Studies in Romanticism: British Romantic Poetry
About the Course
Courses in English Romantic Poetry have generally concentrated on six male figures of the era whose works were seen to form the core of the traditional Romantic canon, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats. However, evolving critical approaches and perspectives over the last thirty years, and the recovery and publication of neglected texts from the period, have brought to light a long list of significant female poets, both those who were the precursors of the Romantics and those who wrote contemporaneously with them, whose work can no longer be overlooked. The six (formerly?) canonical Romantic poets have acquired over the last two hundred years a stature in Anglo-American literary studies, that has obliged us for years to approach all newly recovered voices from the past, no matter how relevant, profound, or noteworthy, from the lens of their acknowledged achievements. With the increasing availability of works by women from the Romantic period, we no longer feel an obligation to filter the voices that have remained submerged and forgotten for so long through this refracting medium. The female romantic poets can now be studied in their own right, and on their own terms.
The Romantic Age was one of the most remarkable periods of creativity in English literary history and marked a seminal shift in attitude and outlook. It signaled the decline of old feudal structures and ushered in an era of individualism, revolution, and democratic decision-making. In its fierce assertion of individual rights, as in the literary switch from the public to the private voice, it established in many ways the foundations for the world we know today. Paradoxically, the revolutionary sense of self-worth also ended up generating a feeling of elitism and privilege as well as notions of artistic autonomy and cultural superiority that themselves came to represent an important condition of European (and, of course, British) imperialism. On the other hand, British Romantic writers were heavily influenced by their understanding of the Orient (culled from travel narratives, histories, and translations of Oriental works and, sometimes, experienced first-hand) and freely appropriated its texts, aesthetics, themes, architectural models, and cultural attitudes even as they exaggerated its excesses and satirized its mores and manners. In this implication of Imperial design and Oriental influences we find yet another approach to the Romantic period, and this theme too will be explored in this course.
We shall study, thus, both the works of poets that were a part of the “traditional” Romantic canon as well as those by others, mostly female writers, who wrote with great effectiveness and success in their times, but whom later generations came to ignore. At the same time, instead of confining ourselves to the influences of German Romanticism and indigenous sources, we shall trace also the course of Oriental influences and concerns in examining the works of poets and thinkers who came to shape and define the Romantic literary landscape from about 1770 to 1835. In the process, we shall investigate the possible relationship of these writers and their works to the imperial project that was in full swing at this time. Our objective is to study the works not only within their literary tradition but also within their socio-cultural and historical context.
Your study of the British romantic poets will include essays from the English Romantic Poets (ed., M. H. Abrams), excerpts from Elizabeth Fay’s A Feminist Introduction to Literature, and may also include chapters from Romanticism and Colonialism: Writing and Empire, 1780-1830 (Eds., Tim Fulford and Peter Kitson). We shall refer to these essays, excerpts, and chapters and use ideas from them for our discussions on the listed poets and poems.
You are expected to make one research-based oral presentation on a topic of your choice, which you will identify early in the semester, preferably by the end of the first week of class.
Each of you is also expected to make periodic and substantive contributions to the Romantic Poetry blog which will be set up for the purpose. You will all be invited to participate in this blog as “Authors” and, as such, each of you will create a separate category in your name under which you will post all your contributions. In case of problems in posting or uploading your contributions please contact Calvin Burgamy (firstname.lastname@example.org; ASC # 404-471-6059), Instructional Technologist, ITS.
Two formal papers are required for the course, both research based–one 7-8 pages, and the other 10-12 pages long, and these too, in addition to being submitted in hard copy to your professor, should be posted on the blog. Topics and research plans for both papers must be determined and finalized in consultation with your professor. There will be no final examination for this course.
Jan. 11 Introduction, distribution of syllabus, and explanation of requirements for the course;
16 William Jones, “Third Anniversary Discourse”
“On the Poetry of the Eastern Nations” and “On the Arts Commonly Considered Imitative,”
along with the following two poems “A Persian Song of Hafez” (71-76) and “A Turkish Ode on
the Spring” (103-116) (pdf provided; the text is also available on the net)
18 William Jones, Hymns to Hindu Gods and Goddesses (read and be prepared to discuss “Hymn
to Narayan” and “Hymn to Ganga,”) from The Poetical Works of William Jones (available on
23 Anna Laetitia Barbauld, “A Summer Evening’s Meditation,” “Eighteen Hundred and Eleven,”
“Washing Day,” “The Mouse’s Petition,” “The Rights of Women,” “The Caterpillar”
25 Anna Laetitia Barbauld, continued
30 William Blake, “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience,” full text,
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1934/1934-h/1934-h.htm (also: Phllis Wheatley’s
“An Hymn to the Morning,” and William Blake’s “Little Black Boy”—handout)
Feb. 01 William Blake, continued
Feb. 06 Contexts: Slavery and Its Abolition, Broadview, pp. 591-613l William Cowper, “Sweet Meat
Has Sour Sauce,” “The Negro’s Complaint,” “The Castaway;” Anna Laetitia Barbauld, “Epistle
to William Wilberforce, Esq., on the Rejection of the Bill for Abolishing the Slave Trade;”
Hanah More, “Slavery: A Poem;” Ann Yearsley, “A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave
Trade,” William Wordsworth, “To Toussaint d’Ouverture,” and Robert Southey, “The Sailor
Who Served in the Slave Trade;”
08 Abolition of the Slave Trade, continued; Mary Robinson, “The African,” and “The Negro Girl”
13 Robert Burns
15 Robert Burns, continued
16 Charlotte Smith, from Elegiac Sonnets, “Beachy Head,” Broadview
21 Charlotte Smith, from Elegiac Sonnets, “Beachy Head,” Broadview
20 Romantic Poetry and the Romantic Age, Broadview, xxxvii-lxv
22 Defining Romanticism—English Romantic Poets, pp. 3-55
27 Defining Romanticism—English Romantic Poets, pp. 3-55
Mar. 01 Defining Romanticism—A Feminist Introduction to Romanticism, pp. 1-32
7-8 page research paper due (should include at least 6-8 scholarly sources)
Peak Week & Spring Break, March 04-19
20 Wordsworth, Broadview, 313-344 & 351-358
22 Wordsworth, continued
27 The Two-Part Prelude, Broadview, 375-389
29 Dorothy Wordsworth
Apr. 03 Coleridge, 525-557
05 Coleridge, continued, 560-573
11 Byron, Don Juan, Dedication and Canto I
12 Byron, Manfred
17 Shelley, 787-806 & 841-849
19 Shelley, continued; A Defence of Poetry (from internet)
24 John Clare
26 Keats, 935-953
May 01 Keats, 954-969, and Selected Letters, 990-1004
03 Summing-up; Final research paper due (10-12 pages; should include at least 6-8 scholarly
Right to make modifications in the syllabus reserved.
The Department of English requires that all assignments must be completed for a student to receive credit for the course. The college policy of penalization by 1/3 letter grade for each day an assignment or paper is late shall be followed. Attendance is crucial to this course. Six missed classes without compelling cause or prior permission shall result in “F” for the course. Each absence without cause or excuse will affect the grade negatively in proportion.
Class Presentations: Students need to choose a subject they wish to present on by the January 15. Dates for the presentations will be allocated on the basis of mutual accommodation, ensuring that no duplication of topics or dates takes place, but the earlier requests will be given priority over the later in case of conflict. Presentations should be no less than 15, and no more than 20 minutes long, express a distinct personal interpretation without ignoring variation in points of view picked up during the research, and be creatively conceived and executed. A summary of the presentation that describes the topic, gives a brief account of the student’s initial perceptions about it, provides an annotated list of scholarly sources consulted in researching the subject, and gives a short account of the way this research influenced or modified the student’s view of the subject should turned in to the professor at the end of the presentation. You should consult at 4-5 secondary sources for your presentation research.
The Grade break-up is as follows: (1) Individual, research-based, oral presentation, 15%; (2) 7-8 page research paper, 25%; (3) Class participation, 10%; (4) Final research paper (10-12 pages), 30%; 5) Weekly contributions to ASC blog for Romantic Poets and Poetry, 20%.
All work turned in should be typed or printed on a letter-quality printer. It should be double-spaced and properly proofread for all typographical and spelling errors. Be sure to follow the conventions of the MLA for documentation, citation, and referencing.
The Broadview Anthology of Romantic Poetry. Eds. Joseph Black, and others. Broadview Press. 2016.
English Romantic Poets, Modern Essays in Criticism. Ed. M. H. Abrams. New York: OUP. 1975.
Elizabeth A. Fay, A Feminist Introduction to Romanticism. Blackwell. Massachusetts. 1998.
A Very Short List of Suggested Background Readings
Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757)
Opening Speech on the Impeachment of Warren Hastings (1788)
Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
William Godwin, Political Justice (1793)
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (1791-92)
Jean Jacques Rousseau, Confessions (1782)
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)
A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790)
Some Helpful contextual literary criticism on Romanticism (a brief list):
Romanticism and Colonialism: Writing and Empire, 1780-1830. Tim Fulford and Peter Kitson, eds.
New York: Cambridge U Press. 1998.
Nigel Leask., British Romantic Writers and the East: Anxieties of Empire. New York. Cambridge U
Romanticism, Race, and Imperial Culture, 1780-1834. Alan Richardson and Sonia Hofkosh, eds.
Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana U Press. 1996.
Accommodation Statement: Agnes Scott College seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in this class, please contact Kelly Deasy in the Office of Academic Advising (X6150) to make complete the registration process. Once registered, please contact me so we can discuss the specific accommodations needed for this course.
Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s ideas or words without giving them credit. This can mean using someone’s ideas without proper acknowledgement in papers you are writing for class, copying a sentence directly from a book or journal without citing the source, or turning in the same paper or assignment for different classes without the professors’ knowledge. There are specific requirements for documenting sources and ideas. For this course, you are expected to follow the MLA style for citation, documentation, and referencing of sources. Please familiarize yourself with these requirements by consulting the MLA Handbook (available in the McCain Library) or the chapter titled “MLA Style” in the St. Martin’s Handbook. Plagiarism is a serious offense and the penalty ranges from warnings to probation or suspension.
Please bear in mind that you have all signed the honor pledge, and its terms and principles apply to all your work in this course, as to any other, in this college.
We will also have a class session on academic and intellectual honesty and on the proper use and documentation of sources. In order to retain the subject fresh in our minds, and in keeping with the importance of it, we will return to it periodically throughout the semester. But please feel free to discuss the subject with me individually if you have any doubts or confusions about it.
Course Evaluations: Near the end of the semester you will be notified by e- mail and provided with a link to follow to complete course evaluations on line outside of class. I want you to know that your feedback on the course is extremely valuable to me, the department, and the administration. In particular, I take your comments very seriously and use them to improve the course the next time I teach it. Please do fill out a course evaluation when you receive the e-mailed link at the end of the semester.
Title IX Compliance: For the safety of the entire community, any incidence of or information about sexual misconduct must be reported immediately to Title IX Coordinator Marti Fessenden (email@example.com, 404-471-6547), Deputy Title IX Coordinator Karen Gilbert (firstname.lastname@example.org, 404-471-6435) or Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Karen Goff (email@example.com, 404-471-6449).
Inclusion: This course adheres to the principles of diversity and inclusion integral to the Agnes Scott community. We respect people from all backgrounds and recognize the differences among our students, including racial and ethnic identities, religious practices, and gender expressions. We strive for our campus to be a safe space in which all students feel acknowledged and supported and, at the same time, we understand that course content, critical inquiry, and classroom dialogues give us opportunities to examine topics from a variety of perspectives, a defining feature of a liberal arts education, and in the process compel debates that challenge beliefs and positions, sometimes causing discomfort, especially around issues related to personal identities. While we uphold and preserve the tenets of academic freedom, we request and invite your thoughtful and constructive feedback on ways that we can, as a community of learners, respectfully assist and challenge one another in our individual and collective academic work. Please feel free to correct me if your preferred name or gender pronoun are different from that listed on the class roster.
Trigger Warnings: This course may explore themes of a wide range including violence, racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege, and may bring up discussions of colonial and internal exploitation, corruption, greed, discrimination, appropriation and seizure of power, and struggles against poverty, want, disenfranchisement, and marginalization. All these are central to the learning goals of the course. I invite you to come see me if you want more information. If you feel you will be unable to fully participate in the course requirements because of physical or psychological concerns, I welcome a conversation with you to discuss your options. Please set up an appointment to do so at an early date.
Professor of English
Agnes Scott College