British Romantic Literature

Portrait of William BlakePortrait of William WordsworthPortrait of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Blake / Wordsworth / Coleridge

Portrait of Lord ByronPortrait of Percy Byssche ShelleyPortrait of John Keats

Byron / Shelley / Keats

Professor James Shokoff
Department of English
State University College of New York at Fredonia

Detail of drawing by Ruth Shokoff

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 human beings.

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 Frankenstein.

Facsimile page of Wlliam Blake's <i>The Lamb</i>

Facsimile page of Wlliam Blake's <i>The Tyger</i>

I also offer a course in Romanticism in World Literature.

Photo of James Shokoff atop Doubletop Mountain in Maine

My office is Fenton Hall 264. Phone: 716 673 3858. You can reach me by e-mail at: James.shokoff@fredonia.edu

Other courses I teach regularly are:

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