William Wordsworth: Questioning a Literary Lion
Cancelled due to low enrollment
William Wordsworth, 1770-1850. Author of Lyrical Ballads and The Prelude. Husband to Mary. Friend to Samuel Taylor Coleridge (sometimes). Collaborator with sister, Dorothy. Father of five children and the Romantic Period.
We know these things about William Wordsworth, but what of the relationships, cultural change and social upheaval that surrounded him during his sixty-year career? Why is he lauded as the literary lion of the Romantic Period? Can we study the impact of his personal relationships with other authors? Does his literary genius impact the generations of Victorians who would live alongside and supersede his poetic triumphs? In this course, we will explore not only the life of William Wordsworth, but also his literary legacy. We will also question his reputation as this literary lion by reading the contemporary poets who influenced him, e.g., Charlotte Smith. In this seminar, we will not necessarily dismantle the hero worship surrounding Wordsworth but will instead re-orient his literary status. By the end of the semester we shall see that Wordsworth was not a single man, writing alone, fathering a literary movement. Instead, he is both a community and part of a community of authors who were responsible for eventually welcoming the Twentieth-Century Modernists.
The class will be theoretically informed with a New Historicist and Textual focus. For this reason, "literature" will be taken in the broadest sense of the word. This means that you'll gain a sense of the historical, social, cultural and political that surrounds the production of literature. You will also have an opportunity to gain some experience in archival work -- in other words, you get to touch some nineteenth-century books and newspapers. Because Wordsworth lived right into half of the Victorian Period, we'll ignore artificial periodization and briefly discuss Wordsworth's influence on Victorian poets (Tennyson) and copyright law. (Wordsworth would be appalled at Google's latest project!) For those MFA students, if you've taken a class with Alan Soldofsky, you will have heard him refer to the Romantics in conversation with Robinson Jeffers and the Beat Poets.
Readings include creative as well as non-fiction writings, including authors' letters, Coleridge's poetry, Wollstonecraft's Letters, Dorothy Wordsworth's Grasmere Journal, Charlotte Smith's sonnets, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and a treatise on the 1842 Copyright Act (which Wordsworth helped to create). Both Marilyn Gaull's English Romanticism: The Human Context and digital representations of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century culture will orient our historical context. This course serves as both an introduction to Romantic studies as well as an exploration of particular themes within its literature. Assignments include a primary sources essay, short essay and oral presentation, long research essay and weekly reading responses (posted to our course listserv).
(most can be obtained used from
The Age of
Romanticism: Broadview Anthology of British Literature. Vol. 4.
Eds. Joseph Black, et al. Toronto: Broadview, 2006.
Abrams, M.H., ed. A Glossary of Literary Terms.
8th ed. Heinle,
Baker, Nancy L. and Nancy Huling. A Research Guide for Undergraduates in English & American Literature. New York: MLA, 2006. (ISBN: 0873529243)
Gaull, Marilyn. English Romanticism: The Human Context. W.W. Norton & Co., 1988.
Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. 5th ed. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002.
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