Teaching Global Romanticisms: Romanticism and the Logic of Culture

This paper describes a course that covers the Romantic period of European and American literature as the moment and site of the modern invention and institution of “culture”—both as an object of study and as a historical and ethical basis for the establishment of self and society. During a 15-week semester, the students and I read, in English, aesthetic treatises by Blair, Herder, and Schiller, poetry by Macpherson and Byron, and novels by Rousseau, Goethe, Staël, and Cooper. These texts are supplemented by theoretical work on the logic of culture in the modern era and the condition of the modern university. Our primary concerns are to enjoy the rich complexities of these literary projects, to understand their role in establishing culture as a new model of authority and identity, and to perceive the centrality of Romanticism in shaping current cultural paradigms and dilemmas.