When Lyrical Ballads was first published, anonymously, in 1798, it ushered in a new mode of poetic writing. Though it would take some time for the veil of anonymity to dissolve, it also announced the intense and not always harmonious intellectual collaboration of its creators, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Grounded in a mixture of forbidding archaisms and vulgar vernaculars (rather than in the artful, high-flown language that had characterized much of eighteenth-century poetry), Lyrical Ballads was an explicitly experimental volume of poetry that engineered new and often irregular forms to suit its explorations of rural life, poverty, the natural, and the “supernatural.”
Beginning with this landmark text, often credited with inaugurating the Romantic movement in England, and traveling through extracts of Wordsworth’s Prelude, Coleridge’s Biographia Litteraria, and occasional poems by both figures, this course will trace the complicated relationship between these poets in order to introduce students to crucial questions in the study of Romantic literature: What can reading Wordsworth and Coleridge in tandem teach us about Romantic constructions of solitude and sociality? How and why did these poets resist or revise Enlightenment ideals of reason? In what ways does Romanticism respond to the upheavals of the French Revolution? How do philosophical ideas about nature and aesthetics inform the writing of these two poets? What are the politics of form and figure in Romantic poetry? And how should we understand the phenomenon we call Romanticism in all its contradictions?
In addition to poetry and prose by Wordsworth and Coleridge, the course will feature supplemental materials in the form of contemporary literary criticism and intellectual contexts from the period, including works by Berkeley, Kant, Rousseau, and Wollstonecraft.
March 05 — March 26, 2017