English 121

Romantic Period

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2014 Francois, Anne-Lise
MWF 2-3 246 Dwinelle


Romanticism was once defined as a turn toward “nature” in response to the industrialization marking Britain’s transition to modern capitalism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Rather than simply resurrecting the idea of the Romantic poets as “nature” poets, we will carefully examine figures of reflection and grounding, dispersal and dwelling, in these writers, while also searching for alternatives to the curative role often assigned both “nature” and “poetry” in environmentalist criticism. Topics will include: the gendering of “nature”; the conflict between “modernity” and “modernization” and the persistence of marginalized communities; agriculture as a border-space between “culture” and “nature”; the role of memory and imagination in sustaining a sense of place; weather-reporting, plant-study and other practices of attention; fantasies about ecological disaster, social catastrophe, and science’s ability to save or destroy humankind. As we compare different definitions of “nature”—as a set of finite, exploitable resources, a normative authority limiting human experimentation, a repository of traditional ways of doing and knowing, and a site of vulnerability in need of protection from extinction—we will also explore the alternatives to the nature/human binary developed by the writers in question. Readings will include works by Austen, Blake, Clare, Coleridge, Erasmus Darwin, Emerson, Keats, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Thoreau, Dorothy Wordsworth, and William Wordsworth. 

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