The Romantic Book
This course makes the book itself an object of interpretation and a means for understanding literature of the Romantic Period. Rather than surveying a few poems by many writers, we will read 10 writers in depth. Most important, we will read them in the exact, published forms in which they were read by their peers. How did authors and publishers compile, organize, and market books to a reading public? How is it different reading a poem, essay, or short story in the context of a larger collection instead of on its own? To answer these questions, we will thoroughly acquaint ourselves with the careers of each writer we read, with how their books were produced and reviewed, and with the contexts into which each book ventured into the world.
This course will be a true seminar, in which we come to a table to discuss common interests and, through discussing ideas with one another and writing to one another, come to more informed opinions -- and further interests. For that reason, do tell me if you have particular authors and interests in the Romantic Period (roughly 1780-1830) you wish to pursue. I plan to choose the primary texts for the course from the books below, and invite interested students to make known to me if they have any preferences for what we read: Anna Letitia Barbauld, Poems (1773); Charlotte Smith, Elegiac Sonnets (1784); Helen Maria Williams Poems (1786); Robert Burns, Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1786); William Lisle Bowles, Fourteen Sonnets (1789); Poetry of the World (1790); William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789, 1794); Joanna Baillie, Plays on the Passions (1798); William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads, with a few other Poems (1800); Mary Robinson, Lyrical Tales (1800); William Blake, Milton (1804); Charlotte Smith, Beachy-Head, and other Poems (1804); William Wordsworth, Poems, in Two Volumes (1807); Lord Byron, The Giaour (1813); Lord Byron, The Prisoner of Chillon and other Poems (1816); Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Christabel, Kubla Khan, and the Pains of Sleep (1816); Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818); Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound and other Poems (1820); John Keats, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and other Poems (1820); Percy Shelley, Posthumous Poems (1824); Felicia Hemans, Records of Woman (1828). There will be some responses, a presentation and paper attached to it, and a final essay.