English 470 - Gender, Literacy, and Romantic Prose

English 470
Nineteenth-century Literature:
Fall 1999
Prof. Nanora Sweet
Univ. Missouri-St. Louis

Gender, Literacy, and Romantic Prose


Woodring, Carl, ed. Prose of the Romantic Period Houghton
Burke, Edmund, Reflections of the Revolution in France Hackett
Paine, Thomas, The Rights of Man Viking Penguin
Wollstonecraft, Mary, The Vindications Broadview
Wordsworth, Dorothy, The Grasmere Journals Oxford
Byron, Lord Byron: Selected Letters and Journals Belknap/Harvard
handouts for coursepack

Recommended books/resources:

literary handbook as by Abrams, Holman & Harmon, or Cuddon

documentation handbook for MLA, APA, or Chicago style

internet access (for library access; and try Romantic Circles too at <www.rc.umd.edu>)

Seminar Requirements and points

6 responses (R), 1-2 pages (150-250 words; handwritten okay) 30

2 oral reports on theory or criticism (chosen from those listed) 20

theory position paper 10

periodical survey activity 5

seminar paper (10-15 pages, 5 sources) 35

discussion and participation 20

total points 120

grade ranges: 120-109, A. 108-97, B. 96-85, C. 84-0, F.

Interdisciplinary: Please note that this course applies both to graduate degrees in English and to the Graduate Certificate in Women's and Gender Studies. For more information on the Certificate, visit or contact the Institute for Women's and Gender Studies, 607 Tower, -5581, iwgs@umsl.edu, http://www.umsl.edu/divisions/artscience/iwgs/iwgs.html.

Seminar Topic:

The nonfiction prose of the Romantic period in Britain is the record of a people engaged in recreating literacy for a changing world. The period began explosively in 1789 with debates over the French Revolution, women's rights and education, and the rights of middle- and working-class men to organize politically. Then as now, the literacy of women and men alike was crucial to cultural change, for suddenly debaters like Thomas Paine and Hannah More were selling books and pamphlets in the millions. The period ended sedately in 1837 with the accession of Queen Victoria and the triumph of prose shaped for consumer magazines. Typical episodes along the way were Edmund Burke's attack on revolution, Mary Wollstonecraft's attack on Burke, and Coleridge's attack on the novel and creation of a new literati called "the clerisy." Gender was frequently the crux of these arguments, literally or figuratively, and continued so in the prose of the Wordsworths, Byron, and Keats.

We will read nonfiction for its "prose sense" but also for the (often gendered) revelations of its form, context, rhetoric, and use of metaphor. The course includes contemporary rhetorical, gender, and literacy theory; it will engage our individual struggles with literacy as readers, teachers, writers, citizens, and consumers. Frequent responses, reports, and a "theory position paper" will deepen and sharpen student work toward seminar papers. Individual projects will gain from the library's vast microform holdings in early English periodicals, which will also allow us to devote one class (11/10) to primary, archival sources.

Guiding Questions

Use these as they strike you in responding, discussing, writing. Create others too.

1. Nonfiction prose? Gender? Literacy? Romantic writing? What are these? What are they doing in the same seminar room?

2. How/Why/When do you read nonfiction? Do you skim it? How? Read it closely? How? Is nonfiction writing (an) art? Is it a (rhetorical) situation? What kinds of knowledge should you bring to it? What kinds of skills?

3. In the past few decades, literary study has become much more interested in nonfiction than before. Would you speculate about why? Is it literature (What is literature?)? How does it relate to mould-breaking approaches that have dominated literary study over these decades? (which are. . .?)

4. What forms of literacy are at issue here? Is literacy a matter of language or the knowledge carried by language? Is literacy empowering? In the revolutionary cross-currents of the Romantic era, does writing become a means of enfranchisement or of repression?

5. How does one read, write, and get written as a woman in Romantic prose? In contemporary prose? Or media?

6. What is the connection, real or apparent or ?, between gender and genre? How could you triangulate both with nonficton? How might "nonfiction" (de)construct genre?

7. What is gender? How is it an analytic category? How does the study of gender interact with "women's studies"? Can you trace its intellectual origins in psychoanalysis? how? structuralism (which is. . .?)? how?

8. Is gender a matter of difference? sameness? symmetry? asymmetry? sexuality? appearance? relationship? Is gender only an issue when women are an issue? Is gender (are genders?) categorical or historical?

9. Speaking of history, what is happening when "the Romantic Period" shifts from revolution to counter-revolution to reform? Does history "take shape" here? Like a prose argument? Whose argument?

10. Have you heard of the "Whig theory of history"? It's roughly the same as progressive or evolutionary history, in the popular sense. Is feminist history "Whig history"? Why are the conditions of publication and of literacy so different at the end of the period, in comparison to the beginning?

11. In the changing social structure of Regency-Reform Britain, how does writing reveal--or exploit?--new positions of weakness and strength?

12. What metaphors dominate the prose of the period? Their denotations? connotations? political and sexual implications? Do some feminist close reading.

13. Is nonfiction prose "history"? Is it "news"? How would you define "journalism" during the Romantic period, how do we define it now, and what if anything is the difference? Same question for "media," "publicity," "propaganda," "ideology."

14. Is nonfiction a form of literature or a context for literature or? Is it at all like poetry? drama? the novel?

15. How is nonfiction literally a part of society's political, religious, and educational institutions? How, conversely, might it be integral to the breakdown of those institutions? Have you studied Foucault's theories of discourse and institutions? How do they and our course inter-illuminate, inter-interrogate each other?

16. How are education and literacy related? In the Romantic period / in our period. Can you have literacy without education? education without literacy? What are education and literacy?

17. How are women and education related? Women and literacy? Why is education for women such a controversial topic in the 1790s?

18. Traditionally, nonfiction prose is associated with logic and reason. What new things do you learn about reason and its history by reading this prose? About emotion and its history?

19. How does "professionalization" enter in? An emerging class of professional journalists? How about "commodification"? The selling of writing in a popular press? To a women's market?

20. How could literacy change so much for women in the Romantic period that Janet Courtney could call the publishing story of the 1830s "a chapter in the women's movement"? This despite the discrediting of Mary Wollstonecraft after 1798. Is there an economic/political/cultural/? explanation?

responses, reports, papers

"Responses." Write 1-2 pages of response to the work for six of our classes (sign up in advance). Respond, than probe and interrogate your own response and its terms. Use the Guiding Questions and/or related lines of inquiry to further your thought. Offer your reactions, that is, and connect them with one or more of the concepts and guiding questions of the course. Demonstrate, too, that you have read the work assigned for the evening. 30 pts

"Reports on Theory and Criticism." Selections by foremost workers in our field(s) are listed each week under the headings of Theory (literacy and rhetorical) and/or Criticism (Romantic and feminist studies). Choose from among these items for your two 5-10 min. reports. Read suggested portions or, when item is given as a full book, skim/read selectively. Give us a brief statement of the selection's leading argument or thesis, your sense of what makes it provocative and of its value for our ongoing readings in the course, and any other points of interest you wish to include. (Please do not do an exhaustive "blow by blow" summary of the piece as a whole.) As possible, "place" the criticism re: era, school of criticism, ideological bent, other criticism read. You may note that much of the literacy and rhetorical theory in particular is neither, to all appearances, feminist or attuned to questions of gender (in some cases, because of the selection's vintage). Thus an ongoing question might be, how is the piece made more illuminating and useful when interrogated by questions of gender? Prior to class, give the whole citation for the piece on board in correct MLA form (or APA or Chicago style, if you prefer). 20 pts

"Theory position paper." Critical reading doesn't happen in a vacuum. It is part of a larger intellectual world of assumptions and approaches and -- yes -- theories. What are your own working assumptions as a reader? What are the theory/ies you've been drawn to this semester or previously? In preparing for this 3-page paper, choose an approach that interests you right now. Try it on for size. Narrate, perform, present the theory in your own best terms. Questions to incorporate might be, What does this theory bring to your work of critical reading? To your own changing literacy? What does this paper teach you about your own approach to the textual world? How might this paper prepare you to write a seminar paper in our course? 10 pts

"Seminar paper." 10-15 pages. If you have not used the online MLA Bibliography and our library resources for research yet, please test them out now. I will offer a list of suggested topics, but you may also craft your own. Something may germinate in a report or response that you do. Pursue your own concerns as they take their place within the larger academic conversation of the class and its readings (i.e., show that you understand what the class has done re: your topic and that you go beyond that point, conceptually or/and in detail). Among your sources, you must use 1 or more primary works (of course) and 5 or more secondary (critical) sources used and cited. Remember, as with the criticism included in the syllabus (which you may also use for your paper), these secondary sources are stimuli to your own thinking, not a replacement for it. See interim due-dates below. Use MLA (or if you prefer, Chicago or APA) documentation style, consistently. 35 pts


Note on Introductions: Read the various editorial introductions to our works at your own pace and to your own needs.

Unit I. Revolution and Reaction: The Pamphlet Wars of the 1790s (or The Rights of Man and the Rights of Woman)

8-25 Introduction: Romantic? prose? literacy? gender? And: A library visit.

9-1 Revolution and Reaction: Constructing the issues, writers, readers.
Woodring, a Sampler: 1-46. Recommend also dipping into Intellectual and/or Historical Background (separate list)

*Literacy Theory
Walter J. Ong, Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology, pp. 13/17/19, Ch. 6/7
Paolo Freire & Donaldo Macedo, Literacy: Reading the World and the Word (ch.?)

*Literacy Study
Richard D. Altick, The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public 1800-1900, skim chs. 7, 12, 14

9-8 French Revolution, English Reaction:

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France: Rec. Intro., vii-xiv. Req. Text, 3-92. More of each as desired.

*Rhetorical Theory

Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text
Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination ("Discourse in the Novel")

*Rhetorical Study

James T. Boulton, The Language of Politics in the Age of Wilkes and Burke (ch. 7; also rec. skim ch. 6 and/or 8)

9-15 Radical reading for the middle and artisan classes:

Mary Wollstonecraft, intro. and A Vindication of the Rights of Men, 31-114
Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man 35-122, 151-84

*Historical Theory

Hayden White, Metahistory, Introd., dip into ch's. 1, 2

*Historical and Literacy Studies

E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (ch. 4, 5: Paine)
Jon Klancher, The Making of English Reading Audiences, 1790-1832, ch. 1

9-22 Feminist debate as argument over education:

Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 115-243 or all the way to 416

*Rhetorical Theory

Kenneth Burke, A Grammar of Motives

*Rhetorical/Critical/Feminist Study

Gary Kelly, "Mary Wollstonecraft as Vir Bonus" (on Reserve)
Mary Jacobus, "'The science of herself': Scenes of Female Enlightenment," in Romanticism, History, and the Possibilities of Genre: Re-forming Literature 1789-1837

9-29 Tory tracts for the masses:

Hannah More, from Strictures on Female Education (handout)

*Feminist/Cultural Studies

Elizabeth Kowalksi-Wallace, Their Father's Daughters (ch. 3, on More)
Alan Richardson, Literature, Education, and Romanticism (25-33, 167-85)

Unit II. War and Post-War: Romantic Retreat, Regency Revels, 1800-1820

10-6 The Prose of Romantic Poetry

Woodring: Wordsworth, 49-68, 83-88. Coleridge, 139-54.

*Rhetorical Study

John r. Nabholtz, "Romantic Prose and Classical Rhetoric," in Rhetorical Tradition and British Romantic Literature, ed. Don Bialostosky and Lawrence Needham

*Critical (Literacy, Gender) Studies on Coleridge

Jon Klancher, The Making of English Reading Audiences, ch. 2 (selectively)
Julie Ellison, Delicate Subjects: Romanticism, Gender, and the Ethics of Understanding, esp. 163-213

10-13 Women's writing, cottage industry?

Woodring: on Dorothy Wordsworth, 563
Grasmere Journals: Intro. Text: we will divide in half -- (1-34 and 55-94), (35-54 and 94-137)

Discuss "Theory Position Paper"

*Critical Study

Margaret Homans on D.W. in Women Writers and Poetic Identity, 41-103

10-20 Regency Scandal: Reading Other People's Letters

Woodring, Austen, 568-69; Keats, letters pp. 532 and 538.
Byron's Selected Letters and Journals: Intro. Text: about 50 pages, divided up in class by correspondents (see listing in rear)

*Cultural Study

Anna Clark. "Queen Caroline and the Sexual Politics of Popular Culture in London, 1820." Representations 31 (Summer 1990):47-65.

Unit III. From Romanticism to Reform, 1820-1832:

The Rise of a Popular Press

10-27 The Making of the English Romantic Poets (In Prose Of Course):

Coleridge, 91-92, 94-97; Lockhart, 597-600; Hazlitt, 279-94; Lamb, 193-204; Haydon, 594-97.

*Cultural Study

Lee Erickson, The Economy of Literary Form: English Literature and the Industrialization of Publishing, 1800-1850, ch. 2 "The Poets' Corner..."

11-3 Personal Essays, Periodical Essays; or Sex, Drugs, and Violence Sell

Charles Lamb's "Essays of Elia," 190-93, 204-229; Mary Lamb, "On Needle-Work," handout; DeQuincey, 386-97, 403-446

*Critical Studies

Jane Aaron, "'On Needle-Work': Protest and Contradiction in Mary Lamb's Essay" in Romanticism and Feminism, ed. Anne Mellor
Adriana Craciun, "The Subject of Violence: Mary Lamb, Femme Fatale" in Romanticism and Women Poets, ed. Harriet Linkin and Stephen Behrendt
Mary Jacobus, "The Art of Managing Books: Romantic Prose and the Writing of the Past," in Romanticism and Language, ed. Arden Reed (read this deconstructive study of DeQuincey and others with a friend?)

11-10 Magazines in the Romantic Period: Review one on TJL microfilm, e.g.,Analytical Review, Anti-Jacobin Review, London Magazine, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine ("Maga"), New Monthly Magazine. Handout assignment.

*Critical Study

Lee Erickson, The Economy of Literary Form, ch 3, "Ideological Focus and the Market for the Essay"

11-17 Literary Criticism by Women, M.J. Jewsbury and Anna Jamieson (handouts)

DUE: "Theory Position Paper"

*Cultural Study

Janet Courtney, The Adventurous Thirties: A Chapter in the Women's Movement (1933) (selec. on Reserve)

Bring working topic and working bibliography (primary and secondary) toward seminar paper.

12-1 Bring ideas, bibliography, and tentative thesis and outline for your seminar paper. Bring questions: plan to discuss in small groups. Although ideas for paper topics will be available, you are free to craft your own.

12-8 Final class meeting/party. Seminar paper due. Discuss findings.

Our official exam period (for some reason) is Monday, 12-13. I will be available with your papers and grades in my office from 7-8 p.m. that evening. Alternatively, you may give me a self-addressed stamped envelope sufficient to mail your paper back to you; or a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Other valuable background works:


Alvin Sullivan, British Literary Magazines, vols. 1 & 2 (vol. 2 on Res.)
Walter Graham, English Literary Periodicals, (1930) chs. 6 & 7

Literacy study
Amy Cruse, The Englishman and His books in the Early Nineteenth Century (1930):

Edmund Burke, Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful
Walter J. Ong, Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue
Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word
Wayne Booth, Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Dissent
Edward P.J. Corbett & Robert J. Connors, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student

Critical Theory:
Frederic Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as Socially Symbolic Act
Red Bensmaia, The Barthes Effect: The Essay as Reflective Text
Mary Jacobus, Reading Woman: Essays in Feminist Criticism
Glyph 7 (special issue on genre, 1980, contains Derrida=s famous essay "The Law of Genre"
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Displacement and the Discourse of Woman," in Displacement: Derrida and After, ed. Mark Krupnick; rpt. A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader, ed. Antony Easthope and Kate McGowan

Romantic Criticism:
Mary Poovey, The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer
Marlon Ross, The Contours of Masculine Desire: Romanticism and the Rise of Women's Poetry
Carol Shiner Wilson & Joel Haefner, Re-Visioning Romanticism: British Women Writers, 1776-1837