Syllabus #5

English 300: Romanticism and Criticism

Professor Shirley H. Showalter
Goshen College

"The idea of the creative imagination, as it sprang up in the Romantic era, is still central to modern culture."
--Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

This course follows a set of ideas as they begin on one continent and make their way to another through literature. Covering the period from 1798 in England to 1865 in the United States, this course introduces the student to major authors of the romantic period in both countries. An equally important task of the course is to help students become familiar with literature as an academic discipline with some standard vocabulary but with numerous, and sometimes competing, critical perspectives. As a result of taking the course, the student should:

* enjoy literature even more than before

* feel confident about taking upper-level English courses based on a greater knowledge of the vocabulary and methods of criticism of the discipline

* begin to develop a personal hermeneutic--a way of approaching literature consistent with a chosen set of critical, moral, and aesthetic principles

* recognize that literature exists within culture and therefore is related to all the arts, to philosophy and religion, the sciences, on the ERTEE principle--everything is related to everything else.

* be able to recognize major authors and works from the romantic period and to distinguish these from other authors and works.


The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Vol. 1, Second Edition.

The Norton Anthology of British Literature, Vol. 2, Sixth Edition. Holman and Harmon, A Handbook to Literature, 1986.

Guerin, Wilfred, A Handbook of Critica1 Approaches to Literature, Second Edition.


Unit I: British Romanticism

Sept 1 Introduction: What is Romanticism? Literary Autobiographies; Holman timetable, pp. 562-571; rhythm and meter study guide handout; library handouts on literary criticism: poetry

Sept 2 Optional: Dead Poet Society. Showalter house. 1615 S. Eighth St. 7 p.m.

Sept 4 English department party 7-8:30 College Cabin

Sept 6 Ear1y Romantics Reading: Norton, Blake, pp. 18-42, 54-70. (20-46, 60-78, Fifth Edition). Burns, pp. 80-98 (89-108) Come to class with a definition of romanticism one page long which uses quotations from Blake and Burns as illustrations.

Browse the Norton anthology and visit the reference room to select a topic for your first paper.

Decide whether you want to give a ten-minute class presentation interpreting one poem or story or keep a journal.

Sept 8 Romanticism and the Enlightenment

Reading: pp. 1-17 Norton. In Holman, read "Romantic period," "Great Chain of Being, " "Heroic Couplet, " "Neoclassical" and "symbol ." Read Co1eridge's "Kubla Khan," pp. 346 - 349 or ( 353-355, fifth edition), in Norton. Also read "Dejection: An Ode" and "To William Wordsworth." Also read "Rhythm and Meter" section of Norton, pp. 2507-2512 or 2549-2555 (Fifth Edition) and fill out study guide form. Be prepared to "scan" "Kubla Khan" in class.

Sept 13 Wordsworth and the Age of English Romanticism, video 30 minutes

Read bios of Wordsworth and Coleridge in Norton, pp. 126-129, 323-326 or (140-144; 328-331). Read pp. 129-160; 186-202 or (144-178; 209-222). Be prepared to discuss what you admire or do not admire about Wordsworth's philosophy and his practice of it in his poetry. Bring your questions and be prepared to read and interpret one poem, your favorite, in class.

Due: Proposal for your first paper.

Sept 15 Autobiography and the Romantics

Reading: "The Prelude" books 1 ,2, 9, 10, 11 and skim the rest.

Holman, "Epic." Coleridge's "Biographia Literaria, " 377-393


Sept 20 Gender and Romanticism

Dorothy Wordsworth, pp.286-299 (312-327). Mary Wollstonecraft, 98-126 (108-133). Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Charlotte Smith 863-868.

Bring Part I of your paper to class.

Sept 22 No class. Use this day for research and reading.

Sept 27 The Gothic Tradition in Romanticism

Read Mary Shelley 844-862 (877-898), and Lord Byron, 479-489.

Browse his longer works. Thomas de Quincey, 444-451 (465-469)

"Confessions of an English Opium-Eater" Holman, "Gothic"

and " Gothic Novel. "

Draft of Essay 1 due in class. Five points of your grade depends upon showing up with the draft completed so that we can do some workshop activities.

Optional film: Gothic, available at Video Unlimited. Rather lurid and sensational, but perhaps representative of the fringes of the movement.

Sept 29 Shelley Reading: Shelley 643-650, 670-679, 708-715, 718-734, 752-765 (660-665, 691, 696, 698, 730, 732, 737, 741, 755, 777-792 intro).

Final version of Essay 1 due in class.

Oct 4 Romanticism in Art

Film: Constable, National Portrait Gallery, 30 minutes

Hazlitt, "On Gusto," pp. 424-427 (439-443). Review the entire Romantic section for poems that hold clues to Romantic view of the sublime, the picturesque, and their relation both to portrait and landscape .

Oct 6 Romanticism in Music Byron, "Stanzas for Music" 486 (509). Holman, "synesthesia." Shelley "To--[Music, When Soft Voices Die]" 714 (737); Coleridge "The Aeolian Harp" 326(331). Review the entire section for other poems that tell us about music. Bring at least one other to class with you.

Oct 6 The Odes of John Keats

Reading: pp. (793-805, 815-826, 869-874).

Guest lecturer: Ervin Beck

Oct 11 Mid-term test

Unit II Critical Approaches to Literature

Oct 13 Intro to new section, Traditional Literary Criticism.

Approaches to Reading: Guerin, Prologue and Chap. 1. Also Heath, "Young Goodman Brown, 2129-2146 (2082-2091)

Oct 18 Mid-term break. No class.

Oct 20 New Criticism. Guerin, 69-118; Holman, "new criticism," "affective fallacy," "intentional fallacy."

Oct 25 Psychological. Freudian and Jungian; Guerin, 119-192.

Oct 27 Feminist and Narrative

Guest lecture: Beth Martin Birky

Reading: Hawthorne, "The Birth-Mark" Heath. 2147-2157 (2101-2111). Guerin, 245-249.

Nov 1 An Introduction to Semiotics

Guest: David Mos1ey Holman, "semiotics, " "structuralism," "post-structuralism." Poem and one

essay to be announced. Guerin, 282-286.

Nov 3 Marxist Criticism

Guerin, 272-278.

Unit III: American Romanticism and Criticism

Nov 8 Cooper, Poe and Ear1y American Romanticism

Heath pp. 1326-1327, 1335-1345; 1361-1363, 1410-1424, 1426,

1435-1437, 1442, 1444-1456. (1280-1281, 1296-1307, 1322-1324,

Nov 10 Transcendentalism and the Idea of the Organic

Read Holman, "transcendentalism"; Heath, pp. 1498-1502,1529, 1558, 1598-1599; 2012-2015, 2029-2056, (1467-1470, 1499-1527, 1568-1569; 1964-67, 1981-2015) bios of Emerson and Thoreau, "The American Scholar," "Self-Reliance," and "The Snowstorm." Selections from Walden. Browse "Walking" if you can.

Guest speaker: Wilbur Birky.

Nov 15 Hawthorne and Melville;

Read Heath bios on both writers, and several short stories pp. 2112-2115, 2158-2177, 2440-2470

Nov 17 Romanticism and the Disenfranchised

Native-American speeches and Poetry

African-Americans, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Jacobs, Frances Harper

Women, Caroline Kirkland, the Grimké sisters--Selections to be announced in conjunction with presenters.

Nov 22 Romanticism and the Civil War

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Chesnut, William Lloyd Garrison, Lydia Maria Child, John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry Garnet Civil War video? Selections to be announced.

Nov 24 No class. Thanksgiving recess.

Nov 29 Whitman

Read pp. 2740-2757, 2809-2835, 2841-2848 (2709-2727, 2778-2800, 2810-2817).

Dec. 1 Dickinson

Read 2869-2875) 2839-2844 (bio.) Poem numbers:

14, 67, 252, 258, 271, 288, 303, 465, 520, 650, 657, 668, 712, 1400, 1737.

Letters: 2905, 2911-2914.

Dec 6 Evaluation and review. Performances of memorized poems, spoofs, reading from journals. Final paper due in class.

Dec 8 Reading Day

Exam: Dec 14, 10 a.m.

Essay I, 5-7 pp.

Writing Assignments

1. Select one poem that you really love. Develop a thesis explaining why you think this poem is a good one, using detailed examination of the poem itself--its structure, language, imagery. Use your analysis of this poem to lead you to a one-page definition of your "personal hermeneutic"--the aesthetic, moral, and critical principles you value most. Then do a library search on the poem. Develop a second thesis about the value of research. How does the poem become new or different as you read it through the eyes of another critic? Can you deduce what these critics' hermeneutics consist of?

Outline to follow

I. Part one. Xerox a copy of your poem and make it page one of your paper. Write a 2-3 page explication that centers on a thesis. Do not use first person. Do offer abundant detail about the strengths of the poem's structure, language, and imagery.

II. Part two . Write a one-page statement of your own hermeneutic (see samples in class from seniors in the past) based, at least in part, on your experience of examining a poem you love in great detail. This should be in first person.

III. Part three . Now get thee to the library and use everything available--biographical and critical studies of the author, journal articles, reference works, period studies (books about the British romantic poets, for example). Now develop a thesis about research, using the questions in the assignment above. Sample thesis: "Research can train the eye to see more and the ear to hear more." Then show how that happened to you. Or "The jargon of contemporary post-modern critics interferes with both appreciation of literature and a clear analysis of its meaning." There are many more possibilities. Show how carefully you can read and how deeply you can reflect on how and what you learn. You may use first person here.

2. Compare one Romantic poem to one Neo-classical poem. Sharpen the contrast of these two periods by showing how differently they view some aspect of reality or personality. Conversely, you might want to argue that the terms "Neo-classical" and "Romantic" are meaningless because two poems, ostensibly separated by period, really convey very similar ideas in similar form.

3. Is there a Romantic "canon"? If so, what should be included and why? See Abrams, "canon." Also Wendell V. Harris, "Canonicity," PMLA January 1991: 110-121. And article on the British Romantic canon in the September, 1991, issue of College English.

Essay II, 7-10 pp.

Choose one critical perspective and one American work. Learn as much about both as you can. Develop a thesis about the work which illustrates the perspective you choose.

Contents, No. XIII