ENG2049: Romantic Revolutions
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COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course examines works by famous British Romantic authors—Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, the Shelleys, and Austen—through the lens of revolution. Part of the “Age of Revolution,” this period (roughly 1780–1830) is marked by political upheavals in America, England, France, and elsewhere; by demands for the rights of man and woman; and by calls for the abolition of the slave trade. Due to developments in anthropology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, medicine, meteorology, and physics, this was also the age of the “Second Scientific Revolution,” which in turn contributed to the rapid economic expansion and technological advances of the Industrial Revolution and its shift from agriculture in the country to manufacturing in the cities. We will explore how these key historical and cultural frameworks—what was called at the time “the spirit of the age”—informed some of the greatest literature of the period, including Songs of Innocence and Experience, Lyrical Ballads, The Prelude, Frankenstein, and Emma.¶ However, these authors not only responded to this complex and rapidly changing milieu; they caused revolutions of their own. Writing itself underwent monumental transformations in what was written, published, and by whom, as well as in claims about how authors created their works. Such changes are all the more fascinating because most of these authors knew each other and were careful readers of each other’s works, which they critiqued, revised, and even collaborated on. And though this period later became known as “Romantic” because of its apparent kinship with a literary mode (romance), representations of romantic love and other emotions were dramatically altered too, due in no small part to literature published at this time. This period reminds us that we read literature not only for its own sake or as a window into the past but to understand who we are now and to imagine possible futures. As Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote exactly 200 years ago, his contemporaries were “mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present,” what he more famously called “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”¶ STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES: This semester, you will develop your understanding of • Genres and modes important in this the period, especially different poetic forms but also novels, political prose, literary criticism, drama, autobiography, and letters • Ways that literary texts emerge from and respond to their historical and cultural contexts • How authors and texts respond to and revise the works of others • How literary movements are formed and identified • The notoriously slippery term “Romanticism” • How to read, interpret, and write convincingly about all of this.
Fitzgerald, L. (2022, Fall). ENG2049: Romantic Revolutions. Yeshiva College, Yeshiva University.
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