"Romantic Texts and Contexts" provides graduate students with an advanced introduction to the scholarly and critical study of poetry published in the British Romantic era (1780-1832). It is appropriate both for students who have had some undergraduate course work in this field and those who are relatively new to British Romanticism. We will read a number of poems, both canonical and non-canonical, in various genres (lyric, narrative, and dramatic) and in relation to various ways of contextualizing poetry. Authors will include the canonical poets (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats) as well as several women poets (Anna Barbauld, Felicia Hemans, and Letitia Elizabeth Landon) and perhaps one or two working class poets (Anne Yearsley, John Clare).
One initial way of establishing a context for interpreting Romantic-era poetry will involve studying the composition, textual, and early reception histories of selected poems--practicing, that is, some of the basics of literary scholarship. We will discuss how these concerns of traditional scholarship have been revitalized and given new direction by recent "new historicist" criticism and electronic text initiatives, as well as considering some of the lessons of the "old historicism." Other contexts to be considered will include social history, biography, colonial discourse, intellectual history, and the rhetorical and generic fields. Along with the poems, we will be reading relevant critical essays representing various critical and theoretical frames, including (in addition to New Historicism and Marxism) feminist and gender studies, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, deconstruction, and the "new" formalism. We will also be discussing and exploring the many new WWW-based resources for Romantic studies.
Requirements will include one short paper (a text and reception history of a Romantic-era poem of your choice) and a longer final essay involving both research and critical interpretation. Hypertext projects will be an option and we will look into using the WWW for other aspects of the course. Each student will also be asked to lead part of at least one class. All students will be expected to actively participate in and help to shape class discussions.