Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Romantic Radical Cultures
Academic Year
Semester 1
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Coursework  Written Assignment English Literature: 1 x 5000 word comparative essay Creative Writing: 2500 words creative piece, 2500 word commentary  100%
Supplementary Assessment Coursework  Written Assignment English Literature: 1 x 5000 word comparative essay Creative Writing: 2500 words creative piece, 2500 word commentary  100%

Learning Outcomes

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

locate Romantic writing and images in terms of its cultural and political milieu

set a theoretical frame for considering the ways in which Romantic literary and political culture can be considered a culture of dialogue, conversation and exchange

engage critically and/or creatively with ways in which Romantic authors negotiated institutional responses to dissent

respond, creatively and/or critically to Romantic texts and images in a theoretically informed, focused, comparative and well-structured manner

bring Romantic texts and images into productive apposition with current debates around related issues

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). 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.


This 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. It addresses these issues by examining a range of canonical and non-canonical literature and resonant examples of Romantic-period visual culture in the form of prints, cartoons and paintings.



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 sessions also seek to foreground and question the theoretical and methodological debates of contemporary Romantic scholarship.

The second half of the seminars acquaint students with a range of political contexts and co-texts to second-generation Romantic writing in the literary marketplace. 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 also address the politics of language, taste and power in the Romantic period; focus on constructions of desire; and examine canon formation/ marginalisation.

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 – on how revolution is ‘performed’.

Texts: Excerpts from Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, Richard Price, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and Anna Laetitia Barbauld, together with critical material (via the Reading List).

2. ‘Stamping the Stony Law to Dust’: Radical Blake

This session focuses on how William Blake’s dramatic and idiosyncratic 1790s poetry and graphic art intervene in contemporary debates about political, religious and moral freedom. It also explores poems by Anna Laetitia Barbauld alongside Blake’s.

Texts: William Blake; selection of poems from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience; The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (via Wu’s Anthology). Anna Laetitia Barbauld: selected poems (via the reading list).

3. Coleridge and Wordsworth: Radical Engagements, Radical Elisions?

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? How do poems in Lyrical Ballads (1798) engage with, or elide, the more explicit radicalism of these authors’ younger selves? We also explore the role of women writers in 1790s radical culture, including Barbauld and Charlotte Smith.

Texts: Coleridge, ‘Introductory Address’ from Conciones ad Populum (via Reading List). ‘Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement’; ‘France: An Ode’; ‘Frost at Midnight’; ‘Fears in Solitude’; Wordsworth, ‘Tintern Abbey’ with various other poems from Lyrical Ballads (via Wu’s Anthology).

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 (via Reading List), John Thelwall's ‘Prefatory Memoir’ from Poems, Chiefly Written In Retirement (via Reading List).

5. Romanticism, History, Historicism I: ‘Tintern Abbey and Beachy Head’

Taking Wordsworth’s paradigmatic poem as a ‘test-case’, this session introduces students to various historicist readings of ‘Tintern Abbey’. We also read Charlotte Smith’s ‘Beachy Head’ alongside ‘Tintern Abbey’ to explore female Romantic subjectivities and representations of ‘nature’.

Texts: Wordsworth, ‘Tintern Abbey’ (via Wu’s Anthology). Charlotte Smith, ‘Beachy Head’.

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 explore the role and representation of women in the Peterloo protest, and compare the work of Joanna Baillie with Keats’s.

Texts: Keats, ‘To Autumn’; Barry Cornwall, ‘Autumn’; Percy Shelley, ‘Ode to the West Wind’.

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: Keats, ‘Written on the Day that Mr Leigh Hunt left Prison’, extracts from Endymion, contemporary reviews of Romantic poetry (provided in prep document). Barry Cornwall, 'A Sicilian Story' (via Reading List).

8. Race, Gender and Desire in the Gothic Novel: Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya

This session examines the representation of race, desire, class and power in Dacre’s 1806 novel, and considers its virtual parody of Mary Wollstonecraft’s ideas. This seminar also makes comparisons with Matthew Lewis’s gothic novel, The Monk (1796), and considers the influence of Dacre’s novel on second-generation Romantics.

Texts: Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya (1806), Oxford World’s Classics edition (2008). Extracts from Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796), Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest (1791), and Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818).

9. Slippery Blisses and Boxers: Romantic Masculinities

This seminar explores transgressive Regency masculinities, as well as sexual subcultures focused on London’s ‘molly houses’.

Texts: Hazlitt, ‘The Fight’; extracts from Keats’s letters; Keats, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’, ‘The Fall of Hyperion’, ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ and ‘Lamia’ (via Wu’s anthology).

10. ‘And woman’s heart hath left a trace’: Hemans, Barbauld, Landon

This session considers work by some of the most popular poets of the day, Felicia Hemans, Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Letitia Elizabeth Landon, examining their involvement in contemporary political debates, their critical and popular reception, and hostility from male writers. Examining a range of Romantic subjectivities, it also addresses canon formation and recent work in recovering women’s voices in Romanticism.

Texts: Felicia Hemans, ‘The Image in Lava’, ‘Casabianca’, ‘The Homes of England’; selected work by Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Letitia Elizabeth Landon (provided on prep sheet and via Reading List).

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written: By developing a sustained critical argument. Oral: Through class discussion, small group exercises, and seminar presentations. [Not assessed]
Improving own Learning and Performance Through independent and directed research and reading.
Information Technology By using word-processing packages; using AberLearn Blackboard and other e-resources to research and access course documents and other materials; by submitting assignments via Turnitin.
Personal Development and Career planning Through increased critical self-reflection and the development of transferable, ICT, communication and research skills.
Problem solving By evaluative analysis and the use of critical skills.
Research skills By directed and independent research; by synthesizing information in an evaluative critical argument.
Subject Specific Skills Through the reading, writing and researching skills involved in the interrogation of literary texts; through comparative models of reading and understanding; and through the conceptual/theoretical analysis of works of imaginative literature in relation to a range of other non-literary texts.
Team work Through group work in seminars; and through preparation for paired presentations in seminars.


This module is at CQFW Level 7