course description - British Romantic Literature 2014

FALL 2014
12:30 P.M. T R
Dr. Chris Foss
Office: Combs 307
Hours: MWF 1:55-2:55, TR 11:30-12:30 (and by appt.)
Phone: 654-1128
This course takes for its focus late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century British literature. It will
provide you with a thorough understanding of this period's writers, their social context(s), and the many complex
points of interchange between the two.
Until only about fifteen years ago, courses in this period concentrated almost exclusively on English
Romanticism's "Big Six": William Blake, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley,
and William Wordsworth. Scholars have tried to offer various coherent definitions of Romanticism based on the
writings of these men, but to my mind ultimately without any "definitive" success. The Big Six deserve their place in
the canon—indeed, some of my all-time favorite writers are among their number—and you will engage with them
repeatedly throughout the semester. However, you will find there are equally exciting dimensions to the period's
numerous other voices, many of these voices more popular and/or more critically acclaimed at the time than the Big
Six themselves.
The main goal of this course is to provide you with an extensive knowledge of British Romantic Literature. By
the end of the semester (after reading 39 different writers and exploring our 7 central focus points), you should be
able to provide multiple successful answers the question, "What is Romanticism?" .
More generally, in terms of content, this course will help you become more familiar with:
 literary history, including an understanding of historical context and its impact on literary periods;
 literary theory and its application;
 the major genres of literature; and
 how issues of class, disability, ethnicity/race, gender/sexuality, and historical period influence the
development and interpretation of literary works.
In terms of skill competencies, you will need to:
 adapt writing to a variety of purposes; and
 apply literary methods as a means for analyzing oral and written discourse.
Throughout the semester we will be continually at work addressing, but not definitively answering, the question,
"What is Romanticism?" With each new unit, new writer, new text, we will talk about the ways in which it might
complement or supplement, finalize or problematize this or that aspect of any number of the multiple constructions
of Romanticism we will consider. Each class period will be framed in terms of productive sets of questions in
relation to this larger question, and I encourage you to feel free either to begin forming your own theory of
Romanticism(s) or instead to focus on understanding why certain questions or foci historically have led to a
particular answer or set of answers. Your incentive is that I will ask you to address the following prompt as part of
your final examination: Compose an essay-length answer, demonstrating your broad knowledge of British Romantic
Literature, in response to the question, "Should one ask, 'What is Romanticism?'" If so, delineate your answer to
this question. If not, delineate why such a question cannot or should not be posed.
You will engage with seven central topical focus points during the course of the semester: (1) The Big Six; (2)
Romantic-Era Fiction; (3) The French Revolution and Rights of Man; (4) Rights of Woman; (5) Slavery, The Slave
Trade, and Abolition in Britain; (6) Society and Political Economy; and (7) Science and Nature. All but the first two
of these correspond with a historical and cultural context section in our anthology, and you will read the introduction
for each of these as part of your first reading assignment. (I personally will walk you through the other section
introduction, Aesthetic Theory and Literary Criticism, at our second class since this focus point will serve not only as
an initial ground but also as a continual reference point for our semester-long exploration of Romanticism.) Then,
before turning to a sequence of units on the remaining topical focus points, we will devote a day to each of the Big
Six so as to begin to grasp "What was Romanticism" in order to better consider "What is (or, is not) Romanticism?"
Along the way you will hear from 39 different writers (just a few more than 6!), including 18 of the numerous
women writers whose fundamental role in the fashioning of Romanticism(s) has been firmly reestablished. You also
will read texts by some writers of color and some writers from the "lower" classes. In this way we will attempt to
plumb the astonishing variety of the many coexisting aesthetics originally present in the period as it unfolded.
What hopefully will be most exciting for you, however, is that in this course you will not simply be subjected to
my idea of what texts you should read in order to best approach our overarching question. One of your major
assignments, the Canonball project, will allow each and every one of you to join in constructing a part of our
calendar of readings reserved for student-selected works. In this way I hope to foster in you a true sense of
ownership where the course material is concerned and to emphasize that you are participating in a dynamic process
of meaning-making as we explore our subject matter together rather than merely attending a class to passively
receive information transmissions which you will be required to regurgitate at some later point in time.
Finally, to further stress our partnership in this enterprise, I want you to know that Canonball selections from
every single one of the students the last time I taught this course (Spring 2013) are now part of the course as newlyassigned instructor selections. I hope knowing that students taking this course in the future will be reading
something you have nominated for inclusion in my own BRL canon will motivate you to fully embrace this project.
For me, education should be all about process. Yes, you’ll need me to supply you with a fair amount of contentbased information. At the same time, I never want my classroom to be a place where you come to receive passive
information transmissions. It is what you do with such information—your process of actively engaging with the
material—that is most important. Discussion, rather than lecture, is my primary method of delivery, precisely
because I see it as the best means of fostering an environment in which process and multiplicity are encouraged (as
well as an excellent means of honing one’s ability to think critically and to express oneself clearly and accurately).
I will offer you a variety of discussion-based formats: instructor-led large group discussions, student-led small
group discussions, and electronic discussion forums. If any of this discussion is to be successful, you must believe
that I value your personal opinions and that I value discussion which does not seek to close itself off by deducing or
producing the correct answer. You must come to see that there are very few easy answers and that working to
complicate rather than complete questions often times is more intellectually satisfying, if also more challenging. You
must be free to disagree and comfortable enough to chance a potentially off-the-wall idea, even if you end up feeling
a little foolish about it later; otherwise, as a class we may lose too many opportunities to move beyond answers one
may simply memorize to a more complex consideration of multiple possibilities. You must be willing to explore
questions without any pressure to decide upon final answers until later—sometimes as late as the final examination,
or even beyond the end of the course.
Class time will revolve around the three inextricably interrelated activities of reading, speaking, and writing as
the means for providing you both with a thorough knowledge of British Romantic Literature. Your homework and
your in-class activities accordingly are geared toward providing you with a working knowledge both of basic
methods for close reading of primary texts and of strategies for both speaking and writing about these texts. Whether
our focus at any given time is reading, speaking, or writing (or some combination thereof), you will need to move
away from the idea of the classroom as a place you go to be lectured at by a teacher. Instead, you must think of this
classroom as more along the lines of a think tank where we all come to share your own ideas, to listen to others’
ideas, and to reflect critically on all of these ideas together.
You will pursue these goals through oral and written contributions to the class. Oral contributions first and
foremost involve your participation in class discussions (see Class Participation below). There is also, however, a
major assignment that contains both an oral and a written component. The Canonball project (see separate
assignment sheet) will require an oral presentation in which you offer a reading/analysis of a text (or texts) of your
choice from our anthology. This choice is subject to my approval, and must not be selected from my required
calendar of readings. I cannot guarantee that missed presentations will be rescheduled.
Your written contributions will take the form of both graded and nongraded assignments. You will write three
graded papers for me. Two will be formal, thesis-driven blog posts that interpret a key passage from one of our
readings (see separate assignment sheet); the other will be an essay that builds upon your aforementioned Canonball
oral presentation. Last but not least, you will be writing an in-class final examination.
Nongraded writing assignments for class meetings will serve as a springboard for discussion and/or an exercise in
honing your critical writing skills, and they will earn you points toward your class participation grade. You also may
contribute some nongraded electronic writing as further class participation (see below) on our course blog.
Your active class participation is required. The points for this portion of your grade primarily will come from
oral contributions to in-class discussions (both in small-group and in large-group formats), plus any in-class or forclass informal writing assigned. Our discussions will ask you to practice close reading of the assigned texts.
Accordingly, you need to take these discussions seriously by coming prepared to talk about what you have
read/watched. For those of you who wish to pad your oral class participation with extra-credit points, you may post
comments and/or upload content to our course blog as an electronic supplement to our in-class work.
I invite you all to bring your laptops, phones, etc. to class in order to take advantage of what they have to offer
your learning experience, but please do not abuse this invitation by texting, checking email or Facebook, etc. I
consider such activities the contemporary equivalent of reading a newspaper in class. I’m happy for you to have
your phones on (if muted) so that you may be reached in case of emergency, but nonemergency messaging or
browsing should not be taking place; it is not only distracting to me (and, likely, to at least some of your peers), but
it is disrespectful. If you need to engage in such activity, please leave the room before doing so. If you abuse this
privilege, I will (after a warning, of course) require you to leave all such devices at home for the rest of the semester.
What is more, you may expect any issues/problems along these lines (as with any other disruptive/disrespectful
activity) to negatively impact your class participation grade.
Finally, I also will be giving frequent unannounced quizzes (with no make-ups) as part of a separate quiz grade.
Your points from these factual, content-based quizzes will be totaled and curved at the end of the semester.
The distribution that will determine your final grade is as follows:
Class participation
Formal blog post #1
Formal blog post #2
Canonball oral presentation
Canonball paper
Final examination
In all this work you will be expected to abide by Mary Washington's Honor Code and thus to refrain from lying,
cheating, and stealing in all their various and nefarious forms. You must complete all three papers and the final
examination in order to receive a passing grade for this course.
You have only one text for this course, but it is a hefty one: British Literature 1780-1830, edited by Anne K.
Mellor and Richard E. Matlak (Heinle/Harcourt). By remaining registered, you agree to use this edition. You will
be expected to bring this tome to class each and every class meeting, and I will not grade any written work that does
not use the page and/or line numbers from this book.
I will make every effort to accommodate disabilities. The Office of Disability Resources has been designated by
Mary Washington as the primary office to guide, counsel, and assist students with disabilities. If you already receive
services through ODR and require accommodations for this class, please make an appointment with me as soon as
possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. Bring your accommodation letter with you to the
appointment. I will hold any information you share with me in strictest confidence unless you give me permission to
do otherwise. If you need accommodations (note taking assistance, extended time for tests, etc.) but do not yet have
them in place, please see ODR as soon as possible. You will need appropriate documentation of disability.
All this being said, I hope you will find this class to be not only intellectually stimulating but also enough fun that
you look forward to attending each and every session. This period was one of the most exciting times to be alive (at
least in Western Europe), and its writers engaged with some of the most profound and pressing aesthetic,
philosophical, and sociopolitical issues of their age (many of which we are still grappling with today). We will be
reading a lot of challenging texts, texts that do not simply present you with difficult vocabulary and obscure allusions
but texts that also will force you to wrestle with extremely knotty questions and to confront very complex
controversial issues. Ultimately, however, while you certainly will not like everything you read, my hope is that you
will come to respect these great writers' painstaking attempts to compel both themselves and their readers to think
intently and intensely about a number of very important topics.
According to Percy Shelley, great art "is a fountain for ever [sic] overflowing with the waters of wisdom and
delight; and after one person and one age has exhausted all its divine effluence which their peculiar relations enable
them to share, another and yet another succeeds, and new relations are ever developed, the source of an unforeseen
and an unconceived delight." Consider this course an invitation to get your feet wet in that fountain, maybe to splash
around a bit, or even to go for a swim. C'mon in; the water's fine!
After each assignment you will find page information in parenthesis. If you find a single number [for example,
(125)], that will indicate the first page of a selection you need to read in its entirety. If you find a range or a set of
ranges of numbers [for example, (1-85) or (439-46; 454-55)], that will indicate the specific pages of a selection you
need to read. The bracketed items are items I will cover in class; you do not need to read these ahead of time.
T A 26 Introductions/Syllabus Overview/Course Preview
Section Introduction: "The French Revolution and Rights of Man" (9)
Section Introduction: "Rights of Woman" (31)
Section Introduction: "Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Abolition" (53)
Section Introduction: "Society and Political Economy" (85)
Section Introduction: "Science and Nature" (105)
Section Introduction: "Aesthetic Theory and Literary Criticism" (125)
T S 02 W. WORDSWORTH: "Lines Written at a Small Distance" (564)
W. WORDSWORTH: "Lines Written in Early Spring" (567)
W. WORDSWORTH: "Expostulation and Reply" (571)
W. WORDSWORTH: "The Tables Turned" (571)
W. WORDSWORTH: "The Fountain" (584)
W. WORDSWORTH: "Stepping Westward" (600)
W. WORDSWORTH: "To a Butterfly" (600)
W. WORDSWORTH: "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" (601)
W. WORDSWORTH: "The Sparrow’s Nest" (601)
W. WORDSWORTH: "To the Cuckoo" (601)
W. WORDSWORTH: "To a Butterfly" (602)
W. WORDSWORTH: "So Fair, So Sweet, Withal So Sensitive" (623)
R S 04 COLERIDGE: "Frost at Midnight" (697)
COLERIDGE: "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison" (709)
COLERIDGE: "Dejection: An Ode " (711)
COLERIDGE: "Kubla Khan" (729)
COLERIDGE: "The Visionary Hope" (744)
COLERIDGE: "Ne Plus Ultra" (765)
T S 09 BLAKE: "The Lamb" (278)
BLAKE: "The Chimney Sweeper" (279)
BLAKE: "Holy Thursday" (280)
BLAKE: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (287)
BLAKE: "The Clod and the Pebble" (300)
BLAKE: "Holy Thursday" (300)
BLAKE: "The Chimney Sweeper" (300)
BLAKE: "The Fly" (301)
BLAKE: "The Tyger" (301)
R S 11 BYRON: "Prometheus" (920)
BYRON: Manfred (927)
BYRON: "On this day I complete my thirty sixth year" (1046)
T S 16 P. SHELLEY: "To Wordsworth" (1062)
P. SHELLEY: "Mont Blanc" (1063)
P. SHELLEY: "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" (1065)
P. SHELLEY: "Ozymandias" (1066)
P. SHELLEY: "To A Skylark" (1138)
P. SHELLEY: "With a Guitar, to Jane" (1165)
P. SHELLEY: "Sonnet: England in 1819" (1166)
P. SHELLEY: "Song to the Men of England" (1166)
R S 18 KEATS: "La Belle Dame sans Merci" (1278)
KEATS: "Ode to Psyche" (1295)
KEATS: "Ode to a Nightingale" (1296)
KEATS: "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (1297)
KEATS: "To Autumn" (1308)
KEATS: "Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art" (1311)
KEATS: "Ode on Indolence" (1312)
T S 23 AUSTEN: Lady Susan (769)
R S 25 M. SHELLEY: Mathilda (1339-1355)
T S 30 M. SHELLEY: Mathilda (1355-1376)
R O 02 BURKE: from Reflections on the Revolution in France (13)
WOLLSTONECRAFT: from A Vindication of the Rights of Men (20)
PAINE: from The Rights of Man (25)
MORE: Village Politics (210)
COLERIDGE: from "Remonstrance to the French Legislators" (692)
T O 07 BARBAULD: Eighteen Hundred and Eleven (181)
BURNS: "Robert Bruce's March to Bannockburn" (360)
BURNS: "Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation" (362)
W. WORDSWORTH: "I Griev'd for Buonaparte" (597)
OWENSON: from The Wild Irish Girl (807)
OWENSON: "The Irish Harp" (809)
BYRON: Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte (896)
P. SHELLEY: "Feelings of a Republican on the Fall of Bonaparte" (1062)
R O 09 POLWHELE: from The Unsex’d Females (42)
WOLLSTONECRAFT: from Mary, A Fiction (144)
WOLLSTONECRAFT: from Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman (144)
WOLLSTONECRAFT: from Vindication of the Rights of Woman (373-75; 379-90; 401-05; 411-13)
EDGEWORTH: from Letters from Literary Ladies (536)
R O 16 BARBAULD: "To a Lady" (167)
BARBAULD: "To a Little Invisible Being" (187)
AIKIN: Epistle I of Epistles on Women (818)
TAYLOR: "Accomplishment" (841)
HEMANS: "Joan of Arc, in Rheims" (1237)
L. E. L.: "The Proud Ladye" (1379)
L. E. L.: "Love's Last Lesson" (1386)
T O 21 ANONYMOUS: from The Mansfield Judgment (56)
CUGOANO: from Thoughts and Sentiments on . . . the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species (58)
EQUIANO: from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (192)
PRINCE: from The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave (869)
R O 23 COWPER: "The Negro's Complaint" (62)
COWPER: "Pity for Poor Africans" (63)
BELLAMY: The Benevolent Planters (64)
SOUTHEY: "The Sailor, Who Had Served in the Slave Trade" (68)
OPIE: "The Black Man's Lament" (82)
BARBAULD: Epistle to William Wilberforce (169)
BLAKE: "The Little Black Boy" (278)
T O 28 MORE: Slavery, A Poem (206)
YEARSLEY: A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade (263)
R O 30 COBBETT: from Cobbett’s Poor Man’s Friend (102)
MORE: "Patient Joe; or, The Newcastle Collier" (216)
MORE: "The Riot; or, Half a Loaf Is Better Than No Bread" (217)
MORE: "The Gin Shop; or, a Peep into Prison" (219)
BLAKE: "London" (302)
BURNS: "To a Mouse, on turning Her up in Her Nest, with the Plough, November, 1785" (357)
BURNS: "Song—For a' that and a' that" (361)
BURNS: "Auld Lang Syne" (362)
BURNS: "[Why should na poor folk mowe]" (364)
T N 04 ROBINSON: "All Alone" (320)
ROBINSON: "The Poor, Singing Dame" (322)
ROBINSON: "The Alien Boy" (326)
ROBINSON: "The Wint'ry Day" (346)
ROBINSON: "A London Summer Morning" (347)
ROBINSON: "January, 1795" (348)
ROBINSON: "The Old Beggar" (350)
R N 06 THELWALL: "To the Infant Hampden—" (533)
THELWALL: "Maria" (533)
OPIE: "The Orphan Boy’s Tale" (557)
OPIE: "Lines Respectfully Inscribed to the Society for the Relief of Persons Imprisoned for Small Debts" (558)
W. WORDSWORTH: "Resolution and Independence" (593)
W. WORDSWORTH: "Composed on Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1803" (596)
D. WORDSWORTH: [Friday 3rd October] from The Grasmere Journals (664)
D. WORDSWORTH: [May 1802] from The Grasmere Journals (666)
TAYLOR: "Recreation" (844)
T N 11 DE QUINCEY: from Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (848-852 & 853-865)
R N 13 Student presentations (reading assignments TBA)
T N 18 Student presentations (reading assignments TBA)
R N 20 Student presentations (reading assignments TBA)
T N 25 Student presentations (reading assignments TBA)
T D 02 C. SMITH: "To fancy" (228)
C. SMITH: "To Dr. Parry of Bath, with some botanic drawings which had been made some years" (228)
C. SMITH: "Reflections on some drawings of plants" (229)
C. SMITH: "Thirty-eight" (230)
BAILLIE: "Thunder" (438)
AUSTEN: "To the Memory of Mrs. Lefroy" (768)
CLARE: "The Morning Wind" (1249)
CLARE: "The Nightingales Nest" (1249)
CLARE: "I am" (1250)
CLARE: "The Peasant Poet" (1251)
CLARE: "An Invite to Eternity" (1251)
CLARE: "Pastoral Poesy" (1252)
R D 04 WINCKELMANN: from The History of Ancient Art (129)
BARBAULD: "Washing-Day" (187)
W. WORDSWORTH: "Elegiac Stanzas" (602)
W. WORDSWORTH: "On the Projected Kendal and Windermere Railway" (623)
D. WORDSWORTH: "Floating Island at Hawkshead" (659)
D. WORDSWORTH: "Thoughts on My Sick-Bed" (669)
P. SHELLEY: "Ode to the West Wind" (1101)
FINAL EXAMINATION--Thursday, December 11 at 12:00 noon