Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Brief description

This module examines a range of canonical and non-canonical literature and resonant examples of Romantic-period visual culture (in the form of prints, cartoons and paintings) to get a purchase on the above questions. The module is attuned to current critical and theoretical debates about how we construct the Romantic period, and how the Romantic period sought to constitute itself.


Weeks 1-5: Focusing on the response of the first generation Romantics to revolutionary upheaval, the first half of the module explores the interface between literature and radical culture in a seminal decade. It acquaints students with the complex ways in which canonical and non-canonical writers negotiated `history'. Students will be introduced to the period's great social, political, religious and intellectual debates, to a range of literary responses to revolution, and to the `reticular culture' and literary `dialogues' of the period. These five sessions also seek to foreground and question the theoretical and methodological debates of contemporary Romantic scholarship.

Weeks 6-10: These seminars acquaint students with a range of political contexts and co-texts to second-generation Romantic writing. Students will investigate how writers allude to - and/or seek to elude - the fraught contours of the political landscape, examining the web-like structures of allegiance and shared purpose connecting politically motivated authors. Individual sessions address the politics of language and taste in the Romantic period, and also explore different constructions of Romantic masculinity and power.

Seminar Programme

1. `The Master-Pamphlets of the Day'
This opening session establishes the historical and conceptual ground of the module by introducing students to some of the major intellectual debates of the great pamphlet war known as the `Revolution Controversy'. It focuses in particular on the rhetoric of revolution - how revolution is `performed'.
Texts: Excerpts from the writings of Price, Burke, Wollstonecraft, and Paine, together with critical material.

2. `Stamping the Stony Law to Dust': Radical Blake
This session examines how Blake's dramatic and idiosyncratic 1790s poetry and graphic art intervene in contemporary debates about political, religious and moral freedom. What do these works have to say about the institutional oppression of children, slaves and women?
Texts: The French Revolution; Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (selections); The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; Visions of the Daughters of Albion; America.

3. `Pretty Hot in It': Coleridge and Wordsworth - The Radical Years
This session profiles the changing radical selves of Coleridge and Wordsworth in the 1790s and their involvement in the radical culture of a tempestuous decade. In what conflicted ways do these poets articulate social protest? What was Wordsworth's experience of revolutionary France? How do these poems locate the individual subject in relation to wider cultural and political forces?
Texts: Coleridge - Selections from Lectures 1795 on Politics and Religion and the letters; `Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement'; `France: An Ode'; `Frost at Midnight'; `Fears in Solitude'; Wordsworth - A Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff; `Adventures on Salisbury Plain', various poems from Lyrical Ballads and selections from The Prelude, Books IX and X.

4. `Hunting the Jacobin Fox': Godwin's Caleb Williams and John Thelwall
This session examines Godwin's famous `jacobin' novel of 1794 as political intervention. It also engages dialogically with a `case study' of the radical orator, political theorist and poet John Thelwall, who became `the most representative figure of state persecution' in the 1790s and was effectively shut down by Pitt's government and driven into `inner exile' in Wales.
Texts: Godwin's Caleb Williams and The `Prefatory Memoir' and selected poems from Thelwall's Poems, Chiefly Written In Retirement, together with co-texts by Wordsworth and Coleridge.

5. Romanticism, History, Historicism I: The Politics of `Tintern Abbey'
Taking Wordsworth's paradigmatic poem as a `test-case', this session introduces students to various historicist readings of `Tintern Abbey', which has become a battle-ground for competing constructions of the Romantics' engagement with, and elision of, history.
Articles by: Marjorie Levinson, Thomas McFarland, Nicholas Roe, and Damian Walford Davies.

6. Romanticism, History, Historicism II: The Politics of Peterloo
In August 1819, workers and protesters were massacred by troops at a political rally on St Peter's Field, Manchester (the `Battle of Peterloo'). As a test-case of New Historicism, we investigate a post-Peterloo dialogue involving Keats, Barry Cornwall and Percy Shelley. We also look at how the event was represented in contemporary newspaper reports and political cartoons.
Texts: Keats, `To Autumn'; Cornwall, `Spring', `Autumn'; Shelley, `Ode to the West Wind', `The Mask of Anarchy'; eyewitness accounts of Peterloo; extracts from Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man.

7. Coterie and Camaraderie: `Cockney' Cultures of Dissent
This seminar addresses the importance of coterie in the production of Romantic writing. Attention is focused on the ways in which associates of the radical editor (and `King of Cockneys') Leigh Hunt collaborated on, published and promoted each other's work.
Texts: Hunt, A Sicilian Story, `Young Poets', `To John Keats'; Keats, `To Leigh Hunt, Esq.', `On Hunt's Story of Rimini', `Written on the Day that Mr Leigh Hunt left Prison¿, `On Seeing the Elgin Marbles', extracts from Endymion, extracts from Keats's Letters; Barry Cornwall, Gyges, A Sicilian Story; contemporary reviews of Romantic poetry.

8. Speaking Loud and Bold: The Politics of Language
This session explores how, for Hunt and his circle, social reform began with a reform of poetic language. To attack Pope and Johnsonian language, we will see, was to do more than simply register a preference in taste; it was also to challenge the linguistic basis of a series of cultural institutions.
Texts: Hunt, The Story of Rimini; Keats, `On First Looking into Chapman's Homer', `La Belle Dame Sans Merci', `Specimen of an Induction to a Poem'; Shelley, A Defence of Poetry; Wordsworth, Preface & Appendix to Lyrical Ballads, `Simon Lee', `The Brothers'; reviews of Romantic poetry.

9. Pixies and Pegasus: The Politics of Taste
This session examines Byron's vituperative attack on Romantic taste. It then focuses on the `Cockney School of Poetry' controversy fought between conservative Edinburgh reviewers and members of Leigh Hunt's radical `Cockney School of Poetry'.
Texts: Byron, English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers: A Satire (1810), extracts from Byron's unexpurgated letters (supplied), Keats, `Sleep and Poetry', extracts from Hunt's essays (supplied), reviews of Romantic works (supplied).

10. Slippery Blisses and Boxers: Romantic Masculinities
This seminar explores Romantic representations of masculinity. In addition to literary texts, students will study paintings, portraits and caricatures of Romantic figures.
Texts: Byron, Don Juan (Cantos 5-6); Hazlitt, `The Fight'; Hunt, The Story of Rimini; Keats, Lamia, `La Belle Dame Sans Merci', `A Song about Myself', The Eve of St Agnes.


In ten chronologically arranged sessions, this module seeks to acquaint students with a range of issues focused on the ways in which Romantic authors intervened in - and elided - their turbulent times. Further, it asks them to consider what modes these authors employed to do so, and how they negotiated institutional responses to their dissent? Finally, it sets a theoretical frame for considering the ways in which Romantic literary and political culture can be considered a culture of dialogue, conversation and exchange.


This module is at CQFW Level 7