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English Romantic Poetry

Purpose of Course  showclose

The Romantic Period in England spans the decades of the 1780’s through the 1830’s. It was the age of revolutions – a span of time that saw not only the rapid industrialization of Europe but two significant national revolutions – one in France and one in America. This revolutionary spirit in many ways fed and sustained the Romantic Movement in English literature; its chief practitioners believed that poetry could literally transform the world and the way in which we understand it. In this course, we will examine this revolutionary energy alongside a number of other English Romantic characteristics, including a fascination with nature and the natural world; a desire to boldly experiment, explore, and renew literature; and a focus on the individual’s capacity for imagination and vision. First, we will discuss the broader socio-historical and literary context in which English Romantic poetry thrived. Second, we will examine the three main concerns of English Romantic poets, which have been roughly divided among the three course units: the Romantic poet and the outer world, the Romantic poet and the inner world, and the poetry that bridges the gap between those two. Third, we will closely examine several of the period’s prominent poems, identifying what makes each a Romantic poem and how these poems relate to the three concerns listed above.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to ENGL404: English Romantic Poetry. General information on this course and its requirements can be found below.
 
Course Designer: Andrew Burkett & James Fleming with updates by Dr. Matthew Wayne Guy
  
Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work completely through each unit and all of its assigned materials, in order. Be sure to take detailed and organized notes for every unit, and for all resources. This will help prepare you for the Final Exam. Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.
 
Time Commitment: Completing this course should take approximately 42.25 hours. 

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
 
  • describe Romanticism as both an historical period and as a movement in art and literature;
  • identify and explain Romanticism in terms of its relationship to the French Revolution;
  • describe the views of society and social relations that arose during this era;
  • explain the significance of industrialization, the rise of the working class, the expansion of the British Empire, the heightening of British nationalism, and the rise of the press;
  • explain Romanticism’s relationship to Neo-Classicism;
  • identify the major tenets of Romanticism, including the movement’s interests in the natural world, supernaturalism, revolution, morality, ethics, exoticism, urbanization, mindscapes, moods, imagination, and interiority; and
  • explain the nature and function of the Romantic craft of authorship.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    have access to a computer;

√    have continuous broadband Internet access;

√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash);

√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;

√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);

√    have competency in the English language;

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook; and

√    have completed The Saylor Foundation’s ENGL203: Cultural and Literary Expression in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: An Introduction to the Romantic Period and Its Poetry  

    The Romantic period coincided with the industrialization of Britain and dramatic popular revolutions in France and America - developments that changed the way in which people conceived of themselves and their relationships with their societies. Many awakened to the concepts of self-determination and individual rights, turning away from the Enlightenment model of subjectivity so as to include more elements of man, such as imagination and emotion. Why the era was called Romantic is heavily debated. Many scholars assert that the term Romantic comes from the criticism that writers of this era were constantly on a quest for something, often unnamed, which therefore echoed the romances of the Middle Ages. Others believe that the word roman refers to the French and German meanings of new or novel since the writers of this period set out to create art that was wholly new and unique.
     
    In this unit, we will examine these social changes and the impact they had on the development of English Romantic poetry. We will conclude with an overview of English Romanticism - its principal characteristics, practitioners, and conventions.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 Romanticism in Socio-Historical Context  
  • 1.1.1 Introduction to the French Revolution  
  • 1.1.2 New Views on Society and Social Relations  
    • Reading: Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the French Revolution” and Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man: “Part One” and “Part Two”

      Link: Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the French Revolution” (PDF) and Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man: “Part One” (PDF) and “Part Two” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the selection from Burke’s conservative letter attacking the French Revolution as well as the two parts to Paine’s liberal response to Burke’s letter. As you read the texts, consider the reasoning that both authors give for their respective stances on the French Revolution. How would you describe Burke’s stance? What is the logic behind his attack on the Revolution? How does Paine respond to this attack? How would you characterize Paine’s stance on the subject?
       
      Reading these documents should take approximately 1 hour and 5 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the documents above. These documents are in the public domain.

  • 1.1.3 English Politics During the Age of the French Revolution, Part I  
  • 1.1.4 English Politics During the Age of the French Revolution, Part II  
    • Reading: The Project Gutenberg: Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: “Introduction and Chapters 1-2”

      Link: The Project Gutenberg: Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: “Introduction and Chapters 1-2” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read the Introduction and the first two chapters of Mary Wollstonecraft’s work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. As you read, notice what Wollstonecraft’s arguments are concerning women’s status in society. How do men view women? How are women educated, and how do women come to view themselves through their education? Also notice how Wollstonecraft bases her arguments on her understanding of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. What is the purpose of education according to Rousseau and Wollstonecraft? How do they both see education countering the distortions brought about by society and culture?
       
      Reading these chapters should take approximately 35 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.1.5 Industrialization; the Decline of Agrarian Lifestyle; and the Rise of the Urban, Working Class  
  • 1.1.6 Expansion of the Empire and the New World  
  • 1.1.7 The Rise of Nationalism and National Identity  
  • 1.1.8 German Idealism, Beauty, the Sublime, and the Imagination  
  • 1.2 The Literary Scene  
  • 1.2.1 The Rise of the Press: Freedom of Speech, Technological Advances, and Changes in Readership  
  • 1.2.2 Neoclassicism: Reason, Form, and Order  
    • Reading: The Victorian Web's “Neoclassicism: An Introduction”

      Link: The Victorian Web's “Neoclassicism: An Introduction” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read through this brief introduction to the concept of Neoclassicism - the artistic movement which pre-dated Romanticism.
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This reading is used under academic permission. It can be reproduced for educational and scholarly uses according to these guidelines.

    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation: “How to Read a Poem”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation: “How to Read a Poem” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the article above, as it will provide you with some important tips that will help when you read the first poem of this course, which will be presented in the resource box below.
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 20 minutes.

    • Reading: Gutenberg.org: Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism: “Parts I and II”

      Links: Gutenberg.org: Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism: “Parts I and II” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read Parts I and II of Alexander Pope’s poem Essay on Criticism. Pay attention to how Pope calls for poets and critics to study the classics, who, according to Pope, based their poetics on nature. Also note how poetry should be regulated and disciplined before it can be considered literature.
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 35 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This work is in the public domain. However, please respect the terms of use displayed on the webpage above, which can be found here.

  • 1.2.3 Major Tenets of Romanticism: A Brief Overview  
    • Reading: Dr. Lilia Melani’s “Introduction to Romanticism”

      Link: Dr. Lilia Melani’s “Introduction to Romanticism” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Dr. Melani’s introduction to the tenets of Romanticism. What were the major tenets and ideas associated with Romanticism? How did Romantic writers tend to regard symbolism and myth? How did Romanticism differ from Neoclassicism? What are some of the traits of the figure of the Romantic hero? What is the relationship between the rise of Romanticism and the French Revolution?
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 40 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Lilia Melani, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

  • 1.3 An Introduction to Romantic Poetry  
  • 1.3.1 The Ethos of the Romantic Era  
  • 1.3.2 Focus on Nature and the Natural World  
  • 1.3.3 Immediacy of Expression  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation: “William Wordsworth (1770–1850)”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation: “William Wordsworth (1770–1850)” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this brief entry on William Wordsworth.
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 20 minutes.

    • Reading: Bartleby: William Wordsworth’s “A Night-Piece”

      Link: Bartleby: William Wordsworth’s “A Night-Piece” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Bartleby’s version of Wordsworth’s poem. In this poem, Wordsworth focuses on the individual subject’s experience of immediate sense perception. In what ways does the poem focus on the ways in which the individual experiences his or her surroundings or environment? In this poem, Wordsworth presents the experience of witnessing nature and feeling spontaneously inspired and awestruck by it. How does Wordsworth understand the natural world in this poem?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 1.3.4 Drama and Heightened Sensation  
  • 1.3.5 A New Poetics  
  • 1.3.6 Roots in Folklore  
    • Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Goody Blake and Harry Gill”

      Link: William Wordsworth’s “Goody Blake and Harry Gill” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read William Wordsworth’s poem Goody Blake and Harry Gill. How does the poem fit into Wordsworth’s strategy of producing poetry that is more authentic, with common men and common language?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 20 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 1.3.7 Common Man, Common Language  
    • Reading: Wikipedia: Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse”

      Link: Wikipedia: Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read To a Mouse by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. The poem is difficult due to its dialect, so refer to the Standard English translation which accompanies the poem to help you read and understand it. How is the poem an example of the poetics that Wordsworth argues for in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads in subunit 1.3.5? How does the rustic dialect underscore the poem’s attempt to make a more authentic statement? How does the poem connect man and nature yet, at the same time, distinguish man from nature? What feature does man possess that separates him from the rest of nature?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Wikipedia.
       

  • 1.3.8 Uncommon Man, Uncommon Fate  
  • Unit 2: Mindscapes, Moods, and the Inner World  

    In Unit 1, we attended to the Romantic poet’s figuration of the outer world. We will now turn inward, discussing not only why the innermost thoughts and feelings of the individual seemed so central to Romantic poetry but we will also attend to the ways in which that inner life is represented and figured in language.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 The Inner World  
  • 2.1.1 Interiority and the Romantic Poet  
  • 2.1.2 The Legacy of the Revolution and the Romantic Subject  
  • 2.1.3 Spontaneity and Emotion  
    • Reading: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”

      Link: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Shelley’s poem. Focus on Shelley’s use of irony by which Intellectual Beauty comes to mean more than just the perception of aesthetic beauty. Also notice how the perception of Intellectual Beauty allows man to connect to the world beyond him.
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 20 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Lines Left upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree”

      Link: William Wordsworth’s “Lines Left upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read William Wordsworth’s poem. In their poems, both Shelley (resource above) and Wordsworth depict the immediacy of one’s experiences in nature and life. How do you think the poems mediate and represent the spontaneity of emotional life?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 2.1.4 The Concepts of Fancy and Imagination  
    • Reading: John Clare’s “To Elia”

      Links: John Clare’s “To Elia” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Clare’s poem. The imagination was a major topic of concern for the British Romantic poets. In what ways do these poems focus on the interiority of imagination? Why do Romantic poets tend to privilege the imagination over the intellect?
       
      Reading the poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Peter Bell: A Tale”

      Link: William Wordsworth’s “Peter Bell: A Tale” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read William Wordsworth’s poem. How does Peter Bell’s tale speak to Romantic values and questions? What does Peter Bell perceive and feel, and why are those things important to Romantic poetry?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 35 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 2.1.5 A New Type of Hero: Byronic Heroism  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Byronic Heroism”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation's “Byronic Heroism” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the article. What are the prevailing qualities of the Byronic hero? Why did he appeal to people at this time who shared the same concerns with Romantic writers?
       
      Reading the article should take approximately 20 minutes.
       

    • Reading: Bartleby.com: Lord Byron’s “Manfred”

      Link: Bartleby.com: Lord Byron’s “Manfred” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read Byron’s play Manfred. What qualities of the Byronic hero does the character Manfred portray? What are the motivations of Manfred? What are his struggles? How does he see himself as cursed or miserable?
       
      Reading the play should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.2 The Pleasures of Melancholy: Dejection and the Romantic Poet  
    • Reading: Bartleby.com: John Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”

      Link: Bartleby.com: John Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read the ballad La Belle Dame Sans Merci. This poem is modeled on a typical medieval romance wherein a knight yearns for the love of a woman. In what way, though, does Keats’ poem also represent the struggles and desires of the romantic poet? How is the romantic poet like the knight in his struggles to achieve something more idealized and abstract in his poetry? Even further, how is Keats’ knight like man himself, representing the more universal desire to attain something more infinite and ideal? How does the cold, terse apathy of the woman in Keats’ poem represent the failure for the romantic poet, or even just man in general, to achieve his desired goals?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.2.1 The Beauty of Melancholy  
    • Reading: Bartleby.com: John Keats’ “Ode on Melancholy”

      Link: Bartleby.com: John Keats’ “Ode on Melancholy” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read the poem Ode on Melancholy by John Keats. In this poem, how is melancholy a state of greater awareness?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.2.2 Dejection and Solitude  
  • 2.2.3 Mourning and Loss  
  • 2.3 Innocence, Experience, and Memory  
  • 2.3.1 Childhood: The Romantic Poet’s Invention?  
  • 2.3.2 Concepts of Innocence  
  • 2.3.3 The Language of Innocence  
  • 2.3.4 Legends of Innocence  
    • Reading: PoemHunter.com: Mary Tighe’s “Psyche; or, the Legend of Love: Canto I”

      Link: PoemHunter.com: Mary Tighe’s “Psyche; or, the Legend of Love: Canto I” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read through the Preface and Canto I of Mary Tighe’s epic poem Psyche; or, the Legend of Love. The poem was very influential at the time, first for its lush imagery but later for its heroine who emblematized mankind, for she is thrust into a powerful position in life without the proper knowledge or understanding of what to do with that position in life.
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 35 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above, which can be found here.

  • 2.3.5 Experience and Self-Formation  
    • Reading: William Wordsworth’s “The Prelude - Book Fifth”

      Link: William Wordsworth’s “The Prelude - Book Fifth” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read The Prelude - Book Fifth. What statements does the speaker make about his own personal history, and how do they relate to the notions of subjectivity that Romantic poets shared?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 35 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Reading: William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience”

      Links: William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” and Songs of Experience” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the Songs of Innocence titled, The Little Boy Lost, The Little Boy Found, Laughing Song, A Cradle Song, and The Divine Image. Next, read the Songs of Experience titled, The Chimney-Sweeper, Nurse's Song, The Sick Rose, The Fly, The Angel, and The Tiger. The Romantic period is often depicted as the age in which the self-authenticating individual bourgeoned and flourished. How do the poems from Wordsworth (resource box above) and Blake focus on the self-determining developmental subject?
       
      Reading both sets of Blake’s songs should take approximately 25 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the documents above. These resources are in the public domain.
       

  • 2.3.6 The Function of Memory in the Poetry of William Wordsworth  
    • Reading: William Wordsworth’s “The Simplon Pass”

      Link: William Wordsworth’s “The Simplon Pass” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Wordsworth’s poem, which is an excerpt from his work called The Prelude. How does nature register the subjectivity of the speaker in this poem?
       
      Reading the poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Reading: The University of Alberta: Dr. David S. Miall’s “The Alps Deferred: Wordsworth at the Simplon Pass”

      Link: The University of Alberta: Dr. David S. Miall’s “The Alps Deferred: Wordsworth at the Simplon Pass” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read Dr. Miall’s critical essay concerning the text. Relate Miall’s discussion to your own reading of the poem (from the previous resource box).
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 35 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: RapGenius.com: William Wordsworth’s “The Ruined Cottage”

      Link: RapGenius.com: Wordsworth’s “The Ruined Cottage” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read Wordsworth’s poem. How does Wordsworth depict memory and grief more negatively in this poem? How does the wife suffer by living solely within her memories of the past? What are the repercussions from the wife’s inability to live within the present? How does the setting of the family cottage reflect the grief and sorrow of the family dwelling within the cottage? How is nature represented here in this poem?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 25 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above, which can be found here.

  • 2.3.7 Love, Death, and Art: The Odes of John Keats  
    • Reading: John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale” and “Ode to Psyche”

      Links: John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (PDF) and “Ode to a Nightingale” (PDF) and “Ode to Psyche” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read all three poems by Keats. In Ode on a Grecian Urn, what does Keats suggest about the nature of art and time? In Ode to a Nightingale, what does the nightingale serve to symbolize? How is the goddess Psyche emblematic of romantic love, and how does love come to represent more than just the yearning for a specific person? In what ways do the three odes comment upon similar themes and ideas? Note: John Keats’ odes are considered to be among the finest English odes ever written, not to mention some of the most psychologically complex and insightful poems from the entire English Romantic Movement. These three odes are from a series of six odes that Keats wrote in 1819.
       
      Reading all three poems should take approximately 25 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the documents above. These resources are in the public domain.

    • Reading: Dr. David Collings’ “Suspended Satisfaction ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ and the Construction of Art”

      Link: Dr. David Collings’ “Suspended Satisfaction ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ and the Construction of Art” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Dr. David Collings’ essay. Relate your own reading of Keats’ poem (from the resource box above) to Dr. Collings’ discussion.
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 35 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. David Collings, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

  • Unit 3: Landscapes and the Outer World  

    The Romantic poet often situates his poetry in a natural setting, delighting in its beauty and its awe-inspiring strength and wildness. In this unit, we will take a more critical look at representations of the natural world and at depictions of place and setting more generally, from the cityscape to imagined exotic worlds of the past. We will conclude by exploring poems that feature movement within those spaces, discussing concepts of travel, imagination, exploration, and identity.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Romantic Views of Nature  
  • 3.1.1 A Celebration of the Natural  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “John Keats (1795 - 1821)”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “John Keats (1795 - 1821)” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Click the link above and read the brief entry on Keats.
       
      Reading this article should approximately take 10 minutes.

    • Reading: John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” and “To Autumn”

      Links: John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” (PDF) and “To Autumn” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read both of Keats’ poems. How are the nightingale and autumn made to represent more than just the objects or ideas that they normally are? How is this expansion of meaning beyond the given or, as it is usually termed Romantic irony” how is it representative of romantic notions of subjectivity? How does the subject of the speaker add to the objects he is meditating on in the poetry?
       
      Reading these two poems should take approximately 25 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the documents above. These resources are in the public domain.

    • Reading: Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s “A Summer Evening’s Meditation”

      Link: Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s “A Summer Evening’s Meditation” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Barbauld’s poem. In what ways do you understand both Barbauld and Keats (from the previous resource box) to be celebrating the natural world in their respective texts? In what ways are these representations of nature different from or in conflict with one another?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 20 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 3.1.2 The Riparian Muse and River Poems  
  • 3.1.3 Concepts of Nature: The Beautiful and the Sublime  
    • Reading: The University of Chicago: Theories of Media: Keywords Glossary: Laura Smith’s “Beautiful, Sublime”

      Link: The University of Chicago: Theories of Media: Keywords Glossary: Laura Smith’s “Beautiful, Sublime” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read Smith’s useful introduction to the beautiful and the sublime - ideas first theorized during the Romantic era. Based on Smith’s introduction, why do you think these ideas became so crucial during this period of literary history? What is the difference between the beautiful and the sublime?
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 25 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.1.4 Nature as a Reflection of the Ego  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Lord Byron, George Gordon (1788-1823)”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Lord Byron, George Gordon (1788-1823)” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the short article on Byron.
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

    • Reading: Gutenberg.org: Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto The Third

      Link: Gutenberg.org: Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto The Third” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read stanzas 92 through 98 of the third canto in Byron’s work called Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. How is nature presented here? What statement does presenting nature in a rather harsh light make? More importantly, what statement is made by the speaker in implying that the setting of nature reflects his own interiority?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Nutting”

      Link: William Wordsworth’s “Nutting” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Wordsworth’s Nutting. In their poems, Byron (in the previous resource) and Wordsworth both depict nature as emblematic of man’s interiority. How does Wordsworth’s representation of nature in Nutting differ from Byron’s in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage? Nature in Nutting seems to be more indicative of the consequence of a bad choice made by the poem’s speaker. What is this choice that the speaker makes? What differences are drawn between man and nature in Wordsworth’s poem? How do Byron and Wordworth's tones and attitudes differ from each other concerning the relationship between man and nature?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 3.1.5 The Supernatural in Nature  
    • Reading: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

      Link: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Coleridge’s poem. In this poem, Coleridge presents an old mariner who has returned from the sea to share the trials of his long voyage, which includes an eerie curse he endures after killing an albatross. Why does the mariner kill the albatross? Is there a reason? Why does the mariner feel compelled to recount the events that occurred to the wedding guest? What do the figures of death and life-in-death signify in the poem?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 25 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the document above. This reading is in the public domain.

  • 3.1.6 Nature and Revolution  
  • 3.1.7 Nature and Morality: Nature as a Means to Activating the Moral Sense  
    • Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Beggars”

      Link: William Wordsworth’s “Beggars” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Wordsworth’s poem. Throughout his poetry, Wordsworth was continuously concerned with depicting marginalized groups in morally and ethically informed ways. How does Wordsworth here depict the disenfranchised beggar?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 3.1.8 Nature and the Infinite: The Limitlessness of the Natural World and Its Powers  
    • Reading: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni”

      Link: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Shelley’s poem. Shelley’s poem is deeply concerned with attempting to depict the apparently limitless powers of the natural world. In what ways does the poem capture nature’s ostensible infinitudes? How does this poem depict the sublime?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 20 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain. 

    • Reading: Readbookonline.net: Joanna Baillie’s “Thunder”

      Link: Readbookonline.net: Joanna Baillie’s “Thunder” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read Baillie’s poem. What does the power and violence of the storm represent to the speaker? How does it suggest nature’s indifference to man? How is the storm a lesson in humility?
       
      Reading the poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. It is attributed to readbookonline.net.

  • 3.1.9 Reading the Outer World: Nature as a System of Symbols  
  • 3.2 Cityscape versus Landscape in Romantic Poetry  
  • 3.2.1 History Capsule: Overview of City Life and Trends in Urbanization in the Romantic Period  
  • 3.2.2 Rustics versus Sophisticates  
    • Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Simon Lee, the Old Huntsman” and “The Recluse – Part First”

      Links: William Wordsworth’s “Simon Lee, the Old Huntsman” (PDF) and “The Recluse - Part First” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read both of Wordsworth’s poems. Wordsworth was very much concerned with giving accurate depictions to the changing nature of social relations in England during the Romantic era. Why do you think Wordsworth would focus on the figure of the rustic in this type of project? What does juxtaposing the rustic against other, more sophisticated individuals accomplish in his poetry?
       
      Reading both poems should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the documents above. These resources are in the public domain.

  • 3.2.3 The Press of City Life  
    • Reading: William Blake’s “London”

      Link: William Blake’s “London” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Blake’s poem. In this poem, Blake depicts the social dynamics of city life during the Romantic period. In what ways does the poet represent the city here? How is urban experience different from the experience of nature?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 3.3 The Exotic World  
  • 3.3.1 Longing for the Distant Past  
    • Reading: Excerpts from Lord George Gordon Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”

      Link: Excerpts from Lord George Gordon Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the introduction and the first full canto (Canto the First) of Byron’s long poem. What is the general mood of this poem? What is the point of the poem? In this lengthy and partly autobiographical narrative poem, the speaker, weary of his life of leisure, sets out to a distant, foreign land of the past in search of escape and freedom. Childe Harold is widely considered to be Byron's most autobiographical and true to life poem.
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the document above. This reading is in the public domain.

  • 3.3.2 Imagining a New Landscape: A Faraway Place  
    • Reading: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”

      Link: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Coleridge’s poem. Many critics believe that this poem is unfinished, as Coleridge himself suggests, while other readers feel that it is, indeed, a finished and complete work. What do you think? Is the poem finished or is it simply a fragment of an unfinished poem? This famous poem takes us to an imagined, distant, and isolated land called Xanadu: the imagery is striking and conjures a sense of a hazy hallucination. The poem was written while Coleridge was heavily addicted to opium, and is considered by some critics to be an allegory of drug addiction as well as a portrait of a vivid opium hallucination.
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 20 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 3.3.3 The Concept of New Worlds in a Colonial Context  
  • 3.4 Travel, Adventure, and Movement in the Romantic Poem  
  • 3.4.1 A Wandering Imagination: Stasis and Movement of the Mind  
  • 3.4.2 The Byronic Hero and Adventure as Personal Development  
    • Reading: Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: Canto the Second” and “Don Juan: Dedication”

      Links: Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold's Pilgimage: Canto the Second” (PDF) and “Don Juan: Dedication” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: First, read Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which you encountered earlier in this course. This is a long poem that charts the development of a central character and plots Byron's conception of the proper hero of literature. Next, read Don Juan. This is a satirical epic poem in which Byron plays with the convention of the epic, introducing his own colloquial style and toying with the traditional concept of the hero. Who is the narrator of Don Juan? How do his attitudes differ from Don Juan's? Why might Byron have chosen not to make Don Juan the narrator of his adventures like he did with Childe Harold? How do the personal and subjective elements of each hero develop into knowledge about the world in general? Is this subjective platform for understanding relevant to Romantic notions concerning knowledge and understanding in general? Do these notions conflict with the Enlightenment’s assumptions of knowledge as universal and unchanging?
       
      Reading both poems should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the documents above. These resources are in the public domain.

  • 3.4.3 The Experience of Nature and Moral Progress  
  • 3.4.4 Romanticism and the Apocalypse  
    • Reading: Lord Byron’s “Darkness”

      Link: Lord Byron’s “Darkness” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Byron’s poem. As you read, consider these questions: What kind of apocalypse does this poet imagine? What brings about apocalypse in this poem? What kind of post-apocalyptic world is imagined in this poem? Does Byron’s vision of apocalypse remind you of any contemporary, popular descriptions of post-nuclear apocalypse?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Reading: P. B. Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandius of Egypt”

      Links: P. B. Shelley’s “Ozymandias of Egypt” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem and consider the same questions you did when you read Byron’s poem (in the previous resource box). In addition, how does Shelley conceptualize titanic, apocalyptic events from the past impacting the future through his description of Ozymandias?
       
      Reading this poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Reading: The Cambridge History of English and American Literature’s “Blake: The Urizen Group” and William Blake’s “The First Book of Urizen”

      Links: The Cambridge History of English and American Literature’s “Blake: The Urizen Group” (PDF) and William Blake’s “The First Book of Urizen” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the introduction to William Blake as well as his poem. As you read, consider the same questions regarding apocalypse that you did for Byron and Shelley (in the previous resource boxes). In addition, what kind of figure/persona is Blake’s Urizen? How does Blake conceptualize the figure of Urizen in relation to apocalypse, destruction, and rebirth?
       
      Note: All of the major English Romantic poets showed a particular interest in the apocalypse. Despite the idealism and fascination with the past that a number of Romantics demonstrate throughout their work, many of the English Romantic poets show a remarkable fascination with destruction and apocalypse. Given the excesses and radical changes brought about by the French Revolution, and incredible technological and cultural changes brought about by the 18th century, the English Romantics were particularly aware of how easily the world could not only change but also be destroyed. Byron, Shelley, and Blake all imagine apocalypse in different ways and as coming from radically different sources. Moreover, these poets imagine the apocalypse as being not only likely but also inevitable. For Shelley and to some measure Blake and Byron, the apocalypse will not only serve to destroy previous political, social, and cultural orders but also usher in revolution, change, and the rebirth of civilization.
       
      Reading these resources should take approximately 35 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the documents above. These resources are in the public domain.

  • Unit 4: The Romantic Craft: Poesis, Innovation, and Experiment  

    In this unit, we will take a look at what it meant to be a writing subject in the Romantic period, examining notions of authorship, poesis, and tradition. We will consider with particular care the poet’s sense of his own role in society - something that we may find rather unfamiliar when compared to today’s understanding of the poetic craft as a less-than-urgent art form.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 4.1 The Figure of the Romantic Poet  
  • 4.1.1 Poet as Average Man  
  • 4.1.2 Poet as Spokesperson for a Nation  
  • 4.1.3 Poet as a Revolutionary  
  • 4.2 Poesis (the Creation of Poetry)  
  • 4.2.1 The Spontaneous Overflow of Powerful Feelings: Art as an Inward Illumination Rather than an Imitation of Life  
    • Reading: William Hazlitt’s “On Poetry in General”

      Link: William Hazlitt’s “On Poetry in General” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the excerpt. What are Hazlitt’s ideas of poetry and its production? According to Hazlitt, what is the role of poetry and of the poet? How does Hazlitt see the poet’s relationship to nature? To beauty?
       
      Reading this excerpt should take approximately 50 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 4.2.2 Inspiration and Intuition  
    • Reading: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry”

      Link: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Shelley’s essay. In this essay, Shelley explains the function and importance of poetry and thus provides his defense of the genre. He argues that the poet cannot simply say I will write a poem; he must be inspired by something external and transformative. What does Shelley mean when he states, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world?” What does that statement suggest about the true social, political, and cultural power of artists?
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 50 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 4.2.3 The Imagination as the Primary Creative Faculty  
  • The Saylor Foundation's ENGL404 Final Exam  

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