Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 5 X 2hr seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 X 5000-WORD ESSAY  100%
Supplementary Assessment RESUBMIT FAILED ELEMENTS  Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements. Where this involves re-submission of work, a new topic must be selected.  100%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of a range of texts from the 1790s.

2. Demonstrate awareness of the political and cultural contexts of these works and of the debates in which they intervene.

3. Discuss critically the broad theoretical issues emerging from an analysis of the relation between imaginative literature and political culture.

4. Synthesise conceptual acumen and detailed textual analysis in an extended piece of critical writing.


This module explores the political contexts of first generation Romantic writing in the years following the French Revolution.

Brief description

Focusing on the response of the first generation Romantics to revolutionary upheaval, this 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 (articulated by such writers as Price, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Paine and Godwin), to a range of literary responses to revolution by such authors as Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge and John Thelwall, and to the `reticular culture' and literary `dialogues' of the period. The module also seeks to foreground and question the theoretical and methodological debates of contemporary Romantic scholarship.


_1. `The Master-Pamphlets of the Day'
This opening session will help establish 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'.
Texts: Excerpts from the writings of Price, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Paine and Godwin.

_2. `Stamping the Stony Law to Dust': Radical Blake
This session will examine 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 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 will profile the radical selves of Coleridge and Wordsworth in the 1790s and their involvement in the radical culture of the decade. How do these poets articulate social protest? What was Wordsworth's experience of revolutionary France?
Texts: COLERIDGE - Selections from Lectures 1795 on Politics and Religion and the letters; `Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement'; `The Dungeon'; `France: An Ode'; `Fears in Solitude'; WORDSWORTH - A Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff; various poems from Lyrical Ballads and selections from The Prelude.

_4. `Hunting the Jacobin Fox': Godwin's Caleb Williams and John Thelwall
This session will examine Godwin'r famous `jacobin? novel of 1794 as political intervention. It will also focus on 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: The Politics of `Tintern Abbey'
Taking Wordsworth paradigmatic `Tintern Abbey' as a `test-case', it introduces students to various historicist readings of the poem and asks them to consider the extent of Wordsworth's engagement with, or elision of, history.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication (oral) YES - through group discussions and presentations.
Improving own Learning and Performance YES - through independent reading/research.
Information Technology NO
Personal Development and Career planning YES - through transferable communication and research skills.
Problem solving YES - by developing evaluative analysis and critical skills and by formulating and conducting an extended analytical argument.
Research skills YES - by relating literary texts to historical contexts and by synthesising information in an extended evaluative argument.
Subject Specific Skills Detailed critical analysis of literary texts and evaluation of broad intellectual concepts.
Team work YES - through group presentations

Reading List

General Text
Butler, Marilyn (ed) (1984) Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Primo search Erdman, David V. (1977) Blake: Prophet Against Empire (3rd edition) Princeton: Princeton University Press Primo search Gravil, Richard and Molly Lefebure (1990) The Coleridge Connection Basingstoke: Macmillan Primo search Hanley, Keith and Selden, Raman (eds) (1990) Revolution and English Romanticism: Politics and Rhetoric Hemel Hempstead Primo search Levinson, Marjorie (1986) Wordsworth's Great Period Poems: Four Essays Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Primo search McCalman, Iain (1993) Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries, and Pornographers in London, 1795-1840 Oxford: Clarendon Press Primo search McGann, J.J. (1983) The Romantic Ideology: A Critical Investigation Chicago: University of Chicago Press Primo search Mee, Jon (1992) Dangerous Enthusiasm: William Blake and the Culture of Radicalism in the 1790s Oxford: Clarendon Press Primo search Roe, Nicholas (1992) The Politics of Nature: Wordsworth and Some Contemporaries Basingstoke: Macmillan Primo search Roe, Nicholas (1988) Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years Oxford: Clarendon Press Primo search Scrivener, Michael (2001) Seditious Allegories: John Thelwall and Jacobin Writing University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press Primo search Walford Davies, Damian (2002) Presences that Disturb: Models of Romantic Identity in the Literature and Culture of the 1790s Cardiff: University of Wales Press Primo search Roe, Nicholas Coleridge and John Thelwall: The Road to Nether Stowey in Gravil, Richard, et al. pp. 60-80 (see 'Books', above) Primo search Rzepka, Charles J. Pictures of the Mind: Iron and Charcoal, 'Ouzy' Tides and 'Vagrant Dwellers' at Tintern, 1798 Studies in Romanticism 42:2 (2003), pp. 155-85 Primo search Thompson, E.P. Hunting the Jacobin Fox Past and Present 142 (1994), pp. 94-140 Primo search Thompson, Judith An Autumnal Blast, a Killing Frost: Coleridge's Poetic Conversation with John Thelwall Studies in Romanticism 36, 3 (Fall 1997), pp. 427-56 Primo search
Recommended Text
Godwin, William (2005.) Things as they are, or The adventures of Caleb Williams /William Godwin ; edited with an introduction and notes by Maurice Hindle. Primo search Wu, Duncan (Sept. 2005) Romanticism:An Anthology Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 7