Module Identifier ENM6520  
Academic Year 2001/2002  
Co-ordinator Dr Michael Franklin  
Semester Semester 1  
Pre-Requisite Good honours degree  
Co-Requisite ENM0120 , ENM0220 , Three other MA option modules  
Course delivery Seminar   10 Hours (5 x 2 hours)  

Brief description

This module extends political and historical readings of Romanticism to embrace the cultural, institutional, and sexual politics of Empire. We shall examine the intertwined roots of Romanticism and Orientalism: the exotic, the erotic, and the despotic. The craze for sensual and sensational escapism ushered in by the Arabian Nights Entertainment had involved a voyeuristic invasion of the seraglio. Romantic writers were also absorbed by that fragrent and forbidden space, but was such Oriental escapism at odds with their social and political concerns? Exactly how did their words reflect contemporary cultural and imperial encounters with Asia and blur the margins of imaginative and actual power? Key issues to be explored will include cultural stereotypes such as the contemptuous misogyny and capricious cruelty of the Oriental despot; liberty and libertinism; the earthly paradise; and the longing for the feminized dream of the East.

Texts for detailed analysis will include
Sir William Jones, 'Hymns to Hindu Deities' (1784-88), introducing Hinduism to the West
Robert Southey, The Curse of Kehama (1810), an Oriental epic
Byron, The Corsair (1814), an Oriental verse tale
Percy Shelley, Alastor (1816), a Romantic verse narrative


Week 1: Introductory - The Horrific Allure of the East
By means of xeroxed extracts from a range of materials including The Sowdone of Babylone, the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Les Mille et une nuits, the Persian Letters of Montesquieu and Edward Said's Orientalism, we shall explore the cultural history of Orientalism.

Week 2: Hinduism Domesticated
Sir William Jones's 'Hymns to Hindu Deities' (1784-88). With their emphases on creativity and the nature of perception, they anticipated, and helped to shape, Romantic preoccupations with these themes. Extracts from Jones's translations of Kalidasa's Sacontala (1789), and of Jayadeva's Gitagovinda (1789) will also be examined to discover why the German Romantics fell in love with India.

Week 3: Monstrous Gods and Demon Devotees
Robert Southey's The Curse of Kehama (1810). Although heavily reliant upon Jones's work for much of his material, Southey was anxious to locate Hindu culture and religion in a morass of sati, thuggee, and infaticide. The text will be considered against the political background of the Orientalist/Anglicist debate, and the tireless lobbying of the Evangelical movement to allow missionary activity in India.

Week 4: 'Some samples of the finest Orientalism'
Byron's The Corsair (1814). Although Byron failed to obtain the necessary permissions to make the passage to India, he remains the only Romantic to reach Asia. His experiences in Albania provided a correctness of 'costume' for this Oriental verse tale which sold 10,000 copies on the first day of publication. Byron's own political position on our Eastern empire will be compared and contrasted with that of his arch-enemy Southey. We will also examine some extracts from Don Juan, and The Giaour (1813).

Week 5: The 'Veiled Maid' and the Earthly Paradise
Percy Shelley's Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude (1816). Shelley also longed to travel to India, and there is an autobiographical aspect to the young self-alienated poet's quest for the ideal and the visionary. European ambivalence concerning the Orient is figured in Shelley's ambivalent response towards the voluptuous 'veiled maid', who sings and plays upon a lute songs of liberty and virtue. We will also consider 'Zeinab and Kathema' (1811-12), Shelley's Gothic but empathetic response to Sydney Owenson's The Missionary (1811).

Required reading

Jones, Sir William, Selected Poetical and Prose Works, ed. Michael J. Franklin (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1995)
Wu, Duncan, ed., Romanticism: An Anthology (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994)
For Southey, there are three copies of The Curse of Kehama in editions of collected works (1844, 1864, 1888) on the open shelves in the library. Most students will use the Chadwyck-Healey Full-Text English Poetry Database

Aims and objectives

to enable students to acquire a knowledge and understanding of Romantic Orientalism and its contexts;
to give students the opportunity to read closely a range of Romantic poems with an Oriental dimension;
to encourage students to read from a historical perspective;
to encourage students to apply contemporary literary and cultural theory to the study of works of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:
demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the primary texts on the module and a critical awareness of the broader issues raised by the module;
be able to write competently about the texts with reference to their cultural and historical background;
produce organised, coherently argued and critically informed written work.