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Samuel Baker

Associate ProfessorPh.D., 2001, University of Chicago

Samuel Baker



In his just-published book, Written on the Water: British Romanticism and the Maritime Empire of Culture (, Professor Baker argues that the Romantic idea of universal culture took shape within imaginative horizons fundamentally shaped by Britain’s maritime-imperial aspirations. Dr. Baker is also writing a series of essays on ethical dispositions in the Romantic novel, tracking how stoicism and skepticism, among other attitudes, ceased to refer to specific philosophical schools and began to be seen as general psychological orientations.

Before returning to academia to take his Ph.D., Professor Baker worked as a journalist and book reviewer, as well as in museums and libraries. These experiences left him something of a generalist, and he maintains broad interests in literature and art, in film and media studies, and in politics. His current enthusiasms include works by Samuel Prout, Elizabeth Bishop, and Raul Ruiz. On a more conceptual level, he is preoccupied by the artistic evocation of place, especially as it intersects with the shaping of collective and individual subjectivity; by ethical theory, especially in relation to politics and gender and sexuality; and by problems in the aesthetics and sociology of representation.


T C 302 • Intro To British Studies

42780 • Fall 2010
Meets TTH 930am-1100am MAI 220F

This course has a writing flag.


Of all of the European nation-states, Britain has exerted the strongest shaping influence on society in the United States of America.  Yet citizens of the United States, and students at the University of Texas, can prove surprisingly ignorant of some of the basic facts about British history and society. What is the difference between Britain and England? How do Ireland, Scotland, and Wales figure into the picture? What is the United Kingdom, and when (if ever) did it unite? Do the British speak English? Can they be said to have a common culture? Did the American Revolution reject British political traditions, or embrace them? It is only a small relief to learn that the British themselves are far from clear on many of these questions, which remain to this day the subjects of lively debate.

In this course, we will take up these questions, studying the language, literature, art, and politics of Britain across what scholars call the “Early Modern” period: after the Renaissance but before the full flowering of the Industrial Revolution, or from about 1660 to 1830, which was also the period when Britain’s North American settler colonies were taking hold. Our survey will center on questions of “representation,” a word that we will use in several senses. We will study how writers and artists “represented,” in the aesthetic sense, Britain and the world, and we will study how leaders came to be seen as “representing,” in the political sense, a broader public. We will analyze poetry and prose by Locke, Defoe, Pope, Goldsmith, Barbauld, Owenson, and Scott; pictures by Lely, Hogarth, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Romney, and Turner; and a variety of other artifacts from the period that saw the union of England with Scotland and Ireland, the turmoil of the Glorious Revolution, the Jacobite rebellions, and endless wars with France, the industrial revolution, and the establishment of Britain’s maritime empire.

By grappling with how works of literary and visual art represented their society, we will learn a great deal about early modern Britain, while mastering some basic terms and methods for the study of artistic representations. To help ground this new knowledge in the material history of the arts, we will visit various museums and archives around campus, among them the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center; the Blanton Museum of Art, especially its Prints and Drawings Cabinet; and the Perry-Casteneda Library. 



Shakespeare, King Lear; Hume, from The History of England (Charles I to Cromwell); Hobbes, Leviathan; Cavendish, The Blazing World; Defoe, A Tour Around the Whole Isle of Great Britain; Macaulay, from The History of England (England in 1685); Defoe, “The True-Born Englishman”; Pope, “Windsor-Forest”; Goldsmith, “The Deserted Village”’ Wordsworth, “Michael”; Barbauld, “1811”; Johnson and Boswell, Scottish travel narratives; Macpherson, Ossian poems; Scott, Waverley; Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France; Wollstonecraft, The Vindications; Owenson, The Wild Irish Girl.



Requirements will include short “response” papers, student presentations, and quiz-like in-class writing assignments (30% of final grade); Two 5-page papers (10% each); a final exam (20%); and attendance and participation (30% taken together).


About the Professor:

Since joining the UT faculty in the fall of 2001, Samuel Baker has taught courses in British Romanticism—covering such authors as William Wordsworth, Walter Scott, and Jane Austen—as well as seminars on landscape representation, travel writing, and the modern fortunes of the epic. In 2009 he is publishing his first book: Written on the Water: British Romanticism and the Maritime Empire of Culture. He is particularly interested in the relationship between literature and ethics and in media studies approaches to literary history.


Baker, S. (2010) "The Transmission of Affect: Philosophy, Feeling, and the Media of Udolpho." J. Staiger, A. Cvetkovich & A. Reynolds (Eds.), Political Emotions: Affect and the Public Sphere. New York: Routledge.

Baker, S. (2010) Written on the Water: British Romanticism and the Maritime Empire of Culture (Charlottesville: The University of Virginia Press). 

Baker, S. (2009) "Scott's Stoic Characters: Ethics, Irony, and Sentiment in The Antiquary, Guy Mannering, and the Author of Waverley." MLQ: Modern Language Quarterly 70:4, 443-471.

Baker, S. (2009) "Teaching the Waverley Novels: An Intertextual Approach." In E. Gottlieb & I. Duncan (Eds.), Approaches to Teaching Scott's Waverley Novels. New York: Modern Language Association.

Baker, S. (2008) "The Maritime Georgic and the Lake poet Empire of Culture." ELH: English Literary History, 75(3), 531-563.

Baker, S. (2006) "Animated Looks: The Romantic Literary Sketch and the Unfinished Project of Modern Transparency." Symbolism: An International Annual of Critical Aesthetics, 6, 73-95.

Baker, S. (2006) Book Review. Romanticism and War: A Study of British Romantic Period Writers and the Napoleonic Wars. European Romantic Review 17(5), 636-640.

Baker, S. (2003) "Wordsworth, Arnold, and the Maritime Matrix of Culture." The Wordsworth Circle, 34(1), 24-29.

Baker, S. (2002) Book Review. The Poetics of Spice. The Keats-Shelley Journal 51, 231-233.

Baker, S. (2000) Book Review. Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief. Modernism/Modernity 7(1), 183-184.

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