English 121

The Romantic Period

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2018 François, Anne-Lise
TTh 12:30-2 155 Barrows


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. 

We will read one non-Romantic-period work--Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (published 1962)--so as to test the thesis that this environmental classic reads as an example of the gothic novel; we will compare the slow and delayed temporality of environmental violence to the slow, incremental, recursive temporality of Romantic poetry and prose.

Readings will include works by Austen, Blake, Carson, Clare, Coleridge, Keats, Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Dorothy Wordsworth, and William Wordsworth.

Book list (All other texts will be available electronically on the course’s b-space site.)  

Required books will be available at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft:

Longman Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2A: The Romantics and their Contemporaries, 5th Edition; Jane Austen, Mansfield Park; Rachel Carson, Silent Spring; Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho; Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Dorothy Wordsworth, Grasmere and Alfoxden Journal

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