ENGLISH 140 - First-Year Seminar on English Language and Literature
Section: 003 Forms of Desire: British Romantic Poetry
Term: WN 2018
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Credits:
3
Requirements & Distribution:
HU
Other:
FYSem
Waitlist Capacity:
unlimited
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment restricted to first-year students, including those with sophomore standing.
Repeatability:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

1. “The desire of Man being Infinite, the possession is Infinite and himself Infinite.” William Blake, There is No Natural Religion [b]; “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

2. “Our destiny, our nature, and our home, / Is with infinitude—and only there; / With hope it is, hope that can never die, / Effort, and expectation, and desire, / And something evermore about to be.” William Wordsworth, The Prelude, 1805, Book 6: 538-41.

3. “’Tis to create, and in creating live / A being more intense, that we endow / With form our fancy, gaining as we give / The life we image.” George Gordon, Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage III, Canto 6, 46-49; “…I can see / Nothing to loathe in nature, save to be / A link reluctant in a fleshly chain, / Class’d among creatures, when the soul can flee, / And with the sky, the peak, the heaving plain / Of ocean, or the stars, mingle, and not in vain.” Byron, CHP 3:72, 683-688.

4. “Rise like lions after slumber / In unvanquishable number— / Shake your chains to earth like dew / Which in sleep had fallen on you – / Ye are many—they are few.” Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Mask of Anarchy, 151-55.

Among today’s scholars of British literature, Romanticism denotes the imaginative works produced during the years 1789-1832, or from the onset of the French Revolution and of British sympathy that event, to the passage of the first Reform Bill, a decisive moment in the history of democratic process in Britain. Students of this period emphasize the variety of practices and positions found within this span of time and cultural context. There is, however, an older sense of the term, or a qualitative rather than simply descriptive and chronological application of the term, “Romantic,” that identifies certain themes, forms, values, and anxieties prominent throughout that era’s literature and standing in sharp contrast to the literatures of the 18th c.

In this course, we recover one strand of that older usage, one that is inscribed in the etymology of the term, romance, (from medieval quest narrative), as well as in the popular construction of “romantic” today: namely, having to do with idealization, love, and desire. “Desire,” the foundational term for this course, focuses our exploration of the poetry of the early 19th c. Although we keep in the foreground the erotic dimension of the term, we also inquire into the new role assigned to desire as the motive force for all human action, as the agency of individual knowledge, growth, and identity formation, and as the means of achieving political freedom, social solidarity, and spiritual redemption. Epic and utopian claims are made for desire by the poets we call Romantic. At the same time, the poetry explores the dark and/or disabling side of desire, a host of pathologies including Faustian insatiability, Promethean martyrdom, and enthrallments, fixations, and regressions “far more self-destroying.” In a yet different spirit, we link the centrality of desire in the literature to economic changes in early 19th-c Britain, changes having special implications for artistic production and consumption. In addition to its redemptive and destructive powers, desire fuels a market economy requiring ever new products, experiences, and images of fulfillment. We correlate those conditions with the poetry’s high arguments for art as a human transformational grammar—a dark art that is somehow at the same time enlightening, promising escape from the rhythms and the horizon of what Blake called “the merely natural.”

The syllabus includes works by William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Gordon Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, and John Keats.

Required text: Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Age (Vol. D in Norton’s series). Any edition of this volume is fine; feel free to buy used copies.

Course Requirements:

Four short papers (five pages each), possible midterm and/or final.

ENGLISH 140 - First-Year Seminar on English Language and Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
P
16330
Open
18
18Enrollment Management
-
MW 8:30AM - 10:00AM
002 (SEM)
P
25485
Open
18
18Enrollment Management
-
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM
003 (SEM)
P
31851
Open
18
18Enrollment Management
-
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
004 (SEM)
P
31853
Open
18
18Enrollment Management
-
MW 5:30PM - 7:00PM
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