Course Code
ENAM 0360 / ESLI 0360 / ESNF 0360
Course Type
Subject Credit
Course Availability

During the latter decades of the eighteenth century and opening years of the nineteenth, the broad cultural movement known as Romanticism swept artists and writers into a new kind of collective sensibility. British Romanticism has been viewed as a reactionary or revolutionary ‘movement’ - political as well as artistic in nature - which united its core protagonists in an overturning of classical and enlightenment values: redirecting their literary energies to an exploration of the heart, not the mind; to experience, rather than explanation; and to the relationship of human creativity to the natural world. Increasingly, however, critics have begun to point towards the immense variety and complexity of the ideologies as well as the artistic techniques used by the writers who fall under the umbrella of Romanticism, and to critique the notion of a unified Romantic philosophy. Students of this course set themselves to work at the heart of this impassioned critical field, studying the canonical British Romantic writers alongside a host of troublingly heterodox contemporary material in order to explore the phenomenon of Romantic literature in all its plurality and complexity. Each Romantic writer has a unique voice, but all were drawn into the quest to convey human experience through the imperfect medium of the written word.

It is possible to tailor this course to focus on ‘Romanticism and the Environment’: the tutorials might include Romantic depictions of the city, Romantic travel writing, poetic responses to the enclosure acts, the Lake District and the Romantic sense of place, aesthetics of ruin and epitaph, seas and seafaring as a Romantic trope, ‘sharrawaggi’ and orientalism in Romantic conceptions of nature, Gothic landscapes, preromantic aesthetics in the writing of Cowper and Thomson, and the pastoral and georgic traditions. We will encounter twentieth and twenty-first century critical reflections on Romanticism and the natural world and on Romanticism and the historical development of ‘environmentalism’ from writers including George Monbiot, Simon Jarvis, Timothy Morton and others.

Some Sample Topics

  • Writing the self and developing narratives in texts including Wordsworth’s The Prelude, Cowper’s The Task and De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater
  • Romanticism as a manifesto: Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads
  • Romantic supernaturalism and the gothic: including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Keats’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Byron’s The Giaour
  • Romantic engagement with a literary past: Byron, Don Juan; Hellenic influences in Keats and Shelley, Blake’s Milton, selections of Romantic criticism on Shakespeare
  • The Keats-Shelley circle
  • Romantic prose: Scott, Heart of Midlothian; Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
  • Symbolism and revelation: Blake, Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience
  • Romanticism, pastoral and environmentalism
  • Ruskin, Blake and the Romantic vision of nature’s disharmony in the visual arts
  • Romantic history: Burke, Carlyle and Gibbon