Surveying the Literary Landscape: The Romantic Anthology as Environment
Thomas Hothem, University of California, Merced
The metaphorical correspondence between land and text is such that authors regularly allegorize the acts of reading and writing by walking us over hill and dale. For instance, in what is a watershed moment for British literary landscape description, John Milton's Paradise Lost concludes its justification of God's ways to men as Adam and the archangel Michael ascend "a Hill / Of Paradise the highest, from whose top / The Hemisphere of Earth in clearest Ken / Stretcht out to the amplest reach of prospect lay" (XI.377-80), and from this point survey Old Testament history episode by episode, as if they were leafing through a Bible. At the other end of the long eighteenth century, William Wordsworth parses the Wye Valley's "steep and lofty cliffs" for "the language of [his] former heart" ("Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey" 6-8, 119). And John Keats likens the experience of reading Homer to commanding a "wide expanse" and traveling through "realms of gold," wherein—"like some watcher of the skies / When a new planet swims into his ken," or some "stout Cortez . . . with eagle eyes" staring at the Pacific, somehow "Silent, upon a peak in Darien"—one may descry "many goodly states and kingdoms" ("On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" 5, 1, 9-10, 11-12, 14, 2).
Such associations between land and text highlight emergent poetics of place in the literature of landscape circa 1674, 1798 and 1816. Yet, insofar as we may invoke the term "landscape" in a conceptual or figurative sense, they indicate as much about the landscape of literature. These versified scenes are themselves significant features in the grand topography of British literary history. As environmentally elaborate coordinates of a wider literary imagination (traces of which they model in miniature), they are opulent cairns along the trail of literary tradition and prominent points of interest on our canonical roadmap. In reading them for some semblance of the contexts in which they appeared—or for the literary hinterlands to which they serve as gateways—we enjoy means of survey that, like the modes of landscape vision they describe, afford comparisons between foregrounds and backgrounds, primary and secondary foci, and generalities and particulars, all depending upon our scope and coincident prospects. In a word, the vantage points from which readers contemplate such poems and corresponding canons enable sweeping perspectives on literary tradition. As the poets suggest, from the highest hills of Paradise or the confines of our homes, the literary imagination permits us to see into the past, perhaps as far as ancient Egypt or the pre-historic Pacific Ocean.
This rich legacy of literary landscape vision is invaluable for teaching Romanticism because, in promoting personal perspective, it encourages readers to explore. After all, landscape appreciation is at once an inspiration for the Romantic imagination and an allegory of interpretation, a tried and true means of exacting order from chaos in the visual field. It helps us make sense of what we see by inciting awareness of the so-called "bigger picture" and the relationships that occur within it. As such, it can be a powerful, contextually informed means of seeing the forest and the trees, as it were—particularly when students are confronted with vast tracts of unfamiliar literary territory laid out in dense anthologies and ambitious survey courses. Indeed, many students count such methods of academic overview among the inexplicable abstractions by which literary history operates. This occurs partly because too few survey courses account for all the complex contextual negotiations that students perform as they reconcile the past with the present. To counteract this effect, instead of leaving the modus operandi of surveying implicit, we might, as Michael does for Adam atop that great hill, exploit the spatial trappings of this otherwise temporal concept to cultivate powers of vision, so that students comprehend the landscape of anthologies and syllabi and develop the kinds of critical omniscience for which such materials are intended. The idea of landscape, in this respect, can serve as a guiding metaphor for conceptualizing the textual economies of individual works and the canons of which they are part.
In observing that the concept of landscape vision and the politics of place can apply to both physical and textual environments—not to mention the historical, ideological and educational environments that influence our experience of them—this essay will examine the pedagogical implications of reading Romantic literature ecosystemically, in terms of intersections between depictions of place, their positions in literary history, survey courses and anthological infrastructures, and hence their status vis-à-vis the politics of the canon. Such a meta-environmental approach befits the study of Romantic literature because reading it often involves negotiating among natural, historical, literary, psychological and educational contexts, and finding cues in each for interpreting its counterparts (as we must do to fully appreciate the above selections from Wordsworth and Keats). To elucidate instructional means of addressing these interrelations, I will devote this essay to describing the rationale behind my undergraduate course "Placing Romanticism"—which, in surveying representations of place from Blake and the Wordsworths to Keats and Hemans, highlights aesthetic trends that place certain writing in the category "Romantic," so as to define Romanticism's place in literary history and identify its influence over literature and culture of the past two hundred years. I hope to suggest that, by calling attention to the contexts in which Romanticism exists for us, we can promote a kind of historical reflexivity that helps students visualize their studies, examine positions in the landscape of interpretation, and assess the topography of literary tradition for themselves.
Because attaining this degree of perspective can be challenging—especially over the course of mere ten- to fourteen-week terms during which we tour college students through some fifty years of intensive literary production—we must find ways to extrapolate our learning to wider contexts by working closely with what we have. The process of "placing" Romanticism requires that students engage course materials critically as they enhance their cultural literacy. More often than not, the way toward this kind of awareness leads through a literary anthology, and the basic focus of the course becomes how to read it for the era that it represents. Despite the incongruity of compressing such massive literary output into the space of a thousand pages, as a means of covering the Romantic period in relatively short order, anthologies such as Jerome McGann's New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse, Anne Mellor and Richard Matlak's British Literature 1780–1830, David Perkins's English Romantic Writers, and Duncan Wu and David Miall's Romanticism: An Anthology with CD-ROM have become indispensable in identifying the era as a formative historical context for contemporary culture. Inevitably, the further we venture into the future, the further the Romantic era recedes into the past, the smaller its half-century window becomes in the course of literary history, and the less distinct it may appear to the untrained eye. The importance of marking this rich yet finite literary terrain is further underscored by Romantic writers' and readers' supposed penchant for "escaping" history, and by the ease with which the Romantic ethos may be absorbed into other, less particular literary traditions.
Its material limitations notwithstanding, the fitness of the anthology form for instilling historical awareness in modern readers becomes especially evident when we consider that the idea of the anthology was intrinsic to the rise of Romanticism. Romantic audiences were well acquainted with literary miscellanies and collected editions, and Romantic poets frequently presented their work in anthology form. Moreover, literary works themselves are implicitly anthologic, insofar as they collect and arrange ideas and images according to overarching narrative ideologies. In learning to see literary epochs through the filter of anthologies we thus witness literary history in action: we become privy to the literary process of creation, the vicissitudes of audience reception, the politics of editorial selection, and hence the formation of the canon. Furthermore, in a practical sense, anthologies include a greater variety and number of works than might be presented via a selection of collected editions—a strategy that curtails historical coverage by emphasizing the work of too few authors. In the end, the anthology is a serviceable textual environment that stands for a distinct era of literary production, a time capsule that houses a culture in miniature. As a veritable atlas of literary production, its means of mapping Romanticism can teach us as much about ourselves and our world as it does about the literature we read.
If anthologies efficiently demarcate eras and provide useful windows into the past, teaching with them entails getting students to see them as something other than bulky tomes for which we may feel we've paid too much, and with which we often dispense at term's end. Of course, this is to say nothing of counteracting students' tendency to treat textbooks, as James Sosnoski reminds us, as "apparatuses of orthodoxy" (75). To promote critical interaction with anthologies we might instead emphasize their utility, the extent of overview they afford, the wealth of material they present for our comparative inspection, and hence our freedom of choice in perusing their contents. Because an anthology shapes a hodgepodge of sources into a coherent vision of an aesthetic tradition, like a landscape its form is as instructive as its content. In characterizing the genre as "a theoretically interesting form whose potential for opening up discourse has yet to be sufficiently explored" (47), Sarah Lawall observes that
an anthology's various constituent parts—its visibly constructed table of contents, preface, and editorial apparatus (footnotes, headnotes, extended essays, ancillary materials); its self-reflexive identity (always aware of its situation vis-à-vis the audience); and finally its virtual reality as a paradigm enacted differently in each classroom—bring to the surface a web of communicative relationships that might otherwise remain obscure. (48)
Lawall's emphasis on the anatomy and situation of anthologies underscores the range of topoi they can present and the variety of audiences they can reach. In cultivating an understanding of their form we thus gain important insights into the historical imagination of the eras they represent. In other words, just as we learn a lot about poems or paintings by the kinds of landscapes they depict, so we can study literary movements in greater context by viewing anthologies as intertextually intricate fields whose features signify in context and alone.
That said, because readers tend to be more concerned with what texts convey than with the shapes they take, to facilitate critical engagement with anthologies we might draw upon the kind of visualization we usually associate with the interpretation of maps and pictures. Indeed, as pictorial manifestations of narrative operations to which texts in general subscribe, landscapes are allegories of anthologization. As Alan Liu has shown in his meticulous analysis of the picturesque aesthetic tradition, a relatively orthodox Romantic prospect such as the one in Claude Lorraine's 1646 painting Landscape with Hagar and the Angel is a veritable anthology of treasured images and competing narratives. Striking a pose that simultaneously dramatizes the Angel's counsel to Hagar as she flees Abram in Genesis 16, evokes paintings of the Annunciation by the likes of Fra Angelico, models means of perspective that would become the hallmark of British landscape poetry, and presages depictions of tourists in picturesque sketches such as William Gilpin's view of Tintern Abbey, the titular characters survey a lush river scene replete with mountains in the distance, an ancient castle on a cliff, and an equally aged arched bridge toward which two boatmen drift—all of which is framed by vine-laden oaks that stretch to the sky. This palimpsest of environmental, literary, artistic, secular and religious tropes thus contains any number of narratives present and past, from biblical legends to subjects for eighteenth-century locodescriptive poetry, picturesque travel writing, and gothic fiction, not to mention histories of landscape painting and portraiture. Its anthology of images spans out in all historical directions, indicating grander meta-narratives simultaneously beyond the scope and within compass of the scene at hand (given its finitude of imagery yet depth of prospect).
Approaching Romantic Anthologies
Applying such a multidimensional visual perspective to the textual landscape of an anthology helps readers discern meaning in the features and form of the book, so as to set our sense of the literary climate circa 1800 and 2005 in stronger relief. It invites us to gauge the relationships between the anthology's constituent parts, to conjecture as to the significance they assume in context, to compare the authors and works that are included therein, and to measure them against those that are not. Of course, because anthologies are creatures of the same textual environments that they survey, we also must consider the vantage points that they construct and the contexts in which they arise. To call attention to such characteristics, I like to begin Romanticism courses by having students read and discuss the editorial principles behind our anthology, to treat such commentary as a "legend" for the "maps" that follow it. This activity helps demystify the anthology and put things in perspective by elucidating ways in which its careful presentation of the Romantic era reflects—or, as is sometimes the case, belies—tensions affecting the canon then and now. As students engage editorial politics that they are usually prone to ignore, they take the first step in the process of familiarizing themselves with their textbook—which, of course, is a medium that effectively plays Virgil to their Dante, or, in terms perhaps more Romantically pertinent (if somewhat despairing), Rousseau to their Shelley—and the age through which it tours us.
All things being equal, my Romantic anthology of choice is Mellor and Matlak's British Literature 1780–1830. Its inclusive, unassuming approach to such a vibrant era of diverse literary production allows us to examine the concept of Romanticism contextually, without immediately overdetermining the term. Indeed, as they assert in their "General Introduction," the editors deliberately avoid "using the terms 'Romantic' or 'Romanticism' to describe [this] historical period" (2). Hence, rather than privilege poetry to the extent that other genres are only lightly represented—as McGann, Perkins, and Wu do—Mellor and Matlak include a broad sampling of poetry, prose, fiction, drama, letters, and journals, in hopes of illustrating that "each genre has its own literary merits" and that "such generic variety more accurately reflects the literary culture of this period" (vii). This selection of genres provides a more comprehensive inventory of the era's textual environment and hence a more variegated representation of Romantic writers' fascination with the physical environment. Furthermore, in presenting works according to their order of publication (rather than that of composition)—and prefacing the collection with "Historical and Cultural Context Sections" on such topics as the French Revolution, the rights of woman, slavery, abolitionism, the political economy, aesthetic theory, and science and nature—the editors "highlight the ways in which literary works functioned within a public literary sphere" whose aesthetic concerns dovetail with its political ones (vii). Such a revisionist rationale enables students to approach the movement from the ground up (so to speak). It allows them a more objective overview of the period—insofar as this is possible—so that they can entertain the idea of Romanticism without laboring as much under the weight of its cultural baggage.
Given the unfortunately prohibitive cost of Mellor and Matlak's anthology in current markets, I have also used Wu's Romanticism, which is relatively comprehensive yet suffers from some traditional blind spots in showcasing the work of the so-called "Big Six"—Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron and Keats. While it includes just enough alternative genres and "non-traditional" authors to contextualize the movement more generally, it also undercuts such genres and authors by effectively damning them with faint praise—particularly by denying adequate representation to women writers who published as much if not more than the Big Six, and in editorial apparatus referring to them on a first-name basis while addressing male writers by surname. Nevertheless, I have found that students who have used Wu's anthology are often attuned to its sexism; in remarking upon it they manage to see around it sufficiently. (In fact, some classes became such seasoned critics of Wu's policies as to actively seek out the writings of female Romantic poets elsewhere, thus exercising the kinds of extended scholarly inquiry that anthologies are designed to inspire.) Whatever is lost in Wu's text is recouped somewhat in his and Miall's compendious CD-ROM, whose graphics-rich, context-oriented contents I often juxtapose with those of the paper anthology and those of such electronic resources as the British Women Romantic Poets project. In this respect, both British Literature 1780-1830 and Romanticism are subject to similar critical treatment: we "deconstruct" the presentation of each anthology and pursue reflexive versions of Romanticism.
While thus assessing the editorial rationale governing our anthology, we also sample broader contexts from which its selections are culled, the "bigger picture" of Romanticism that the anthology presents in miniature. Such a panorama is of course only a few clicks of a mouse away. Because it operates much like a website, Wu and Miall's CD-ROM represents something of a gateway to the wealth of Romantic material currently online in virtual libraries. Amidst the spacious pastures of the Internet are such diverse resources as Romantic Circles, Romanticism on the Net, the Romantic Chronology, the William Blake Archive, the Artcyclopedia Romanticism page, the Romantic Natural History site, the Regency Fashion Page, and of course the English Romanticism collection on the Voice of the Shuttle, to name but eight portals to this wider world. I also encourage students to subscribe to the NASSR-L and C18-L Internet discussion groups, so that they are exposed to the kinds of things that scholars in the field are currently discussing and discovering, and can join in the conversation if they like. Such scholarly sampling and participation informs students' work for class, which revolves around response writing—wherein they nurture their ideas by informally exploring their reactions to the reading—and longer, more developed essays born of their initial responses.
These broader contexts and focused exercises are designed to enrich modern readers' understanding of Romantic literature by introducing them to and including them in its ever-evolving history. Yet we must be careful that these scholarly horizons do not distract us from engaging with the anthology, so that the politics and nuances of its complex textual environment are sufficiently explored. Hence, after contemplating the aforementioned collection of electronic resources, we return our gaze to the landscape of the anthology, to see how it applies editorial rationales and reflects the dynamism of the field. Guided in part by Aidan Day's provisional, pithy and ultimately plastic characterizations of Romantic literature (1-6), we size up the terrain by opening our anthologies, identifying a "mini anthology" of six relatively familiar poems, and analyzing them comparatively. Among these "Greatest Hits of Romanticism" are Blake's "The Tyger," Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," Byron's "She Walks in Beauty," Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind," and Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn." These poems serve as coordinates in the landscape of Romanticism that guide our tour of the movement by momentarily representing it in toto, then operate as familiar landmarks to which we return when we read each author's work in greater depth.
Odds are that students recognize at least one of these poems in some form, and we begin our examination of them by discussing where we've seen them. Most who know them studied them in high school or college, usually in the context of British literature or poetry surveys. Others also recognize the legacy of these poems in different cultural contexts, such as popular music. In impressing upon students that this miniature canon reverberates in contemporary culture much as it does in literary history, I take this as my cue to play DJ, and produce such recordings as Allen Ginsburg's recitations of "Nurse's Song" and "The Tyger," Jah Wobble's The Inspiration of William Blake, Julian Cope's interpretation of "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," Rush's "Xanadu," and, for good measure, Iron Maiden's rendition of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Bruce Dickinson's enunciation of "water, water everywhere" usually causes a few heads to nod (not just from headbanging), and sets us searching for other familiar phrasings that have entered the grand "anthology" of popular parlance. Keats's "Ode" often scores highest with the kinds of sentiments it expresses, but lines from the other poems often resonate as strongly (particularly if students are familiar with films such as Dead Poets Society or Gothic).
Having placed these poems in terms of the class's collective knowledge, we then examine the place at which each occurs in our anthology. Perhaps because Romanticism anthologies tend to be organized by author—and the Big Six in particular—we usually find that the six poems occur at regular intervals and as such underpin the Romantic canon, as structuring devices of sorts. A cross-sectional perspective bears this out. Viewing our anthologies from the side, I have students bookmark each of the poems and measure the text block for the distances between them. Indeed, whereas Blake's "Tyger" occurs relatively early on in both British Literature 1780–1830 and Romanticism (roughly a half inch from Wordsworth's poem)—most likely because of the historical gap between Blake's Songs of Experience (1794) and Wordsworth's Poems in Two Volumes (1807)—the other five poems are all roughly equidistant (about a quarter inch) from one another, and span the anthology accordingly. I like to think that this seeming coincidence dramatizes the centrality of these poems in the anthology, the canon, and the cultural consciousness. In staking out the literary and cultural terrain of Romanticism in our textbooks, this mini anthology of "Greatest Hits" thus foregrounds sustained inquiries into the canonical situation of these major authors and their contemporaries.
Figures in the Anthological Landscape
Of course, literature in general—from the shortest of poems to the mightiest of canons—is shot through with such structurally determined referential dynamics. Hence our next focus involves investigating the anthologic nature of literary works relative to historical context. Though it lies beyond the scope of Romanticism as defined by conventional anthologies, Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1750) is an excellent touchstone for such an inquiry, as it is something of a crash course in British literary tradition and hence a valuable demonstration of canonical politics. In his excellent analysis of the Elegy's literary anatomy, John Guillory has shown that Gray's work is an anthology unto itself—in much the same way as Claude's Landscape with Hagar and the Angel is. The Elegy is a "tissue of quotations," a harmonic convergence of treasured images and rhetorical commonplaces, a transhistorical greatest hits collection whose "phrases sound familiar even in the absence of identified pretexts, as though it were the anonymous distillation of literary sententiae" (Guillory, "The English Common Place" 8). Of course, it is also a landscape poem, and like most landscape poems, it is richly intertextual; it situates its scope of allusion within the landscape at hand and with respect to the broader landscape of poetic tradition. Thus, via the organizing trope of landscape, the Elegy can be read as an exercise in recitation and indoctrination, a rehearsal of the kinds of cultural capital and personal politics to which anthologies are usually tied, and a means of placing them in a given rhetorical context.
Putting Guillory's thesis into action, I have students read the "Elegy" aloud. Then, drawing upon Roger Lonsdale's impeccable annotations in his edition of Gray, I distribute a miniature library of collected editions containing poetry to which Gray alludes in his first thirty-six lines, and ask students to read flagged passages in a designated order. This orchestration produces something very much like the "Elegy" itself. For instance, where Gray has "The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, / The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea" (1-2), student readers in possession of the requisite volumes respectively recite "I hear the far-off Curfew sound" (Milton, "Il Penseroso" 73); "A sullen bell / Remembered tolling a departing friend" (Shakespeare, 2 Henry IV I.i.102-103); "That tolls the knell for their departed sense" (Dryden, Prologue to "Troilus and Cressida" 22); "It is the Knell of my departed Hours" (Young, Night Thoughts I.58); and "As from fresh pastures and the dewy fields … / The lowing herds return" (Pope, Odyssey X.485-87). As students read snippets from Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, Young, Pope, Gay, Petrarch, Virgil, Warton, Akenside, Horace, Lucretius, Dryden, Collins, Spenser, Thomson and Blair, and hear these soundbytes echoed in the "Elegy," they witness Gray's iterative genius and anthologic method. In so doing they also practice the kind of close reading that Romantic poetry demands, and learn that there is more meaning in literary landscape than meets the eye.
The clincher here is that the version of the "Elegy" with which I provide students is William Blake's illustrated edition of Gray's poetry. Blake's illustrations incorporate Gray's vaunted landscape, but foreground individuals within it—a move that perhaps replaces the poem's apparent neoclassicism with nascent Romanticism. Whereas Gray's landscape represents an Augustan means of figuring a world, Blake's illustrations suggest that such a world is also the province of thinking, feeling beings living within it. The same might be said, of course, for Blake's own poetic endeavors, in particular the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, two poem sequences—indeed, anthologies—that bring many other thinking, feeling beings together in conversation via their suggestively interrelated lyrical meditations. The world of the Songs is replete with valleys wild, echoing greens, merry sparrows, gamboling lambs, and infant joy. At the same time, it is also home to tigers "burning bright," destitute chimney sweeps, lost boys and girls, sick roses and poison trees. To constructively complicate this picture further, the Blake Archive allows us to see the poems in their "native environs," as words and pictures that amplify tensions between innocence and experience in the complex anthological structure of the Songs. For instance, though the contrast between Blake's "Tyger" and his "Lamb" is suggestive enough, students often observe that the tiger's "fearful symmetry" is also tempered by the seeming "cuddly kitty cat" quality of Blake's illustration.
Such a paradoxical landscape of cryptic poetic utterances in vibrant pictorial contexts invites plenty of conjecture, and its many pregnant juxtapositions can yield an entire semester of material. But since we've more ground to cover and larger contexts to consider, we are usually left to ponder how lambs and tigers can coexist in the same landscape of stark divisions and strange harmonies. The consensus is often that such startling contrasts represent Blake's attempt to elucidate a wider, more psychologically complex and realistically vexing world than Gray's purely memorial one. After all, the worst fate "some Village Hampden" may face in the "Elegy" is the anonymity of the grave, whereas in the Songs he could meet with thorny jealousy, "fearful symmetry," poison fruit, and pointed economic or racial oppression—in sum, everything from a "Heaven in Hells despair" to a "Hell in Heavens despite" ("The Clod and the Pebble" 4, 12). This does not necessarily mean that we are the worse for Blake's world. Instead, the deceptively simple anthological scope of the Songs challenges pastoral idealism of poetic tradition so as to open the Romantic canon to a broader range of experience. In other words, whereas Gray shows us what's in the literary landscape, Blake illustrates how much we've yet to see.
- The Songs thus emphasize the equally aesthetic, personal and political nature of Romantic writing. Such multifarious literary purpose is resoundingly confirmed once we move into the intricate environs of the Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Blake's sophisticated metaphorical critique of political and personal enslavement. Confronted with such a difficult text, students often admit to feeling as confined and confused as the Visions' hopeful protagonist, Oothoon. Both parties feel that somewhere in the teeming linguistic landscape there must be salvation or release. Yet Blake weaves this world together so tightly as to bind its features in place, perhaps to underscore the absurdity of sustaining such rigid chains of tradition and to criticize repressive patriarchal authority that devolves from its annals. As we learn next, such is also Mary Wollstonecraft's concern in her Thoughts on the Education of Daughters and Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which are revisionist treatises on the machinery of sexual oppression and the extent of its socio-structural influence. If there is room for opening the canon to an aesthetics of perception, then such democracy must also extend to the political sphere—as Wollstonecraft suggests in the Vindication's subtle yet astute reassessment of "nature," that great focus of Romantic creative energies. She questions relatively ossified conceptions of nature that have "made a great difference between man and man"—and of course man and woman—so as to inveigh against "unnatural distinctions established in civilized life" and promote more universal "natural rights of mankind" (373, 382, 372). While, aside from her Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, Wollstonecraft may not concern herself with Romantic idealizations of the natural world, she dramatizes the rhetorical force behind the idea of nature and refines our sense of its pivotal position in the Romantic cultural consciousness.
Situating Romantic Landscape
Blake's and Wollstonecraft's productive problematizations of nature inform our approach to the writings of William Wordsworth. Wordsworth, of course, looms large in the landscape of Romanticism as a founding father for the movement, mostly because of his explicit recourse to the natural world. A contextually intensive assessment of his poetry that attends closely to his environmental vision can help place the extent of his influence and open his oeuvre to discussion, so that his instructive articulation of the Romantic ethos doesn't eclipse the work of contemporaries who pursue comparable agendas. Wordsworth's writing provides good test cases for the Romantic imagination because, given that he achieves what is for many readers a more familiar literary balance of aesthetics and politics, his poetry can be an interesting mix of rhetorically intriguing phenomena and vivid landscapes mellowed by memory. Despite his seeming advocacy of "quitting one's books," students usually recognize that Wordsworth's art isn't just about getting back to nature—it also entails a fair amount of "drink[ing] the spirit breath'd / From dead men to their kind" ("The Tables Turned" 3; "Expostulation and Reply" 7-8). It is both a recovery of poetic tradition as Gray conceived of it—indeed, in such tracts as the Preface to Lyrical Ballads and the Essay Supplementary to Poems (1815), Wordsworth celebrates such poets as Virgil, Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Thomson, and elsewhere acknowledges the influence of such predecessors as Warton, Cowper and Smith—and an extension of its reach into newer, more "realistic" fields of focus. Put another way, although Wordsworth often achieves innovation in landscape depiction—particularly by concerning himself with otherwise peripheral places such as the Lake District, the South Downs, Wales and Scotland, rather than with the neoclassically charged Thames Valley scenes that pervade the works of Pope and Thomson—the landscapes he describes are nevertheless part of the same island that gives British literature place.
In this respect, Wordsworth's literary intervention is an expressly anthologic gesture toward re-collecting poetic tradition, an attempt to clarify the fount of poetry by reorienting it toward the landscape of everyday life. This project finds its expression in anthology form—the co-authored compilation Lyrical Ballads, which features a complex social landscape whose moral scope is not unlike that of Blake's Songs and whose elaborate imagery and experiments in style enrich its presentation. In his Preface to the work, Wordsworth cultivates an emphatic "earthiness" which is designed to democratize the literary imagination by "grounding" it in the popular parlance, so that poetic expression might yet overcome the "gross and violent stimulants" agitating the cultural consciousness, take root in everyday experience, and fulfill its potential as "the image of man and nature" (575, 578). Indeed, he justifies his focus on "low and rustic life" by asserting that, in such a condition, "the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language" (574-75). Landscape, in this formulation, becomes a common denominator of sentiment, psychology, character and society; it stages these things in the British countryside and collects them into poetic tradition.
- By touring us through its series of rural stories, the Lyrical Ballads' composite nature—in all senses of this term—affords any number of vantage points on literature and society. Its landscapes occasion specific interrelations among Romanticism's natural, historical, literary, psychological and educational contexts according to readers' unique—and often divergent—perspectives. In cultivating the kind of holistic vision that landscape allows, we can appreciate the exploits of Simon Lee even as we question Wordsworth's objectification of him. We can luxuriate in the scenery of the Wye Valley even as we debate Wordsworth's selective vision of the place, in "Tintern Abbey." We can appreciate the solace described in "Nutting" even as we consider the meaning of its disruption. And we can indulge in the mystery of "The Thorn" even as we contemplate the human hardships it describes. Coleridge's contributions add another dimension to this vision, perhaps in the form of a supernaturally charged rejoinder to Wordsworth's sustained naturalism. In this multifaceted dialogical fashion, the Lyrical Ballads enable breadths of prospect and particularizations of vantage point so as to promote fruitful inquiry into Wordsworth's and Coleridge's aesthetics. Yet fundamental to all of this are the eminently legible landscapes that support such meditations and allow for diverse means of literary appreciation. Landscape is the medium that communicates the Lyrical Ballads' myriad sentiments by rendering them visible.
Nevertheless, lest the Lyrical Ballads' strong human element overwhelm our sense of landscape's powers of organization, as a class we take this opportunity to assemble a collection of perspectives on Wordsworth's poetic geography. Based on the idea that sketching is tantamount to commenting—just as paintings are often regarded as "interpretations"—we explore intersections between the physical, personal, and rhetorical environments in the third of his five "Poems on the Naming of Places" by drawing the landscape it elaborates. This work features Wordsworth's poetics at their most fundamental, insofar as the landscape it describes assumes something of a personality that permeates and transforms the place. In groups, students discuss what they see in the poem, record majority and minority perspectives, reach a consensus about their vision, and draw what they see. When all groups are finished, each presents its picture and discusses the making thereof. Then we comparatively analyze the pictures, observing relationships between the human and natural worlds in each interpretation with respect to position, depth, size, color, style, inclusion and exclusion. Whereas most illustrations include a prominent mountain, setting sun, stars, clouds, groves, fields, a house and sometimes people, no two are ever alike, such that in concert they represent the range of imagined worlds that proceed from one poem, a veritable anthology of interpretations born of one literary landscape. Landscape in this instance is both subject to and source of creative readings that infinitely re-incarnate Wordsworth's vision by selectively emphasizing its natural and psychological components. Such is perhaps the ultimate outcome of "conversation poetry," as Coleridge termed the form: presented familiarly, lyrical landscapes address literary moments and give rise to many more via readers' interpretations, thereby unlocking the generative potential of poetry, of the larger anthology in which it occurs, and of the canon itself.
Against the backdrop of this anthologically-sensitive series of landscapes within and beyond our anthologies, and with the literary territory of the anthology form thus staked out, reading the rest of Romantic literature becomes a relatively straightforward matter of distinguishing features in the remaining textual landscape of the anthology, and allowing suggestive relationships to play themselves out. As we saw with Blake, Wollstonecraft and Wordsworth, approaching Romantic literature through the filter of anthologization sets seemingly ossified categories in play by encouraging reader response. It allows us to exploit contrasts in context; for every expostulation there is a reply—as is the case in exchanges as fundamental as those between Coleridge and his contemporaries Anna Barbauld and Mary Darby Robinson, who reply to his fanciful landscapes with landscapes of their own. Coleridge, of course, was occasionally prone to delusions of grandeur—particularly in confessional poems such as "Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement," wherein he admits, upon ascending a "stony mount" and overlooking the Bristol Channel, to feeling something akin to "omnipresence": "God, methought / Had built him there a Temple: the whole World / Seem'd imag'd in its vast circumference: / No wish profan'd my overwhelméd heart. / Blest hour! It was a luxury,—to be!" (28, 38-42). Barbauld gently chided him for such flights of fancy, especially as they relate to his metaphysical pursuits. Her poem "To Mr. S.T. Coleridge" bids him step down from mountaintops—whence one might vainly gaze "indignant on the grosser world / And matter's cumbrous shapings"—so as to avoid being caught "athwart the mists" of a labyrinthine grove only "midway [up] the hill of science," where "mystic visions swim / Before the cheated sense" and "huge shadows stretch / And seem realities" (31-32, 9, 1, 8-9, 10-11), a kind of privileged blindness much like Wordsworth's misty vision atop Snowdon at the conclusion of the Prelude. Whereas Barbauld leaves off such playful upbraiding by stating "Now Heaven conduct thee with a parent's love" away from "spleen-fed fog / That blots the wide creation" (43, 41-42), Robinson accuses Coleridge of no such impaired sanctimony, instead affirming his visionary impulses. She pledges that, "Rapt in the visionary theme, / Spirit divine, with thee I'll wander, / Where the blue, wavy, lucid stream / Mid forest glooms shall slow meander" "To the Poet Coleridge" 1-4). Indeed, she follows as far as Xanadu's "sunny dome" and "caves of ice" in aspiring to "trace / Imagination's boundless space" (27-28). Though the terms of the debate are complex, the writers share a common ground in the language of landscape. In attending to the places that they describe, we can thus ascertain their rhetorical positions with respect to Coleridge's visions and the Romantic imagination more generally.
Species of Landscape and Varieties of Romanticism
- Such means of environmentally-sensitive assessment allow us to situationally compare, contrast or even collapse seeming distinctions such as those between the first and second generations of Romantic writers, between poetry and prose in the Romantic canon, and between canonical and non-canonical writings. Divergent landscapes such as Coleridge's and Barbauld's point up prevailing tensions between strains of the Romantic imagination. To come full circle, then, if the idea of landscape helps us approach that of the anthology, the anthology affords comparison and contrast of landscape itself, and hence of the aesthetics it embodies. For instance, there is often a marked difference in scope, intensity, and exoticity between the first- and second-generation poets' descriptions of place. Whereas the landscapes of the first generation writers tend to be expansive yet familiar (in focusing on the British countryside), those of the second generation are relatively rugged and alien in comparison. The dynamic, sublime environs of Shelley's "Mont Blanc" and "Alastor" greatly exceed—indeed dwarf—the British hills that command so much of Wordsworth's poetry. Meanwhile, Byron's Childe Harold and Don Juan travel the Continent and the world beyond; as if following Alastor, they fare as far as the Middle East and Asia. In spanning the globe, these second generation landscapes push Romanticism to include even more varieties of experience while extending the poetic project set forth by the first generation.
These pronounced differences in the places that Romantic writers describe beg questions about the kinds of landscape for which the movement is known and those that we have been prone to overlook over the years, in light of prevailing definitions of Romanticism. As indicators of authorial perspectives and hence identities, representations of place can be important indices of canonical position. To wit, if we tend to privilege the expansive, idealized landscapes for which—with the possible exception of Keats—the Big Six Romantic poets are known, we may underappreciate subtler, more intricate (or intimate) landscapes pursued by other writers (particularly women). Coleridge, as we have seen, likes to look out on landscape; even when he is confined in a lime-tree bower, he finds means of transcending his immediate environs and following his friends' rambles through his mind's eye. Similarly, his "Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement" quickly proceed from the front door of his "pretty Cot" and the roses, jasmine and myrtle that frame its "Valley of Seclusion" to the top of that aforementioned "Stony Mount" (1-9, 28). Yet, as Keats so plainly shows, there is more to landscape than prospect alone: sometimes it is just as palpable when one "cannot see what flowers are at [his] feet" and is left in "embalmed darkness" to "guess each sweet" ("Ode to a Nightingale" 41, 43). In sum, it is too simple to categorize Romanticism in terms that privilege sweeping landscapes and underestimate those of smaller scope.
- Proceeding somewhat less "viewlessly" than Keats is wont to do, in turning their gaze inward such writers as Felicia Hemans and Dorothy Wordsworth describe communities that their male contemporaries often forsake. For instance, in strong contradistinction to Coleridge's "Reflections," Hemans's 1812 poem "The Domestic Affections" describes the woes of the outside world in order to advocate the elusive idea of home. Whereas Coleridge abandons his flowered "Valley of Seclusion," Hemans celebrates intimate environs "nursed on the lap of solitude and shade," where "the violet smiles, embosom'd in the glade" (19, 20). While war ravages the globe and storms blast the outside world, "domestic bliss" thrives in its "calm abode," "Where hallow'd innocence and sweet repose / May strew her shadowy path with many a rose" (24-26). Meanwhile, Dorothy Wordsworth's poem "Floating Island at Hawkshead, An Incident in the Schemes of Nature" abandons its initial inventory of "sky, earth, river, lake, and sea" to focus on a world unto itself, wherein birds find food, shelter and safety, "berries ripen, flowerets bloom," and "insects live their lives—and die" (1, 13-15). Indeed, "A peopled world it is;—in size a tiny room" (16). Like much of her writing, this communal vision contrasts with that of her neighborhood contemporaries, who are often more content to retire from the "uproar" and leave "the tumultuous throng" of human society to escape into "silent bay[s]" or similarly secluded environs, as Dorothy's brother William famously does in his "Two-Part Prelude" (I.170-73) and its incarnations to follow. To allow such solitary meditations to dictate the landscape of Romanticism is to risk denying other forms of expression place in a movement to which they are no less integral.
These authors' alternative landscapes thus test the anthology's frame of reference and gesture beyond it to the kinds of expression it underrepresents. Such urgency is often generic in nature; whereas, given its relative "portability," poetry is easy to anthologize, anthologies are notoriously difficult environs for prose—despite Wordsworth's famous claim in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads that the most "naturally arranged" poetry does not differ from prose (576), and Shelley's attempt to describe all imaginative expression as poetry, in his "Defence" thereof. In light of Romanticism's pronounced poetic achievements, the prose tracts that we read for the course bear considerable weight as foils for the anthology and representatives of a wider world, literary and otherwise. Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, for instance, dramatizes the tensions between the privileged pastime of landscape appreciation and the political reality of economic exploitation behind it (in the form of the indentured labor that supports the Bertrams' comfortable way of life, and the changes in the political landscape that affect life and landscape at Mansfield). In addition to Austen's novels—each of which offers witty social critique with respect to landscape—Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's narrative pronouncements on her husband's extreme landscapes amplify the human dramas that occur within them. Similarly, while the narratives of Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince have much in common with eighteenth-century generic forms that predate Romanticism, their adventures provide invaluable political and social contexts—and expose a wider world—than the anthology can only sketch. Of course, this is to say nothing of essayists, many of whom are responsible for shaping the public perception of Romantic writing at the time (although we might not realize it given how little space they garner in anthologies). Writers such as Barbauld, Joanna Baillie, Charles Lamb, Thomas DeQuincey, Leigh Hunt, and William Hazlitt—not to mention Coleridge himself—all offer valuable commentary on Romanticism's evolving literary legacy.
"Recovery Work" and the Legacy of Romanticism
Having traced the Romantic canon via an abbreviated selection of its landscapes, as term draws to a close one must pass the torch to students, to entrust the landscape of Romanticism to them—effectively to bid them, as Gray does his readers, "Approach and read (for thou can'st read) the lay, / Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn" ("Elegy" 115-16), and hence to advocate, as Wordsworth suggests we do with his anecdotal "Simon Lee," that "should [we] think, / perhaps a tale [we'll] make" of our reading (71-72). That said, the course culminates with each student writing a term paper on a work or author that our anthology includes but our course reading does not. In arguing for the inclusion of overlooked works or authors, students comment on their writers' depictions of place and on the infrastructure of the anthology (not to mention that of the syllabus), ultimately "canonizing" their selections (just as literary scholars reassess the canon through their own inquiries). Such an exercise is important, particularly because vast expanses of our anthology inevitably go unexplored by the end of term, and more so because the era it documents is only as relevant as students make it. As they assess where we have been and where we may yet go, their resultant analyses explain their interest in their choices and relate them to other works we have read, so as to comparatively situate both in the Romantic canon. In making room in the canon for their selections, students learn to cultivate parallels between Romantic audiences of the past and present, to "place" Romanticism for themselves, and to be informed surveyors of literature in general.
- By way of conclusion, it is worth pointing out a brief yet significant caveat to this holistic sense of Romanticism's anthological landscape. Insofar as we introduce this literary history via time-honored works enshrined in anthologies—which are inherently conservative mechanisms, despite recent innovations or inventive applications—we risk reproducing the Romantic literary hierarchy and reasserting its old hobbyhorses. Yet such is perhaps a worthwhile gamble in promoting a reflexive sense of Romantic literature, especially if we are to encourage reinterpretation of its underpinnings and further exploration of its myriad literary contexts, so as to clear space for more authors and audiences in its canon. In the end, literature should inspire students to imagine their world as a text and themselves as its authors—so that, with an environmentally nuanced historical awareness, they survey the literary landscape and "reanthologize" writings that they inherit. Perhaps this is what Bill Rueckert had in mind when, in his pioneering 1978 essay "Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism," he stipulated that "to charge the classroom with ecological purpose one has only to begin to think of it in symbiotic terms as a cooperative arrangement which makes it possible to release the stream of energy which flows out of the poet and into the poem, out of the poem and into the readers, out of the readers and into the classroom, and then back into the readers and out of the classroom with them" (121). Such continual symbiosis is sustained by the best of Romantic writings, which admit their place in the larger landscape of literary tradition. The song that Wordsworth's "Solitary Reaper" sings has "no ending," such that the poet bears the music in his heart "long after it was heard no more" (26, 31-32). And if we are prone to wonder, as Keats does in his
benedictory poem "To Autumn," where to seek the "songs of spring," we may mark them and the tradition from which they hail even as we recognize their place in anthologies yet unscripted. Such an advanced season as ours has its own music too.
For helping me sort out my ideas and prose—and for putting up with me during the writing of this essay—I should like to thank Anne Zanzucchi and Christopher Peterson.
 Indeed, as the twentieth-century philosopher Michel DeCerteau suggests, the experience of viewing the world from a great height is not unlike that of reading: By retreating into provinces of the literary imagination, a reader effectively "transforms the bewitching world by which [he] was 'possessed' into a text that lies before [his] eyes," a palimpsest he commands by virtue of his omniscience (92). [BACK]
 For a clever consideration of instructors' various dissatisfactions with anthologies, see Williams's essay "Anthology Disdain." [BACK]
 The prospect of defining the Romantic era in English studies is addressed in commentaries by William Galperin, Susan Wolfson, Greg Kucich, Charles Rzepka, Beth Lau, Clifford Siskin, and Elizabeth Jones on the subject of "Romanticism in Crisis." See also McGann, "Rethinking Romanticism," Wolfson, "Speculating on a Romantic Century," and Richardson, "British Romanticism as a Cognitive Category." Of course, such concerns reflect the extent of disciplinary conditioning, and the fact that the term "Romanticism"—whose taxonomy is addressed by Day 1-4, and McGann, The Romantic Ideology 17-20—is a retrospective construction born of a need to categorize what we now consider a discrete literary movement that occurred circa 1800. [BACK]
 Ferry, Tradition and the Individual Poem, and Mandell, "Canons Die Hard," examine the culture of anthologies since the eighteenth century. Mandell, Linkin and Raley's Anthologies website lists literary anthologies and miscellanies that appeared during and after the Romantic era. [BACK]
 Of course, one might supplement a selection of collected editions with online texts, although this distinction between print and non-print works may unintentionally reproduce elitist canonical distinctions between so-called first- and second-rate literature. [BACK]
 In portraying anthologies as worlds in miniature, I realize my debt to Stewart's similar characterizations in On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, a work whose main ideas I internalized years ago but whose myriad implications I am continually discovering. [BACK]
 Di Leo's essay "Analyzing Anthologies" alerted me to this quote. Of course, Guillory also has much to say on this head; see especially his remarks on the formative aspects of course syllabi (Cultural Capital 28-38). [BACK]
 See Liu, Wordsworth: The Sense of History, 65-84. [BACK]
 In this respect, British Literature 1780–1830 usefully complicates ecocritical reevaluations of Romanticism—particularly the notion of "Romantic Ecology" put forth by Bate and Kroeber, whose ideas are derived from the poetry of Wordsworth. Though we benefit from their advocacy of literary history as a means to ecological awareness, these critics often resort to positivistic generalizations about the Romantic ethos that devolve from inadequate inventories of its historical contexts, and a failure to contextualize poetry as one of many media that condition our sense of place. For further critiques of Romantic Ecology, see Harrison, Manning and Ross. [BACK]
 Romanticism's CD-ROM accompaniment nevertheless poses access issues—particularly for Macintosh users—as it only runs on PC platforms. [BACK]
 For editorial commentary on the derivations and applications of such electronic resources, see Fraistat, Jones, and Stahmer, "The Canon, The Web, and the Digitization of Romanticism." [BACK]
 See "Ode on a Grecian Urn": Hypercanonicity and Pedagogy for a collection of pedagogical approaches to Keats's poem. [BACK]
 Incidentally, in introducing Maiden's live version of "The Rime" on Live After Death, lead singer Bruce Dickinson offers what is perhaps the last word on the poem: "Here's what not to do when a bird shits on you." [BACK]
 Wordsworth confessed in a note accompanying the poem that "it is not accurate that the eminence here alluded to could be seen from our orchard-seat. It rises above the road by the side of Grasmere lake, towards Keswick, and its name is Stone-Arthur" (Works 697-98). [BACK]
 I usually provide paper and crayons for this exercise, and/or we draw our interpretations on the chalkboard. But if the class meets in a computer classroom, we use Tux Paint, a freeware drawing program that is designed for preschoolers but can be entertaining and instructive for adults as well. [BACK]
 Contrast was a particularly integral quality in picturesque landscape aesthetics. As Gilpin stipulated in the poem "On Landscape Painting" (which appends his Three Essays), "the charm of Contrast" is "Beauty's surest source; it regulates / Shape, colour, light, and shade; forms ev'ry line / By opposition just; … The lake's contracted bounds / By contrast varied, elegantly flow; / Th' unwieldy mountain sinks" (257-60; 268-70). [BACK]
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