Arthur Lovejoy attempted to demonstrate the difficulty of defining Romanticism in his seminal article "On The Discrimination of Romanticisms" in his Essays in the History of Ideas (1948); some scholars see Romanticism as essentially continuous with the present, some like Robert Hughes see in it the inaugural moment of modernity ,  and some like Chateaubriand , Novalis and Samuel Taylor Coleridge see it as the beginning of a tradition of resistance to Enlightenment rationalism—a "Counter-Enlightenment"—   to be associated most closely with German Romanticism . An earlier definition comes from Charles Baudelaire : "Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling." 
Separate from his literary production, Hawthorne wrote expansively on literary theory and criticism. His theories exemplify the Romantic spirit in American letters at mid-century. He espoused the conviction that objects can hold significance deeper than their apparent meaning, and that the symbolic nature of reality was the most fertile ground for literature. In his short stories especially, Hawthorne explored the complex system of meanings and sensations that shift in and out of a person’s consciousness. Throughout his writings, one gets a sense of darkness, if not outright pessimism. There is the sense of not fully understanding the world, of not getting the entire picture no matter how hard one tries. In a story like “Young Goodman Brown,” neither the reader nor the protagonist can distinguish reality from fantasy with any sureness.