What is Romanticism?
This course will be a sustained examination of the question: “What is Romanticism? This is a question which has no single or ultimate answer given that there seem to be as many answers as there are “askers.” There is, however, a rich and complex body of literature and critical commentary to which we assign the adjective “Romantic.” I’ve organized our readings of some of the principal writers of the period thematically rather than chronologically. I believe this offers us a better way to explore in a single term the conceptual issues posed by these texts and their resonance in subsequent periods. Our principal project will be the close reading and discussion of some of the most important and influential texts within that “tradition,” including William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, Lord Byron, Mary and Percy Shelley, John Keats, and Emily Brontë. We will consider the various historical, biographical, philosophical, political, and aesthetic contexts of British Romantic literature, but our primary focus will be on the texts themselves and on the theoretical and contemporary cultural responses to and engagements with Romanticism.