The Romantic Period in England took place during the “age of revolutions,” a span of time that saw not only the rapid industrialization of Europe but two significant national revolutions—one in France, and one in America. This revolutionary spirit in many ways fed and sustained the Romantic movement in English literature; its chief practitioners believed that poetry could literally transform the world and the way in which we understand it.
In this course, we will examine this revolutionary energy alongside a number of other English Romantic characteristics, including a fascination with nature and the natural world, a desire to create popular art forms for the masses, and an inward-facing focus on the individual spirit. The course has been arranged to first acquaint you with the broader socio-historical and literary context in which English Romantic poetry thrived, and then divided into three units we might roughly categorize as the Romantic poet and the outer world, the Romantic poet and the inner world, and the poetry that bridges the gap between the two. In each unit, we will perform close readings of a number of the period’s prominent poems, identifying what makes each a “Romantic” poem.