British Romantic Literature
Blake / Wordsworth / Coleridge
Byron / Shelley / Keats
Of all the courses I teach, this one is closest to my heart. I
love reading the British Romantic writers and love discussing their
works. A truism about poetry--and literature in general--is that great
texts seldom give answers. More often, they shape questions
and problems. The answers are left to the readers to find. This
truism applies emphatically to British Romantic poetry. For example, literally
hundreds of writers--including me--have tried to give persuasive
readings of John Keats's famous line "Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty."
Their success cannot be measured in definitive terms. Rather the
persistence of analysis suggests strongly that Keats's poetry--or
Wordsworth's or Shelley's--has an enduring and changeable quality
that allows it to speak across the many boundaries that separate
In this course, we will explore a few poems and some prose intensely
rather than reading many writings. Our emphasis will be on the
writers who have been considered the major poets of the age (roughly
1789-1834): Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats.
We will also read and discuss Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a few works
by essayists like Charles Lamb and William Hazlitt, and some
too-long-neglected prose and poetry by women like Mary Robinson, Mary
Wollstonecraft, and Felicia Dorothea Hemans.
Anyone enrolling in this course should expect to be active in
discussions. To that end, everyone in the class will be assigned at
least one problem to which he or she must respond orally. Each
student will also write two papers (3 to 5 pages each) in response to
specified problems and will write a few shorter, less formal essays
or exercises. As of this writing on July 9, 1996, a mid-term examination
and a final examination are probabilities.
The basic textbook will be an anthology of representative poetry and prose from
late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain, perhaps David
Perkins' English Romantic Writers, 2nd edition. We will use the
inexpensive Oxford Classic Authors edition of Mary Shelley's
I also offer a course in Romanticism in World Literature.
My office is Fenton Hall 264. Phone: 716 673 3858.
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Other courses I teach regularly are: