William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are two of the names most likely to come to mind when thinking of the poetry of Britain’s Romantic period. In this course, we will take on the productions of these two poetic innovators, placing their work in conversation with the literature and events of their historical moment. We will read the work of their female contemporaries—such as Mary Robinson and Charlotte Smith—considering how these poets were influenced by the battles over form, gender, and sentiment that raged during their youth. We will read their famous collaboration, the Lyrical Ballads, and debate how ideas of community (or coterie) contribute to artistic production. We will read their responses to the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars, tracing literature’s ability to represent and engage with times of upheaval and turmoil. And finally, we will consider their reputations as authors—ranging from their deployment of key concepts like genius and copyright to the way their personalities were constructed and consumed by their contemporaries.
This is a course for those interested not only in the poetic production of these two important poets, but in debates about the social, even activist, value of literature. Students in this course will hone their skills in the analysis of poetry, as well as debate the links between the concerns of the first half of the nineteenth century and our own. Course requirements will include two short papers, a presentation, and a final research paper.