consider the enlightenment a failed experiment and seek to return humanity to a form of feudalism (after all 99% of human societies couldn't be wrong, could they?) and the often allied Renunciators want to restrict technological progress. Meanwhile others attempt to create artificial sapience or revive the neanderthals. The Artifact exacerbates the argument, especially when it turns out that the emissaries' species are all extinct, the Renunciators insist that technology must have killed them while the elites jockey for opportunities to upload themselves into the Artifact copies (and for their troubles get tricked into becoming part of a solar system spanning telescope)
  • Chuck Palahniuk's novels, mentioned under Film, usually feature a strong criticism of the Enlightenment with their Crapsack World settings. The protagonists then wind up to be strongly Romantic individuals who are terribly messed up, often as a result of their Romanticist views. For example, Fight Club may be taken as a testosterone-fueled criticism of modern life, but the protagonist winds up rejecting everything his Sensei for Scoundrels hoped to do, shoots himself in the face to try to undo his plans to shake modern society, and winds up committed to an asylum. Haunted is a set of short stories critical of the world of Enlightenment interlaced with the Romantic-heavy physical and moral breakdown of the jerkasses who wrote them. Diary features a protagonist whose Romanticism essentially makes her powerless while the Enlightenment world around her wrecks her life and Romantic forces push her towards a supernatural disaster her Enlightenment intellect can't save her from and haven't been able to save her from for two previous cycles of reincarnation. Phew.
  • William Morris, with his utter disdain for 19th century industrialism and visions of rural idylls based on simple craftsmen making beautiful things, falls firmly into the Romantic camp. News From Nowhere can be seen as a Romantic response to Edward Bellamy's pro-Enlightenment Looking Backward.
  • Brave New World: The technocratic Totalitarian Utilitarian Free-Love Future World State is a dystopian deconstruction of the Enlightenment utilitarian post-scarcity utopia; everyone's basic biological pleasures are provided for by the advanced technology, but this scientific society also ends up encouraging neglect for creativity and individuality (e.g. family tropes such as pregnancy are banned for causing Oedipus Complex, no one is interested in True Art Is Incomprehensible, and Romeo and Juliet is comedy), while use of genetic engineering for happy but disturbing ends forms one of the bases for society (e.g. Humans now all have perfect health but also a Hive Caste System, one end being the retarded but perfectly contented slaves, and the other being the intelligent alphas who needed said slaves to look down upon). On the other hand, the Savage is Romanticist, appreciating his life of pain and superstition, and considers the World State to be amoral and unnatural.
  • In Poul Anderson's "Holmgang", the villain, a Humanist, is part of a movement to break down the order of society, increase the amount of variety in human institutions, and end the decadent society because mankind can be safe and sane for only so long. He reveals that in fact, he's part that will forcibly push mankind into this breakdown, and an eruption of violence.
    • In Poul Anderson's "Goat Song", Harper goes to destroy the society constructed by SUM, urging people to give up the bracelets that contains a promised earthly resurrection, spreading myths and legends, and trusting in things can not be found in science. (He's the hero. Yes, this is the opposite of "Holmgang."
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was written for the Romantic movement, and its central protagonist creates life to prove that he can, without asking whether he should. The book's answer, of course, is that he most certainly shouldn't. Or, at the very least, if he wanted to create life, he should have taken responsibility for the creation and nurtured it rather than abandon it.
  • Jules Verne's posthumously-published Paris in the Twentieth Century runs on this trope. It's basically a somewhat dark satire on industrial modernism, where technological marvels abound and war has been rendered meaningless by the horrors of mechanised warfare and the pragmatic concerns of international trade, but there is little soul; commerce, scientific progress and the like are lauded, the arts have decayed into Lowest Common Denominator trash, humanities are ignored, and there is little room for any other such Romantic notions. This makes the protagonist, one of a small dwindling band of closet romantics, unable to cope in his own era, and he ends up wandering the streets, impoverished and in despair, and eventually dying.
  • Vorkosigan Saga has the weird quality of being enlightened in the sympathies, being about reform bringing in technology, the rights of the unfortunate, while being romantic in it's decoration, having medieval splendor, savage warlords, and so on.
  • Lone Wolf is exceptionally Romanticist in character. Technology is nearly always used by the bad guys, including steam-powered and polluting ironclad vessels, and clean and pristine environments weaken the Darklords of Helgedad, the villains for the first 12 books. Later, Lone Wolf travels to a world under the control of the Big Bad, where advanced Magitek weapons are brought to use against him. Yet Lone Wolf only uses a very few examples of Magitek himself, never even so much as picking up a musket, and if the Kai win, Magnamund will remain in Medieval Stasis forever. This is presented as a good thing.
  • Oryx and Crake, despite the title, revolves around the friendship between Jimmy (later Snowman) and Glenn/Crake. Jimmy represents Romanticism, attending an arts school when arts and humanities are out of favor and collecting forgotten words from books he can't bear to destroy. Crake represents enlightenment, designing as he is a new humanoid race meant to function without religious leanings or romantic love (although Crake himself isn't immune to the latter.) Margaret Atwood's sympathies clearly lie with Romanticism, especially since Crake releases a supervirus to kill every human being on the planet.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek:
    • Very Enlightened, particularly with the Vulcans. Who were, in turn, occasionally proven wrong by more romantic types. Which conveys, if clumsily, the idea that both are right in the right place and wrong in the wrong and the problem is deciding which is which.
    • Klingons and Romulans in some interpretations (as edgy-but-not-necessarily-evil Proud Warrior Race s rather than Always Chaotic Evil races) are more romantic whereas Vulcans are more enlightenment. Vulcans have some surprising romantic traits like mysticism and dark tribal traditions as was shown in the episode Amok Time. The humans may actually be the best examples of enlightenment in the Trek verse.
    • The Borg are a heavily dystopic take on Enlightenment, speedily adapting to every new technology they see and subsuming individuals to make their race stronger. Of course, they're the bad guys, so Romanticism gets its turn in the sun whenever the Borg are the Monster of the Week.
    • If Michael Eddington is anything to go by, the Maquis breakaway from the Federation has elements of Romanticism in conflict with the prevailing Enlightenment ideology of the Federation. Though their initial grievance was the handover of their colonies to the Cardassians, they also value the rugged frontier lifestyle above the utopian society of the Federation.
      Eddington:Why is the Federation so obsessed with the Maquis? We've never harmed you. And yet we're constantly arrested and charged with terrorism. Starships chase us through the Badlands and our supporters are harassed and ridiculed. Why? Because we've left the Federation, and that's the one thing you can't accept. Nobody leaves paradise. Everyone should want to be in the Federation.
  • Gene Roddenberry's posthumously produced series Andromeda has the heroes trying to rebuild a democratic interstellar Commonwealth while fighting Social Darwinist Nietzsche Wannabes, environmental extremists, and other enemies who are harder to place. In one episode the captain convinces a newly crowned feudal monarch to abdicate in favor of a democracy.
  • The X-Files: Mulder is on the Romantic side (being willing to forget Ockham razor in many circumstances) and Scully is on the Enlightened one (always searching for a scientific explanation). However, they swap roles when it comes to religion, since Mulder is agnostic while Scully is Catholic.
  • Firefly is a deconstruction of this entire trope, with Enlightenment being the major driving force of the 'verse, but Romanticism being an ever present part of the less developed worlds, like the ones the main characters find themselves on. The episode "Safe", though, is almost a stab in romanticism. One of Simon's insults to the crowd that wanted to Burn the Witch! was "ignorance". Simon himself, being a doctor who went to the best Alliance-sanctioned schools, leans hard toward Enlightenment. His (eventual) love interest Kaylee leans very Romantic, which complicates their relationship. The Film of the Series ultimately lands on the Romantic side, presenting the Enlightenment-minded social engineering of the Alliance as leading to a Moral Event Horizon.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor was always classically Romanticist. In fact, most if not all of his chronic enemies were Enlightenment thinkers. The Daleks and the Cybermen had a sort of "Utopian" goal of destroying everything not Dalek or Cyber. Yet, in ways, it sort of switched. On occasion the Doctor displayed both ideals simultaneously while the villains of the week always overprofessed one or the other. Individual bodies of the Doctor sometimes tend more towards one or the other; with the 10th for example being quite an Enlightenment centric believer in the power of science and reason, and the 11th having more of a Romantic streak with a propensity to make it up as he goes along rather than make logical detailed plans for action.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Romantic in spirit, with high pitched Melodrama, fantastic scale, prophesies, fate, and Good Old Ways. Moreover Delenn who was one of the most central characters was The McCoy and she didn't really have The Spock to balance her (Franklin was the closest thing to a Spock and he didn't interact with Delenn much).
    • On the other hand, B5 also presents a struggle for a better, more rational future, and emphasizes the importance both of backward-looking rootedness (in the Minbari) and of forward-looking independence (in the humans). In the other words, a happy marriage of Romanticism and Enlightenment, embodied in the similarly happy marriage of John Sheridan and Delenn.
    • From a Doylist perspective, J. Michael Straczynski is an emphatic liberal, a deep-seated believer in science, and a thoughtful atheist (i.e. all Enlightenment) who nevertheless clearly has deep respect for thoughtful conservatives/traditionalists and people of faith even as he criticizes the excesses of religion. In other words, Enlightenment respecting Romanticism and giving it its due—and given that much of B5 is at least partly an Author Tract, this comes the closest to expressing the show's overall tone.
  • NUMB3RS might be a poster boy show for Enlightenment but Larry Flinhardt is a romantic and often has friendly tension with Charlie about this.
  • LOST has this as a central conflict with Jack representing the Enlightenment and Locke (ironically!) representing Romanticism. Ultimately Romanticism wins, as Locke turns out to have been right about everything, as Jack admits.
  • Top Gear:
    • The Presenters: Jeremy is strongly Romantic, James is strongly Enlightenment, and Richard is in the middle but perhaps leans slightly towards Romantic.
    • Perhaps best shown in this one episode which pitted the American-made Corvette ZR1 against the German-made Audi R8. Even though he considered the R8 to be far superior in almost every technical respect and gave the ZR1 a verbal thrashing, he eventually came to the conclusion that given the choice, he'd take the ZR1, because the R8 was too joyless.
    "Be in no doubt, then. that the Audi is a better car. It's better built, better to look at, better to drive, more comfortable, easier to park and - in the real world - faster. You'd have to be bonkers to buy the Corvette. And that is why you should. "
    • Heck, it comes up when comparing a lot of cars and brands as well. For example, Italian cars (such as Alfa Romeo and Ferrari) tend towards Romanticism; artsy and full of soul and passion. American cars (like the Corvette and the Ford Mustang) would also qualify on the Romantic side: they're often considered cheap or of inferior quality but are very fun to drive and appealing to look at. German (Audi, BMW, Merc etc) and Japanese (Nissan, Lexus) cars tend towards Enlightenment, being boring to drive but are usually very technologically advanced. British cars (Aston Martin, Jaguar) tend towards the middle, with a lean towards Romantic: they're of high build quality, but in a more "craftsmanship" way, and they're very soulful like the Italian cars.

    Music 
  • Cat Stevens:
    • "Father and Son portrays both the Enlightenment, with the rational, restrained father, and Romanticism, with the passionate son who feels restricted by his father. Since the son seems to be a more sympathetic figure, the song is decidedly Romantic.
    • "Where Do the Children Play?" is strongly Romantic too, as it laments the destruction of nature that comes with "development."
    • On the other hand, "Peace Train" is definitely Enlightenment, with its focus on progress and a good future.

    Mythology 
  • In addition to Apollo and Dionysus cited above, a famous rivalry that perfectly encapsulates this debate in Classical Mythology is Athena versus Poseidon. Poseidon is the older god, ruler of the sea and storms, famous for being moody and passionate. Athena, however, is the goddess of strategy, wisdom, justice and peaceful arts, who is perfectly at home in the cosmopolitan city of Athens.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Traveller hit both, depending. But it was probably more enlightenment.
    • The Forever War between the Sword Worlders and the Darrians is a war of hats of Romanticism versus Enlightenment, as the Sword Worlders are a Proud Warrior Race and the Darrians are For Science!. Each thinks the other barely sane. The Third Imperium is more enlightened in it's ideology on the whole, it is feudal on the interstellar level but only because it is too large to expect anyone to climb to the top in one lifetime, individual planets are largely left to themselves and can have any local government from democracy to dictatorship.
    • Aslan, though are more Romanticist than the Imperium. Having much more in common with the Sword Worlders save that their social structures have barely progressed beyond tribal levels.
    • In the Intersteller Wars the Terrans are mostly Enlightenment being For Science! and thinking Good Republic, Evil Empire. They do have some romantic traits like glory seeking and Space Cossacks. Vilani are harder to place; they are closer to strains of thought that existed long before either romanticism or enlightenment, resembling Confucianism in some ways.
    • The Hivers are quite firmly enlightenment, having a society that can be best described as "anarchic socialism" and being not only highly technologically advanced but also quite willing to share it with less fortunate races.
    • The Zhodani don't fit neatly into either position; they have an Orwellian police state that's apparently a fairly nice place to live, if you have psionic abilities or don't mind having your mind read by the authorities.
    • The Reformation Coalition following the fall of the Third Imperium has two major voting blocks, Centrists advocate a more centralized government along the lines of the feudal technocracies that govern most of their worlds, while Federalists prefer it more decentralized and democratic.
  • In Warhammer40k, enlightenment ideas are basically deemed as heresy by the Imperium of Man which is ripe with religious fundamentalism and xenophobia. This comes across as extremely ironic as the Emperor of Man tried to squash superstition in favor of the ideals of reason and logic in order to starve the chaos gods, only for his Imperium to degenerate into what he fought against after thousands of years.
    • Emotions are what also feed the chaos gods. As a mater of fact, it was the excess indigence and pleasures of the Eldar that gave birth to a chaos god and led to their fall.
    • The only "enlightened" might be the Tau, who are idealists that believe in spreading the enlightened ideals of the greater good across the galaxy. The Tau are also the only major race that will consider diplomacy.
    • All in all, while the excess of Romanticism is NECESSARY for the survival of the galaxy (enlightenment won't help much in this setting), 40K can be looked at as a Take That towards the ideal, showing the Crapsack World that can result in a universe not based upon progress and reason.
  • The Old World of Darkness is heavily Romantic. Civilization is essentially decadent and corrupt and just a tool for this or that Ancient Conspiracy of supernatural beings to manipulate or feed upon Apathetic Citizens. Elder vampires use their awesome power to maintain their autocratic authority against their rebellious younger childer. Brutal Noble Savage werewolves rage against evil corporations in league with Eldritch Abominations trying to pollute and destroy Mother Earth. Mages engage in a centuries old battle of Magic Versus Science with the heroic player characters losing against the evil technocratic villains. Changelings long to return to Arcadia but never can and must face dying out from the lack of belief in the supernatural among the humans. The Fallen have broken out of Hell only to find a world (which they helped to Create) utterly devoid of faith, God, and Her angels.
    • At the same time, whenever the authors start to explore the default antagonists, it often turns out that the Strawman Has a Point and the Enlightenment-themed opposition isn't so Obviously Evil after all. Each group of antagonists will generally Kick the Dog enough to avoid becoming a mere Designated Villain, but the only Always Chaotic Evil enemies in the universe's otherwise Grey and Gray Morality tend to be more Romantic in disposition: Baali deliberately embrace classical evils, Earthbound demons lack the capacity to move beyond their Torment, and there are various other Leaking Cans of Evil that were natural parts of the universe dating back to antiquity... or through all of time.
      • Civilization might serve the Ancient Conspiracy of the vampiric elders, but the advancement of science and technology are frequently presented as the first and final hope for overcoming the oppression of these old monsters that cannot change or adapt. The Sabbat are only effective at their stated goal of opposing the ancients when they leverage their flexibility and capacity to think in new ways.
      • The Werewolves have fared miserably in their war against the Wyrm largely due to hidebound traditions and old grudges (the /newest/ of which are still centuries old). Meanwhile, the Wyrm only started lashing out once it had been driven mad by the Weaver... who bound it up in hopes of creating a world where nothing ever changes.
      • The technocratic paradigm has provided humanity with wonders that would otherwise have been accessible only to the Awakened and is also the single greatest source of strength for the spiritual barriers that hold back the worst of the game universe's Cosmic Horror Story and allow mankind to live in a "mere" Crapsack World.
      • If the winter of the changelings were to find its way to a new spring, The Fair Folk they would then become would be a blight on mankind.
      • The Fallen only exist because a faction of angels led by the Morningstar wanted to reach out and free humanity from ignorance despite God insisting that they let Eden remain exactly as it was (and subsequently being a spiteful dick about it).
  • By contrast, the New World of Darkness tends to take a far more Enlightened turn when it touches on these themes, though it generally tries to avoid taking an overt side between the two (because the oWoD was seen as overly-politicized, to the detriment of the line). Mage: The Awakening appears to be Romantic at first glance with its longing for a lost Atlantis and its focus on the power of symbolism, but the Seers of the Throne rely on anti-rationalism for temporal power, and serve their masters by preventing humans from looking for something greater and achieving their true potential; in other words, the villains draw upon Romanticism for power. Similarly, the Pure Tribes' ideology is based on looking back to a fallen Father Wolf and trying to resurrect a lost Pangaea. However, while the villains are nearly always Romanticist when they have an ideology, the heroes tend to include both Romanticist and Enlightened viewpoints in their ranks (and squabble over them).
    • In Vampire: The Requiem the Invictus and Lancea Sanctum are Romanticist while the Carthians and Ordo Dracul are Enlightenment. The Invictus and Carthians are particularly opposed, being vampiric aristocrats and revolutionaries who seek to try out virtually every other form of government. Curiously in Invictus-run cities the Carthians tend to be the least amoral vampires, while Carthian-run cities tend to run downhill at record speeds.
  • Exalted does a lot with these opposing ideals despite it not being a core theme. If there are two factions trying to do the same job but with different means and goals, there's a very good chance that they'll be divided along this line.
    • In the Time of Tumult, the Gold and Bronze factions are divided about the return of the Solars. The Gold Faction wants to restore the Solars to power so that their peerless genius and innovation can make for a better world. The Bronze Faction opposes the Solars' return, trying to keep Creation as it was for the whole of the Second Age: safe from the wild, dangerous extremes of Solar overlords.
    • The Realm and Lookshy is largely about this. Lookshy held to the old, lingering ways of the Shogunate while the Scarlet Empress forged a new path for the Realm out of the Shogunate's ruins, challenging even the Sidereals with her audacity.
    • The Scarlet Empress' two most probable successors are much the same: her centuries-old daughter Mnemnon is a Sorceress known for pushing the mystical envelope as far as she possibly can, reaching great advances in power through often-sketchy means. When the young, charismatic Roseblack finally resolves to return home with her army, meanwhile, she plans to seek a return to the ways of the Shogunate rather than move forward with the Realm's empire.
    • Even the returning Solars sometimes divide along this line, between those that simply wish to return things to the way they were in the First Age and those who wish to forge an entirely new world of their own design.
  • The old Plane Scape Dungeons & Dragons setting had the Blood War, a genocidal conflict between two different races of demonic beings. One side supported tyranny, order, infernal justice, conformity, and iron discipline. The other were Axe Crazy maniacs who believed individuality was so important that letting hordes of their own die trying to prove individual worth was better than forcing them to actually act like their more disciplined enemies. Given one side would remake the cosmos into the fantasy version of Dante's Inferno, and the other into Milton's Hell, neither is right. Then, on top of that, there are philosophic "guilds" players can join which grants them power and access, provided they believe as the group does. These groups range from the far-Enlightenment Fraternity of Order to the completely Romantic Society of Sensation. Not only is no one portrayed as right, but even allegiances frequently transcend the conflict. The Athar are Deists in the Jefferson/Locke vein, and their greatest allies are the thoroughly Romantic Believers of the Source - who worry about past lives and ascension.
  • BattleTech has the Inner Sphere, feuding nobles houses who have been in a state of Space Age Stasis for nearly four centuries ever since they nuked each other back to the 20th century. And invading them the Clans, genetically engineered Social Darwinists who have actually made improvements on their tech, even though their Warrior caste act like Bronze Age savages.
  • Magic: The Gathering has this dichotomy between the colors of mana. Generally (though not uniformly), red and green are romanticist with a focus on emotions, freedom, instincts, tradition and so forth, while white and blue are enlightened with a focus on order, law, curiosity, intelligence and so on. Black uses traits of both sides to further its own goals.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect portrays an Enlightenment-based future, with benign technological advances and an orderly galactic government. The outlook of your crew varies— they include Romanticists like the Whitman-spouting Ashley and Enlightened like Mordin Solus who justifies aiding in the Krogan sterility plague with utilitarian logic. Paragon Shep's egalitarian views and support for the Citadel hint at an Enlightened streak. Renegade Shepard meanwhile represents the more pro human and pragmatic Knight in Sour Armor and Totalitarian Utilitarian aspects of of Enlightenment.
  • Halo: Oddly enough. This whole spectrum of thought is speculated on and brought out in the story in the hidden Terminals throughout the game. In the story, it presents the struggle between the Flood and the Forerunners, with the Flood presenting it's invasion as necessary for life's eventual evolution as a ultimate species and as a stage in evolution for the universe as a whole eventually. On the other side, the Forerunners keep the stand that they are guardians for the genetic diversity in the galaxy and should impend any step in evolution if necessary to keep that diversity, even if flawed and eventually self-destructive at times.
  • Fallout: New Vegas features Caesar's Legion as the Romantics, and NCR and Mr. House as the Enlightenment. You, as the Wildcard possible fourth endgame victor, can go either way as fitting your Wildcard nature.
  • Touhou is weird about this. The youkai that make up the vast majority of the cast literally depend on romanticism to survive, needing to be believed in and gaining power from the natural order being observed. But there's a general trend of an ordered society forming, and one of the major factions is working to increase the technological level.
  • Planescape: Torment includes a conversation between a demon (chaotic evil) and a devil (lawful evil) about which is the right way to spread evil. The parallel to this trope is conspicuous, with the demon giving the romanticist argument that evil is worthless if it stripped of passion, and the devil making the enlightened argument that evil is just a mob's rioting if it is not ordered.
  • R-Type, in spite of being a simple shoot 'em up genre, bears a hint of Romanticism, which the Bydo embed themselves in, against the Enlightened background of advanced technologies the R-Fighters represent.
  • Pokémon Black and White has Opelucid City as well as their exclusive location based on either, depending on the version; Black has Black City with Opelucid City being high-tech (Enlightenment) while White version has White Forest with Opelucid City being eco-friendly (Romanticism). And meanwhile, in Black you can obtain Reshiram, symbolizing the older brother who sided with truth (Enlightenment), while in White you can obtain Zekrom, symbolizing the younger brother who sided with ideals (Romanticism).
  • Pathologic has The Bachelor (Enlightenment) and The Haruspex (Romanticism) against each other to save the Polyhedron or the town at the end.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has the highly ritualistic Chimer versus the rigid and atheistic Dwemer, thousands of years before the game is set. The Dwemer are certainly aware of the existence of the Daedra the Chimer worship, but are steadfast in their belief that the Daedra are not gods; so much so that Vivec facetiously commented that the Dwemer instead worshiped "their Gods of Reason and Logic." Not that this did the Dwemer any good; screwing with the base fabric of the Universe caused them all to disappear... somewhere. Not a single person in existence knows what happened to them, and if anyone does, they're not telling.
  • Shin Megami Tensei is a series known for playing with and deconstructing any and every dichotomy with its Law and Chaos factions, so it comes as no surprise that this too enters the mix. Unusually, however, both Law and Chaos manifest different negative sides of each. Law, with its sleek architecture, robot angels and liberal use of Magitek seems very Enlightened, but ultimately promotes very Romantic ideals of Feudalism and Monarchy. Chaos, on the flip-side, is full of Social Darwinists who parrot twisted versions of Enlightened ideals, but ultimately crave the old world ruled by Blood Knights and see any kind of organized government or hierarchy as bad and repressive. The Neutral Path, of course, often shows that there is still value in each - namely, mankind will stagnate if it doesn't keep moving forward, but The Power of Love and Friendship are what make life worth living. However, other examples of Neutrality are non-ideological; they aren't so much about promoting any kind of humanist philosophy as they are about taking down both sides before their fighting can wreck humanity any further.

    Webcomics 
  • xkcd is Enlightened. As the Existentialist says, "The future's pretty cool!"
  • Gunnerkrigg Court. The Court is Enlightened; Gillitie Woods is Romantic.
  • Girl Genius is a strange hybrid. It's about science fiction and solving problems with machinery, which is sort of Enlightenment ... but it's "adventure, romance, and mad science!, with tones of gothic, Frankenstein, and Lovecraftian mythos ... but all the Sparks have a strong manic streak, so they're happy and cheerful amid the doom, destruction, and tentacled horrors. It's just that kind of a story.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • The Romantic movement produced a lot of good poets. Like, a lot of them.
  • On the other side of the coin, the early Enlightenment, contrary to the above, tended towards the Humans Are Bastards perspective, which led to a fair number of good satirists, such as Voltaire (no not that one) and Benjamin Franklin.
  • The Enlightenment also produced a few poets, the most notable of whom were Germans: Friedrich von Schiller is more or less entirely Enlightenment, while Goethe's work has shades of both.
  • Soren Kierkegaard, considered the first existentialist philosopher, was overwhelmingly romanticist in outlook, going so far as to openly scorn Enlightenment philosophy.
  • The late 18th century saw two major Enlightenment-inspired revolutions, The American Revolution and French Revolution, both resulting in experimental republics showcasing Enlightenment ideas on governance. It worked in America. In France... not so much.
  • World War II. On one hand, Fascism, Nazism and nationalism have roots in Romanticism and an emphasis on folk bloodlines, love/worship of the Fatherland, and history (Hitler in particular had a Wagnerian Opera-like worldview), while democracy and communism are cosmopolitan ideologies supported by Rationalists, scientific Empiricists, Utilitarians and other Enlightenment philosophers, making the conflict a case of Romanticism vs. Enlightenment. On the other hand, the Nazis justified themselves with Evolutionary Levels, favored eugenics (which was considered enlightened at the time) and wanted the world to conform under their rule for (what the party thought was) the best future for humanity, while the allies were defending their individualism from an expanding empire, making the conflict a case of Enlightenment vs. Romanticism.
  • In a similar sense, the Spanish Civil War between the Nationalists (conservatives/monarchists/fascists) and the Republicans (liberals/anarchists/communists/socialists) could be considered a conflict of Romanticism versus Enlightenment.
  • Both Representative Democracy and Communism are different spins on the same Enlightenment ideas, equality for the masses, with some Ethical Hedonism and meritocracy thrown in. The result being that the Cold War was an uncommon case of Enlightenment vs. Enlightenment.
  • While no side will likely admit it, almost all political ideologies on the political spectrum are different characteristics of Enlightenment thought with a hint of romanticism.
    • Libertarian capitalism and Classical Liberalism could be considered the purest Enlightenment ideal since it asserts that all humans are good and can achieve progress in a free market where they can innovate in a meritocratic system. That being said, Libertarians are generally against most forms of order, viewing it as oppression.
    • Social Democrats or Social Liberals generally wish to solve the problem of greed brought by free markets (romanticism), but are usually Secular, take part in Civil Rights demonstrations and believe in a strong central government that regulates the economy with taxes in exchange for education and healthcare (enlightenment). The center-left is usually enthusiastic of technological advances as well, so as long that it does not harm humanity which is in line with the Enlightenment idea of science being used for good. They usually view Republics as the best form of government since it prevents the majority oppressing the minority, which is ironic as the main liberal faction in the USA is called the Democratic party.
      • Although the irony is mostly a case of American political history: When the Democratic and Republican parties were first started, they each aligned to the respective ideologies.
    • Conservatives might be known for their yearning of the past and strong religious views such as being "pro life" (romanticism), but this is coupled with their support for free markets and strong militaries (enlightenment). They usually advocate a democratic system which ironic since the main conservative faction in the USA is called the Republican Party.
      • European conservatives tend to be more explicitly Romantic, especially when they advocate the restoration of monarchy and aristocracy.
    • Karl Marx's view of communism as a classless and stateless society might sound romantic, until one remembers that Marx was a critic of religion and viewed farm life as foolish. Indeed, his vision is something more akin to a futuristic society that does not focus on wealth or need restrain. Rather, it is focus on advancing man for the common good.
    • However, actually all attempts to bring Marx's vision into reality have resulted in oppressive Totalitarian Utilitarian Socialist states that promote statism under the banner of progress.
    • Fascists have been known for their anti-intellectual rhetoric and support for traditional values (romanticism), but also support loyalty to the state and discipline (enlightenment).
    • Anarchism as a whole, to paraphrase the founder of anarcho-syndicalism Rudolf Rocker, can be thought of as a synthesis of an Enlightenment philosophy (classical liberalism) with a Romantic philosophy (socialism), incorporating the belief in progress and individual liberty from the former, and the support for social egalitarianism and cooperation from the latter. Hence the alternative name for anarchism - libertarian socialism.
      • Though different strands of anarchism lean more towards one or the other. For example, individualist anarchists, post-left anarchists, and anarcho-primitivists are Romantics who tend to dislike the ideals of the Enlightenment and think that on the whole it's made the world worse and not better. On the other hand, social anarchists, anarcho-communists, and social ecologists see their ideas as originating in Enlightenment humanism and dismiss Romantic influences on the left-libertarian movement as mere "lifestyle anarchists", more interested in personal rebellion than effective social change.
    • However, there are romantic ideologies on all sides of the spectrum:
      • On the right, we have theocracies which supports traditional ways of thought and strong support for religion.
      • On the left, we have certain forms of green politics who are skeptical of advances in sciences and technology which the rest of the left champions.
    • Both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street can be thought of as Romantic movements. The Tea Party has a strong love of the past and traditional values, while Occupy Wall Street has been likened to the Hippy movements of the 1960's. Both are anti-state; but each have opposing attitudes towards capitalism.
  • Winston Churchill was closer to being a romantic while Roosevelt was more enlightenment.
  • In the USA, the Democrats have romanticists (the environmental movement) and enlightenment (Keynesians and advocates for secularism). Republicans have romantics (the religious and those living in agrarian societies) and enlightenment figures (Supporters of the Military-Industrial Complex and leaders of corporations) as well.
    • The fact that both groups in either party are often the same people helps demonstrate that the distinction between romanticism and enlightenment isn't particularly clear anymore.
      • It's slightly more clear in the political parties outside of the USA however. Social Democratic parties are focused on labour issues and state regulation in the economy, making them enlightenment. The (European) Liberals are focused on individualism, another enlightenment characteristic. Greens tend in two directions, with the "Realos" being more Enlightenment and the "Fundis" tending more towards the Romantic. Conservatives are usually in support of aristocracy and constitutional monarchy, making them Romanticist.
      • It becomes more complex with British political parties, however. Since at least the time when Thatcher broke with the post-war consensus both major parties have contained strong tendencies in both directions. Generally when the Enlightenment tendency in a party is to the fore the party is moderate, centrist and holds power; when the romanticist tendency is to the fore (Unions and hard-left for Labour; Little Englanders for the Tories) they struggle.
  • Organic Farming (Romanticism) vs GM Farming (Enlightenment)
  • Nuclear Energy (Enlightenment) vs Renewable Energy (Romanticism) This one's a bit more complicated. While hostility to nuclear energy can be motivated by Romantic ideals, there are also perfectly Enlightened reasons to support renewable energy. This is matter of pragmatism versus idealism more than anything else. Nobody really opposes renewable energy. The pro-nuclear camp, however, argues that current renewable technologies can't meet the needs of society (except in rare places where they do (such as Iceland which is well situated for geothermal power)). While these technologies catch up, it is best to use the available cheap nuclear power. Those who strongly favor renewable energy often argue that a drastic switch is absolutely necessary as soon as possible. The camps split along the same lines covered under 'inherit the system', ie one side argues for a gradual change of the current system and the other wishes to change the system radically.
  • Traditional Architecture: Neoclassical (Enlightenment) vs Gothic (Romanticism).
    • This even had political overtones: do you ever wonder why the US Capitol and White House or the French Palais Bourbon (seat of the National Assembly)note  look like Greek and Roman temples while the British Houses of Parliament and Canadian Parliament Hill look like medieval cathedrals? Because in the first half of the 19th century, the Neoclassical style was associated with Enlightenment republicanism, while the Gothic style was, being Romanticist, associated with monarchism. Indeed, Neoclassical designs were seriously considered for both Westminster and Ottawa, but then dismissed on the grounds that they were too republican.
    • On the other hand, both Parliament Hill and Westminster, while Gothic in style, have balanced, Neoclassical-style floor plans and other elements of Neoclassical design (e.g. an emphasis on symmetry). You'll notice that the Commons chamber and meeting rooms on the north side at Westminster are more or less reflected across the Central Lobby on the Lords side to the south, with only a few things fiddled with to accommodate the slightly different duties of the Commons and the Lords (for one thing, the Lords has to host the State Opening of Parliament, meaning that an assortment of rooms are necessary for the procession of the monarch) and to accommodate the inclusion of Westminster Hall (which had survived the 1834 fire and had been part of the palace since the reign of William II; they weren't about to knock it down). The symmetrical construction rather annoyed Augustus W. N. Pugin, a devoted Romanticist Gothic architect brought in to assist the more classicist Charles Barry in building the Palace of Westminster (he famously commented of the structure, "All Grecian, sir; Tudor details on a classic body"). Had he lived long enough, he would have been even more annoyed with Centre Block in Ottawa, which is almost completely symmetrical, with the Senate chambers on the east side of Confederation Hall being a mirror image of the Commons chambers on the west side. However, both Westminster and Centre Block arguably present, in architectural form, the character of liberal-democratic constitutional monarchy: traditional trappings on an emphatically modern form.
  • 20th-century Architecture: Modernism (Enlightenment) vs Post-Modernism (Romanticism)
  • The most common stereotype of the environmental movement consists of liberal Romanticist Hippies fighting against industrial titans. The Left however, views the Environmental movement as enlightened scientists with ideas of a clean future and sustainable technologies for the greater good being pitted against deniers of reason concerned about their own wealth and well being.
    • However, most of the actual scientists in the Environmental movement advocate nuclear power and Genetic Engineering as solutions to the world's problems, which most of the Romantic Environmentalists are strongly opposed to.
  • Psychology had this trope. Sigmund Freud's structural-psychoanalytical studies of the subconscious mind, its exploration on how past subconscious memories are influential in the development of a human being, and other psychological theories inspired by it, were dismissed as obsolete and unscientific (modern psychology nowadays is based on behaviourism, cognitive science and neuroscience, all of which are based on the scientific method being applied to the study of the human brain, in the manner of how Enlightenment philosophies like to apply the scientific method on pretty much anything), but instead of being banished into obscurity, it won and still stands strong in the more Romantic and artistic fields of philosophy such as the Post Modern Literary Criticism crowd, where tropes are more important than sanity, hence why in fiction, All Psychology Is Freudian. Thus, Psychoanalysis = Romanticism, Behaviourism = Enlightenment. Ironically, Freud himself was kind of an atheist who, like the English Enlightenment, believed humans are subconsciously a bunch of selfish animals that act on pre-programmed neuro-biological instincts (this theory provided the basis for modern neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, although Freud took it to extreme with the "everything is about sex" part) which contrasts him to his more spiritual rival Carl Jung who disagreed with Freud leaving out the more spiritual and mystical archetypes in human psychology.
  • Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces about comparative mythical traditions is naturally more romanticism given it's subject.
  • Analytic Philosophy (Enlightenment) and Continental Philosophy (Romanticism). Although, early Continental Philosophy tended towards Enlightenment (take Kant and Leibniz as examples).
  • The 1960s was a mixture of both. The "hippie" counterculture, with its wild, passionate lifestyle, its rejection of society and materialism in favour of more bohemian ways, and its glorification of nature, was decidedly Romanticist. Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Movement occurred at the same time, and that movement leaned toward the Enlightenment, with its focus on equality and progress. Many people were involved in both the counterculture and the Civil Rights Movement, proving that Enlightenment and Romanticism can coexist peacefully.
  • One of the more common justifications of European Colonialism is that the imperial powers were spreading the benefits of the European science and technology (the Enlightenment), to the rest of the world. Because of this, most Post-Colonial Scholarship tends to have a strong Romantic streak, and looks upon the Enlightenment and everything associated with it, with suspicion.
  • Currency: Some Romanticists claim that gold is a historically sound form of currency while many Enlightened see it as Worthless Yellow Rocks, preferring a fiat currency. Some Romanticists oppose all currency in general as dehumanizingly bureaucratic, elitist, and the root of all evil. They may instead prefer a group where necessities had to be shared for mutual survival, ala "Barter" or "Primitive communism". Some Enlightened oppose fiat currency and the Federal Reserve system in general, seeing it as nothing more than paper printed and falsely loaned away to unsuspecting people, causing inflation and making the people think they have to repay debt when there is nothing to repay. Some Enlightened prefer Communism, others opt for Energy-based currency because Equivalent Exchange cannot suffer inflation. Still other Enlightened people think that things such as class and currency are nothing more than necessary evils brought on by scarcity and hunger, that can be disposed off once technology and robotics become advanced enough to eliminate the need for labour (this was a point championed by Karl Marx himself).


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alternative title(s): Romanticism Vs Enlightenment
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