Genres of Romanticism
Possible Course Parameters: Romantic Period, Romantic Genres, Stylistics
This course will introduce students to the development of various generic forms in the early part of the nineteenth century, including the waning of the lyric and the ode as dominant genres and the corresponding rise of the novel. Some attention will be
paid in lectures to the market forces and social changes determining which generic forms were being read in the Romantic period. The course is designed to develop close-reading skills; extensive class time will therefore be devoted to the interpretation
of individual texts and students will be expected to contribute their own interpretations regularly in class.
WEEK ONE: INTRODUCTIONS: THE CONCEPT OF GENRE
This first week will introduce students to the notion of genre by pointing out our daily reliance on generic form. Students will be asked, for example, to plot a single day within the parameters of different generic forms. Distinctions between genres,
modes, plot archetypes, and themes will be clarified with examples from
both pop culture and short literary texts.
WEEK TWO: THE SHORT LYRIC'S SONG
This week will be spent undertaking close readings of short poems from Blake. The goal will be to illustrate to students the complexity of the poetic medium and the rich interpretive potential of even the most innocuous-looking poem. A small number
of poems will be examined to allow students time to learn the procedures and possibilities of interpretive analysis. Blake's Songs of Innocence will also be juxtaposed to his Songs of Experience to illustrate the effect of modal changes.
- W. Blake, "The Little Black Boy"; "The Chimney Sweeper I"; "The Sick Rose"; "London"; "The Chimney Sweeper II"
WEEK THREE: SPOTS OF TIME: THE LOCODESCRIPTIVE POEM AND THE PASTORAL
During this week, the class will explore the changes occurring at the turn of the century in the representation of nature, from Pope's tendency to read the social into any locus to Wordsworth's reliance on individual places for the inscription of individual, subjective experience; we can thus come to understand the development of The Prelude's spots of time.
- A. Pope, Windsor Forest
- W. Wordsworth, Poems on the Naming of Places; "Michael"; "The Ruined Cottage";
The Prelude (excerpts)
WEEK FOUR: THE MALADY OF BALLADRY: THE LYRICAL BALLADS AND NARRATIVE
These classes will explore the vexed relationship Wordsworth and Coleridge have to the generic form of the ballad. The form represents a money-maker for poets seeking to earn a living from a literary market that preferred easily-consumable narratives like the novel over lyric preciosity; Wordsworth and Coleridge are, however, critical of narrative in their prose and so, though they do employ the ballad, thus gaining (they hoped) a larger readership, they experiment with the form in ways that disrupt narrative momentum.
- W. Wordsworth, "Simon Lee"; "The Thorn"; "We Are Seven"
- S. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria and The Friend (excerpts)
- W. Wordsworth, "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads
WEEK FIVE: THE ROMANCE IN ROMANTICISM
Here, the class will examine that form which represented the biggest money-maker for the Romantic poets--the romance--and, so, we will also be exploring the relationship of poetry to the market and to the novel. In addition, we will explore the reasons for the Romantic's turn to "medievalism" in these poems, specifically how this theme ties to questions of nationalism, gender, the rendering of history, and the representation of the present.
- W. Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel
- S. Coleridge, "Christabel"
- J. Keats, "The Eve of St. Agnes"
- Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (excerpts)
WEEK SIX: THE EPIC SELF
The goal this week and next will be to understand the differences in form, theme, and plot between the romance and the epic; we will also examine the relationship in Wordsworth's text between narrative realism and the representation of subjective (particularly transcendent) experience, thus tying this class back to the first week on the locodescriptive poem. In addition, we will examine some of the ways in which Wordsworth's text differs from previous epics, particularly Paradise Lost, and how Wordsworth employs a certain hybridity of generic form by incorporating pastoral and lyric elements into his work.
- W. Wordsworth, "Prospectus" to The Excursion ; begin The Prelude (excerpts)
WEEK SEVEN: THE EPIC SELF, continued
- W. Wordsworth, The Prelude (excerpts)
WEEK EIGHT: THE ODE: PHILOSOPHY AND THE POETIC MEDIUM
In contrast to the ballad, the metrical romance and the epic, we see in the ode the Romantic turn to the non-mimetic form of philosophical debate. Or are we witnessing a new form of mimetic realism--the representation of subjective thought? We will explore the differences between the ode and narrative realism and the reasons why the ode disappears as we move into the Victorian period.
- W. Wordsworth, "Intimations on Immortality"
- S. Coleridge, "Dejection, an Ode"
- P. Shelley, "Ode to the West Wind"
- J. Keats, "To Autumn"; "Ode on a Grecian Urn"; "Ode to a Nightingale"; "Ode on Melancholy"
WEEK NINE: CONVERSATION POEMS AND THE DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE
Having examined the ode and the reasons why it does not persist into the Victorian period, we will now examine the conversation poem and why it can be said to survive (after certain formal innovations) in the dramatic monologues of the 1830s. What are the specific differences between the ode and the conversation poem or between the conversation poem and the dramatic monologue and how do these differences bear on the representation of subjective experience? Browning's (proto)dramatic monologue will be used to provide students with a sense of historical continuity into the Victorian period.
- W. Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey"
- S. Coleridge, "Frost at Midnight"; "This Lime-Tree Bower"; "The Eolian Harp"
- R. Browning, "Porphyria's Lover"
WEEK TEN: RAISING THE ANTI: SHELLEY'S UNPLOTTED EPIC AND THE LYRIC
In this section, we will yet again raise the question of narrative in those works that seem most explicitly to run counter to narrative progression; specifically, we will explore the effect of narration on narrated content and the ways in which one can generically evoke non-narrative experience. We will also explore, through periodical reviews from the period and excerpts from more recent critical work on the Romantic poets, why it is that the lyric has become the predominant form associated with these
- P. Shelley, "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty"; "Sonnet: Lift Not the Painted Veil"; "To a Skylark"; Prometheus Unbound (excerpts)
- J. S. Mill, "What is Poetry?" (excerpts)
- P. Shelley, "A Defence of Poetry"
- excerpts from past criticism
WEEK ELEVEN: NOVEL ROMANTICISM: REREADING MAN'S PROGENY
Mary Shelley's novel will be examined in relation to (and, to some extent, as a commentary on) the issues examined so far in this course: the power of the creative artist, the gendering of the creative act, the relationship of the novel and poetry, the
specter of Milton, and the influence of narration on narrative.
- begin M. Shelley, Frankenstein
WEEK TWELVE: THE MONSTROUS SUBLIME AND THE UNNARRATABLE KERNEL
In this section we will examine the difficulty of representing horror or transcendence in narrative. The omitted yet integral scene that we will examine in detail is the one that occurs in Frankenstein's laboratory. The use of frame narrative will be examined as a method of circling around a non-narratable kernel. Clips from film versions of the text will also be shown to illustrate the different effect such scenes have when they are visually represented.
- continue M. Shelley, Frankenstein
WEEK THIRTEEN: CONCLUSIONS
- finish M. Shelley, Frankenstein
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Last Revised: August 4, 1997
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