Romanticism (Eng. 355), Spring '04: Nature, Class, and Identity in British Romanticism

Romanticism (Eng. 355), Spring '04: Nature, Class, and Identity in British Romanticism

Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains, and of all that we behold
From this green earth, of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear (both what they half-create
And what perceive) — well-pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

William Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey"

Instructor: Scott Hess

[Note—I have published the readings, course assignments, texts, and course goals in this sample syllabus, for a class which met two times per week. I removed my course policies on attendance, late papers, and classroom etiquette. I'm a believer in spelling out assignments and expectations in syllabi as fully as possible, to be as explicit with students as possible before they begin the course.]

Course Goals

This course will offer a general introduction to British Romanticism, including a wide range of writers in both poetry and prose. Specifically, we will concentrate on the themes of nature, class, and identity: the way different writers, from different social classes and positions, used nature to construct their identities in different ways. "Nature" has long been identified as one of the central themes of Romantic writing, which made the non-human environment central to the construction of individual identity, meaning, and value. "Nature," however, is not the same for every writer. In order to highlight these differences, we will pay special attention to a number of poets from different social positions—including Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, Lord Byron, and John Clare—as well as novels by Jane Austen and Mary Shelley. By exploring how different Romantic writers wrote about nature in different ways, we will get a better sense both of the diversity of positions and social forces in the Romantic period, and of how different people continue to construct different versions of "nature" and identity for different reasons today.

Course Texts

Romanticism : An Anthology, 2nd ed. with CD-ROM, edited by Duncan Wu and David S. Miall

Frankenstein : Or, the Modern Prometheus (Oxford World's Classics), by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, edited by James Kinsley

Pride and Prejudice (Oxford World's Classics), by Jane Austen, edited by James Kinsley with an introduction by Isobel Armstrong

The Poems of Charlotte Smith, edited by Stuart Curran

Robert Burns (Everyman Poetry Library), edited by Donald Low

John Clare (Everyman Poetry Series), edited by Kelsey Thorton


Class Meetings and Assignments

All readings in poets other than Burns, Clare, and Smith are in the Wu anthology, unless otherwise indicated.


Week 1

Thurs. Jan. 15 Introduction and Housekeeping: in-class discussion of William Wordsworth, "I wandered lonely as a cloud"; Dorothy Wordsworth, journal entry; John Clare, "Beans in Blossom" and "The passing traveler"


Week 2

Mon. Jan. 19 Versions of Nature and The Roots of British Romanticism: Raymond Williams, "Ideas of Nature" (posted on course website); Alexander Pope, excerpts from Windsor Forest and Epistle to Burlington; excerpts from James Thomson, The Seasons; Anne Finch, "Nocturnal Reverie"; Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard (all Xeroxed handouts); we will meet in a special room to view eighteenth-century landscape designs and paintings from course website

Thurs. Jan. 22  Robert Burns, "The Twa Dogs," "Scotch Drink," "The Holy Fair," "The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailee," "Poor Mailee's Elegy," "To J.S ****," "The Cotter's Saturday Night," "To a Mouse," "To a Mountain Daisy" (all in Robert Burns); "A Vision," "John Barleycorn" (handouts)


Week 3

Mon. Jan. 26  Burns, "To a Louse," "Epistle to J. L****K," "Song 'It was upon a Lammas night,'" "Song, 'Now Westlin' Winds,'" "A Bard's Epitaph," "Holy Willie's Prayer," "Tam o' Shanter" (all in Robert Burns); "Is There for Honest Poverty," "Green Grow the Rushes," "The Banks 'o Doon," "Scots Wha Hae," "A Red Red Rose" (handouts)

Thurs. Jan. 29  Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Volume I (pp. 1-101)


Week 4

Mon. Feb. 2 Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Volume II and start of Volume III (pp. 103-206)

Presentation: the English aristocracy and gentry

Thurs. Feb. 5 Austen, Pride and Prejudice, finish Volume III (pp. 206-98)


Week 5

Mon. Feb. 9  William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience in their entirety (in Wu, pp. 60-84)

Tues. Feb. 10  First paper, on identity and society in Burns and Austen, 5-6 pages, due by 3 pm at Scott H.'s office

Thurs. Feb. 12  William Wordsworth, from Lyrical Ballads, "Simon Lee," "We are Seven," "Lines Written in Early Spring," "The Thorn" (see also note on poem, p. 344), "The Last of the Flock," "Expostulation and Reply," "The Tables Turned," "Old Man Traveling," "Tintern Abbey"; also The Ruined Cottage, The Pedlar, all excerpts from "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" (pp. 357-63)


Week 6

Mon. Feb. 16  William Wordsworth, "The Discharged Soldier," "There was a Boy," "Nutting," "Strange Fits of Passion," "Song, 'She Dwelt Among th'untrodden Ways,'" "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal," "Three Years She Grew," "Prospectus to 'the Recluse,'" "I Travelled Among Unknown Men," "Resolution and Independence," "The World is Too Much With Us," "1 September 1802," "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge," "London 1802," "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," "Daffodils," "The Solitary Reaper," "Elegiac Stanzas" 

Presentation: the French Revolution and its impacts in England

[Mid-Semester Break, Feb. 19-22]


Week 7

Mon. Feb. 23  Dorothy Wordsworth, all journal entries and poems in Wu anthology plus handout poems

Thurs. Feb. 26  William Wordsworth, Two-Part Prelude (pp. 300-23); excerpts from 1805 Prelude, "Glad Preamble" (pp. 329-30), "Crossing the Alps" (pp. 389-92), "The London Beggar" (p. 392), "Paris, December 1791" (pp. 394-96), "Beaupuy" (pp. 396-98), "Godwinism" (pp. 398-99), "Confusion and Recovery" (pp. 399-401), "Climbing of Snowdon" (pp. 401-405)


Week 8

Mon. Mar. 1  Charlotte Smith, Introduction and all Prefaces (pp. xix-12); Elegiac Sonnets I, IV, V, VIII, XII, XXXV, XLIIII, LIX,  LXII, LXX, LXXVII, LXXXIII, LXXXVI; and "Thirty-Eight" (pp. 92-94) (all in The Poems of Charlotte Smith)

Presentation: Woman writers during the Romantic period

Thurs. Mar. 4  Smith, The Emigrants, including Preface (pp. 131-63)


Week 9

Mon. Mar. 8  Smith, "Beachy Head," including "Advertisement" (pp. 215-47)

View and discuss Romantic landscape paintings from course website

Wed., Mar. 10, Second paper, on constructions of "nature" in William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Charlotte Smith, 5-6 pages, due by 3 pm at Scott H.'s office

Thurs. Mar. 11  Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Eolian Harp," "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison," and "Frost at Midnight" (read versions on pp. 549-55), "Kubla Khan" (read version on pp. 522-24, with introductory material), "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Dejection: an Ode" (read version on pp. 528-48), and "To William Wordsworth" (pp. 514-17)

[Spring Break, March 13-21]


Week 10

Mon. Mar. 22  Lord Byron, "She Walks in Beauty," "When We Two Parted," "Fare Thee Well," "Stanzas to Augusta," "Epistle to Augusta," "Darkness," "So We'll Go No More A-Roving," "On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year," Childe Harold's Pilgrimage Canto III stanzas 1-16, 69-75, 88-97, and 111-18 (pp. 672-76, 692-94, 698-701, 705-8)

Thurs. Mar. 25  Byron, Manfred (pp. 718-51)

Presentation: the Byronic Hero and its legacy


Week 11

Mon. Mar. 29  Byron, Don Juan, Dedication and Canto I (pp. 752-85)

Thurs. Apr. 1  P. B. Shelley, "To Wordsworth," "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty," "Mont Blanc," "Ozymandias," "Ode to the West Wind," The Mask of Anarchy, "England in 1819," "To a Skylark"; Adonais, stanzas LII-LV only (pp. 972-73); excerpts from Defense of Poetry, pp. 944 through first full paragraph on 946, middle of p. 952 to end (p. 956)

Presentation: society and politics in the Regency period; Shelley's neo-Platonism and radicalism


Week 12

Mon. Apr. 5 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, including Shelley's Introduction, opening letters, and chapters 1-17 (pp. 5-149)

Presentation: sciences during the Romantic period

Thurs. Apr. 8 Mary Shelley, finish Frankenstein (pp.149-223)


Week 13

Mon. Apr. 12  Felicia Hemans, all poems in Wu anthology (pp. 990-1004) plus handouts

Thurs. Apr. 15 John Keats, "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer," "The Eve of St. Agnes," "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," "Lamia," all letters on pp. 1018-19, 1020-22, 1042 and in class handout

Presentation: Romantic Hellenism and aestheticism


Week 14

Mon. Apr. 19  Keats, all odes, including "To Autumn" (Wu, pp. 1056-64, 1080); John Clare, excerpts from The Shepherd's Calendar from January and June, "To the Snipe," and "The Badger" (in Wu); "Summer Evening" (handout); "The Wren," "Sonnet: The Crow," "The Skylark," "Sonnet: 'Among the orchard weeds,'" "The Landrail," "The Nightingale's Nest," "The Yellowhammer's Nest," "The Pettichap's Nest," "Sonnets: the Hedgehog," "Little Trotty Wagtail" (in John Clare)

Thurs. Apr. 22  Clare, "Sonnet: 'The barn door is open,'" "The Wheat Ripening," "The Beans in Blossom," "Sonnet: 'The passing traveler,'" "Sport in the Meadows," "Emmonsales Heath," 'The Summer Shower," "The Foddering Boy," "The Gipsy Camp," "The Cottager," "Remembrances," "The Flitting," "The Lament of Swordy Well," "The Moors" (in John Clare)

Fri. Apr. 23, prospectus  and annotated bibliography for final research project, due by 10 am by email


Week 15

Mon. Apr. 26  Clare, "An Invite to Eternity," "I Am," "A Vision," "The Peasant Poet," "Sighing for Retirement," "Song's Eternity," "The Eternity of Nature," 'To be Placed at the Back of his Portrait" (in John Clare); excerpts from Child Harold (handout)

Sun. May 2, Final research paper due on subject of your choice, 8-12 pages, due by 8 pm at Scott H.'s office

no final exam

Written Assignments & Evaluation

Your final grade will be calculated from the following percentages:

course evaluation
first paper, on Austen and Burns
second paper, on the Wordsworths and Smith
class presentation and discussion leading
paper on class presentation materials
final research paper
class participation (including responses)
0% (but required)

Note: all papers should be printed in 12 point font, double spaced, with 1 inch margins on all sides. Papers should be carefully proofread, and should be free of obvious grammatical and spelling errors: sloppy work will be penalized by reduction in the overall paper grade.


Course Evaluation (0%, but required)

In order to receive a grade in this course, you will need to evaluate the design of the course and the quality of instruction you have received. Consider that you are acting on behalf of future Earlham students who will take this class or other classes from the instructor. Please be thoughtful, rigorous, and as specific as possible.

Class Participation, including weekly responses/ questions (30%)

Class participation involves good class citizenship in all its various aspects: coming to class prepared with thoughts and ideas and questions of your own about the reading; speaking in class; listening and responding to other students as well as to the instructor; and being aware of your role in and effect on the overall classroom community. Punctual and regular class attendance is also an essential, though by no means sufficient, part of participation  (see below for more specific class attendance policies). I will pass out a sheet of participation grade criteria in class, to give you a better sense of the guidelines for assessing your final participation grade.
            Your class participation will include a weekly response assignment, which you will be asked to hand in beginning on the Thursday of week two and continuing through week fourteen. Each student will be assigned either Mondays or Thursdays to do the response assignment. I will ask you to email me (or drop off in my door) at least one substantial paragraph of response, by 10 am on the morning before class, on what you think is most interesting, provocative, or worthy of discussion from that day's reading. Your response should include a question or questions for class discussion, or some indication of what you'd like to discuss in class that day. It should refer to some specifics of the reading (i.e. quote or refer to a specific incident or poem), and it should be coherent and focused on a single issue or cluster of related issues. Though your response is not expected to be polished, you should read it over and make sure your ideas are clearly expressed, without obvious typos or grammatical errors. I will not grade or comment on responses, but will use them in class discussion (so come to class ready to talk about your response). You will be allowed to skip two responses without penalty (just tell me by the time of class that you are taking the week off). Other than those two responses you are allowed to skip, you will be penalized 2% of your total participation grade for each late response, and 5% of your total participation grade for each response not handed in the day it is due. The quality of your engagement with the readings in the responses will count as part of your overall class participation grade.

First Paper, on identity and society in Burns and Austen, 5-6 pages (10%)

[Note to Romantic Pedagogies readers—this assignment proved too complicated and difficult for a first paper, and did not work well]

Your first paper should compare some aspect of the construction of identity and society in Burns' poetry and Austen's novel. You will need to find a focused topic within this general subject area. The exact choice of topic is up to you, but topics might include: sense of morality or underlying moral values; perspectives on the working or lower classes, or on the aristocracy; class relations or hierarchy; social ideals, which might include overall models of society; the relation of the individual to society and the value of individualism; possibilities for personal freedom; importance of social conformity; the role of satire and social critique; religion; and relations between the sexes. You should quote frequently from the texts to support your argument, and your paper should have a coherent central thesis. Your paper should go beyond positions already expressed in class discussion, though you can refer to that discussion and use such points to help support your thesis (talk with me if you have any questions about this requirement). The paper will be evaluated on your ability to compare the texts effectively and make insightful and creative connections between them; the insight and originality of your argument; your ability to support a coherent thesis with well-chosen and skillfully deployed evidence from the texts; and the overall voice, clarity, and power of your writing.

Second Paper, on constructions of "nature" in the Wordsworth and Smith, 5-6 pages (15%)

As in your first paper, the second paper asks you to compare texts by (at least) two authors, this time in relation to how they represent "nature" or the environment. You should write on at least one text by William Wordsworth, and at least one text by either Dorothy Wordsworth or Charlotte Smith (you may write on all three if you want). You may want to make allusions to other texts we have read to support your argument, but the paper should focus on no more than three texts, and should concentrate on close readings of those texts in relation to your chosen issue and thesis. As with the first paper, the exact topic and thesis is up to you, but possible topics include: how "nature" is used to construct individual identity or a certain model of society; the role of "home" or other people in the description of the environment; the role of labor or the working classes; how the construction of "nature" supports other ideas or social positions; connections between nature and gender; and the politics of nature in the various texts. Your paper will want to compare the ways these different writers represent the environment, but it should go beyond this initial comparison to make an argument for how these differences are significant. You should not write on poems we have already discussed extensively in class, though you can include references to these poems and to our discussion of them. As always in an interpretive paper, you should quote frequently from the texts and have a coherent central thesis. This paper will be evaluated according to the same criteria as the first one.

Class Presentation and Discussion Leading (5%)

Students will be assigned in teams to give a brief presentation and lead discussion on one of the class days indicated on the syllabus, on the listed theme for that day. You should begin the class period with a brief presentation of your research, in order to give an overview of that topic. The presentation should be between 10 and 15 minutes long, but should not go over time (I will cut you off at 18 minutes, so plan your presentation and rehearse carefully in advance). Depending on your topic, you may want to make specific connections with the text(s) we are reading.
After the presentation, your group will lead class discussion for at least the next half hour (you can lead for as much of the remaining time as you like). This discussion should use or build from the research presentation in a significant way, though it may also address other issues not directly related to the topic of the presentation. Your group must also turn in an annotated bibliography of research sources at the end of class after the presentation, which must include at least four sources, at least three of which must be scholarly books or articles, and at least two of which must be in print (as opposed to electronic form). No more than one of these sources should be a general reference work (such as an encyclopedia). The annotated bibliography should have a sentence or two for each source, describing its content and usefulness as a source and, if relevant, its scholarly reliability or bias. You should use standard MLA endnote style (see information through the library website).
Your presentation will be graded on its clarity, organization, content, and connection to the text(s) we are reading, and on your annotated bibliography. Class discussion leading will be graded on your sense of organization and overall plan for the class; the insight and creativity of this plan in helping the class to interpret the reading(s); your ability to build off your presentation in a significant way; and your good faith effort to involve the rest of the class in active participation (if you have a well-conceived plan to stimulate class participation, it won't count against you if the class doesn't respond well on that particular day). You are encouraged to lead the class in creative activities other than general class discussion if you like (i.e. small group work; in-class writing or role playing; use of other media such as drawing or acting; etc.), as long as these activities involve active participation by class members and lead to significant dialogue and insight about the text.If you use a creative format, you must also use part of the class to call attention to how it helps us interpret the readings. All members of the group are expected to be involved significantly in both the presentation and class discussion leading, and failure to do so will effect your overall group grade for this assignment.

Paper on Class Presentation Materials, 5-6 pages (15%)

You will be expected to write a paper on the materials you presented and discussed in class, due by noon one week after the day on which you presented. This paper should be on a theme of your choice, but it should interpret some of the readings for that day in relation to the research context you presented. The paper is not just expected to be a report of your research, but should use that research in order to support an interpretation of the literary text(s) that brings extra insight to the text(s). I will be glad to discuss possible theses with you after your presentation. You may either choose to write this paper together as a group, or independently as individuals. If you write as a group, you will receive a single grade for the entire group. You are especially encouraged for this paper to use points that came up during class discussion. In fact, part of the purpose of the combined assignment is to allow you to shape class discussion to explore themes that you want to write more about in the paper. The paper will be evaluated on your use of research to support and develop your own interpretation of the text(s) in insightful and creative ways; the coherence and effectiveness of your thesis; your ability to support that thesis with careful close reading and quotation from the text(s); and the overall voice, clarity, and power of your writing.

Final Research Paper, 8-12 pages (25%)

Your final research paper should be on a topic of your own choice, related in some way to issues of nature, class, and identity and focusing on at least one of the text(s) we read during the class. You may also bring in other texts, if you want; and you are welcome to make connection to contemporary issues, as long as your paper remains grounded in interpretation of Romantic period texts. You may choose to develop one of your earlier papers into this final paper, if you like, which will of course include substantial rewriting.
            Your research paper should use at least five secondary critical sources, at least four of which must be scholarly books and/or articles (and no more than one of which should be a general reference source, such as an encyclopedia). You may choose to use web material as a fifth source, provided it has scholarly credibility (talk to the instructor or the class library liaison for help on assessing credibility). You may of course use more than five sources, as your project requires. Don't forget about books on reserve, which you can take out for up to three days.
            Your paper can use your source material in various ways, depending on your chosen topic and thesis, to provide a historical or other significant context or to establish other critical positions from which your own argument builds. In any case, your paper should not just state the research; it needs to use that research to construct your own original argument, with a coherent thesis supported by your own close reading and interpretation of the text(s). Your paper will be evaluated on your ability to accomplish these aims, as well as on the structure and coherence of your argument and the overall voice, clarity, and power of your writing.
            To help you get started on this paper in advance, you will be required to email a paper prospectus, including a preliminary prospectus and annotated bibliography, to the instructor by 10 am on Friday, April 23. The prospectus should include your proposed thesis and a brief overview of your argument or planned approach to the topic, and should be about a page long all together (note that your thesis and argument may change as you continue to think and write). The annotated bibliography should be in the same format as the one for the class presentation. Note that your final research paper grade will be reduced one grade level (i.e. from B to B-) if your prospectus is late and one full grade (i.e. from B to C) if the prospectus is more than 72 hours late, so be sure to turn it in on time!  You should use standard MLA endnote style for formatting your bibliography, citations, and endnotes (see information through the library website).