Autumn Quarter '04 - English 330: The Romantic Age
Just imagine: you see before you a world of enormous change, a vision that seems to offer you new intellectual and political freedom and power, a world where it is finally clear both exactly what is wrong with the way things are now and exactly how to rebel against them. All around you things are in flux. In America the colonists seized their chance to throw out the English; in Europe the people of France have similarly risen in rebellion and thrown off the yoke of their aristocrats’ oppression as well. Everything, for a while, offers the heady promise of new beginnings.
What can poets do in a world so new, so dynamic, so changing? What new powers do they feel? What new boundaries will they cross? Whether in the poetically revolutionary work of Wordsworth and Coleridge, or in the far more ironically distanced work of Keats and Byron, these poets test limits, look for new ways of thinking and writing. In this class we’ll read these and other major English poets of the romantic age, and we’ll look to find where and how their poetry records both their aspirations for a new world order and their disappointments when their hopes are dashed.
As you think about whether to enroll, know that a big part of what we’ll do here is poetry. I know many students haven’t had much experience as readers of poetry—but this stuff really is fun to read, and if you haven’t much experience, it’s a great place to become a reader of poetry. In lots of ways, in fact, much of what our culture thinks poetry is was developed by these poets, and we’ll take this opportunity to think about THAT as well!
For the Romantic Age in some ways has never ended—we still have movies and novels and poems that do their best to continue its themes. And that, finally, will be the other major focus of the course: Where does the Romantic Age still survive, and what are its new guises?
Texts: The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol 2A. Breunig and Levinger, The Revolutionary Era, 3rd edition. Webster, Reading and Writing the Romantic Age (A Course Packet available from the CMU Copy Center). Various Xeroxes.
Office Hours: TTh, 5-6pm, and by appt after class
Second, because poetry comes to life when read aloud, I will ask you to prepare oral presentations at least twice during the quarter—one a reading, one a sonnet or stanza spoken from memory.
Third, I strongly believe in the value of writing as a means of learning. It is one thing to read a poem or a novel; it is quite another to write about it coherently. Writing requires that you engage actively with your reading, and ensures that you—and everyone else in the class—come ready to contribute to the general class thinking. Accordingly, you’ll be writing something for every class meeting—usually something informal, a “response” paper of no more than two pages. Further, you will be submitting all of your writing in your Romantic Age Portfolio—a collection of all the writing you do for the quarter, along with a Self-reflective Essay describing your experience in this class.
Some of your writing will be E-posts. I have set up an E-post board at:
I plan to make this board integral to the class; you may post to it at any time. I will require you to post to it on occasion—the first occasion being your responses to the October 7 movie. More on that to come.
Structured writing for the course will include a midterm, a final, and a Romantic Survival project. The midterm and final will be in-class, and dates for each are noted on the reading schedule.
Course Grading: 400 Points, apportioned in the following way:
Why so much writing? Several reasons. First, writing is the single most effective way almost any of us have to make our learning active. The mere reading of assignments, by contrast, is an essentially passive process. Though your mind goes through steps enough to make the reading make sense, it rarely goes much beyond that point, nor is it forced to build connections to the conceptual frameworks you already have with any kind of strength or resilience. Most restricting of all, however, is that without active and engaged work with pen (or computer) and paper your mind may also not do the re-structuring of conceptual frameworks necessary to your becoming comfortable with the active reading of literary texts.
Second, the writing you do will also prepare you for our time together in class. With your having been actively engaged in a writing project, class sessions will move faster, group work will be much more interesting and efficient, and every person in the class will actually have read the assignment and be able to contribute to the whole. Our work together will be better because you will have already made progress on the day’s work before class even begins.
Third, you will simply learn more. Having to write will force you to confront what you don’t already know, and will give you constant practice with the skills that the active reading of these authors requires.
Finally, writing well truly is central to education in English. It is, after all, what the rest of the world thinks English is all about—and will expect you to be able to do. You SHOULD be doing constant writing—so much so that it doesn’t feel like quite such a big deal in the first place.
What I want. My criterion for the daily papers is ECI: “engaged critical intelligence.” You don’t have to be “right,” and you don’t have to be polished. You don’t even have to solve entirely whatever problem I give you. But I do want to see real effort, even if it’s only to narrate for me the difficulties you are having as you try to come to grips with the assignment.
How Much Time Should You Spend Writing? In the past some students have spent more time and anxiety on these responses than is necessary. Please understand: though I genuinely do want you to take this writing seriously, I’m not asking for a series of “English papers.” I call them “response papers” to suggest that their purpose is to be responding with an Engaged Critical Intelligence both to the reading and to my question(s) about it. In specific terms that means: I expect from you either TWO typed pages, or ONE FULLY ENGAGED HOUR of writing. If you want to spend more time than that—fine. Just don’t go over two pages.
My response to your responses. I certainly do want your papers to be coherent, but the daily response papers are not supposed to be fully finished works. And because they are informal in this way, I will also not generally read them with the same close attention I will give to your formal work. Their primary usefulness is in the writing itself. I take it as axiomatic that you will get substantially more from this class by having written regularly throughout than you otherwise would—and end of quarter evaluations from earlier classes confirm that most students agree.
Moreover my intent is that these exercises will be useful to you whether I actually read them carefully or not. Indeed, I will not collect every set of papers at the time you write them (though you will be collecting them as you complete them, and turning them in as part of the course portfolio at quarter’s end). And when I do collect them, my comments will be of the “OK,” “good,” or “I’d like to see more thinking going on here” variety. (If you want more specific response to your work, please come talk with me during my office hours.)
Late Papers. As much as I wish it were otherwise, I cannot accept late response papers. With the reading of 6 to 8 sets of up to 35 papers each over the course of the quarter I will have trouble enough keeping them straight already! You can, however, miss up to two assignments without any deductions from your final portfolio grade.
Truth in packaging disclosure:
1. In past quarters, most students have rated this class as useful and relevant. But when students haven’t liked it, they have tended to complain that they never really understood what I was asking them to do in the first place. I take that concern seriously; I will demonstrate what I want as clearly as I can in class, and the Course Packet has lengthy explanations as well. But even if most will get the hang of active reading by quarter’s end, some of you are still likely to find the process very difficult. If you feel as though you aren’t getting it, I strongly urge you to talk with me. In the end, it is up to you to get help. DON’T PUT IT OFF!!
2. Because they are writing for every class session, students report working more on this class than they generally do for other classes. The average time spent runs between10-12 hours per week, but some report they worked as much as15-16 hours (still within the average of 3 hours per credit which the University sets as its standard for 5 credit classes, but more than you may be able to spend).
3. The median grade (50% above, 50% below) in my upper division classes runs anywhere from 3.1 to 3.3. That is NOT the bottom grade—it is the median grade. That means that a number of you may indeed get a 2.5 or a 2.7 or a 3.0, even though you may have done better than that elsewhere. If that is going to make you unhappy, then, again, you should get into a different class.
4. Attendance and Participation are part of the course, and they presuppose engaged and timely completion of writing assignments. I take role randomly during the quarter, but I also use my review of your portfolio work to evaluate your class participation. Incomplete portfolios mean incomplete participation.
5. All assignments must be completed on time. Your score on any paper reflects whether your work has met this requirement.
So much for the work you’ll be doing. Now for a word of caution and of reassurance. Although this is an upper division class, I know that some of you will not have read much poetry before. Not to worry. Poetry of this period isn’t hard so much as it is different in time and language. Once you’ve learned something about the Romantic Age, and provided you do the reading and writing carefully and on time, you should be able to keep up with the work (see paragraph 2 above in Truth in Advertising). If, however, for some reason you expect to be missing class, or to be unable to keep up with the assigned work, then I very strongly urge you to find something else to take!!!
Week 1 (Sep 30): Introduction: Active
Reading, Opening Salvo.
Week 3 (Oct 12): Ww: Preface; Nutting;
Resolution and Independence.
Week 4 (Oct 19): Coleridge: Dejection, an Ode, and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Week 5 (Oct 26): Midterm #1
Week 6 (Nov 2): Hemans, "The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers," Casabianca," "Homes of England." Landon, "The Proud Ladye," "Love's Last Lesson." (We'll also be returning to "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"--so you'd best re-read it, too.)
Week 7 (Nov 9): Shelley: Mont Blanc. Keats: "When I have Fears"; "La Belle Dame Sans Merci"; "Ode on a Grecian Urn"; "Ode to a Nightengale"; "To Autumn."
Week 8 (Nov 16): Keats: Eve of St Agnes; Lamia.
Week 9 (Nov 23): Mary Shelley: Frankenstein; Nomination Review
Week 10 (Nov 30): UR First Edition due. Paper read-around, Frankenstein.
Week 11 (Dec 7): Byron: Manfred.
Finals Week (Dec 16): Final Exam.