Romantic Communities: Poetry, Publishing, and Romanticism

Professor: Michael Gamer
Office and Phone: 203 Bennett Hall, (215) 898-7346

Course Description

This course will explore the materials and contexts of the first generation of Romantic Writing, focusing particularly on notions of literary production and how they relate to theories of community. We will pay particularly close attention to the rhetorical traditions and politics of three literary communities central to the period: the Della Cruscans, the circle surrounding radical publisher Joseph Johnson, and the circle surrounding publisher Joseph Cottle of Bristol. In the first weeks of the course, we will work to theorize the relationship between various religious and political rhetorical modes, and therefore the relation between audience and genre. In addition, we will focus on late-eighteenth century theories of emotion as a way of questioning traditional ideas of Romanticism and poetic production. This means that, while we will be reading a great deal of poetry (by Smith, Southey, Coleridge, Blake, Barbauld, Wordsworth, and Robinson, to name but a few), we also will be reading novels and non-fiction prose (by Godwin, Barbauld, Coleridge, Burke, Paine, Wollstonecraft, Smith, and others).

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

Blake, William. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93).
Wordsworth, William, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lyrical Ballads (1798, 1800).


Available at Wharton Reprographics, in the basement of Wharton. 898-7600.



I have set up the readings initially into a Primary/Secondary format, since I want to begin by concentrating on the poetry from which we will derive our sense of what Romanticism is as a cultural movement. By the middle of the course, however, I hope that we will begin to find the critical and source materials often as interesting as the fiction, drama, and poetry.

Weekly Responses

This course requires you to be on e-mail, since part of the weekly preparation for our meetings will be for you to write a weekly response that you will send to the e-mail address gamer750@dept.english.upenn.edu. These responses will be due on Saturday, by 5 pm, beginning on January 27 (week three). They constitute one of the most important parts of the course, will be the basis from which we begin our discussions, and will play a key role in my sense of your involvment and performance in the course. You will also find, if you look on your e-mail before you compose your response, that many times the responses of your colleagues will prove to be as much a catalyst to your own writing as the reading itself. Before class on Tuesday, then, you will be required to read through the responses, and to print them up and bring them in. So, for weeks 3-11 (through April 2), this will be our weekly schedule: responses due by 5 p.m. Saturday, reading and printing of responses done by the time we meet as a class on Tuesday.

The Conference

Before having you write an article-length essay of 25 or more pages, I am assigning a conference paper of no more than 2500 words, which you will give at our final class meeting, which will take place in the form of a proper conference in Penniman Lounge at 3 p.m on April 23. Your paper titles, and a 1-2 page abstract, are due on April 9. I will attempt, as far as I am able, to organize them into panels for our conference. If you would like to organize your own panels of two or three papers, I absolutely welcome and encourage you to do so.

The Final Paper

I will then read all of the conference papers that week, and get them back to you rather quickly, so you can revise the papers into something of article length. As conference papers are usually abbreviated or skeletal versions of an article, you should for the conference paper have already done significant research, and taken your utmost care, in the formulating of its argument. For your abstract and for your conference paper, I will make practical suggestions regarding the various problems of professionalization ("How does one write an abstract?"; "Was I reading too fast to be intelligible?"), as well as responding to your formulations and arguments with an eye toward how to revise your paper into an article. The final paper will be due sometime around May 4.


Jan 15: Introduction to course.

Jan. 22: Theories of Authorship and Poetic Production. Read William Wordsworth, "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" (1800, 1802), and "The Solitary Reaper" (1807); Percy Shelley, "Defense of Poetry" (1820); Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?"; Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author"; also the first 56 pages of The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature, eds. Woodmansee and Jaszi (1994).

Jan 29: Sympathy, Contagion, and Sensibility: Read the selected poems from 1784-1791 by Helen Maria Williams, William Lisle Bowles, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charlotte Smith, and Mary Robinson. Read Jacqueline M. Labbe, "Selling One's Sorrows: Charlotte Smith, Mary Robinson, and the Marketing of Poetry". Read Judith Pascoe, "The Spectacular Flaneuse: Mary Robinson and the City of London."

Feb 5: Della Cruscanism and the Idea of Italy. Read Poetry of the World (1788). Read the Della Cruscan Timeline in the Coursepack. Read Jerome McGann, "The Literal World of the English Della Cruscans."

Feb 12: Rhetorics of Revolution and Counter-Revolution I: The French Revolution Controversy. Read William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the introductory essay by Marilyn Butler, and selections by Price, Williams, Burke, Paine, Wollstonecraft, Godwin. Read Olivia Smith, "The Rights of Man and Its Aftermath" (1984).

Feb 19: Rhetorics of Reform. Read Anna Letitia Barbauld, Poems (1792), "An Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Test and Corporations Acts." Read Marlon Ross, "Configurations of Feminine Reform: The Woman Writer and the Tradition of Dissent" (1994).

Feb 26: The Sex of Revolution: Blake and Wollstonecraft. Read Mary Wollstonecraft, selections from Original Stories from Real Life (1788) and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Read William Blake, Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1792-1793). Read Nelson Hilton, "An Original Story" (1986), and Vivien Jones, "Women Writing Revolution: Narratives of History and Sexuality in Wollstonecraft and Williams" (from Beyond Romanticism: New Approaches to Texts and Contexts, 1780-1832).

March 5: Politics of Desire: Botany and Locodescription. Read Erasmus Darwin, The Loves of the Plants (1789), focusing especially on Cantos I and III and the interludes. Read William Wordsworth, An Evening Walk (1793). Read selections from The Anti-Jacobin: "The Loves of the Triangles." Read Alan Liu, "The Politics of the Picturesque: An Evening Walk" (1989).

SPRING BREAK: Please read the selections from Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Coleridge and Southey (1847); the selected letters of Wordsworth and Coleridge in the coursepack; and Cottle's list of publications (in coursepack).

Mar 19: The Cottle Circle I. Read Poems, by S. T. Coleridge, second edition. To which are now added poems by Charles Lamb, and Charles Lloyd (1797). We will be reading this volume in connection to the Cottle material I asked you to read over break.

Mar 26: The Cottle Circle II. Read Robert Southey, Poems (1797). Read Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads (1798). Read Olivia Smith, "Variations on the Languages of Men: Rustics, Peasants, and Plough-boys" (1984).

Apr 2: The Cottle and Johnson Circle, and the Failure of the Revolution. Read Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Fears in Solitude (Johnson, 1798). Read William Godwin, Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Johnson, 1798). Read Anna Letitia Barbauld, "Sins of the Government, Sins of the Nation."

Apr 9: CONFERENCE PAPER TITLES AND 1-2 PAGE ABSTRACTS DUE. Read William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, Volume 2 (1800). Read Mary Robinson, Lyrical Tales (Cottle, 1800). Read the Robinson-Coleridge Correspondence in coursepack. Read Marlon B. Ross, "Naturalizaing Gender: Woman's Place in Wordsworth's Ideological Landscape" (1986). Read Stuart Curran, "Mary Robinson's Lyrical Tales in Context."

Apr 16: Della Cruscanism, Generation Two. Read Charlotte Dacre, Hours of Solitude (1805; selections); Lord Byron, Hours of Idleness (1807), and English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (short selection). Read Jerome McGann, "'My Brain is Feminine': Byron and the Poetry of Deception."

Apr 23: End-of-Semester Conference.

May 4 (approx.): End of semester essay due.