MA in Romantic and Sentimental Literature, 2013-14
Core Course: Romantic Texts and Contexts
Convenor: Dr Emma Major (from September 2013)
‘Few Engines can be more powerful, and at the same time more salutary in their tendency, than literature’, observed the philosopher William Godwin in 1793; and his Tory opponent, T.J. Mathias, agreed with him on this point, arguing in 1797 that ‘LITERATURE, well or ill conducted, IS THE GREAT ENGINE by which, I am fully persuaded, ALL CIVILIZED STATES must ultimately be supported or overthrown.’ In the period 1776-1832 literature was seen as the site for these new imagined world orders; it was the realm in which imagination, politics, and philosophy could converge.
This module aims to introduce you to some key voices and themes from the Romantic period. It is team-taught by scholars who specialise in the period: through our seminars we will explore some of the literary conversations, debates, hopes and disappointments which were produced by this age of revolution and innovation. Key critical reading is recommended each week to help you gain a sense of current critical thinking on core writers and themes. Students will be encouraged to read closely and think reflectively, developing their own critique of individual texts and gaining an awareness of the politics of language and genre. The module will provide an essential methodological background to the Romantic and Sentimental Literature MA course, enabling students to interrogate terms such as ‘Romantic’ and ‘sentimental’, but also offer an intellectually exciting and diverse encounter with a range of writers across many genres.
In addition to the schedule of seminars outlined below, the core course will also include, in the first half of term, a Wednesday afternoon trip to Castle Howard, Beningbrough Hall, Rievaulx Terrace, or Whitby
Week 2: Nature, Liberty, Slavery (Emma Major)
This seminar introduces some key themes of the period. We’ll be looking at poems by William Cowper, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Anne Yearsley, and Robert Southey and discussing nature, liberty, slavery, and genre in poetry from the 1770s to the 1790s. (Photocopies supplied.)
Suggestions for secondary reading:
Essays on revolution, slavery, land, and natural philosophy in Iain McCalman
, ed., An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age: British Culture 1776-1832
(OUP, 1999)* e-book
Brycchan Carey, et al., Discourses of Slavery and Abolition: Britain and its Colonies, 1760-1838
(Palgrave, 2004) This has an excellent bibliography for further primary and secondary reading.
William McCarthy, Anna Laetitia Barbauld (Johns Hopkins UP, 2009), and McCarthy and Kraft, introduction to Selected Poetry and Prose
(Broadview Press, 2002)
Week 3: Politics in the 1790s (Jim Watt)
This session will look at extracts from some of the key works that defined the debate about the French Revolution. It will consider the importance of the 1790s as the time of ‘perhaps the last real discussion of the fundamentals of politics in this country’ (in Alfred Cobban’s words), and it will also think about the ways in which the literature of the Romantic period insistently returned to the language and ideas of this decade.
Texts to include:
Richard Price, ‘A Discourse on the Love of our Country’, Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, Mary Wollstonecraft, ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Men’, Tom Paine, Rights of Man, William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Hannah More, Village Politics
Suggested secondary reading:
John Barrell, The Spirit of Despotism: Invasions of Privacy in the 1790s (Oxford UP, 2005)
Gregory Claeys, The French Revolution Debate in Britain: The Origins of Modern Politics (Palgrave, 2007)
Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 (Yale UP, 1992)
Kevin Gilmartin, Writing Against Revolution: Literary Conservatism in Britain, 1790-1832 (Cambridge UP, 2007)
Mark Philp, ed., The French Revolution and British Popular Politics (Cambridge UP, 1991)
Week 4: Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (Emma Major)
Sense and Sensibility
was first written in the 1790s and later reworked and published in 1811.
Please choose a passage for discussion in the seminar. You might like to think about: family
and social status; houses; the country and the city; heroes and heroines; letters; illness; and
sense and sensibility.
Primary text: Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
, ed. Margaret Anne Doody (Oxford
World’s Classics, 2004) (or the most recent Penguin Classics edition).
G.J. Barker-Benfield’s essay on ‘Sensibility’ in McCalman, Mee, et al., eds, An Oxford
Companion to the Romantic Age
(OUP – available as e-book via library catalogue)
Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen
(Cambridge UP, 1997), see esp. Doody’s essay on the ‘shorter fiction’. E-book via library catalogue
Claudia Johnson, Equivocal Beings: Politics, Gender, and Sensibility in the 1790s (Chicago
Claudia L. Johnson and Clara Tuite, eds, A Companion to Jane Austen (Blackwell, 2009)
Kathryn Sutherland, ‘Jane Austen and the invention of the serious modern novel’, in Thomas
Keymer and Jon Mee, eds, The Cambridge Companion to English Literature 1740-1830 (Cambridge UP, 2004)
Tony Tanner, Jane Austen (Macmillan, 1986)
Janet Todd, ed., Jane Austen in Context (CUP, 2005)
Clara Tuite, Romantic Austen (Cambridge UP, 2002)
Week 5: Wordsworth’s Wanderers (Jim Watt)
This session will consider the prominence of marginalized, dispossessed figures in Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads of the late 1790s, and it will consider in particular both the nature of Wordsworth’s innovation in that collection and his representation of human suffering. Poems to be discussed include: ‘The Female Vagrant’, ‘The Thorn’, ‘The Last of the Flock’, ‘Old Man Travelling’, ‘Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman’, ‘The Brothers’, and ‘The Old Cumberland Beggar’.
Suggestions for secondary reading:
Toby Benis, Romanticism on the Road (St Martin’s Press, 2000)
Alan Bewell, Wordsworth and the Enlightenment (Yale UP, 1989)
Mary Jacobus, Tradition and Experiment in Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads (Clarendon, 1978)
Robin Jarvis, ‘Wordsworth and the Uses of Charity’, in Beyond Romanticism, ed Copley and Whale (Routledge, 1992)
Celeste Langan, Romantic Vagrancy: Wordsworth and the Simulation of Freedom (Cambridge, 1995)
David Simpson, Wordsworth’s Historical Imagination (Methuen, 1987)
---- Wordsworth, Commodification, and Social Concern: The Poetics of Modernity (CUP,
Week 6: Reading week (no seminar)
Week 7: Keats (Emma Major)
This session will focus in particular (although not exclusively) on Keats’s major odes and
his final romances (‘Lamia’, ‘Isabella’, and ‘The Eve of St Agnes’), thinking about
the distinctiveness of Keatsian poetics while also situating the poetry in its contemporary
historical and cultural contexts.
Suggested secondary reading:
William Keach, ‘Cockney Couplets: Keats and the Politics of Style’, Studies in Romanticism 24 (1986)
---- Arbitrary Power: Romanticism. Language, Politics (Princeton UP, 2004)
Marjorie Levinson, Keats’s Life of Allegory: The Origins of a Style (Blackwell, 1988)
Nicholas Roe, John Keats and the Culture of Dissent (Oxford UP, 1997)
---- ed., Keats and History (Cambridge UP, 1994)
Susan Wolfson, Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism (Stanford UP, 1997)
---- ed., The Cambridge Companion to Keats (Cambridge UP, 2001)
Week 8: Romantic London (Jim Watt)
This week’s reading will explore representations of London in Romantic period writing. London provoked many and varied responses from writers in the period: Wordsworth found himself ‘lost amid the moving pageant’ while Lamb presented himself as the quintessential Londoner, with ‘unutterable sympathies with the multitudinous moving picture.’ In the selection of poetry and periodical essays discussed in this seminar, we will consider questions about how different writers imagined and presented the relationship between the self and the city, and with it the relationship between the self and society, and consider the tensions between belonging and alienation, community and isolation presented in these accounts.
Primary reading to include:
Mary Robinson, ‘Present State of the Manners, Society &c &c of the Metropolis of England’ (1800); Charles Lamb, from a letter to William Wordsworth (1801); Charles Lamb, ‘The Londoner’ (1802); William Wordsworth, ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, 3 September 1802’; William Wordsworth, Book VII of The Prelude (1805); Cyrus Redding, ‘London and the Country’ (1822); and William Hazlitt, ‘Of Londoners and Country People’ (1823)
Suggested secondary reading:
James Chandler and Kevin Gilmartin, eds., Romantic Metropolis (2005) – see especially John
Robin Jarvis, Romantic Writing and Pedestrian Travel (2000)
Lucy Newlyn, ‘“In City Pent’: Echo and Allusion in Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Lamb,
1797-1801’, Review of English Studies 32 (1981)
Deborah Epstein Nord, ‘The City as Theatre: From Georgian to Early Victorian London’,
Victorian Studies 31 (1988)
Romanticism special issue 14:2 (2008): Re-imagining the City, ed. Greg Dart
Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (1973)
Julian Wolfreys, Writing London: The Trace of the Urban Text from Blake to Dickens (1998)
Week 9: Byron and Shelley (Emma Major)
This session brings together many of the themes explored in the core module – liberty and slavery, revolution and disappointment, the sublime, travel and the self, satire – looking at them in relation to ideas of the role of the poet. Byron and Shelley’s friendship was important to them both, yet their poetic styles and ideas of what a poet should be were very different.
Taking Shelley’s ‘Julian and Maddalo’ as a starting-point, we’ll discuss the two poets and poetry with reference to a range of their poetry, a selection of which will be provided – please also bring your copies of Don Juan (Dedication and Cantos I and II). Please choose a passage from one Shelley poem and one Byron poem for special discussion in the seminar.
Angela Leighton, Shelley and the sublime (CUP, 1984)
Timothy Morton, Shelley and the revolution in taste (CUP, 1995)
Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1974)
Nigel Leask, British Romantic Writers and the East (CUP, 1992), and his essay on Shelley in
Stephen Copley and John Whale, eds, Beyond Romanticism (Routledge, 1992)
Timothy Webb, ‘Romantic Hellenism’, in Stuart Curran, ed., The Cambridge Companion to
British Romanticism (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993)
Andrea Henderson, Romantic Identities (Cambridge UP, 1996)
Fred Parker, ‘Between Satire and Mephistopheles: Byron and the Devil’, Cambridge
Quarterly 35.1 (2006), 1-29.
Robert F. Gleckner, ‘From Selfish Spleen to Equanimity’: Byron’s Satires’, Studies in
18 (Summer 1979), 173-205.
More generally, see Gary Dyer, British Satire and the Politics of Style, 1789-1832 (1997),
Steven E. Jones, Satire and Romanticism (2000), especially the introduction and chapter 6.
Jerome McGann, Don Juan in Context (John Murray, 1976)
-------- Byron and Romanticism (Cambridge UP, 2002)
Jane Stabler, Byron, Poetics, and History (Cambridge UP, 2002)
Claude Rawson, Satire and Sentiment 1660-1830 (1994), chapter 4
Marcus Wood, Radical Satire and Print Culture 1790-1832 (1994)
Week 10: De Quincey and Romantic Confessions
The main text for this session will be Thomas De Quincey’s remarkable Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. We’ll be thinking about questions including De Quincey’s relations with Coleridge, his representation of the ‘pleasures’ and ‘pains’ of opium, and his idiosyncratic exploration of autobiographical, ‘confessional’ writing.
Suggested secondary reading:
John Barrell, The Infection of Thomas De Quincey: A Psychopathology of Imperialism
(Yale UP, 1991)
Alan Bewell, Romanticism and Colonial Disease (Johns Hopkins UP, 1999)
Karen Fang, Romantic Writing and the Empire of Signs: Periodical Culture and Post-
Napoleonic Authorship (U of Virginia Press, 2010)
Sanjay Krishnan, Reading the Global: Troubling Perspectives on Britain’s Empire in
(Columbia UP, 2007)
Nigel Leask, British Romantic Writers and the East: Anxieties of Empire (Cambridge
Joesphine McDonagh, De Quincey’s Disciplines (Clarendon, 1994)
Robert Morrison and Daniel S. Roberts, ed., Thomas De Quincey: New Theoretical
and Critical Directions