Professor: Michael Gamer
WATU Tutor: Allen Grove
Class meets: Tues-Thurs, 3:00-4:30 pm
Office and Phone: 203 Bennett Hall, (215) 482-2156
Office Hours: Tues 12:00-3:00; Wednesday by appt.
Allen Grove's Office and Phone:
Allen Grove's Office Hours:

TEXTS: Available at Penn Book Center, 3726 Walnut, ph:222-7600.

  • Clare, John. Selected Poetry and Prose. Ed. Raymond Williams. ISBN#0416411207
  • Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Other Poems (Dover #0-486-27266-4).
  • Hardy, Thomas. Poems: Hardy (Everyman). ISBN #0679443681.
  • Keats, John. Lyric Poems. Dover Press. ISBN #0486268713.
  • Rossetti, Christina. Goblin Market. Dover Press. ISBN #0-486-24516-0.
  • Stoppard, Thomas. Arcadia. ISBN #0571169341.
  • Wordsworth, William. Favorite Poems (Dover) ISBN#0486270734.

    BULKPACK: Available at Campus Copy Center, 3907 Walnut

    Contains poems by Bowles, Coleridge, Finch, Gray, Goldsmith, Hemans, Keats, Montagu, Pope, Robinson, Shelley, Smith, Swift, Williams, and Wordsworth.


  • 1. To send a message to the class listserver: "mail" a message to: When you send a message to this address, the entire class will be able to read it and respond to it.
  • 2. To reply to a message that has been sent to you via the class listserver: make sure that you hit "g" (it stands for "group reply") if you want to send your reply to the entire class. Hit "r" (for "reply") if you only want to reply to the person who sent the message. The best thing to do is double-check who you are sending it to.
  • 3. To get to the English Gopher (where all the non-book course materials will be available on line): After you log in, you will get a prompt that should read "%Main Menu." At the "%Main Menu" prompt, type the following: gopher Once you are in the gopher, you will want to select "English Courses--Electronic Texts & Materials" (it should be #8), and then look for our course. Rather than using the gopher, however, I suggest that you use my homepage, since it also includes links to the Oxford English Dictionary, the MLA Bibliography, and many other things as well.
  • 4. To get to my homepage using Mosaic: Simply select the "Open URL" command under "File," and then type in my www address:
  • 5. To get to my hompage using Netscape: Simply select the "Open" icon, and then type in my www address:
  • 6. To get to my homepage using Lynx:


    Back in the early nineteenth century, the famous reviewer and critic Francis Jeffrey wrote in The Edinburgh Review that there were "not thirty [poets] whose works are to be found in the hands of ordinary readers--in the shops of ordinary booksellers--or in the press for republication" (Contributions to the Edinburgh Review 289). At that time, Jeffrey joked about wanting to stop the production of the poets and the presses, if only for a decade, so that he could direct his readers to the vast amount of good British poetry, either neglected or forgotten, that he did not want to see die. Therefore, in this course, we will do our best to do the impossible: sample British poetry from 1710 to 1900 in our own Grand Tour that hopefully will achieve an understanding even about the authors that we will not have time to read. We will do so by looking into a tradition of poetry--that of landscape--that will allow us to see how present poet revise and transform their predecessors in order to present their own ways of seeing. Understanding the various topographies of British poetry, furthermore, will allow us to examine how it constructs psychological and political landscapes as well.


    You are required to have an electronic mail account

    I do not require you to use the English gopher, the world wide web, or any of the internet, but an electronic mail account--and checking it at least a couple of times a week--is required. Until you send an electronic mail message to me, I will not consider you registered for the class, and I will drop those of you on the course lists who do not get electronic mail accounts. I do this because I will use electronic mail as my chief way of making course announcements, sending out reminders, and communicating with you.

    Also, this course will have an electronic mailing list (known as a listserver) that will have all of our names on it. If you send a message to, your message will go to everyone in the class. This way, you will be able to do many things: 1) conduct discussions outside of class, 2) ask for information on what we did in class if you miss a meeting, 3) test paper ideas out on each other, 4) brainstorm regarding the final exam, etc. On the first day of class, I will, as part of our first assignment, get those of you who know about e-mail to take twenty minutes to teach those of you who don't know about e-mail how to use it. ALLEN AND I ALSO ARE MORE THAN WILLING TO SET UP GROUP APPOINTMENTS WITH YOU IN ORDER TO TEACH YOU HOW TO USE THIS TECHNOLOGY--so if you feel lost, you simply need to say so.


    Since I know that disasters happen unexpectedly during the semester, I allow you two absences. In other words, there's no such thing in this class as an "excused" absence. I don't want to know why you miss class; these two absences are your business. Missing more than two classes is equally your business, but it will significantly lower your grade, since it will inhibit your ability to contribute significantly to our discussions. You should count on 3-4 absences lowering your grade by 1/3 (B to B-, for example), 5-6 by 2/3 (B to C+, 7-8 by one full grade (B to C), etc.


    This class will conduct itself as a discussion rather than a lecture. I say this now because I do not want anyone taking this class to expect it to be a lecture class. I do sometimes lecture for 5-15 minute stretches, but the bulk of our time will be spent in real discussion, and the topics of our discussion will be determined as much by your intellectual interests as by my own. This means that you should expect class periods to be intense and fun, a place to test out your own ideas about what we're reading. You can expect me to come in every class with 50 minutes of my own agenda planned; in turn, I will expect the 25 of you to have at least 25 minutes of questions, observations, and discoveries about the reading. Students who do not participate in our discussions will most likely see their final grade go down; the four or five students who end up carrying much of the burden of discussion will probably see their hard work reflected in their grade as well. Most importantly, you should expect class discussion often to follow your interests and concerns as you voice them. Usually, I will ask those of you who have written paragraphs for that day to read your paragraphs aloud, as a way of getting discussion going. I will expect the rest of you at least TO BRING IN ONE QUESTION that you want to ask the rest of us--and you should, when possible, choose interpretive questions ("I don't understand how these two passages can be part of the same poem") rather than factual questions ("When did Robinson write this?") In particular, I urge you to pay special attention to those points where you don't understand something in the reading--where you've tried to find out the answer for yourself and failed--because they are the most important for the class.

    Reading and Writing Assignments

    As this course is an introductory survey course, I am assuming that you have little or no experience in reading poetry. Consequently, the reading load for this course is light (usually but not always less than 4 hours per week), and the writing load for this course is relatively heavy (four short paragraphs, six listserv responses, two short essays, and a longer essay with an annotated bibliography attached to it). Instructions concerning all of these assignments are below.

    The Three Essays

    During the semester, I will ask you to hand in three essays 750-1750 words long. I will read and respond to these essays, and, beginning with the second one, explain to you what kind of grade it would receive were it to be handed in at the end of the semester in the portfolio. You can consider these essays as dry runs for the portfolio, since for the portfolio I will ask you to select your best work, revise it, and hand it in for a grade. This way, you will have the opportunity to test ideas and take chances without being immediately penalized for it.


    Your grade will be determined by three components: the quality of your in-class performance (including the four paragraphs and six listserver responses, 20% of your grade), your performance on the final exam (30% of your grade), and the quality of the portfolio of work that you hand in at the end of the semester (50% of grade). These various assignments are listed and described below:

  • Four short paragraphs (10% of grade--no more than 250 words--otherwise I'll ask you to do it again): Four times during the semester, I will ask you to write a paragraph that you will bring into class on that day. On any given day, we will likely have 4-5 students bringing in paragraphs and reading them aloud. These paragraphs will often determine the agenda of the class. Therefore, your paragraphs should be about what you want to focus on in the class period, and why. The paragraph should, without introduction or padding, explain the following: i) what part of what poem interests you, ii) why it interests you, iii) how it relates or doesn't relate to issues already raised in the course, and iv) what you want to accomplish or figure out by discussing a particular aspect of a particular poem. Your paragraphs should take no more than two minutes to read. I will grade them on the basis of their intellectual intensity, clarity, and curiosity.

  • Six responses on the class listserver (10% of grade--250 words or more in length): In the first nine weeks of the semester, I will ask you to participate in the discussion we have on the class listserver (send all messages to You may write in when you have something you want to contribute, propose, respond to, etc., and may do so any time over the semester before November 15. You may participate as much as you wish, but I require that you make at least six entries. At the end of the semester, I will read through all of the listserv activity and evaluate your level of engagement, and it will count as 10% of your final grade.

  • The Final Exam (30% of grade). This will be split between a lengthy identification section, and an essay question. As part of the preparation for the exam, I will ask you to put onto the listserver one final exam question that you would like to see on the final. I will then use your final exam questions as the basis for the essay section of the final.

  • The Portfolio (50% of grade). This should represent the your best work of the semester, and should really be the best, most finished, immaculate work you can do. Each portfolio will contain the following items:

    Late Work and Extensions

    During the semester, I do not accept late work. If you do not make a deadline, it does not directly affect your grade; you simply lose that opportunity for me to read your work and provide you with feedback. In other words, if you miss the second paper deadline, you simply lose that opportunity for me to read your work and help you with feedback. I do this because I do not want anything to do with the hassles of students asking for extensions, bringing excuses, etc. I will only read each paper you write once before the portfolio. However, I am happy to discuss work in progress with you during my office hours or by appointment; and will be very happy to talk with you about an essay that I've commented upon. It is a good idea to bring in a draft with specific questions about it. It is much more instructive to discuss specific questions and writing problems in a draft than general, abstract questions concerning your writing.


    As I'm interested in what you think about this material, I do not like reading plagiarized work, and will fail any student who hands in plagiarized work for the course. If you have a question about whether you are plagiarizing something, definitely err on the side of caution and come ask me.


    Sept 7: Opening Day of course. Anne Finch's "The Bird and the Arras" and "Adam Posed".

    Sept 12: Landscapes of Authorship: Anne Finch. Reading: read all of the poems in the bulkpack by Anne Finch, Countess of Winchelsea. For Discussion: "On Myself," "The Introduction," and "The Apology." SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE H-P

    Sept 14: Nature and Art. For Discussion: Anne Finch, "The Apology," "A Nocturnal Reverie," and "The Nightingale." SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE Q-Z

    Sept 19: Landscapes of Epic and Gender. For Discussion: Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock. SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE A-G

    Sept 21: London High Life, 1700-1750: Two Views. Reading: read all of the poems in the bulkpack by Jonathan Swift and by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. For Discussion: "The Lady's Dressing Room" and, from Montagu's Town Ecologues, "Saturday: The Smallpox." SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE H-P.

    Sept 26: Ruins, Monuments, and the Land of the Dead. Reading: Read all the poems in the bulkpack by Thomas Gray. For Discussion: "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College," "Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes," and "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE Q-Z.

    Sept 28: For Discussion: Thomas Gray, "The Bard," and any poems we did not get to on Sept. 26. SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE A-G.

    Sept 29: ESSAY #1 DUE.

    Oct 3: Landscapes of Economic Change I. For Discussion: Oliver Goldsmith, "The Deserted Village." SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE H-P.

    Oct 5: Hauntings. Reading: Read all the selections from Mary Robinson in the bulkpack. For Discussion: Joanna Baillie, "Night Scenes of Other Times" (1790); Mary Robinson, "The Haunted Beach" and "The Savage of Aveyron" (1800); Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798); William Wordsworth, "Goody Blake and Harry Gill" (1798). SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE Q-Z.

    Oct 10, 12: Nature and the Evolution of the Romantic Sonnet. For October 10th and 12th, we'll be reading sonnets in chronological order byThomas Gray (1716-1771), Charlotte Smith (1784-1797), Helen Maria Williams (1784-1797) William Bowles (1789), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), William Wordsworth (1787-1806), Percy Shelley (1815-1819), and John Keats (1795-1821). All of the poems for these two class periods--even the ones that also appear in the various volumes you've bought for the course--are located in order in the coursepack. We will discuss as many of them as we can, and will attempt to organize them thematically, as well as attempting to understand the various influences operating within these communities of writers. On October 10, we'll sequence that begins with Smith ("Sonnet 1") and ends with Keats ("Scorn not the Sonnet"). On October 12, we'll concentrate on the sequence in the packet that goes from Bowles ("To the River Itchin") to Shelley ("England in 1819"). OCTOBER 10: SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE A-G. OCTOBER 12: SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE H-P.

    Oct 19: The Conversation Poem 1: Reading: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Aeolian Harp" (in bulkpack), "Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement" (in bulkpack), "This Lime Tree Bower My Prison," "The Nightingale. For Discussion: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Frost at Midnight"; William Wordsworth, "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey," and "Nutting." SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE Q-Z.

    Oct 20: ESSAY #2 DUE.

    Oct 24: Romance vs Real Life. Reading: William Wordsworth, "The Old Cumberland Beggar" (bulkpack). For Discussion: William Wordsworth, "Hart-Leap Well" and, if we have time, the poem under the "Reading" heading. SHORT PARAGRAPH DUE A-G.

    Oct 26: Creativity and Cognition. For discussion: William Wordsworth, "Expostulation and Reply," "The Tables Turned," and "With ships the sea was sprinkled"; Percy Shelley, "Mont Blanc" (all in bulkpack).

    Oct 31: Landscapes of Creativity and Desire I. For Discussion: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Christabel".

    Nov 2: Landscapes of Creativity and Desire II. For Discussion: Percy Shelley, "Ode to the West Wind"; John Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale"; Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Kubla Khan" (see version in bulkpack, since it contains his preface).

    Nov 7: Landscapes of Creativity and Desire III. For Discussion: John Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes; John Keats, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci; "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and "To Fanny" (this last poem is in the bulkpack). Long Paper Deadline #1: You must meet with me--or e-mail me--to discuss what you will be doing your long essay on or by this date.

    Nov 9: Landscapes of Creativity and Desire IV. For Discussion: from Felicia Hemans, Records of Woman (1828): "The Memorial Pillar," "The Grave of a Poetess," and "Constanza".

    Nov 14: Reading: Raymond Williams, "Introduction" to John Clare: Selected Poetry and Prose. We will spend two class periods on Clare. Per class, we will discuss two or three poems in depth. I strongly recommend, however, that you simply read the Selected Poems cover to cover, dipping in as you wish, and moving on if a poem does not please you. Raymond Williams is perhaps the most important materialist critic working in England in the last 40 years; his introduction is excellent. The edition is littered with short prose passages (in 'quotations marks' in the table of contents) written by Clare that are very entertaining as well, and will give you a huge amount of insight into this fascinating poet. For Discussion: "The Mores," "The Lament of Swordy Well" and "Remembrances."

    Nov 16: For discussion: Clare cluster #2: "The Thrushes Nest," "The Pettichaps Nest," "The Mouse's Nest," "The Badger," "The Fox." All of these poems are superb, and to an extent speak to one another. If you think that you want to write a paper on Clare's work, I strongly advise that you read through all of the nest poems. They are short, and fascinating. Long Paper Deadline #2: due today is a one-page prospectus of what your long essay will argue.

    Nov 21: For Discussion: Christina Rosetti, "Goblin Market".

    Nov 28: For Discussion: Tom Stoppard, Arcadia.

    November 30-December 7: For our remaining classes, we will be reading from the poetry of Thomas Hardy, The Wessex Poems (1898). On November 30th: due today are the drafts of your long essay.