HUMS 638
Romantic Poetry

Stephanie Weiner

Course Description
This course provides an introduction to the major poets of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain—Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats—and to issues central to the study of Romanticism.  These issues are inextricably formal, political, and social.  We will concentrate on the relationships and conversations linking these six poets to one another and to other writers of the period.  Our aim will be to understand how the particular challenges raised in this place and moment in history were addressed by a small group of profoundly talented writers.  Key issues will include the relationships between nature, human society, and the poetic self; the desire to re-vivify and experiment with poetic forms; and the need to respond to the French Revolution and the social and economic change that mark the period.
Course Requirements
Four (5-6 p.) papers (see assignment below); class participation.  Each element is weighted equally, and is worth approximately 20% of your grade.

Please prepare carefully for class.  Class discussion is a central element of the course; accordingly, participation is an important element of your grade.  You are expected to come to class prepared to discuss all of the course materials.  “Preparation” is not an abstract ideal but a series of concrete steps.  Mark up your books (in pencil)—jot notes in the margin of the text, circle key words, scan interesting lines, brainstorm connections and questions.  Never come to class empty-handed; instead, write down a few notes—comments, questions, a meditation on a particular word, image, or passage.  Participating in class means being mentally as well as physically present.  It means responding to your classmates and engaging with their ideas, as well as offering your own. 

Please be on time.  Please do not leave in the middle of class to visit the bathroom.  More than two absences or instances of tardiness will lower your grade.

No extensions will be granted except in cases of medical emergency.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  Please do not ask me for extensions as I am unlikely to grant them, and we both only feel embarrassed.  Late papers will be penalized 1/3 grade per day. 

Course Schedule
September 12

Course introductions:  Who, when, and what is “Romanticism”?

Blake introduction in Norton Anthology of English Literature (always read the author and text introductions)

Blake, Songs of Innocence (1789).  Read the whole volume and then re-read and focus on “Introduction,” “The Ecchoing Green,” “Laughing Song,” “The Lamb,” “The Divine Image,” and “On Anothers Sorrow”

September 19

Blake, Songs of Experience (1794).  Read the entire volume, then re-read and focus on “The Chimney Sweeper,” “The Little Vagabond,” “Holy Thursday,” “London,” “The Tyger,” “My Pretty Rose Tree,” “Ah! Sun-Flower,” “The Lilly,” and “The Human Abstract”

Blake, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (1790-1793), “A Song of Liberty” (1790), from “A Vision of the Last Judgment” (1810), and the letter to Trusler (1799)

September 26

Burns, “Tam O’Shanter”  (1786).
Wordsworth introduction, “Simon Lee” (1798), “Resolution and Independence” (1807), “The Solitary Reaper” (1807), and [The Subject and Language of Poetry] from the 1802 “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads (1798, 1800, 1802) Coleridge introduction, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798, 1816), ch. 14 and from ch. 17 of the Biographia Literaria (1817)
Smith, from “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” (1759) (blackboard)

Coleridge, “The Eolian Harp” (1795, 1834), “This Lime Tree Bower My Prison” (1797/1834), and “The Nightingale:  A Conversation Poem” (1798) (blackboard).

October 3

Coleridge, “Frost at Midnight” (1798), “Dejection:  An Ode” (1802).

Wordsworth, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” (1798), “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” (1802-4/1807), and [“What Is a Poet?”] and [“Emotion Recollected in Tranquillity”] from the 1802 “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads.


October 10

Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” “My heart leaps up,” “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge,”  “It is a beauteous evening,” “London, 1802,” “The world is too much with us,” (all 1802-4/1807), “Surprised by joy” (1815), “Mutability” (1822), “Steamboats, Viadults, and Railways” (1835).
Dorothy Wordsworth, from Alfoxden Journal (written 1798) and Grasmere Journals (written 1802).

Wordsworth, The Two-Part Prelude (1798-99/1850); Jonathan Wordsworth et. al., “Preface” to our edition of The Prelude.

October 17

Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805): “Book Sixth,” lines 1-134, 332-354, 452-end; “Book Eighth,” lines 587-677; “Book Ninth,” lines 1-267; and “Book Tenth,” lines 1-903, focusing especially on lines 38-83, 227-274, 306-439, 689-727, 830-903.  (Read the left-hand side of the page, i.e. 1805, consulting the 1850 text as you see fit.)

In-class film screening: Roger Michell, dir., Persuasion (1995)

Recommended:  Jane Austen, Persuasion (1818)

October 24

Wordsworth, The Prelude:  “Book Tenth,” line 903-end; “Book Eleventh,” lines 256-277; “Book Twelfth,” lines 1-111 and 205-end; all of “Book Thirteenth,” focusing esp. on lines 1-184 and 269-end.
Coleridge, “To William Wordsworth.”

Coleridge, “Kubla Khan” (1797/1816), [Mechanic vs. Organic Form] from Lectures on Shakespeare (1812), [On Symbol and Allegory] from The Statesman’s Manual (1816), and [On the Imagination] from Biographia Literaria, ch. 13.


October 31

Shelley, introduction, “To Wordsworth” (1816).
Keats, introduction, letter to Reynolds of 3 Feb. 1818.
Byron, introduction, letter to Leigh Hunt (30 Oct. 1815).
Hazlitt, introduction, “My First Acquaintance with Poets,” and from “Mr. Wordsworth” (1825) (blackboard).

Byron, from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Canto 1 (1812) and Canto 3 (1816).

Recommended:  Byron, “Darkness” (1816), “Manfred” (1817)
Recommended:  Coleridge, [The Satanic Hero] from The Statesman’s Manual (1816).

November 7

Shelley, “Mont Blanc,” “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” (both 1817).

Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” (1817), from “Sleep and Poetry” (1817), “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles” (1817), from Endymion (1818), “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again” (1818/1838), “When I Have Fears” (1818), “To Homer” (1818/1848), and the following letters:  to Benjamin Bailey (Nov. 22, 1817), to George and Thomas Keats (Dec. 21, 27?, 1817), to Reynolds (Feb. 3, 1818), to Reynolds (May 3, 1818), to Woodhouse (Oct. 27, 1818).

November 14

Keats, “Why did I laugh tonight?” (1819/1848), “Bright Star” (1819/1838), “La Belle Dame Sans Merci:  A Ballad” (1819/1820), “Ode to Psyche” (1819/1820), “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1819), and the following letters:  to Taylor (Feb. 27, 1818), To George and Georgiana Keats (Feb. 14-May 3, 1819), To Fanny Brawne (July 25, 1819), To Percy Shelley (Aug. 16, 1820)

Keats, “The Eve of St. Agnes” (1819/1820), “Ode to a Nightingale” (1819), “Sonnet to Sleep” (1819/1838).


November 21 Thanksgiving recess:  no class. 
November 28

Keats, “Ode on Melancholy” (1819/1820), “Ode on Indolence” (1819/1848), “To Autumn” (1819/1820), and the letter to Charles Brown (Nov. 30, 1820).

Shelley, from “A Defence of Poetry” (1821/1840), “England in 1819” (1819/1839), “Ode to the West Wind” (1820), “To a Sky-Lark” (1820).

December 5

Byron, from Don Juan Cantos I-II (1819), Cantos III-IV (1821), letters to John Cam Hobhouse and Douglas Kinnaird (19 Jan. 1819) and Kinnaird (26 Oct. 1819).