Romancing the Throne: Considering 19th Century English Art and Literature

Explore the life and times of early 19th century England, exploring the art, poetry and writings known as Romanticism. Far from the frills and flourishes associated with the period, artists and authors will surprise with their intense, and often caustic views, of a newly-emerging modern world. 

This survey course considers the varied artistry found on “…this precious stone set in a silver sea.’ (Richard II, 2, i). Under a remarkably stable royal succession, England rose to world prominence in the 19th century as a military, cultural and industrial leader. With that achievement came an unrivaled body of artistic works and literature celebrating a uniquely British world view. ‘Romantic’ by definition, artists like Turner and Constable, writers like Dickens and John Stewart Mill, and poets like Wordsworth and Shelly determinedly redefined the visual and literary narratives of previous centuries. Students will trace the evolution of 1800’s British culture, while examining innovations in artistic expression (Proto-Impressionism, Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Symbolism, Art Nouveau), reciting the poetry of Browning, Arnold, Hopkins and others (best when read aloud), and reading essays by prominent Victorian thinkers, like Darwin and Nightingale, who helped set the stage for a new, modern century.

A syllabus and reading list will be provided in advance of class.

Instructor: Richard Friswell

Five Thursdays
May 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
6:30-8:30, Wasch Center Butterfield Room
Richard Friswell
RICHARD J. FRISWELL received his MPhil from Wesleyan in 2014, where he was awarded the Rulewater Prize for interdisciplinary scholarship. He is a cultural historian and associate director of the WILL program and managing editor of ARTES, a fine arts e-magazine. He is an elected member of the International Art Critics Association and author of a collection of autobiographical short stories, Balancing Act: Postcards from the Edge of Risk and Reward. He lectures and speaks widely on topics related to modernism, its art, literature, and history.