English 40: A Landscape of British Poetry, 1680-1860

Professor: Michael Gamer

Course Description | Course Calendar

Texts and Bulkpack | Course Requirements

Graded Work | Computer Information

Office Hours and Other Information

Essay Assignments | Annotated Bibliography

Office Hours and Other Information

Professor: Michael Gamer
Office and Phone: 203 Bennett Hall, (215) 898-7346
Office Hours: Wed. 10-11, 12-1, and by appt.
WATU Tutor: Michael Vennera (mvennera@sas.upenn.edu)
Michael Vennera's Office and Phone:
Michael Vennera's Office Hours:

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

BULKPACK: Available at Wharton Reprographics, Basement of Wharton School. Contains poems by Coleridge, Finch, Gray, Goldsmith, Killigrew, Pope, Phillips, Robinson, Rossetti, Shelley, Smith, and Wordsworth. This coursepack also contains several articles.


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 1680 to 1850 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 construct a more cohesive trajectory of British poetry by seeing 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.


NOTE: The first 2 paragraphs must be handed in on the given due date. The 3rd may be handed in at any time before Halloween. The 4th one may be handed in at any time before Thanksgiving. All must be given to me in class and on the day we are reading the text you wish to discuss.

Sept 3: Opening Day of course. Anne Finch, "On Myself."

Sept 5: Please send me an e-mail message so that I know you have an e-mail account and that you are in the class. This Class will be on the Question of "What Spaces Do Authors Construct for Themselves?" Reading: Read all of the poems in the bulkpack by Anne Killigrew. For Discussion: Anne Finch, "The Introduction," "The Apology." What is the landscape within which women write? Who peoples it? What traditions exist?

Sept 8: Autobiography as Fiction. Reading: Read the poems from the bulkpack by Katherine Phillips ("The Matchless Orinda"). For Discussion (read these very very closely): Anne Finch, "On Myself" and "The Bird in the Arras". Question: Students often feel compelled simply to read Finch as the bird in the arras. To what extent do the three poems we've discussed by Finch support this?

Sept 10: Nature and Poetry. Reading: Read through all of the poems by Anne Finch, aloud and slowly, and try to consider "The Nightingale" in light of the poems as a whole. For Discussion: Anne Finch, "The Nightingale." Question #1: Do you find this poems more interesting to read as a transcription of an actual moment of inspiration, or as a re-staging (re-presentation) of such a moment? Question #2: The poem ends with a familiar attack on (presumably) male critics, but this ending is actually an analogy. To what is the relation of the poet and the critic analogous? How does this analogy stack up in relation to "The Bird and The Arras?"

Sept 12: How Does Creativity Work? Read Aloud: please reread through all of the poems by Anne Finch, aloud and slowly, and try to consider "A Nocturnal Reverie" in light of the poems as a whole. For Discussion: "A Nocturnal Reverie." Question: Does the first 2/3 of the poem "Nocturnal Reverie" use the list of details as a kind of argumentation? What is the function of these lines? You may wish to focus on the movement and trajectory of these lines. To where does this poem travel? PARAGRAPH DUE A-G

Sept 15: Critical Forum. Read the two articles on Anne Finch in the coursepack. Write a summary of no more than 200 words on the article that you prefer and be prepared to explain why you prefer it. Hint: "It was easier to understand" is probably not a good enough reason.

Sept 17: For Discussion: Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (first half). PARAGRAPH DUE H-N

Sept 19: Reading: Martha Woodmansee, "Genius and the Copyright." For Discussion: Finish Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism. PARAGRAPH DUE O-Z

Sept 22: Reading: Paul Shepheard, The Cultivated Wilderness; Or, What is Landscape? (1997). Please read the first half. PARAGRAPH DUE A-G

Sept 24: Finish The Cultivated Wilderness. PARAGRAPH DUE H-N

Sept 26: Reading: Vincent Caretta, "Anne and Elizabeth: The Poet as Historian in Windsor Forest." For Discussion: Alexander Pope, "Windsor Forest." PARAGRAPH DUE O-Z

Sept 29: Topography and Caricature, or Locating Satire in Degree and in the Detail. Read Aloud: Please read the extract from Homer in the coursepack and Pope's translation of the same passage. For Discussion: Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock (Cantos 1-2).

Oct 1: Civil and Uncivil Landscapes. For Discussion: Finish Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock.

Oct 3: Grub Street at Landscape. For Discussion: Alexander Pope, "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot."

Oct 6: Pope and Gender Again. Reading and Discussion: Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard.

Oct 8: Reading and Discussion: Finish Eloisa to Abelard.

Oct 10: Paper #1 Due.

Oct 13: Fall Break

Oct 15: Reading: All the poems by Thomas Gray. John Barrell, "The Idea of Landscape in the Eighteenth Century." For Discussion: "Ode to Spring," "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College." ARTICLE SUMMARY DUE

Oct 17: Reading: Richard Sha, "Gray's Political Elegy." For Discussion: "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard."

Oct 20: Reading: Linda Zionkowski, "Bridging the Gulf Between: The Poet and the Audience in the Work of Gray." For Discussion: "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." Begin Discussing Thomas Gray, "The Bard." ARTICLE SUMMARY DUE.

Oct 22: Reading: John Dixon Hunt, "The Landscape of The Bard. "For Discussion: "The Bard."

Oct 24: Paper #2 Due.

Oct 27: Reading: John Lucas, "Goldsmith and the Ambiguities of Patriotism." For Discussion: the first half of Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village.

Oct 29: Reading: John Barrell, "The Landscape of Agricultural Improvement." For Discussion: The Barrell and the second half of Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village.

Oct 31: Hauntings and Solitude: The Ballad Revival. Reading: William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge, "Advertisement" to Lyrical Ballads (1798; in coursepack); Samuel Coleridge, "The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner" (in Dover ed.); William Wordsworth, "Simon Lee" (in Dover ed.) and "Goody Blake and Harry Gill" (in coursepack). For Discussion: Mary Robinson, "The Haunted Beach" (in coursepack) and any of the poems under "Reading."

Nov 3: The Sonnet Revival. Reading: Stuart Curran, "The Sonnet." For Discussion: sonnets by Charlotte Smith, and William Wordsworth, "Sonnet on Seeing Miss Helen Maria Williams Weep at a Tale of Distress." ARTICLE SUMMARY DUE.

Nov 5: The Sonnet Revival, Part II. Reading: Read M. H. Abrams, "English Romanticism: The Spirit of the Age." Finish reading the sonnets in the coursepack. This is a selection of the sonnet sequence that Wordsworth wrote between 1798 and 1807 entitled "Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty". For Discussion: "Sonnet on Westminster Bridge," and any others you choose.

Nov 7: The Sonnet Revival, Part III. Reading: Read the introductory essay on Percy Shelley in the coursepack. For Discussion: "To Wordsworth," "Ozymandius," "England in 1819." (coursepack)

Nov 10: Reading: M. H. Abrams, "Structure and Style of the Greater Romantic Lyric" (coursepack). For Discussion: William Wordsworth, "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" (in Dover ed.) ARTICLE SUMMARY DUE.

Nov 12: Reading: Read all the poems by Samuel Coleridge in the The Rime of the Ancient Mariner that we haven't yet read. For Discussion: "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison" or "Frost at Midnight." Question: Does it surprise you that Coleridge wrote poems like "Kubla Khan" and "Christabel" at the same time that he wrote the two poems for discussion today? Look at "Kubla": what does it have in common with "Lime-Tree" or "Frost"?

Nov 14: Romantic Odes Revisited. Reading: Read all of the Percy Shelley poems in the bulkpack twice. For Discussion: "Ode to the West Wind" or "Mont Blanc".

Nov 17: Romantic Odes Revisited. Reading: Read all of the John Keats odes in the Selected Poems twice: "Psyche," "Melancholy," "Grecian Urn," "Nightingale," "To Autumn." Read Stuart Curran, "The Hymn and the Ode" (in coursepack). For Discussion: "Ode to a Nightingale". ARTICLE SUMMARY DUE.

Nov 19: Reading: Raymond Williams, "Introduction" to John Clare: Selected Poetry and Prose. We will spend three class periods on Clare. Per class, we will discuss one or two 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."

Nov 21: Reading: Continue to read through John Clare: Selected Poetry and Prose. For Discussion: The poems from Wednesday, and "Remembrances."

Nov 24-26: Clare cluster #2: "The Thrushes Nest," "The Pettichaps Nest," "The Mouse's Nest," "The Badger," "The Fox." We will discuss the poems you wish. 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 Essay Due.

Nov 27: Thanksgiving

Dec 1-8: For the last four classes we will read from Christina Rossetti's poetry. I've extracted a good amount and have placed it at the end of the coursepack. On December 1 and 3, we will discuss "Goblin Market" in relation to John Keats's "To Autumn." On December 3, we'll finish "Goblin Market," so be prepared to say what poems you want to discuss for December 5 and 8. This means that you should, for December 3, dip into the Rossetti at your leisure.



You are required to have an electronic mail account: I do not require you to use 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 gamer40@dept.english.upenn.edu, 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. Michael and I 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.


Attendance: As this is a 50-minute class, please show up on time or even early. Regarding Absences: since I know that disasters happen unexpectedly during the semester, I allow you three absences. Therefore, please do NOT explain to me why you miss class unless it involves a major illness that you can document. Since 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. More than 10 will constitute failing the course.

Participation: 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 often 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.

IF YOU ARE SHY, HERE'S WHAT TO DO: Simply bring in one question that you want to ask the rest of us AND ASK IT--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 a lower-level, introductory course, I am assuming that you have little or no experience in reading poetry. Consequently, the reading load for this course is relatively light (usually under 6 hours per week), and the writing load for this course is relatively heavy (several one-paragraph article summaries, four short one-paragraph discussion "instigators," five listserv responses, two short essays, and a longer essay with an annotated bibliography attached to it). Instructions concerning all of these assignments are below.


Your grade will be determined by three components: the quality of your in-class performance (including the article summaries, the paragraphs, and the listserver responses, 25% of your grade), your performance on the final exam 25% 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:

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. For example, 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.

Plagiarism: I will report all instances of Plagiarism to the Office of Student Conduct. If you have any doubts over whether you're plagiarizing from something, please come see me or the course's WATU Tutor.