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ENGL404: English Romantic Poetry

Unit 3: Landscapes and the Outer World   The Romantic poet often situates his poetry in a natural setting, delighting in its beauty and its awe-inspiring strength and wildness. In this unit, we will take a more critical look at representations of the natural world and at depictions of place and setting more generally, from the cityscape to imagined exotic worlds of the past. We will conclude by exploring poems that feature movement within those spaces, discussing concepts of travel, imagination, exploration, and identity.

Unit 3 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 13.25 hours.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2: 1.25 hours

☐    Subunit 3.3: 2.25 hours

☐    Subunit 3.4: 5.75 hours

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
  - identify the Romantic Movement’s focus on the natural world and especially on the concepts of natural beauty and sublimity; - identify the Romantic Movement’s interest in supernatural, revolution, morality, ethics, and the idea of infinity; - explain the Romantic turn away from the metropolis as well as its fascination with exoticism, landscapes, travel, adventure, movement, and forms of the hero; and - explain Romantic Studies’ turn to New Historicism as a critical and theoretical paradigm.

3.1 Romantic Views of Nature   3.1.1 A Celebration of the Natural   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “John Keats (1795 - 1821)” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “John Keats (1795 - 1821)” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Click the link above and read the brief entry on Keats.
 
Reading this article should approximately take 10 minutes.

  • Reading: John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” and “To Autumn” Links: John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” (PDF) and “To Autumn” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read both of Keats’ poems. How are the nightingale and autumn made to represent more than just the objects or ideas that they normally are? How is this expansion of meaning beyond the given or, as it is usually termed Romantic irony” how is it representative of romantic notions of subjectivity? How does the subject of the speaker add to the objects he is meditating on in the poetry?
     
    Reading these poems should take approximately 25 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Reading: Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s “A Summer Evening’s Meditation” Link: Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s “A Summer Evening’s Meditation” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Barbauld’s poem. In what ways do you understand both Barbauld and Keats (from the previous resource box) to be celebrating the natural world in their respective texts? In what ways are these representations of nature different from or in conflict with one another?
     
    Reading this poem should take approximately 20 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

3.1.2 The Riparian Muse and River Poems   - Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Valedictory Sonnet to the River Duddon” Link: William Wordsworth’s “Valedictory Sonnet to the River Duddon” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Wordsworth’s poem. The river was of central importance to the ways in which Wordsworth conceptualized and depicted nature in his poetry. In what ways does the river come to be represented in this poem? Why, do you think, would the river be so crucial to Wordsworth and his work?
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

3.1.3 Concepts of Nature: The Beautiful and the Sublime   - Reading: The University of Chicago: Theories of Media: Keywords Glossary: Laura Smith’s “Beautiful, Sublime” Link: The University of Chicago: Theories of Media: Keywords Glossary: Laura Smith’s “Beautiful, Sublime” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Smith’s useful introduction to the beautiful and the sublime - ideas first theorized during the Romantic era. Based on Smith’s introduction, why do you think these ideas became so crucial during this period of literary history? What is the difference between the beautiful and the sublime?
 
Reading this article should take approximately 25 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.1.4 Nature as a Reflection of the Ego   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Lord Byron, George Gordon (1788-1823)” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Lord Byron, George Gordon (1788-1823)” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the short article on Byron.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • Reading: Gutenberg.org: Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto The Third Link: Gutenberg.org: Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto The Third” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read stanzas 92 through 98 of the third canto in Byron’s work called Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. How is nature presented here? What statement does presenting nature in a rather harsh light make? More importantly, what statement is made by the speaker in implying that the setting of nature reflects his own interiority?
     
    Reading this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Nutting” Link: William Wordsworth’s “Nutting” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Wordsworth’s “Nutting”. In their poems, Byron (in the previous resource) and Wordsworth both depict nature as emblematic of man’s interiority. How does Wordsworth’s representation of nature in “Nutting” differ from Byron’s in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage? Nature in “Nutting” seems to be more indicative of the consequence of a bad choice made by the poem’s speaker. What is this choice that the speaker makes? What differences are drawn between man and nature in Wordsworth’s poem? How do Byron and Wordworth's tones and attitudes differ from each other concerning the relationship between man and nature?
     
    Reading this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

3.1.5 The Supernatural in Nature   - Reading: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Link: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Coleridge’s poem. In this poem, Coleridge presents an old mariner who has returned from the sea to share the trials of his long voyage, which includes an eerie curse he endures after killing an albatross. Why does the mariner kill the albatross? Is there a reason? Why does the mariner feel compelled to recount the events that occurred to the wedding guest? What do the figures of death and life-in-death signify in the poem?
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 25 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

3.1.6 Nature and Revolution   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click the link above to read a short article on Shelley.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • Reading: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” Link: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind.” Many critics have argued that Shelley’s poem is about the revolutionary political and social spirit of this era, as symbolized through nature imagery. Do you agree? In what ways would the “West Wind” represent revolution?
     
    Reading this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

3.1.7 Nature and Morality: Nature as a Means to Activating the Moral Sense   - Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Beggars” Link: William Wordsworth’s “Beggars” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Wordsworth’s poem. Throughout his poetry, Wordsworth was continuously concerned with depicting marginalized groups in morally and ethically informed ways. How does Wordsworth here depict the disenfranchised beggar?
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

3.1.8 Nature and the Infinite: The Limitlessness of the Natural World and Its Powers   - Reading: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni” Link: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Shelley’s poem. Shelley’s poem is deeply concerned with attempting to depict the apparently limitless powers of the natural world. In what ways does the poem capture nature’s ostensible infinitudes? How does this poem depict the sublime?
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 20 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain. 

  • Reading: Readbookonline.net: Joanna Baillie’s “Thunder” Link: Readbookonline.net: Joanna Baillie’s “Thunder” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read Baillie’s poem. What does the power and violence of the storm represent to the speaker? How does it suggest nature’s indifference to man? How is the storm a lesson in humility?
     
    Reading the poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. It is attributed to readbookonline.net.

3.1.9 Reading the Outer World: Nature as a System of Symbols   - Reading: William Wordsworth’s “She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways” Link: William Wordsworth’s “She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Wordsworth’s poem. Many critics have argued that Wordsworth’s work depicts nature as a series of symbols which can be read almost like a literary text. How do you think Wordsworth depicts nature? What types of symbols can you read in this poem?
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

3.2 Cityscape versus Landscape in Romantic Poetry   3.2.1 History Capsule: Overview of City Life and Trends in Urbanization in the Romantic Period   - Reading: Dr. Charlotte Sussman’s “Life and Letters in the City” Link: Dr. Charlotte Sussman’s “Life and Letters in the City” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Dr. Sussman’s introduction to urbanization in the Romantic era. How did urbanization and the development of cities change how people lived?
 
Reading this article should take approximately 20 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.2.2 Rustics versus Sophisticates   - Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Simon Lee, the Old Huntsman” and “The Recluse – Part First” Links: William Wordsworth’s “Simon Lee, the Old Huntsman” (PDF) and “The Recluse - Part First” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read both of Wordsworth’s poems. Wordsworth was very much concerned with giving accurate depictions to the changing nature of social relations in England during the Romantic era. Why do you think Wordsworth would focus on the figure of the rustic in this type of project? What does juxtaposing the rustic against other, more sophisticated individuals accomplish in his poetry?
 
Reading these poems should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

3.2.3 The Press of City Life   - Reading: William Blake’s “London” Link: William Blake’s “London” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Blake’s poem. In this poem, Blake depicts the social dynamics of city life during the Romantic period. In what ways does the poet represent the city here? How is urban experience different from the experience of nature?
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

3.3 The Exotic World   3.3.1 Longing for the Distant Past   - Reading: Excerpts from Lord George Gordon Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” Link: Excerpts from Lord George Gordon Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the introduction and the first full canto (Canto the First) of Byron’s long poem. What is the general mood of this poem? What is the point of the poem? In this lengthy and partly autobiographical narrative poem, the speaker, weary of his life of leisure, sets out to a distant, foreign land of the past in search of escape and freedom. Childe Harold is widely considered to be Byron's most autobiographical and true to life poem.
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 1 hour.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the document above. This reading is in the public domain.

3.3.2 Imagining a New Landscape: A Faraway Place   - Reading: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” Link: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Coleridge’s poem. Many critics believe that this poem is unfinished, as Coleridge himself suggests, while other readers feel that it is, indeed, a finished and complete work. What do you think? Is the poem finished or is it simply a fragment of an unfinished poem? This famous poem takes us to an imagined, distant, and isolated land called Xanadu: the imagery is striking and conjures a sense of a hazy hallucination. The poem was written while Coleridge was heavily addicted to opium, and is considered by some critics to be an allegory of drug addiction as well as a portrait of a vivid opium hallucination.
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 20 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

3.3.3 The Concept of New Worlds in a Colonial Context   - Reading: Romantic Circles: Dr. Peter J. Kitson’s “Chapter 2: Romanticism and Colonialism: Races, Places, Peoples, 1785–1800” Link: Romantic Circles: Dr. Peter J. Kitson’s “Chapter 2: Romanticism and Colonialism: Races, Places, Peoples, 1785–1800” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Dr. Kitson’s chapter on colonialism in the Romantic era (all 25 sections). What are the cultural contexts and assumptions behind discussions of race, geography, and other cultures in Romantic writings?
 
Reading this article should take approximately 50 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: University of North Carolina: Felicia Hemans’ “The Traveller at the Source of the Nile” Link: University of North Carolina: Felicia Hemans’ “The Traveller at the Source of the Nile” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the poem. How does this foreign landscape represent frustration and disillusionment? Of what does the traveller’s longing for home consist?
     
    Reading this poem should take approximately 20 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. It is attributed to The Journal of African Travel-Writing.

3.4 Travel, Adventure, and Movement in the Romantic Poem   3.4.1 A Wandering Imagination: Stasis and Movement of the Mind   - Reading: William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” and *The Prelude – Book First* Links: William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” (PDF) and The Prelude - Book First (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read both of Wordsworth’s poems. The Prelude – Book First is a lengthy, autobiographical poem that narrates, in the author's words, the growth of the poet's Mind. How does Wordsworth depict the growth of the poet's Mind in this piece?
 
Reading both of these resources should take approximately 35 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Reading: Dr. Andrew Burkett’s “Wordsworthian Chance” Link: Dr. Andrew Burkett’s “Wordsworthian Chance” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Dr. Burkett’s essay. What are Wordsworth’s assumptions about fate and its operations in the universe, according to Burkett’s essay? What does that do for Wordsworth’s ideas on nature in general?
     
    Reading this essay should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Dr. Andrew Burkett.

3.4.2 The Byronic Hero and Adventure as Personal Development   - Reading: Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: Canto the Second” and “Don Juan: Dedication” Links: Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold's Pilgimage: Canto the Second” (PDF) and “Don Juan: Dedication” (PDF)
 
Instructions: First, read Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which you encountered earlier in this course. This is a long poem that charts the development of a central character and plots Byron's conception of the proper hero of literature. Next, read Don Juan. This is a satirical epic poem in which Byron plays with the convention of the epic, introducing his own colloquial style and toying with the traditional concept of the hero. Who is the narrator of Don Juan? How do his attitudes differ from Don Juan's? Why might Byron have chosen not to make Don Juan the narrator of his adventures like he did with Childe Harold? How do the personal and subjective elements of each hero develop into knowledge about the world in general? Is this subjective platform for understanding relevant to Romantic notions concerning knowledge and understanding in general? Do these notions conflict with the Enlightenment’s assumptions of knowledge as universal and unchanging?
 
Reading both poems should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the terms of use displayed on the documents above. These resources are in the public domain.

3.4.3 The Experience of Nature and Moral Progress   - Reading: VictorianWeb.org: William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” Link: VictorianWeb.org: William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Wordsworth’s poem. The speaker of the poem is revisiting an area he once visited years before, and is struck again by the power of nature before him. How does the speaker detail the lasting effects of these scenes of nature on him? How has the memory of the setting from years ago affected the speaker morally? How has the memory of the experience of nature been seen in his actions and behavior? What does such a moral development say about man and his relationship to nature?
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 35 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Dr. David S. Miall’s “Locating Wordsworth: ‘Tintern Abbey’ and the Community with Nature” Link: Erudit.org: Dr. David S. Miall’s “Locating Wordsworth: ‘Tintern Abbey’ and the Community with Nature” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read Dr. Miall’s critical essay concerning Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey. In his poem, how does Wordsworth’s narrator conceptualize the difference between his contemporary self and past self? What psychological changes has he undergone since he last visited the banks of the Wye?
     
    Reading this essay should take approximately 35 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. It is attributed to Michael Eberle-Sinatra.

3.4.4 Romanticism and the Apocalypse   - Reading: Lord Byron’s “Darkness” Link: Lord Byron’s “Darkness” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Byron’s poem. As you read, consider these questions: What kind of apocalypse does this poet imagine? What brings about apocalypse in this poem? What kind of post-apocalyptic world is imagined in this poem? Does Byron’s vision of apocalypse remind you of any contemporary, popular descriptions of post-nuclear apocalypse?
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Reading: P. B. Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandius of Egypt” Links: P. B. Shelley’s “Ozymandias of Egypt” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem and consider the same questions you did when you read Byron’s poem (in the previous resource box). In addition, how does Shelley conceptualize titanic, apocalyptic events from the past impacting the future through his description of Ozymandias?
     
    Reading this poem should take approximately 10 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Reading: The Cambridge History of English and American Literature’s “Blake: The Urizen Group” and William Blake’s “The First Book of Urizen” Links: The Cambridge History of English and American Literature’s “Blake: The Urizen Group” (PDF) and William Blake’s “The First Book of Urizen” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read the introduction to William Blake as well as his poem. As you read, consider the same questions regarding apocalypse that you did for Byron and Shelley (in the previous resource boxes). In addition, what kind of figure/persona is Blake’s Urizen? How does Blake conceptualize the figure of Urizen in relation to apocalypse, destruction, and rebirth?
     
    Note: All of the major English Romantic poets showed a particular interest in the apocalypse. Despite the idealism and fascination with the past that a number of Romantics demonstrate throughout their work, many of the English Romantic poets show a remarkable fascination with destruction and apocalypse. Given the excesses and radical changes brought about by the French Revolution, and incredible technological and cultural changes brought about by the 18th century, the English Romantics were particularly aware of how easily the world could not only change but also be destroyed. Byron, Shelley, and Blake all imagine apocalypse in different ways and as coming from radically different sources. Moreover, these poets imagine the apocalypse as being not only likely but also inevitable. For Shelley and to some measure Blake and Byron, the apocalypse will not only serve to destroy previous political, social, and cultural orders but also usher in revolution, change, and the rebirth of civilization.
     
    Reading these resources should take approximately 35 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.