ENG 263 Romantic Poetry and Prose

Elizabeth Harries, T Th 1:00 PM-2:50 PM

 In this course we'll examine some examples of what is usually called "Romanticism" in England, asking questions about the various movements that are brought together under this heading; the degree to which any of the writers we'll read thought of themselves as "romantics"; the ideas that could be said to unite at least some of them, in spite of their differences. And we'll talk about some of the difficulties and ambiguities of "romanticism" as a period concept.   

    The British poets usually grouped as “the romantics” are actually a very diverse group, in age and in class, as well as in political and poetic commitments: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats. We’ll look at all of them closely, their similarities but also their striking differences. We’ll also look at a few other poets of the time who have been relatively neglected, from Charlotte Smith to Letitia Landon (L.E.L.) and John Clare.

  We'll begin by spending some time looking at the French Revolution: its history, its effects, and its reverberations in the poetry of  Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley. Then we'll look at two related ideas that run throughout the period: the new interest in the child and nature as sites of purity and healing,  and the desire to re-create a new mythology for the new age. We'll think about "romantic heroes": Napoleon as historical figure,  as the inspiration for a brooding hero in Byron’s Manfred and a comic poetic persona in his Don Juan, and as anti-hero in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. We'll spend some time reading other work written by women during the period and worrying about the way they are represented--and  represent themselves. We'll end by looking at several theoretical essays about romanticism, trying to see which ones best articulate the problems we've been looking at throughout the term.

      There will be a lot of writing in this course, some more formal, some informal. I'll require two or three papers (with drafts) during the semester, as well as some postings to Moodle. And I will expect regular and prepared class participation. Depending on the size of the class, we will sometimes break for small group discussions in the second hour.  There will probably be no exam.