The essential questions of this course have been asked by a wide variety
of literary scholars over the past thirty years, scholars as different
from one another as Julia Kristeva, Jerome McGann, and Stanley Fish.
All have been concerned, however, with the nature of literary texts and
with how readers are implicated in the meaning of things like poems and
In this course, we will bring reader and textual theory to bear on poetry
and fiction of the British Romantic period. We will consider the paratexts
of Romantic period literature and how they affect our readings. We
will pay close attention to what Romantic era readers said about their
literature and compare their perspectives to those of our contemporaries.
We will bring the intertextual nature of literary texts to the forefront
by examining how novels of the period allude to, integrate, and gloss poetry;
we will sometimes follow these intertextual trails outside of the Romantic
period proper and read the texts that characters and writers recommend.
Finally, as readers, we will construct an anthology of poetry and our readings
Weekly Reading Assignments
Core readings for the course are listed on the schedule. In addition to
these, as the schedule indicates, there are readings that arise from
the various research projects described below. Perhaps the most unorthodox
text for the class is the "Romanticism and Readers" anthology,
which you will in part be responsible for constructing.
Poetry Collection and Commentary
As indicated on the class schedule, each of you will be responsible for
collecting poems from the novels we're studying in the class. We will
practice this together with Frankenstein before you begin doing
it on your own. In collecting a poem, you are responsible for providing:
- The full text or relevant excerpt of the poem, taken from a reliable
source: If, for example, you decide to work with Wordsworth's "Lines
Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," referenced in Frankenstein, you
should bring in a reliable copy of the full poem; if you choose to
work with Paradise Lost, please do not copy the epic. Use
your good judgment and justify the excerpt you've chosen. A note
don't just grab the poem off of the internet. Know the edition of
the poem that you've copied. Use sources that have been critically
edited. Include bibliographical source information about your poem.
- Commentary on the poem: The commentary is your reflection on the
role the poem plays in the novel. When applicable, you should consider
any significant variants of the poem—as for example when a
novelist changes the words of a poem or chooses among more variants
of the poem. A commentary should be short but substantive—400-600
thoughtfully chosen words. So you are not trying to be exhaustive—choose
what's important and discuss it.
Note that for Frankenstein and either The Monk or Jane
Eyre, you will have free choice of poetry; for Ivanhoe and Persuasion, I
will assign specific poems. You must write commentaries for either Ivanhoe or Persuasion, but
not both. In sum, by the end of the term, you will have written three
commentaries, two on poems of your own choice, one on either the Ivanhoe or Persuasion texts
(see schedule for specifics.)
Poems and successful commentaries will be collected in the Romanticism
and Readers anthology, which will always exist—ever expanding—in
hard copy on Reserve, and will (when the technology is sufficient)
also be available on Electronic Reserve under our course heading.
Close Encounters Group Project
Before the ninth week of class, you will choose between two novels—Matthew
Lewis's The Monk and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre—and
join a group of readers to carry out discussions, collect and write
a commentary on the book's poetry, and create a "close encounter" text.
To prepare for the discussions, you should maintain a double-entry journal
as you read the book. Make a two-column page. As you read, use the
left column to record page numbers and excerpts of text; use the right
to jot down your thoughts. For the purposes of this assignment, you should
pay special attention to (1) moments in the text that reminded you of another
text you've read, in this course or elsewhere, and (2) events, characters,
language, etc. that surprised or puzzled you. The journal will not
be graded, but will be a prerequisite for your joining the group discussion,
which will of course be essential to your participating in the group project.
In the course of your book discussion, your group will determine which
intertextual trails it would like to follow in order to contribute
to the Romanticism and Readers anthology. Each group member should follow
one; two members may share the same path, but each should turn in her own
Finally, your group will create a set of "new" texts by writing
together two or more poems/novel scenes we've read in the course. This "Close
Encounters" exercise will be described in more detail in class
Responding To Readers
In addition to the three short commentaries, you will write three longer
(800-1000 word) responses to readers of the texts from this semester.
One of your responses must consider a 19th century critique, one a 20th
century critique, and one a commentary written by a peer and "published" in
the Romanticism and Readers anthology. For the 19th and 20th century
criticism, you may use texts from the syllabus or research other reviews/articles;
I'm happy to provide guidance. The responses may take any of several
essay, letter—but the writing should be carefully considered
Attendance and Late Work
Attendance is expected and late work problematic. Reasons are thoroughly
outlined in the student handbook, but the bottom line is simple: time
is short and the schedule is full.
A Note on Grades
I encourage you to submit drafts or to schedule meetings to confer about
your work. Any graded work from the course can be revised if you first
see me about it and adhere to the deadlines we agree upon.
The average of all your individual work counts for 85% of your grade,
the group work 15%, with your diligence and engagement as a course
participant as an important ballast. All written work for the course will
be assessed on the basis of content and composition, according to the following
A: Thoughtful, provocative and well-written.
B: Has most, but not all, of the "A" qualities. Needs a little
more thought, imagination, and/or polish.
C: Competent. Ideas and writing are pedestrian but complete.
I will provide written feedback on all of your work and strongly encourage
you to schedule a visit with me to talk about any course (or literature
or MAT-related) matter.
Required Texts (all on Reserve)
Austen, Jane. Persuasion. Ed. Janet Todd and Antje
Blank. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Bronte, Charlotte Jane Eyre. Ed. Margaret Smith. New
York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Lewis, Matthew. The Monk. Ed. Christopher MacLachlan.
New York: Penguin, 1998.
Scott, Walter. Ivanhoe. Ed. A.N. Wilson. New York:
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New
York: Norton, 1996.
Note: All additional poetry and critical readings
listed on the schedule are held on Electronic Reserve, and in the Romanticism
and Readers anthology, on reserve in the library.
Note: All texts (besides novels) are on electronic
reserve and in the Romanticism and Readers anthology on regular reserve,
unless otherwise specified.
Coleridge, two versions of "Rime"; Southey's review of Lyrical
Ballads; Jerome McGann, "The Ancient Mariner: The Meaning
of the Meanings"
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, vol.1-2; Milton, Paradise Lost Book
X; Julia Kristeva, from Revolution in Poetic Language
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, vol. 3, and all 19th century responses
in the Norton edition; Percy Shelley, "Mont Blanc" and select Frankenstein poetry
from your collecting (read in class)
Due—First poetry collection and commentary
Jane Austen, Persuasion, vol.1; Byron, "The Giaour" or
Austen, Persuasion, vol. 2; Walter Scott, Review of Emma;
Poovey, excerpt from The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer;
Gilbert and Gubar, excerpt from The Madwoman in the Attic
Due—Second poetry commentary (on either Scott or Byron)
Scott, Ivanhoe; excerpts from Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice;
review of Ivanhoe from Eclectic Review (June 1820)
Due—Third poetry commentary (on Ivanhoe and Shakespeare)
John Keats, "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer," excerpt
from "Endymion," "Ode on a Grecian Urn," two versions
of "La Belle Dame," "Ode to Psyche," and "To
contemporary reviews of "Endymion" at http://englishhistory.net/keats/critical.html;
Marjorie Levinson, excerpt from Keats' Life of Allegory;
Helen Vendler, excerpt from The Odes of John Keats
Due—First "Responding to Readers" paper
Felicia Hemans, all poems and reviews in Romanticism and Readers anthology;
Wolfson, from introduction to Selected Poems; Anne Mack et
History, Romanticism, and Felicia Hemans" (available from EBSCO
in MLQ 54.2 [June 1993], 215-35).
Due—Second "Responding to Readers" paper
Choice between Monk or Jane Eyre; in class, your
group will set an additional meeting time to prepare for next week.
Due—Double-entry journals on novel; fourth poetry collection and
All Monk and Jane Eyre poems; Gilbert and Gubar,
excerpt from Madwoman (Jane Eyre groups only); choice
of articles from Romanticism on the Net 8 (http://www.erudit.org/revue/ron/1997/v/n8/index.html Monk groups
Due: Performance of "Close Encounters" texts
**Final "Responding to Readers" paper due by
last day of intersession**