Romanticism (Eng. 355), Spring '04: Nature, Class, and Identity in British Romanticism
Therefore am I still
William Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey"
Instructor: Scott Hess
[Note—I have published the readings, course assignments, texts, and course goals in this sample syllabus, for a class which met two times per week. I removed my course policies on attendance, late papers, and classroom etiquette. I'm a believer in spelling out assignments and expectations in syllabi as fully as possible, to be as explicit with students as possible before they begin the course.]
This course will offer a general introduction to British Romanticism, including a wide range of writers in both poetry and prose. Specifically, we will concentrate on the themes of nature, class, and identity: the way different writers, from different social classes and positions, used nature to construct their identities in different ways. "Nature" has long been identified as one of the central themes of Romantic writing, which made the non-human environment central to the construction of individual identity, meaning, and value. "Nature," however, is not the same for every writer. In order to highlight these differences, we will pay special attention to a number of poets from different social positions—including Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, Lord Byron, and John Clare—as well as novels by Jane Austen and Mary Shelley. By exploring how different Romantic writers wrote about nature in different ways, we will get a better sense both of the diversity of positions and social forces in the Romantic period, and of how different people continue to construct different versions of "nature" and identity for different reasons today.
Romanticism : An Anthology, 2nd ed. with CD-ROM, edited by Duncan Wu and David S. Miall
Frankenstein : Or, the Modern Prometheus (Oxford World's Classics), by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, edited by James Kinsley
Pride and Prejudice (Oxford World's Classics), by Jane Austen, edited by James Kinsley with an introduction by Isobel Armstrong
The Poems of Charlotte Smith, edited by Stuart Curran
Robert Burns (Everyman Poetry Library), edited by Donald Low
John Clare (Everyman Poetry Series), edited by Kelsey Thorton
Class Meetings and Assignments
All readings in poets other than Burns, Clare, and Smith are in the Wu anthology, unless otherwise indicated.
Thurs. Jan. 15 Introduction and Housekeeping: in-class discussion of William Wordsworth, "I wandered lonely as a cloud"; Dorothy Wordsworth, journal entry; John Clare, "Beans in Blossom" and "The passing traveler"
Mon. Jan. 19 Versions of Nature and The Roots of British Romanticism: Raymond Williams, "Ideas of Nature" (posted on course website); Alexander Pope, excerpts from Windsor Forest and Epistle to Burlington; excerpts from James Thomson, The Seasons; Anne Finch, "Nocturnal Reverie"; Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard (all Xeroxed handouts); we will meet in a special room to view eighteenth-century landscape designs and paintings from course website
Thurs. Jan. 22 Robert Burns, "The Twa Dogs," "Scotch Drink," "The Holy Fair," "The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailee," "Poor Mailee's Elegy," "To J.S ****," "The Cotter's Saturday Night," "To a Mouse," "To a Mountain Daisy" (all in Robert Burns); "A Vision," "John Barleycorn" (handouts)
Mon. Jan. 26 Burns, "To a Louse," "Epistle to J. L****K," "Song 'It was upon a Lammas night,'" "Song, 'Now Westlin' Winds,'" "A Bard's Epitaph," "Holy Willie's Prayer," "Tam o' Shanter" (all in Robert Burns); "Is There for Honest Poverty," "Green Grow the Rushes," "The Banks 'o Doon," "Scots Wha Hae," "A Red Red Rose" (handouts)
Thurs. Jan. 29 Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Volume I (pp. 1-101)
Mon. Feb. 2 Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Volume II and start of Volume III (pp. 103-206)Presentation: the English aristocracy and gentry
Thurs. Feb. 5 Austen, Pride and Prejudice, finish Volume III (pp. 206-98)
Mon. Feb. 9 William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience in their entirety (in Wu, pp. 60-84)
Tues. Feb. 10 First paper, on identity and society in Burns and Austen, 5-6 pages, due by 3 pm at Scott H.'s office
Thurs. Feb. 12 William Wordsworth, from Lyrical Ballads, "Simon Lee," "We are Seven," "Lines Written in Early Spring," "The Thorn" (see also note on poem, p. 344), "The Last of the Flock," "Expostulation and Reply," "The Tables Turned," "Old Man Traveling," "Tintern Abbey"; also The Ruined Cottage, The Pedlar, all excerpts from "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" (pp. 357-63)
Mon. Feb. 16 William Wordsworth, "The Discharged Soldier," "There was a Boy," "Nutting," "Strange Fits of Passion," "Song, 'She Dwelt Among th'untrodden Ways,'" "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal," "Three Years She Grew," "Prospectus to 'the Recluse,'" "I Travelled Among Unknown Men," "Resolution and Independence," "The World is Too Much With Us," "1 September 1802," "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge," "London 1802," "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," "Daffodils," "The Solitary Reaper," "Elegiac Stanzas"
Presentation: the French Revolution and its impacts in England
[Mid-Semester Break, Feb. 19-22]
Mon. Feb. 23 Dorothy Wordsworth, all journal entries and poems in Wu anthology plus handout poems
Thurs. Feb. 26 William Wordsworth, Two-Part Prelude (pp. 300-23); excerpts from 1805 Prelude, "Glad Preamble" (pp. 329-30), "Crossing the Alps" (pp. 389-92), "The London Beggar" (p. 392), "Paris, December 1791" (pp. 394-96), "Beaupuy" (pp. 396-98), "Godwinism" (pp. 398-99), "Confusion and Recovery" (pp. 399-401), "Climbing of Snowdon" (pp. 401-405)
Mon. Mar. 1 Charlotte Smith, Introduction and all Prefaces (pp. xix-12); Elegiac Sonnets I, IV, V, VIII, XII, XXXV, XLIIII, LIX, LXII, LXX, LXXVII, LXXXIII, LXXXVI; and "Thirty-Eight" (pp. 92-94) (all in The Poems of Charlotte Smith)
Presentation: Woman writers during the Romantic period
Thurs. Mar. 4 Smith, The Emigrants, including Preface (pp. 131-63)
Mon. Mar. 8 Smith, "Beachy Head," including "Advertisement" (pp. 215-47)
View and discuss Romantic landscape paintings from course website
Wed., Mar. 10, Second paper, on constructions of "nature" in William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Charlotte Smith, 5-6 pages, due by 3 pm at Scott H.'s office
Thurs. Mar. 11 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Eolian Harp," "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison," and "Frost at Midnight" (read versions on pp. 549-55), "Kubla Khan" (read version on pp. 522-24, with introductory material), "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Dejection: an Ode" (read version on pp. 528-48), and "To William Wordsworth" (pp. 514-17)
[Spring Break, March 13-21]
Mon. Mar. 22 Lord Byron, "She Walks in Beauty," "When We Two Parted," "Fare Thee Well," "Stanzas to Augusta," "Epistle to Augusta," "Darkness," "So We'll Go No More A-Roving," "On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year," Childe Harold's Pilgrimage Canto III stanzas 1-16, 69-75, 88-97, and 111-18 (pp. 672-76, 692-94, 698-701, 705-8)
Thurs. Mar. 25 Byron, Manfred (pp. 718-51)
Presentation: the Byronic Hero and its legacy
Mon. Mar. 29 Byron, Don Juan, Dedication and Canto I (pp. 752-85)
Thurs. Apr. 1 P. B. Shelley, "To Wordsworth," "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty," "Mont Blanc," "Ozymandias," "Ode to the West Wind," The Mask of Anarchy, "England in 1819," "To a Skylark"; Adonais, stanzas LII-LV only (pp. 972-73); excerpts from Defense of Poetry, pp. 944 through first full paragraph on 946, middle of p. 952 to end (p. 956)
Presentation: society and politics in the Regency period; Shelley's neo-Platonism and radicalism
Mon. Apr. 5 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, including Shelley's Introduction, opening letters, and chapters 1-17 (pp. 5-149)
Presentation: sciences during the Romantic period
Thurs. Apr. 8 Mary Shelley, finish Frankenstein (pp.149-223)
Mon. Apr. 12 Felicia Hemans, all poems in Wu anthology (pp. 990-1004) plus handouts
Thurs. Apr. 15 John Keats, "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer," "The Eve of St. Agnes," "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," "Lamia," all letters on pp. 1018-19, 1020-22, 1042 and in class handout
Presentation: Romantic Hellenism and aestheticism
Mon. Apr. 19 Keats, all odes, including "To Autumn" (Wu, pp. 1056-64, 1080); John Clare, excerpts from The Shepherd's Calendar from January and June, "To the Snipe," and "The Badger" (in Wu); "Summer Evening" (handout); "The Wren," "Sonnet: The Crow," "The Skylark," "Sonnet: 'Among the orchard weeds,'" "The Landrail," "The Nightingale's Nest," "The Yellowhammer's Nest," "The Pettichap's Nest," "Sonnets: the Hedgehog," "Little Trotty Wagtail" (in John Clare)
Thurs. Apr. 22 Clare, "Sonnet: 'The barn door is open,'" "The Wheat Ripening," "The Beans in Blossom," "Sonnet: 'The passing traveler,'" "Sport in the Meadows," "Emmonsales Heath," 'The Summer Shower," "The Foddering Boy," "The Gipsy Camp," "The Cottager," "Remembrances," "The Flitting," "The Lament of Swordy Well," "The Moors" (in John Clare)
Fri. Apr. 23, prospectus and annotated bibliography for final research project, due by 10 am by email
Mon. Apr. 26 Clare, "An Invite to Eternity," "I Am," "A Vision," "The Peasant Poet," "Sighing for Retirement," "Song's Eternity," "The Eternity of Nature," 'To be Placed at the Back of his Portrait" (in John Clare); excerpts from Child Harold (handout)
Sun. May 2, Final research paper due on subject of your choice, 8-12 pages, due by 8 pm at Scott H.'s office
no final exam
Written Assignments & Evaluation
Your final grade will be calculated from the following percentages:
first paper, on Austen and Burns
second paper, on the Wordsworths and Smith
class presentation and discussion leading
paper on class presentation materials
final research paper
class participation (including responses) 0% (but required)
Note: all papers should be printed in 12 point font, double spaced, with 1 inch margins on all sides. Papers should be carefully proofread, and should be free of obvious grammatical and spelling errors: sloppy work will be penalized by reduction in the overall paper grade.
Course Evaluation (0%, but required)
In order to receive a grade in this course, you will need to evaluate the design of the course and the quality of instruction you have received. Consider that you are acting on behalf of future Earlham students who will take this class or other classes from the instructor. Please be thoughtful, rigorous, and as specific as possible.
Class Participation, including weekly responses/ questions (30%)
Class participation involves good class citizenship in all its various aspects: coming to class prepared with thoughts and ideas and questions of your own about the reading; speaking in class; listening and responding to other students as well as to the instructor; and being aware of your role in and effect on the overall classroom community. Punctual and regular class attendance is also an essential, though by no means sufficient, part of participation (see below for more specific class attendance policies). I will pass out a sheet of participation grade criteria in class, to give you a better sense of the guidelines for assessing your final participation grade.
First Paper, on identity and society in Burns and Austen, 5-6 pages (10%)
[Note to Romantic Pedagogies readers—this assignment proved too complicated and difficult for a first paper, and did not work well]
Your first paper should compare some aspect of the construction of identity and society in Burns' poetry and Austen's novel. You will need to find a focused topic within this general subject area. The exact choice of topic is up to you, but topics might include: sense of morality or underlying moral values; perspectives on the working or lower classes, or on the aristocracy; class relations or hierarchy; social ideals, which might include overall models of society; the relation of the individual to society and the value of individualism; possibilities for personal freedom; importance of social conformity; the role of satire and social critique; religion; and relations between the sexes. You should quote frequently from the texts to support your argument, and your paper should have a coherent central thesis. Your paper should go beyond positions already expressed in class discussion, though you can refer to that discussion and use such points to help support your thesis (talk with me if you have any questions about this requirement). The paper will be evaluated on your ability to compare the texts effectively and make insightful and creative connections between them; the insight and originality of your argument; your ability to support a coherent thesis with well-chosen and skillfully deployed evidence from the texts; and the overall voice, clarity, and power of your writing.
Second Paper, on constructions of "nature" in the Wordsworth and Smith, 5-6 pages (15%)
As in your first paper, the second paper asks you to compare texts by (at least) two authors, this time in relation to how they represent "nature" or the environment. You should write on at least one text by William Wordsworth, and at least one text by either Dorothy Wordsworth or Charlotte Smith (you may write on all three if you want). You may want to make allusions to other texts we have read to support your argument, but the paper should focus on no more than three texts, and should concentrate on close readings of those texts in relation to your chosen issue and thesis. As with the first paper, the exact topic and thesis is up to you, but possible topics include: how "nature" is used to construct individual identity or a certain model of society; the role of "home" or other people in the description of the environment; the role of labor or the working classes; how the construction of "nature" supports other ideas or social positions; connections between nature and gender; and the politics of nature in the various texts. Your paper will want to compare the ways these different writers represent the environment, but it should go beyond this initial comparison to make an argument for how these differences are significant. You should not write on poems we have already discussed extensively in class, though you can include references to these poems and to our discussion of them. As always in an interpretive paper, you should quote frequently from the texts and have a coherent central thesis. This paper will be evaluated according to the same criteria as the first one.
Class Presentation and Discussion Leading (5%)
Students will be assigned in teams to give a brief presentation and lead discussion on one of the class days indicated on the syllabus, on the listed theme for that day. You should begin the class period with a brief presentation of your research, in order to give an overview of that topic. The presentation should be between 10 and 15 minutes long, but should not go over time (I will cut you off at 18 minutes, so plan your presentation and rehearse carefully in advance). Depending on your topic, you may want to make specific connections with the text(s) we are reading.
Paper on Class Presentation Materials, 5-6 pages (15%)
You will be expected to write a paper on the materials you presented and discussed in class, due by noon one week after the day on which you presented. This paper should be on a theme of your choice, but it should interpret some of the readings for that day in relation to the research context you presented. The paper is not just expected to be a report of your research, but should use that research in order to support an interpretation of the literary text(s) that brings extra insight to the text(s). I will be glad to discuss possible theses with you after your presentation. You may either choose to write this paper together as a group, or independently as individuals. If you write as a group, you will receive a single grade for the entire group. You are especially encouraged for this paper to use points that came up during class discussion. In fact, part of the purpose of the combined assignment is to allow you to shape class discussion to explore themes that you want to write more about in the paper. The paper will be evaluated on your use of research to support and develop your own interpretation of the text(s) in insightful and creative ways; the coherence and effectiveness of your thesis; your ability to support that thesis with careful close reading and quotation from the text(s); and the overall voice, clarity, and power of your writing.
Final Research Paper, 8-12 pages (25%)
Your final research paper should be on a topic of your own choice, related in some way to issues of nature, class, and identity and focusing on at least one of the text(s) we read during the class. You may also bring in other texts, if you want; and you are welcome to make connection to contemporary issues, as long as your paper remains grounded in interpretation of Romantic period texts. You may choose to develop one of your earlier papers into this final paper, if you like, which will of course include substantial rewriting.