Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Great Novels of American and British Romanticism

ENGL 055.601
T 6-9

Beginning in the light of the French Revolution and ending in the darkness of the Civil War, our course on the British and American romantic novel will take us from the alcoves of the human psyche to the quotidian realities of nineteenth-century society to the vast expanses of the ocean. We will study its gothic and romance forms, as well as its ideas and ideals concerning human nature, aesthetics, theology and historical process. We will also ascertain the social and political implications of British and American romanticism, as a reaction to the French and American revolutions, and often in its visionary promotion of womens rights, abolition and the utopian society. In general, our discussions will be guided by the key concepts and tensions that have pursued the notoriously elusive and splendidly enduring movement of romanticism, such as the heroism of the artist, the individual against society, the intuitive basis of knowledge, the irrational origins of experience, on the sublimity of nature in the face of the corruptions of industrialization, on finding wonder in the familiar and envisioning a universe organically wedded to humanity. Texts will likely include Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Thomas De Quincy's Confessions of an Opium Eater, Edgar Allan Poe's Narrative of A. Gordon Pym, Herman Melville's Moby Dick and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance. The course requirements are two critical essays, a running journal, an oral presentation and an active imagination.