Romanticism (Eng. 355), Fall '05: Nature and Gender in British and American Romanticism
In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
Instructor: Scott Hess, Assistant Prof. Earlham College
[Note—I have published the readings, course assignments, texts, and course goals in this sample syllabus, for a class which met three 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 as possible with students before they begin the course. Compressing both British and American Romanticism into a single semester is a challenge—especially if one decides to teach Moby Dick, as I did this semester. Here, I've reluctantly decided to leave out Blake and Austen, both of whom I usually teach in British Romanticism classes, and to reduce P.B. Shelley and Byron to a single class period of coverage each. One final explanatory note: I deliberately intersperse short poetry readings in the middle of the Moby Dick assignment, to give students more time to keep up with the reading and finish the novel.]
This course will offer a general introduction to British and American Romanticism, including a wide range of writers in both poetry and prose. To give thematic coherence to this broad topic, we will focus in issues of nature, gender, and identity, within the social and cultural contexts of the period. As the quotation from Emerson above indicates, the idea of nature was centrally important to Romantic writers and thinkers. For many, it supported individual identity in solitude apart from society, fostered the development of individual imaginative, moral, and spiritual powers, and provided a sense of coherence, meaning, and value in an increasingly secularized society, in which old religious traditions were losing some of their power. Yet nature, with the sense of individual transcendence that came with it, could often have its dark and destructive sides, also reflecting the darkness and destruction of the human spirit or of unfettered individualism. Works such as Moby Dick and Frankenstein raised questions about the ultimate morality of scientific knowledge and human tendencies to exploit and destroy, rather than harmonize, with the environment and the other creatures in it. Also problematic, "nature" was often used to bolster established models of gender, race, and class during the period, including male, white, elite domination of these various other groups. Concentrating on gender will allow us to explore the cultural politics of nature during the period in more depth, in relation to a specific cultural topic. At the same time, by studying both British and American romantic writers, we will trace how Romanticism spread across the Atlantic and adapted to the social and environmental climate of the New World, in ways that continue to be highly significant for American society today.
The Heath Anthology of American Literature: Volume B: Early Nineteenth Century 1800-1865 (5th edition—you will need this specific edition)
The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2A: The Romantics and Their Contemporaries (2nd Edition—you will need this specific edition)
John Clare (Everyman Poetry Series), edited by Kelsey Thorton
Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (Oxford World's Classics), by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, edited by James Kinsley (Note: if you use a different edition, by sure it is the revised 1831 text and not the earlier version)
Moby Dick (Oxford World's Classics), by Herman Melville, Tony Tanner (Editor)
Class Meetings and Assignments
Note that all otherwise unidentified readings for weeks 1-8 are from the Longman Anthology (British); for weeks 9-15 from the Heath Anthology (American). Parentheses indicate page numbers, unless otherwise noted.
Wed. Aug. 24 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"
Fri. Aug. 26 Versions of Nature and The Roots of British Romanticism: Raymond Williams, "Ideas of Nature" (posted on course website); Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistle One (read lines 1-112, 173-292) and Epistle Two (lines 1-18); Anne Finch, "Nocturnal Reverie"; Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard (handouts)
Mon. Aug. 29 Introduction to Romanticism and the Poetics of Sensibility: "The Romantics and Their Contemporaries" (2-29, including color plates and image on 2); Charlotte Smith, all selections (49-55)
Wed. Aug. 31 Women Poets of the 1790s: Anna Letitia Barbauld, "Mouse's Petition," "On a Lady's Writing," "Inscription for an Ice-House," "To a Little Invisible Being," "To the Poor," "Washing Day" (31-38); Mary Robinson, "Ode to Beauty," "January, 1795," all selections from Sappho and Phaon, "The Camp," The Haunted Beach," London's Summer Morning," "The Old Beggar" (214-25)
close reading paper, 1-2 pages, due in class
Fri. Sept. 2 William Wordsworth, all selections from Lyrical Ballads, including "Preface" (336-62)
Mon. Sept. 5 William Wordsworth, Nature, and Gender: critical writing on Wordsworth and gender, Meena Alexander from Women and Romanticism, pp. 25-30, Marlon B. Ross "Naturalizing Gender: Woman's Place in Wordsworth's Ideological Landscape," and Heidi Thomson "'We Are Two': The Address to Dorothy in 'Tintern Abbey'" (posted on course website—read in that order); "Tintern Abbey" (read again), "Strange Fits of Passion," "She Dwelt Among Untrodden Ways," "Three Years She Grew," "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal," "Lucy Gray," "Nutting," "I Travell'd Among Unknown Men," "The Solitary Reaper," "Resolution and Independence" (352-56, 363-67, 368-69, 450-53, 460)
position paper due in class, 3-4 pages
Wed. Sept. 7 Nature, the Sublime, and Poetic Identity: William Wordsworth, from The Prelude, all selections from books one, two, seven, and thirteen; lines 243-397 of book eleven; lines 492-657 of book six (389-405, 417-23, 440-50); Edmund Burke, all selections from A Philosophical Inquiry (499-505)
Fri. Sept. 9 Dorothy Wordsworth, all poems, journal entries, and letters except for the last two letters (465-88)
classmate comments due on paper, by 3 pm
Mon. Sept. 12 Nature from the Laborer's Perspective: John Clare (from Heath anthology), "Written in November" (both versions), "The Lament of Swordy Well," "The Mouse's Nest" 841-42, 844-49), from John Clare, "The Wheat Ripening," "The Beans in Blossom," "Sonnet: I dreaded walking where there was no path," "Sonnet: 'The passing traveler,'" "The Summer Shower," "The Foddering Boy," "The Gipsy Camp," "The Skylark," "Sonnet: 'Among the orchard weeds,'" "The Nightingale's Nest," "The Yellowhammer's Nest," "The Pettichap's Nest," "Sonnet: the Hedgehog," "Little Trotty Wagtail" (8-10, 21-22, 43-45, 47-53, 55)
Wed. Sept. 14 John Clare (from John Clare), "Remembrances," "The Flitting," "The Moors," "An Invite to Eternity," "I Am," "A Vision," "To John Clare," "To be Placed at the Back of his Portrait" (67-76, 87-89, 90-91, 104)
Fri. Sept. 16 The Natural and the Supernatural: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Eolian Harp," "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison," "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1817 version), "Frost at Midnight" (522-26, 528-42, 562-63)
Mon. Sept. 19 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Kubla Khan," "Christabel" (545-61); Mary Robinson, "To the Poet Coleridge" (225-27)
revision of position paper due, in class
Wed. Sept. 21 Percy Bysshe Shelley, "To Wordsworth," "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty," "Mont Blanc," "Ozymandias," "Ode to the West Wind," "To a Skylark, "To a Cloud" (752-60, 771-76, 792-94)
Fri. Sept. 23 Women and Their Rights: Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, dedication, Introduction, and all excerpts from chapters two, three, and thirteen (227-57); Anna Letitia Barbauld, "The Rights of Women" (272-73); Richard Polwhele, all excerpts from "The Unsex'd Females" (274-80); Hannah More, excerpts from Strictures on the modern System of Female Education, Introduction and Chapter 14 only (291-92, 295-97)
Mon. Sept. 26 The Byronic Hero and Romantic Masculinity: Lord Byron, Manfred, "Prometheus," excerpt from Child Harold's Pilgrimage on Napoleon (603-38, 641-44)
Wed. Sept. 28 The Poetess as Doomed Heroine: Felicia Hemans, "The Wife of Asrubal," "The Last Banquet of Antony and Cleopatra," "Casabianca," "The Bride of the Greek Isle," "Properzia Rossi," "The Graves of a Household," "Woman and Fame," critical excerpts on Hemans (810-17, 819-28, 834, 836-40)
Fri. Sept. 30 Maria Wollstonecraft, excerpt from Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman (257-68)
close reading paper: 1st due date, by 3 pm
Mon. Oct. 3 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, including Shelley's Introduction, opening letters, and chapters 1-8 (5-89)
Wed. Oct. 5 Frankenstein cont., chapters 9-17 (90-149)
Fri. Oct. 7 finish Frankenstein (149-223)
Mon. Oct. 10 Sensibility and the Male Poet: John Keats, "When I Have Fears," "The Eve of St. Agnes," "La Belle Dame Sans Mercy," all Odes, letters of 22 Nov. 1817, Dec. 1817, 3 Feb. 1818, 3 May 1818, 18 July 1818, 27 Oct. 1818, Spring 1819 (864-86, 900-12)
Wed. Oct. 12 Poetry and Truth: John Keats, Lamia (course handout)
Fri. Oct. 14 Mid-semester Break
Mon. Oct. 17 American Romanticism: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, "The Rhodora," "The Snow-Storm," "Hamatreya" (1582-1609, 1669-73)
Wed. Oct. 19 America and the Old World: Washington Irving, "Rip Van Winkle" (2153-65); Susan Fenimore Cooper, "A Dissolving View" (course website posting—print and bring to class)
Fri. Oct. 21 America and the Old World cont.: Emerson, "Self-Reliance," "Concord Hymn" (1621-38, 1669); Margaret Fuller, excerpt from American Literature (first three pages only, 1719-21) and Dispatch 18 (1731-35)
Mon. Oct. 24 Women in America: Fuller, all excerpts from Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1697-1719); Sarah Moore Grimké, all excerpts from Letters on the Equality of the Sexes (2082-91); Sojourner Truth, all excerpts (2092-99); Elizabeth Cady Stanton, all excerpts (2109-15)
Wed. Oct. 26 Male Self-Reliance: Henry David Thoreau, from Walden, "Where I Lived and What I Lived For," "Higher Laws," and "Conclusion" (1753-69, 1779-87)
Fri. Oct. 28 American Gothic: Edgar Allen Poe, "Ligeia," "Sonnet—To Science," "Israfrel," "The City in the Sea," "The Raven," "Ulalume," "Annabel Lee" (2462-72, 2529, 2531-34, 2539-46)
Mon. Oct. 31 Female Narrative Fiction: Catharine Maria Sedgewick, from Hope Leslie, first two selections only (2207-19); Elizabeth Stoddard, "Lemorne Versus Huell" (2822-36)
close reading paper: 2nd due date, by 3 pm
Wed. Nov. 2 American Romance: Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown," "The Minister's Black Veil" (2258-75)
Fri. Nov. 4 Science, Nature, and Gender: Hawthorne, "The Birth-Mark," "Rappacini's Daughter" (2276-2306)
Mon. Nov. 7 Epic Romance: Herman Melville, Moby Dick, TBA
Wed. Nov. 9 William Cullen Bryant, "Thanatopsis," "The Yellow Violet," "To a Waterfowl," "To Cole," "To the Fringed Gentian," "The Prairies" (2888-96); keep reading Moby Dick
Fri. Nov. 11 Melville, Moby Dick, TBA
Mon. Nov. 14 Melville, Moby Dick, TBA
Wed. Nov. 16 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, all selections (2897-2903); keep reading Moby Dick
Fri. Nov. 18 Melville, Moby Dick, TBA
[Thanksgiving Break, Nov. 19—Nov. 26]
Mon. Nov. 28 Melville, Moby Dick, TBA
Wed. Nov. 30 Frances Sargent Locke Osgood, "The Little Hand," "The Maiden's Mistake," "Oh! Hasten to My Side," "A Reply to One Who Said, Write From Your Heart," "Lines (suggested by the announcement …)," "Woman," "Little Children," "To a Slandered Poetess," "The Indian Maid's Reply" (2907-17); keep reading Moby Dick
Fri. Dec. 2 Melville, finish Moby Dick
annotated bibliography due, by 3 pm
Mon. Dec. 5 A New American Poetry: "Preface" to Leaves of Grass, read only pages 2923-2927 (plus end of paragraph on next page) and 2935 (from start of first paragraph) to end; Song of Myself, sections 1-14, 20-21, 24, 32, 44, 46-52 (2937-46, 2950-52, 2954-56, 2960, 2975-82)
Wed. Dec. 7 Self and Sexuality: Walt Whitman, "One's-Self I Sing," "A Woman Waits for Me," "Recorders Ages Hence," "When I Heard at the Close of Day," "Here the Frailest Leaves of Me," "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," "The Dalliance of the Eagles," "As I Lay With My Head in Your Lap, Camerado," "To a Locomotive in Winter" (2990-99, 3007, 3013, 3024)
Fri. Dec. 9 From Romanticism to Modernism: Emily Dickinson, "These are the days when birds come back," "I felt a funeral, in my brain," "I'm nobody," "It sifts from leaden sieves," "Some keep a Sabbath going to church," "A bird came down the walk," "What soft cherubic creatures," "Much madness is divinest sense," "This is my letter to the world," "I heard a fly buzz when I died," "They shut me up in prose." "The brain is wider than the sky," "My life had stood a loaded gun," "A narrow fellow in the grass," "To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee" (3048, 3051, 3054-59, 3061-62, 3066-67, 3072-75, 3081)
no final exam
final paper due 3 pm, Monday Dec. 12
Written Assignments & Evaluation
Your final grade will be calculated from the following percentages:
class discussion leading
discussion leading paper
close reading paper
Wordsworth position paper
close reading paper(s)
participation and discussion provocation 0% (but required)
0% (but required)
20% for one or 10% each for two
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 Discussion Leading (5%)
Students will be asked to lead discussion during one class period of their own choice, in groups of two if possible (students may lead alone if there is an odd number of students or if they have strong unreconcilable preferences). Prior to leading discussion, students must find at least two scholarly books, book chapters, or articles relevant to the readings for that day (ask me if you need help or guidance). These scholarly texts should provide stimulus for thought and discussion, which may involve adding to our contextual understanding of the readings. The purpose of the class is not just to present or summarize your critical sources, but to use them to stimulate class discussion. You might choose to present or summarize your critical sources briefly at the beginning of class; incorporate them into a series of questions; or introduce them at some point later in the discussion. The discussion does not have to be limited to the issues raised by the scholarly sources you have chosen, and may develop in other directions—it's up to you.
Class discussion leading will be graded based on how well you use your critical sources to provoke discussion; the organization and creativity of your overall plan for the class; your success in leading the class in significant interpretation of the readings; and your class leadership skills and good faith effort to involve the rest of the class in active participation (if you have a well-conceived plan to stimulate class participation, it won't count against you if the class doesn't respond well on that particular day). You are encouraged to lead the class in creative activities or formats if you like (such as small group work; in-class writing or role playing; use of other media such as drawing or acting; etc.), as long as your activities involve the scholarly sources in some significant way, include active participation by all class members, and lead to significant interpretation of the readings. If you use a non-conventional format, you must also explicitly make clear at some point how the activity adds insight to our interpretation the text (i.e. fun is good, but we need to do more than just have fun). All members of the group are expected to be involved significantly in class discussion leading, and failure to do so will effect your overall group grade for this assignment.
Discussion Leading Paper (15%)
Double spaced, 12 pt. font, with 1 or 1.25" margins. You will be expected to write a paper on the materials you presented and discussed in class, due one week after the day on which you presented. This paper should be on a theme of your choice that emerges out of the day's discussion and must use your research sources in some significant way. You should not just present or summarize those sources. Instead, your paper should take a position in relation to those sources: you might dialogue with them, build or extrapolate from them, argue against them, etc.. The emphasis for this paper, as in all papers in the course, should be on your own original interpretation. You may either choose to write a single paper together as a group, or separate papers as individuals. If you write as a group, you will receive the same grade for the entire group.
You are encouraged to use points that came up during class discussion in this paper, even if the ideas came from your classmates or the instructor. In fact, you should approach class discussion leading as an opportunity to help you explore and develop your ideas for the paper. The paper will be evaluated based on your engagement with the critical sources; your ability to use those sources to support and develop your own interpretation of the text(s) in insightful and creative ways; the coherence and effectiveness of your argument; your use of careful close reading and quotation from the text(s); and the overall voice, clarity, and power of your writing.
Close Reading Paper, 1-2 pages (part of participation grade)
Same format as discussion leading paper. You should offer a close reading and interpretation of one of the poems from the day's readings, relating the poem in some way to a theme you identify in the poetry of Smith, Barbauld, and Robinson overall. Focus primarily on the poem you have chosen to interpret, rather than the theme, but use the theme to contextualize your reading. This paper is a kind of trial run for later papers and chance to practice your close reading and interpretation of poems. It will be graded, to give you a sense of where you stand, but the grade will not count towards your final course grade. Failure to fulfill the assignment on time, however, will result in a penalty to your final participation grade. We will use the papers as the jumping off point for the day's class discussion.
Position Paper: on Wordsworth, Nature, and Gender, 4-5 pages (10%)
Same format as discussion leading paper. For Mon., Sept. 5, we will read a number of poems by William Wordsworth that involve issues of gender and nature, together with several critical essays on these topics. In this paper, you should take your own position on the way Wordsworth addresses nature and gender in one or more of the poems. Your paper should engage with at least two of the critical sources and include an extensive close reading and interpretation of at least one Wordsworth poem not substantially commented on by the critical sources. You may, if you like, also comment briefly on other Wordsworth poems or on other poems we have read earlier in the semester (by one of the women poets, for example). The purpose of the paper is, first, to show you understand the critics; second, to take a position of your own in relation to them; and third, to interpret the poetry from this position.
Your paper will be evaluated based on the insight, creativity, and interpretive power of your position; your engagement with the critical sources; your close reading, including sensitivity to textual details and frequent direct quotations from the texts; the coherence and structure of your argument; and the overall voice, clarity, and power of your writing.
Students should bring three copies of the paper to class—one for the instructor, two for classmates with whom you will exchange papers. Classmates will be expected to type a page of comments and email them to the paper writer (and cc the instuctor) by class time on Friday of that week, pointing out the most significant positive and negative aspects of the paper (including both organization and content). This assignment will be considered part of your participation grade.
All students are expected to do a substantial revision of this essay, based on the comments they receive from both students and instructor (unless you receive straight "A" on the initial version). "Substantial revision" must involve more than superficial changes to formatting, spelling, and grammar—you must rethink, reorganize, and rewrite the paper, in order to improve the content, structure, and style of your writing. Papers turned in again without substantial revision will be given back to you once more for revision, and the final grade will be reduced one grade level (i.e. A- to B+).
The first version of this paper should be a finished product, not just be a draft. To encourage you to take this first version of the paper seriously, the final grade for the paper cannot be more than one full grade higher than the original version (i.e. if you get a C on the first version, you cannot get better than a B on the final paper).
Close Reading Paper(s) (10% each for two or 20% for one)
Same format as discussion leading paper. Students have the option to write either two short close reading papers, due on the dates indicated in the syllabus, or one medium-length paper, due on either of the two days. Each paper should offer an extensive close reading and interpretation of a single work that we read for class, by an author about whom the student has not yet written. Papers should not merely repeat points which have already been discusses in class, but may build on class discussion in order to develop your own original interpretation. Short papers should be 2-3 pages each; the medium-length one should be 5-6 pages.
In this paper you are expected to develop a coherent thesis or position about the text, supported by extensive close reading and quotation. You should not try to cover all themes relevant to a text, but focus on a single theme or a couple related themes and create a coherent thesis position, using the evidence that the text offers. Your paper will be evaluated based on the insight, creativity, and interpretive power of your thesis; your effective close reading and engagement with the details of the text; the coherence and structure of your paper as a whole; and the overall voice, clarity, and power of your writing.
Final Paper, 10-15 pages (25%)
Same format as discussion leading paper. In your final paper, you will be asked to compare British and American texts in relation to a specific theme of your choosing. Your paper must include substantial commentary on Moby Dick, and should compare this work with at least two other texts, one British and one American, about which you have not yet written a paper (you may write on more than three texts, if you choose, including texts you have already written about, in addition to the ones which are new). Possible topics include: versions of nature; the natural and the supernatural; the problem of evil; science and its proper bounds; representations of animals; the role of the monstrous or the non-human other; individuality and society; race; the exotic; imagination; genius; domesticity vs. adventure; versions of masculinity or femininity; relation to commodity culture; the Byronic hero; social class in Romanticism, and the connection of femininity and nature (many other topics are possible). You should avoid making large, unsupported statements about British and American Romanticism in this paper, but should focus instead on developing a specific comparison between the works you have chosen.
You should support your interpretation with at least five critical sources (critical articles or parts of books), of which no more than one can be a reference work (encyclopedia entries, for instance) or peer-reviewed website. A preliminary version of this annotated bibliography, including a sentence or two about each source and its relevance, together with a brief prospectus of one or two paragraphs summarizing your proposed topic and thesis, is due Fri., Dec. 1st. Note that your final grade for the paper will be reduce one grade level if your bibliography is late (i.e. from A- to B+), and one addition grade level for each 48 hours of lateness. A final annotated bibliography of these sources should be included, in MLA format, at the end of the finished paper.
You are expected to use critical sources in this paper in order to enrich and support your own original interpretation of the texts, much as in the position paper and discussion leading paper. With a large, comparative research paper such as this, the greatest challenge is to maintain coherence in your thesis and avoid wandering off on tangents or treating the works independently of one another. You should make your comparisons between the works explicit, and if you do make large, generalizing claims, they should be well supported by your interpretations of the texts and by critical sources. As always, your positions should be supported by extensive close reading and quotation from the text(s). Your paper will be evaluated based on the insight, creativity, and interpretive power of your thesis; your effective close reading and engagement with the details of the text; your use of the research sources; the coherence and structure of your paper as a whole; and the voice, clarity, and power of your writing.
Class Participation (25%)
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 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). See the course website for the guidelines I use in assessing your final participation grade.
Your participation grade will also include a regular weekly response assignment, to help provoke class discussion. Beginning with the Wednesday of week three, each students will be assigned one day of the week (M, W, or F), to help provoke class discussion by posting a response of some kind on Moodle [our course management software]. Since your role on this day is to be a provocateur, you may even want to be deliberately outrageous, as long as it leads to significant interpretation in some way (don't be deliberately offensive, though!). You can fulfill the assignment by writing a prose paragraph or two; a question or series of questions; or some other format, such as an image. Come to class prepared to raise the issue or provocation in person. Use this assignment to respond to what interests you in the text, and to place that issue on the class agenda for the day.
In order to allow the other students and instructor to be provoked into thought prior to class, you should post your response on Moodle by 5 pm on the day before class meets. If you miss this deadline, your participation grade will be reduced. You may skip two responses without penalty over the course of the semester. Responses will not receive formal grades or comments, but I will comment informally throughout the semester to let you know how you are doing. The more original, insightful, and provocative the responses, the better your participation grade (responses will constitute roughly ¼ of your total participation grade).