E 329L • Later Romantic Period, 1815 to 1832
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
The later Romantic period can be understood in large part as driven by a generational conflict. By 1815, the first generation of romantic poets, notably William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey, had obviously grown out of their radical youth of pro-revolutionary, proto-communist and anti-establishment beliefs to sing the praise of state and church. The second generation, among them Percy B. Shelley, John Keats, Lord Byron, William Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt and Felicia Hemans, had to cope with this ambivalent literary and philosophical heritage, while at the same time developing a poetic voice of their own and addressing the social and political situation of the world around them. The French Revolution, that erstwhile source for utopian dreams, had long since turned, first into a reign of terror and then into another imperialist project, culminating in long years of war. As unrestrained continental travel was becoming possible again after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, many used these opportunities, re-imagining the Alps, Italy, or "the Orient" as major localities of British romanticism.
The political atmosphere at home was not favorable to young, hot-headed poet-revolutionaries, and a lot of the most spirited texts of the period never went to print in their own time, or were suppressed as fast as possible. Others, like Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, became huge economic successes and made their author famous overnight. In journals, the new writers were often severely attacked, and sometimes stubbornly defended.
This course will offer a survey of the major literary works of the period, as well as the poetical, political, and philosophical issues addressed within them. We will encounter controversial positions on questions of government, religion, drugs, sexuality, or the place of women (poets) in society. We will take a look at a number of writers, major, minor, and recently rediscovered, trying to understand how these poets conceived both the world and poetry in a new way, what they took over from their (literary and real) fathers and how they tried to kill them, thereby creating a corpus of literature that is unequalled in its depth, expressiveness, and originality, and that is still influencing us in more ways than we are usually aware of.
Romanticism. An Anthology. Third Edition. Ed. Duncan Wu, Blackwell, 2006.
A Companion to Romanticism. Ed. Duncan Wu, Blackwell 1999.