“Imagination under the banner of Science”: Teaching Green Romanticism with Weebly

This essay outlines the approach, rationale, construction, management, and results of a digital annotated poem project assigned in an upper-level course on “Green Romanticism,” which I designed and taught during Spring 2015. Students in this class created a website devoted to a particular author and text using Weebly website creator. In this essay, I include narratives of some of the best projects (including links to students’ sites), as well as reflections on the assignment’s constraints and affordances. In doing so, I urge teachers of Romanticism to adopt digital research projects as alternatives and complements to traditional research papers, especially in interdisciplinary programs and at schools where students’ career goals do not include academia.

“Imagination under the banner of Science”: Teaching Green Romanticism with Weebly

1.        Interdisciplinarity is a Romantic convention. When Erasmus Darwin writes in the Advertisement to The Loves of the Plants (1791) that the “general design” of his multi-layered scientific poem “is to inlist Imagination under the banner of Science” (ix), he announces his composition’s commitment to a variety of genres and technologies. In addition to verse, The Loves of the Plants is full of extensive scientific footnotes, visual images, and philosophical prose interludes on aesthetic theory. In order to fully understand and represent the natural world, Darwin implies, we must draw from myriad disciplines and technologies. As recent scholarship demonstrates, Darwin’s polymathic approach to research and writing anticipates literary trends in the Romantic period. The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries witnessed the emergence not only of what we now call ecology but also of a range of authors who studied and drew from various disciplines and technologies in their work. William Blake’s famous illuminated printing fused the technologies of printing, painting, and industrialism in his democratic poetry. Percy Shelley used hot air balloons to distribute political pamphlets. Mary Shelley frequently infused her novels with new scientific and technological ideas. William Wordsworth and John Clare often wrote poems that opposed industrial technologies, such as railroads and enclosure. Importantly, all of these poets were influenced by Darwin, and for this reason he serves as a model for both Green Romanticism and Technological Romanticism.

2.        How can we engage the overlapping scientific, ecological, and technological elements of Romanticism in the classroom? How can we incorporate these elements alongside the canonical literature often required for introductory courses and advanced surveys? How can we help students to understand the exchange between imagination and science, during the Romantic period and in the twenty-first century? These questions lie at the heart of recent discussions in Romantic ecocriticism and pedagogy, and they are the focus of this essay. Scholars such as David Orr advocate place-based education in the teaching of ecocriticism, in contrast to classroom reliance on digital media and technology, which, as he and others suggest, facilitates what Richard Louv calls “nature-deficit disorder” in our students. As David Sobel argues, instructors often use “electronic media” to connect students “with endangered animals and ecosystems around the globe.” While motivated by good intentions, these changes ultimately “disconnect” students “from the world outside their doors” (3). However, other scholars and teachers have utilized digital technology successfully in teaching Romantic-era literature: nearly every volume of the Romantic Circles Pedagogy Commons, including this one, features digital pedagogy, and the most recent winners and finalists for the Romantic Circles Pedagogy Contest developed courses with a central digital component. In this essay, I argue that we can do the same with ecocriticism: rather than exacerbating nature-deficit disorder, digital technology can facilitate students’ engagement with Green Romanticism by allowing them to think outside of the classroom and to develop the kinds of interdisciplinary approaches demanded by ecocriticism.

3.        In my upper-level seminar on “Green Romanticism,” which I designed and taught during Spring 2015, I ask my students to adopt a Darwinian-interdisciplinary approach in understanding Romantic-era texts, including The Loves of the Plants. The culminating project of the course is a hybrid website-digital edition of an assigned poem, which students create using Weebly, a free website design program. (You can find the course “hub” here, which includes the course description, syllabus, bibliography, and listening list.)This website project, described in detail below, mirrors the kind of approach modeled by Darwin and other Romantic authors, fusing “imagination” and “science” through modern digital technology. The project lends itself especially well to the study of Green Romanticism, as this subfield focuses on advances in science and technology related to Romantic ecology. Indeed, one overarching principle of my course is to chart the various ways Romantic writers and artists attempted to represent “nature”—through literature, music, visual art, science, and industry. Similarly, in their website projects, students engage the multiple genres and media that characterize Green Romanticism through the multimodality of digital media.

4.        The website project affords students an opportunity to shape the still-evolving field of Green Romanticism. While there has been important work on the ecological elements in Blake, Wordsworth, the Shelleys, and, to a lesser extent, Clare, recent advances in ecocriticism, science and technology studies, affect studies, and the cognitive humanities have renewed and revitalized discussions of Romantic ecology. These advances allow us to rethink not only the role of “nature” in the works of canonical poets but also the role of Darwin and other prominent scientists in Romanticism itself. After the first wave of ecocriticism in the early 1990s, which emerged in part as a response to the dominance of new historicism throughout the 1980s, Romantic ecocriticism has increasingly focused on the complex interplay of science, literature, and philosophy that informs Romantic-era ecology. Timothy Morton thus investigates the “dark ecology” of Shelley and Clare. Noel Jackson, Richard Sha, and Robert Mitchell reveal the scientific and medical bases of major Romantic poetry. Alan Richardson and Lisa Zunshine have pioneered Cognitive Romanticism. Theresa Kelley and Janelle Schwartz trace the influence of botany and taxonomy in Romantic literature and culture. This new and exciting scholarship gives us fresh perspectives from which to read Romantic literature, and it offers students a new model for the study of Green Romanticism.

5.        If we no longer read all forms of Romantic “nature” as “Nature”—that is, as instantiations of the Romantic Ideology—but rather as potential engagements with Darwinian neuroscience and Romantic-era ecology, how do we reread poems like “Tintern Abbey” and Queen Mab? If we add Erasmus Darwin, Humphry Davy, and Luke Howard to the canon of Romanticism, how do we re-envision The Botanic Garden, or the cloud studies of Constable and Turner, or the bird poems of Shelley, Keats, and Clare? If “the English Romantics were the first full-fledged ecological writers in the Western literary tradition” (19), as James McKusick famously observed, how do we distinguish Green Romanticism from Romanticism? Such questions framed my course on “Green Romanticism,” and they informed my students’ website projects. Throughout the semester, we read poets and novelists alongside scientists, artists, and Romantic scholars, and, by drawing from these various texts and discourses in the creation of their websites, my students were able to contribute to the ongoing reassessments of Romanticism and of scholarly research and output.

The Assignment

6.        This digital project begins on the first day of class when I distribute the assignment prompt [see Appendix A], and students work on the project throughout the semester. Thus, from day one, students explore Green Romanticism through various media; they envision their work for the class as part of the online public sphere rather than the perceived private space of the classroom (where work is exchanged between students and teachers only); and they conceive of their research as an ongoing process that spans the entire term. Moreover, students are generally more excited about starting this project than a traditional research paper. This excitement helps to establish student engagement with Romanticism.

7.        As I point out in the assignment prompt, one fundamental practice of literary scholarship is annotating a text: as literary readers and scholars, we take notes in the margins, we underline, we make connections, we pose questions, we engage with the text in order to understand it in a more sophisticated and enriching manner. In our increasingly digital world, these kinds of annotations have naturally moved to the digital sphere. In class, I show the digital editions on Romantic Circles as representative examples, as well as models for what students will do in their own digital projects. Once I establish this rationale for the assignment, I outline the major requirements. Students’ website projects must include: (1) a home page containing a brief introduction to the poem and the site; (2) a separate page containing the full text of the poem; and (3) at least ten hyperlinks in the poem that take readers to separate pages on the site and to other websites, sources, videos, paintings, and related texts. These hyperlinks, I explain, are the digital annotations. They could include: biographical and historical details; definitions and explanations of Romantic-era terminology; references to and summaries of scholarly articles on a specific aspect the poem; links to scholarly sites on the poem; paintings or other visual media directly related to the poem (along with students’ commentary); and whatever else is helpful in understanding and explaining the poem.

8.        After explaining the project on the first day of class and giving students a brief overview of the course Weebly site, I provide a step-by-step handout on how to set up their own site [see Appendix B]. I also disperse a “milestone checklist” to assess their progress throughout the semester. This checklist is meant to keep students on track throughout the term: by week six, students must select a text for the project; by week ten, they must schedule a thirty-minute workshop with me to discuss their project, at which time they must have completed the home page and at least two hyperlinks; by week fifteen they must complete the project and give a brief presentation in class; and by week sixteen (finals week) they must finalize their website based on my written feedback and suggestions.

9.        For assessment and grading, I use a general rubric with three mandatory requirements and three broader categories [see Appendix C]. I assign students a holistic letter grade for the project rather than assign points for each category, but the point system could work as well. The first three requirements—a home/introductory page, a page with the full text of the poem, and at least ten hyperlinks—cover the nuts-and-bolts of the project, while the second three categories—visual appeal, readability, and research—cover the website’s content. These broader categories allow me to provide specific feedback and guidance for each student’s site: during week fifteen, I write a paragraph assessment for each category and provide detailed suggestions for revision for each student. I also assign a letter grade based on the current state of the project. Students then have one week to revise and submit the final version of their project.

Project Rationale

10.        The digital project has three major goals. First, it aims to engage a diverse group of students in research on Romantic-era literature and culture. This goal works especially well for students at Auburn University Montgomery: all upper-level courses at AUM are “split-level,” meaning the students are a mix of upper-level undergraduates and graduate students in our interdisciplinary Master of Liberal Arts program. In this particular course, the class was composed of three graduate students, seven undergraduate English majors (two of whom were in the Honors program), and one undergraduate Psychology major. The website project allows students to engage in research without the “high stakes” of a fifteen- to twenty-page research paper—though this digital project does require substantial research, time, and attention. Similar to a traditional research paper, the website assignment develops close reading skills, research skills, organization and logic, and fundamental principles of proper citation and scholarly attribution. For instance, in order to create the hyperlinks, students must have a detailed and sophisticated understanding of the poem and its scholarly reception, and they must decide what pages to include and in what order. Additionally, most students are already comfortable with digital technology and online writing, so they are more willing to jump into a website project than what may be perceived as a daunting research paper.

11.        A second goal is that students envision their research and thinking as part of a broader community; the open access of many digital editions makes for a poignant example. By creating a public website, students can both speak to scholars and teach general readers. Like many online scholarly editions of texts—and like Darwin’s poetry—students must navigate a dual audience while constructing their projects: they must write for specialists and the general public. Accordingly, the third goal is for students to model the kind of “blended approach” taken up by Darwin in The Loves of the Plants and by many other Romantic authors that we study: Blake, Darwin, Wordsworth, and the Shelleys all envisioned their works at the intersections of poetry, prose, visual art, science, and/or music. The digital annotated poem project allows students to bring together a range of technologies in understanding their selected poems and in modeling the interdisciplinary nature of the poems themselves.

Student Websites: Construction, Management, and Results

12.        Most students were excited about the website project from the start. Many of them had created personal blogs and websites in the past, and a few even had experience with computer programming. Weebly is straightforward and has a low learning threshold for use, making it accessible even for students with limited computer skills. Students with more advanced skills were not challenged by the interface itself, and they were able to concentrate more on creating exciting content. In this sense, Weebly is especially helpful at leveling the playing field in a blended graduate/undergraduate course, since each student can adapt the project to accommodate their own interests and different levels of academic skills. Several students also enjoyed the creative nature of the project, which was apparent from the continual changes to their home pages during the first few weeks of the semester. For example, one student, Juanita Barrett, included original photographs documenting the different kinds of clouds in Percy Shelley’s “The Cloud.” This kind of creative work, which many students produced, enhanced engagement with the material and allowed students to become more invested in their projects.

13.        Developing quality content proved more difficult for students than initial construction and visual design. After creating the introductory home page and the poem page, several students hit a wall halfway through the semester. As one student asked in class, “I have the homepage and poem, so what do I do now?” This question allowed me to connect the website project to fundamental aspects of every literature course: close reading, research, and writing. As a class, we modeled these moves on the day’s assigned readings: Wordsworth’s “Composed upon Westminster Bridge,” Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals, and a chapter from Ashton Nichols’s Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism. I began by asking students what they thought about Nichols’s claim that Wordsworth’s sonnet was “[o]ne of the greatest nature poems in English, by one of the greatest nature poets in the language” (11). A few students said they were skeptical at first—this was a poem about London, after all—but that Nichols’s subsequent close reading, which illustrates his concept of “urbanature,” persuaded them. We then worked through a close reading of the sonnet alongside Nichols’s analysis, eventually bringing in the textual links to Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals, Darwin’s writings, and other forms of Romantic natural history (all discussed in Nichols’s chapter). I then asked students how these connections and links might take the form of hyperlinks in a digital version of the poem. (I also displayed Nichols’s site on Romantic Natural History as another model for how students might construct their own sites.) To illustrate these points, we collaboratively built a rough digital version of the sonnet on Weebly, inserting hyperlinks on specific words and phrases that would link to these intertextual connections. The classroom had a built-in projector for the instructor’s computer (this was not a computer lab), so students suggested hyperlinks that I would then insert for everyone to see. This process gave students a better understanding of how to approach their projects, and it allowed them to connect in-class discussions and activities with their websites.

14.        The following week, we viewed and discussed a student example of the website project. Funmi Stephens, one of the graduate students, volunteered to share her site with the class, which provided some of the undergraduates with a model to which they could aspire. Funmi was constructing her site on John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale,” and she had created several perceptive hyperlinks/pages. For example, a hyperlink on the nightingale’s “self-same song” takes reader to a page entitled “Ballad,” which contains a video recording of a nightingale singing, details on the bird’s taxonomy, and a brief explanation of the nightingale’s poetic roots in Greek mythology. This page connects the literary resonances of the nightingale with the bird itself, which was common in nineteenth-century England. By doing so, Funmi reveals why Keats writes about this specific bird and how the nightingale relates to the poem’s focus on the juxtaposition of death and immortality. Another page on “Ruth” further examines this juxtaposition. Funmi explains this Biblical reference in the poem and provides an external link to a scholarly article on religion and psychoanalysis. Although we wouldn’t read Keats’s poem as a class for several more weeks, these hyperlinks revealed connections similar to those that Nichols had charted in the readings from the previous week. Providing this example in class inspired many students and helped them to envision their own sites.

15.        In general, though, there was not a vast difference in the quality of the sites between the undergraduate and graduate students. As none of the students were specializing in eighteenth- or nineteenth-century British literature, they all had more or less the same investment in Romanticism. Also, most graduate students at AUM go into secondary education or community college teaching programs, so research in British Romanticism is not a central focus of their studies. I imagine things might be different in a doctoral program, where students would be at much different stages in their programs of study, but in my class, there was only a one- or two-year separation between the first-year Master’s students and the junior and senior undergraduates.

16.        Indeed, an undergraduate created one of the best projects of the course. In her site on Blake’s “All Religions Are One,” Leslie Rewis has insightful pages on Biblical references, Freud, Ghandi, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, and Romantic scholarship, among other things. This site had the most hits (something you can track on Weebly), and Leslie was even contacted by a scholar whom she cites. Her site exemplifies the broad range of scholarly engagement afforded by the digital project. For instance, Leslie links the first line of Blake’s poem—“The Voice of one crying in the Wilderness”—to a page that explains the Biblical allusion to Isaiah 40:1-5. By teasing out this allusion, Leslie performs what we may call “classical” literary scholarship. However, she also draws from High Theory: in a page on Freud’s theory of personality, she uses psychoanalytic theory to interpret Blake’s concept of the Poetic Genius. Additionally, Leslie created pages on Life of Pi and Gandhi to explore Blake’s unconventional religious thought. These pages contain quotations, videos, and links to other sites on religion.

17.        Another undergraduate, Sonni Gunnels, created an excellent site on Shelley’s A Vindication of Natural Diet, bringing together information, images, and statistics on anatomy, crime, disease, medicine, and ethics in relation to animals and meat eating. Like Leslie, Sonni’s site illustrates a broad range of scholarly engagement, from a page on the religious and mythological bases of vegetarianism to a page on Shelley’s references to “fermented liquors” to a page on contemporary statistical analyses linking meat consumption and crime. Sonni successfully “modernizes” Shelley’s treatise by drawing from twentieth- and twenty-first-century science to vindicate vegetarianism. Her multidisciplinary approach parallels those of Shelley and Darwin, and her site connects Shelley’s text to the present day, which was a major goal of the assignment.

18.        Despite these successes, there were two major difficulties related to the project: time management and plagiarism. As is often the case with final essays, a few students put off the majority of the work until the final week of the semester, which resulted in less-than-polished websites. I gave students freedom to complete the project on their own schedule, as long as they followed the milestone checklist outlined earlier. The required week ten meeting proved especially crucial to students’ success. During this face-to-face meeting, I was able to assess each student’s progress, and we had positive discussions on possible hyperlinks and timelines for completion. However, approximately half of the students had completed only the home page and poem page. This required lots of brainstorming, which was also helpful for many students. One possible solution to this problem would be to break the project into multiple stages throughout the semester, with multiple deadlines and grades for each stage.

19.        The second difficulty involved plagiarism. When I reviewed students’ sites during the week ten meeting, many hyperlink pages contained instances of direct plagiarism. Several students had copied and pasted whole paragraphs from external sites on specific places, author biographies, and scientific details. Some students had included a link at the bottom of the page—but no indication that the writing was not their own—while others did not. As far as I could tell, these were not instances of intentional plagiarism: students simply thought they could do this kind of “reposting” in the online environment (we see it all the time on news sites and blogs, right?). This problem generated fruitful discussions about academic research and citation methods, both in an online environment and in “traditional” modes of scholarship. I likened hyperlinks to footnotes in literature anthologies and scholarly articles, stressing to my students that even on websites, they should always make a clear distinction between their writing and that of others. This may seem like a basic point to stress in an upper-level literature seminar, but I think many students have a much different sense of the “rules” pertaining to online writing and paper-based writing. I plan to add a lesson about online plagiarism and citation rules when I assign this project in the future.


20.        Overall, the website project was a success. Students enjoyed building and sharing their sites, were able to perform significant research and to engage with Romantic texts without the perceived pressure of a formal research paper, and have a permanent testament to the work they did throughout the semester. What’s more, their fusion of “imagination” and “science” enabled them to make creative and scholarly connections with Green Romanticism. This is a major reason why the website worked so well for this class: students learned about and explored the multidisciplinarity of Green Romanticism through a digital assignment that required them to adopt a similarly multidisciplinary approach. My students were able to contribute genuinely to the ongoing shaping of the field, providing new ideas and insights to me, to their classmates, to scholars, and to the general public.

21.        Ultimately, I urge teachers of Romanticism to adopt digital research projects as alternatives and complements to traditional research papers, especially in interdisciplinary programs and at schools where students’ career goals do not include academia. In fact, most of our students will not pursue an academic career. A digital website project provides students with skills applicable to a wide range of professions: digital composition, visual design, careful research and writing, and creative thinking are core skills in a number of fields. Moreover, website design—even the simple design process of Weebly—is certainly something many students will encounter after they leave college, and having even a brief experience with website design in a literature course could prove a valuable asset. Assigning a website project has the added benefit of engaging students who otherwise have no commitment to or special interest in Romanticism as a field of study. For many students, an upper-level course in Romanticism will be their only exposure to the literature and art of this period, so the website will stand as a lasting testament to their work—and perhaps will inspire a lifelong love of literature. And, while I have argued that the project works especially well for Green Romanticism, I believe this project could be adapted successfully for other thematic approaches or to Romanticism more broadly.

22.        I also think this project could be tailored for students pursuing a doctoral degree in English: a more sophisticated version of the project utilizing advanced software would be quite appropriate for students at a Research I institution, whose future careers will most likely involve work in the digital humanities. The MLA Job Information Lists from the last few years show that institutions are increasingly interested in hiring recent PhDs with either a focus in digital humanities or a secondary specialization in some form of digital studies. Additionally, digital projects such as the Blake Archive, the Shelley-Godwin Archive, and Romantic Circles—not to mention the explosion of online journals and open-access scholarly sites—indicate one of the central directions our profession is headed. Such digital projects afford our students not only opportunities to access important texts and research on canonical figures like Blake and the Shelleys but also to explore lesser-known figures such as Erasmus Darwin. Technology and Green Romanticism go hand in hand, and emphasizing this connection in the classroom has the benefit not only of bringing scientist-poets like Darwin into the fold of Romanticism but also of drawing in more students to an intensive study of Romanticism itself.

Works Cited

Bate, Jonathan. Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition. Routledge, 1991.

Buell, Lawrence. “Ecocriticism: Some Emerging Trends.” Qui Parle, vol. 19, no. 2, 2011, pp. 87-115.

Darwin, Erasmus. The Botanic Garden. London, 1791.

Faflak, Joel, and Richard Sha, eds. Romanticism and the Emotions. Cambridge UP, 2013.

Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. Routledge, 2004.

———. “Ecocriticism and Education for Sustainability.” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, vol. 7, no. 3, 2007, pp. 359-383.

———. “Problems and Prospects in Ecocritical Pedagogy.” Environmental Education Research, vol. 16, no. 2, 2010, pp. 233-245.

Hess, Scott. William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship: The Roots of Environmentalism in Nineteenth-Century Culture. U of Virginia P, 2012.

Jackson, Noel. Science and Sensation in Romantic Poetry. Cambridge UP, 2008.

Kelley, Theresa. Clandestine Marriage: Botany and Romantic Culture. Johns Hopkins UP, 2012.

King-Hele, Desmond. Erasmus Darwin and the Romantic Poets. Macmillan, 1986.

Levinson, Marjorie. Wordsworth’s Great Period Poems: Four Essays. Cambridge UP, 1986.

Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin, 2008.

McGann, Jerome J. The Romantic Ideology: A Critical Investigation. U of Chicago P, 1983.

McKusick, James C. Green Writing: Romanticism and Ecology. St. Martin’s, 2000.

Mitchell, Robert. Experimental Life: Vitalism in Romantic Science and Literature. Johns Hopkins UP, 2013.

Morton, Timothy. The Ecological Thought. Harvard UP, 2010.

Nichols, Ashton. Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting. Palgrave, 2011.

Oerlemans, Onno. Romanticism and the Materiality of Nature. U of Toronto P, 2002.

Orr, David. Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect. Island P, 2004.

Ottum, Lisa, and Seth T. Reno, eds. Wordsworth and the Green Romantics: Affect and Ecology in the Nineteenth Century. U of New Hampshire P, 2016.

Richardson, Alan. British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind. Cambridge UP, 2005.

———. The Neural Sublime: Cognitive Theories and Romantic Texts. Johns Hopkins UP, 2011.

Rigby, Kate. Topographies of the Sacred: The Poetics of Place in European Romanticism. U of Virginia P, 2005.

Schwartz, Janelle. Worm Work: Recasting Romanticism. U of Minnesota P, 2012.

Sha, Richard. Perverse Romanticism: Aesthetics and Sexuality in Britain, 1750-1832. Johns Hopkins UP, 2009.

Sobel, David. Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education. Orion, 1999.

———. Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities. Orion, 2004.

Zunshine, Lisa, ed. Introduction to Cognitive Culture Studies. Johns Hopkins UP, 2010.

Appendix A: Annotated Poem Project: Assignment Prompt

As literary scholars, we annotate texts as we read: we take notes in the margins, we underline, we make connections, we pose questions, we engage with the text in order to understand it in a more sophisticated and enriching manner. In our increasingly digital world, these kinds of annotations have naturally moved to the digital sphere. Every year, there are more and more digital editions of literary works, and more sites dedicated to sharing scholarship with a broader audience (see, for example, the Romantic Circles site, http://www.rc.umd.edu, especially its digital editions: http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions). For this project, you will contribute to this developing digital world of scholarship by creating an online annotated edition of an assigned poem using Weebly (http://www.weebly.com). Using Weebly is free and quite easy: the website is generated for you, so all you need to do is upload material and customize design elements.

Here’s the assignment: you will create your own Weebly website dedicated to one assigned poem, which you will sign up for during the first half of the semester. You will send me the url for your site, and I’ll post a link on our shared course site (http://greenromanticism.weebly.com). On your site, which you can design in any way you see fit, you must include: (1) a home page containing a brief Introduction to the poem and overview of your digital edition; (2) a separate page containing the full text of the poem; and (3) at least 10 hyperlinks in the poem that take readers to separate pages on your site and to other websites, sources, videos, paintings, and related texts. These hyperlinks are the digital annotations. They could include: biographical and historical details; definitions and explanations of Romantic-era terminology; references to and summaries of scholarly articles on a specific aspect the poem; links to scholarly sites on the poem; paintings or other visual media directly related to the poem (along with your commentary); and whatever else is helpful in understanding and explaining the poem. Your project is due by our last class session, and we’ll share those in class.

Appendix B: How to Set up Your Weebly Site

  1. Go to weebly.com
  2. Sign up for a free account by entering your name, email address, and password.
  3. Select a “theme,” which you can change later.
  4. Select to “Use a Subdomain of Weebly.com” and enter whatever you’d like your url to be. Remember to write down your url so you don’t forget it!
  5. Watch the “how-to” video or click on “Build My Site.”
  6. Give your site a name at the top of the homepage (you can also change this later).
  7. Click “Publish” in the upper right hand corner of the page.
  8. Select “Personal” for website type and click “Continue.”
  9. Enter the security words and click “OK, Publish My Site!”*
  10. A box will appear telling you your website has been published, and it will ask if you’d like to upgrade to a .com website. Do not upgrade. Simply close the dialogue box.
  11. Email me your url so that I can add it to our shared course site.

Congratulations, your site is now live! That means if you type in the URL, your site will appear. Of course, at this point your site is essentially empty, but you will build, design, and create pages for your project throughout the semester. Once you decide the poem for your project, come talk to me and then begin to build your site.

* The “Publish” button functions as the “Save” key. You will need to click “Publish” after every change you make to the site before signing out, or your changes will not be saved. Every time you click “Publish,” Weebly will ask if you’d like to upgrade: simply close this dialogue box (we’re using the free account, and Weebly wants you to upgrade to an account with a monthly fee).

Appendix C: Annotated Poem Project: Rubric


Introductory Page

Your Introductory Page should clearly and concisely establish the content and purpose of your site, as well as provide appropriate background information and images. Links to the various pages on your site should be easily accessible.

Poem Page

The full text of the poem should appear exactly as it was published/reprinted in our anthology. Font style and size should be easy to read.


The poem should have a minimum of ten hyperlinks that take your reader to specific pages on your site and/or to appropriate external sites. The hyperlinks should provide readers with detailed information to help them understand the poem—that is, the information you provide should not be obvious, but rather should require some deal of research and specialized knowledge on your part.

Visual Appeal

Think carefully about the overall design of your site as well as the interplay of image and text on each individual page. We read both image and text on websites, so the two should complement each other. Avoid cluttered pages, fonts that are difficult to read, and blurry images.


Your writing should be clear and concise, and it should be easy to navigate through the site. As you are writing for a public audience, you should avoid academic jargon and highly-specialized terminology. If you do use an unfamiliar term or concept, explain it clearly for your readers.


Your site should contain appropriate outside research from scholarly, peer-reviewed publications and sites. There is no minimum research requirement, but your site should reflect months of research and work on your text. You must provide appropriate citations for all outside sources.


[1] For the seminal study of Darwin’s influence on Romanticism, see King-Hele. For more recent work, see Jackson; Nichols; and Kelley. BACK

[2] Courses on “Green Romanticism” have become more prevalent since the Fall 1996 special issue of Studies in Romanticism on “Green Romanticism.” While many scholars prefer the label of “Romantic Ecology”—for example, in the Romantic Circles Praxis Series volume on “Romanticism & Ecology”—I used “Green Romanticism” for my course as a more accessible term for students who are not familiar with Romanticism or Ecology. “Technological Romanticism,” on the other hand, is not so much a formal movement as a reference to the growing body of scholarship that links science, technology, and art in the study of Romanticism. BACK

[3] See, for example, the Romantic Circles Pedagogy Commons volume on “Romanticism, Ecology, and Pedagogy”; Sobel; Orr; Louv; and Garrard. BACK

[4] For a useful essay on the major waves of ecocriticism, see Buell. BACK

[5] See Morton; Jackson; Sha; Mitchell; Richardson; Zunshine; Kelley; and Schwartz. BACK

[6] Jerome McGann coined the term “Romantic Ideology” in his important 1983 study of the same name, to which ecocritics such as Jonathan Bate responded in the early 1990s. After a fruitful decade of scholarship on Green Romanticism, James McKusick established the Romantics as foundational ecological writers, and since 2000 scholars have developed and tested his claim. Many historicists have critiqued what they see as the Romantics’ transcendent and idealized vision of Nature, while McKusick and others have emphasized the material interconnectedness of Romantic ecology. In recent years, studies on the relationship between Romantic-era literature and science have moved scholarly discussions beyond debates between ecocriticism and new historicism to questions concerning the nature of Romantic ecology. Students in my class pick up with this third wave of Romantic ecocriticism. For new historicist work, see McGann; Levinson; Garrard; Morton; and Hess. For ecocritical responses to new historicism, see Bate; McKusick; Nichols; Oerlemans; and Rigby. For recent work in literature and science, see Sha; Schwartz; Kelley; Faflak and Sha; Ottum and Reno; and Mitchell. BACK

[7] I should note that not everyone was thrilled with the assignment. One student was not comfortable with computers at all, and she decided to drop the course because of the digital project. This is a potential drawback: even with the instructor’s offer to provide individual help and attention at each stage in the process, some students are simply averse to digital assignments. BACK