Literature

Repetitions of the Romantic: Working Backward Towards a Structure of Feeling with William Wordsworth, Todd Haynes, Wallace Stevens, Gayatri Spivak, and Aesop Rock

In this essay, I relate my experience of teaching an upper-division class on romantic poetry—my struggles, assumptions and discoveries, and my ultimate decision to revise the way I teach, and to some extend think about, romanticism. The problem—the contemporary/romantic opposition (the topic of this volume of essays)—turned out to be a pedagogical and critical opportunity. It also became a way for my students and me to think and talk about an even deeper split, the schism between the values of our contemporary culture (including the culture of an increasingly professionalized and professionalizing academia) and those of an “aesthetic education.” In what follows, I give firsthand reports about what worked and what didn’t in a class that came to be called “Repetitions of the Romantic,” an engagement with romantic and post-romantic art. Along the way, I address some methodological problems, and offer some reflections on the fragility of teaching the humanities in the contemporary classroom and more specifically on what I see to be the challenges and benefits of teaching the romantic within specific contexts, in my case within the economic and social micro-culture of central Ohio.

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Legacies of the Romantic Child: Teaching Post-Romantic Constructions of Childhood in Contemporary British Fiction

This article discusses the theme and methodology of the course “(Post-)Romantic Childhoods in British Literature” as previously taught at Bielefeld University in Germany. The course covered constructions of childhood in British literature from the Romantic period and their appropriations in Victorian and contemporary fiction by Dickens, McEwan, Lessing, and Boyne. Reflecting upon the teaching goals and outcomes, we draw on two fields of research into contemporary literature: constructivist childhood studies and the critical study of Romantic legacies. After an introduction to our terminology, the cultural context, and its implications for classroom scenarios, we outline the syllabus in detail, adding handouts, activities, and tasks as illustrative examples.

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Introduction

This special issue explores the notion that many of the forms, ideas, and practices inaugurated or exemplified in the Romantic period continue to shape and drive our contemporary discourses. Literary critics, cultural and political theorists, and, indeed, our students continue to encounter new permutations—if not the continued presence—of something that might be called the romantic. But how is the (neo-)romantic expressed in contemporary culture? And how might we best prepare students to listen for and hear its repetitions? How might we teach the romantic alongside the contemporary without either reducing one to the other or eliding important historical, cultural, and social contexts? In response to these questions, the nine essays and three interviews that comprise this volume address the repetitions and reverberations of the romantic as it recurs across genre, period, and media boundaries in popular culture, contemporary political situations, changing classroom dynamics, and the constantly shifting domains of literary and pedagogical practice and production.

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