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Winter Quarter 2007– The Age of Romanticism
Assignments and Updates

(Assignments are posted beginning with the most current)


Reading and Writing the Romantic Age



(Submit by embedding in an email--just as with the midterm.

Because I had a tchnical problem, you can submit up until 9:15pm)

Since Day One of the quarter I've asked you to think about the poems we read in terms of their functions. “What,” I've asked you to ask, “does this poem (or this line, or this word) DO?”

We’ve noted that poems can have different functions, or projects; we’ve noted that the functions works of art have can be different. Sometimes they work to raise a question, and thereby to engage us in a kind of cultural conversation; sometimes they make a particular sort of argument or claim about things, either to explain them to us or to convince us of their importance or to urge us to some sort of action. At the same time, it is not always easy to understand what a work of art’s function is; such texts tend to work by indirection and by condensation, not by direct statement, and thus they invite us to supply as part of our interpretation a hypothesis about what
a given text is doing, and how it is doing it.

That’s why careful reading requires careful attention to detail, to choices writers make—to what we’ve called here the “whats” and (as ways to explore and explain the grounds for those choices) the “whys.”

That all said, for this midterm I want you to pick ONE of the passages below, and to write a functional analysis of it. I’d like you to begin by giving me a project statement for the passage. What do you think it is trying to accomplish? What is its “project”? Then as carefully and as fully as you can explain how it accomplishes that goal (or set of goals).

Finally, conclude by making a connection between the passage you choose to write about and some other work we have read in this course. Compare it and contrast it. Your only constraint on choice is that I want you to pick a writer DIFFERENT from the author of your passage.

Take your time—you have just about three hours. As on your midterm, I’m interested in thoughtful answers informed by the understandings you have developed as a student in this class. NO MORE THAN 1000 WORDS.

Passage 1. from Caleb Williams

I fixed upon an obscure market-town in Wales as the chosen seat of my operations. This place recommended itself to my observation as I was wandering in quest of an abode. It was clean, cheerful, and of great simplicity of appearance. It was at a distance from any public and frequented road, and had nothing which could deserve the name of trade. The face of nature around it was agreeably diversified, being partly wild and romantic, and partly rich and abundant in production.

Here I solicited employment in two professions; the first, that of a watchmaker, in which though the instructions I had received were few, they were eked out and assisted by a mind fruitful in mechanical invention; the other, that of an instructor in mathematics and its practical application, geography, astronomy, land-surveying, and navigation. Neither of these was a very copious source of emolument in the obscure retreat I had chosen for myself; but, if my receipts were slender, my disbursements were still fewer. In this little town I became acquainted with the vicar, the apothecary, the lawyer, and the rest of the persons who, time out of mind, had been regarded as the top gentry of the place. Each of these centred in himself a variety of occupations. There was little in the appearance of the vicar that reminded you of his profession, except on the recurring Sunday. At other times he condescended, with his evangelical hand to guide the plough, or to drive the cows from the field to the farm-yard for the milking. The apothecary occasionally officiated as a barber, and the lawyer was the village schoolmaster.

By all these persons I was received with kindness and hospitality. Among people thus remote from the bustle of human life there is an open spirit of confidence, by means of which a stranger easily finds access to their benevolence and good-will. My manners had never been greatly debauched from the simplicity of rural life by the scenes through which I had passed; and the hardships I had endured had given additional mildness to my character. In the theatre upon which I was now placed I had no rival. My mechanical occupation had hitherto been a non-resident; and the schoolmaster, who did not aspire to the sublime heights of science I professed to communicate, was willing to admit me as a partner in the task of civilising the unpolished manners of the inhabitants. For the parson, civilisation was no part of his trade; his business was with the things of a better life, not with the carnal concerns of this material scene; in truth, his thoughts were principally occupied with his oatmeal and his cows. (392-3).

Passage 2, from Manfred, Act 3, Scene 1.

Look on me! there is an order
Of mortals on the earth, who do become
Old in their youth, and die ere middle age, 140
Without the violence of warlike death;
Some perishing of pleasure -- some of study --
Some worn with toil -- some of mere weariness --
Some of disease -- and some insanity --
And some of withered, or of broken hearts;
For this last is a malady which slays
More than are numbered in the lists of Fate,
Taking all shapes, and bearing many names.
Look upon me! for even of all these things
Have I partaken; and of all these things, 150
One were enough; then wonder not that I
Am what I am, but that I ever was,
Or, having been, that I am still on earth.
Yet, hear me still --
Old man! I do respect
Thine order, and revere thine years; I deem
Thy purpose pious, but it is in vain:
Think me not churlish; I would spare thyself,
Far more than me, in shunning at this time
All further colloquy -- and so -- farewell. [Exit MANFRED
This should have been a noble creature: he 160
Hath all the energy which would have made
A goodly frame of glorious elements,
Had they been wisely mingled; as it is,
It is an awful chaos -- light and darkness --
And mind and dust -- and passions and pure thoughts,
Mix'd, and contending without end or order,
All dormant or destructive: he will perish,
And yet he must not; I will try once more,
For such are worth redemption; and my duty
Is to dare all things for a righteous end. 170
I'll follow him -- but cautiously, though surely. [Exit ABBOT


March 14: The Final (SEE ALSO the March 12-17 Portfolio post immediately below!)

This will be an online final (just like the midterm, except we will not have a snowstorm, and I will not be struggling to post the exam while at a hotel in Spokane.)

Procedure will be the same however. As I explained in class, I will post the exam at 6pm, and you will have to submit your essay in response by 9pm. You will be asked to write a single essay, and you will have a choice whether to write on Caleb Williams or Manfred. I will, however, also be asking you to include in your essay consideration of ways the passage from CW or M can be compared with another work or set of works you've read in the course of the quarter.

The prompt for the exam will be very similar to the prompt for the midterm. To help those of you still looking for ways to be clear on what I want, I am posting to the Blackboard one of your rewrites to the Midterm stanza question.

March 12-17

Portfolio. Although I described the portfolio assignment in our initial class meeting and again at our last meeting, included it on the schedule, and alluded to it all quarter long, I have just discovered that in the transition from hard copy booklet to e-booklet I never actually posted a written form of the full portfolio assignment. I do that here.

Because I don't believe in making assignments only orally, I apologize for not having given you a written version earlier. To be sure, the assignment is not complicated, but because some of you may never have gotten clear that in addition to the collected set of papers the portfolio includes a short Self-Reflective Essay on your experience in the course, I make the following adjustment:

  • First, while the due date for the portfolio is Monday, March 12, anyone who wishes may have an extention of that deadline until Friday, March 17.
  • Second, if for some reason even that accommodation is not sufficient, send me an email and I'll work out an appropriate solution with you.


A portfolio for a literature class is like many other portfolios: a collection and display of the work you have done, together with a reflective essay describing your experience in the course. This project thus offers you a chance to review your quarter's work, as well as to put that work into some kind of narrative perspective. Your portfolio should include:

1) A detailed listing of the contents of the Portfolio.

2) All of the writing you have done for this class over the course of the quarter. (These should be the copies with my comments on them.)

3) A two to three page Self-Reflective Essay.

The Self-Reflective Essay should be about your experience in this class. You should prepare for it by reviewing your writing for the quarter, but the actual essay may take a number of forms. It may, for example, discuss the writing you have done this quarter, describing what you take to be your work's strengths, how they may have changed over the course of the term, and anything you think you still might be able to improve. Or it may be a narrative of your experience in this course: why you took it, what problems it presented to you as it progressed, and what you did to address them. Or it may discuss how your attitudes about reading literature have developed, changed, or not changed during the quarter: what were you thinking when you came in, and how has that changed in the ten weeks since?

However you choose to set it out, the object of the exercise is to have you review your experience in the course, to think about that experience, and to do something towards evaluating and making sense of it.

The portfolio counts for 60 points of the course grade; I will evaluate the daily assignments included in the Portfolio on the basis of completeness and quality of involvement (30 points total). The essay I'll evaluate on the basis of responsiveness and thoughtfulness as follows (30 points total):

Fully responsive and thoughtfully undertaken = 30
Responsive but less completely thought through = 20
Marginally responsive, or not well thought through = 10
Unresponsive = 0

The Portfolio should be submitted in a large mailing envelope. Its presentation should be neat, ordered, and careful. To have it returned, be sure to address it and to provide postage sufficient for the thirty pages or so you will have submitted.

March 5

Reading: Manfred. We had a great discussion with Gary Handwerk on Wednesday evening about the way Caleb Williams is a novel about ideological determinism--the way social and political ideologies have a way of putting us in glass prisons--with bars we don't see, but which are nevertheless just as effective as--indeed, maybe even more effective than--iron ones. Manfred is written almost 25 years after CW, and in it Byron offers a different kind of a hero--not one free of ideological chains necessarily, but one who seems to know he is in them, and frames his actions as the struggle to free himself of his chains even if it costs him his life. It is a "closet drama"--a play written to be read, not to be staged. It's not long--but it's full of iconoclastic speeches. Many of Byron's works were phenomenally successful, both on the continent as well as in England, but this one was certainly among his most successful. He didn't capture all of the age, but he sure connected with a big part of it!

Writing: First, the schedule makes the Portfolio due on Monday. But given all the class we've missed, and the helter-skelter of the end of the quarter, I will extend the due date for the portfolio until the Monday of Finals week, March 12. The final will be given on March 14 (not March 12, as erroneously given on the tentative reading schedule).

For Monday, find a passage of sonnet length in the play's last act that seems to you to be a powerful Manfred Moment--a moment in which Manfred gives voice to his will to transcend the bounds of ideological control and become his own full self--even if it means his death and damnation. Quote your lines, and then explain them. Why do you like these lines? How do they do the work of challenging the almighty spirits of all heaven and all earth?

February 28

More on Caleb Williams. No explicit writing for tonight--but we will have a review quiz on Romantic themes (for which you can prepare by reviewing the Romantic Conversations link at the top of the page in RWRA) and Caleb Williams--all of which will result in a set of questions to raise to our Mystery Guest, who will arrive at 8pm.

February 26

Reading: Caleb Williams. The whole if you can do it; through volume two at least....

Writing: I listed in class four master narratives that Godwin uses to structure his story: Identity, The Fall, The Great Wrong Righted, and the Discovery/construction of the self. In describing them I wanted to give you thematic routes, as it were, to follow as you make your way through this extraordinary book. I then asked you to locate and describe in book 2 or 3 of the novel a "quintessential" moment in the process of one of these master narratives. As one example, I pointed to Falkland's dis-owning of his quasi-son Caleb early on in the novel. Beyond being an event in the story, that moment also represents a move in the identity narrative, in which two things happen. First Caleb becomes (again, as he is in the book's opening) identity-less, and thus finds it necessary to look again to the question of who he really is, and he learns that one route to identity, that of identifying with a "father" and adopting his "nature," as it were, is not open to him. There opens in this scene not just an argument between the two, but a vast gap between anything Falkland could ever be and anything Caleb could ever be.

I hope that explanation is not too opaque. But whether or not, have a go at finding in your reading a quintessential moment in one of the four master narratives, and we will look next time at what you have found, as well as where you found it.

February 21

Reading: See February 14th--tonight we will be doing the Hemans and Landon we were going to do on the 14th. We actually spent the entire class on the 14th slowing down in order to talk more fully than we otherwise could have both about the RSP proposals and about the midterm. On the Blackboard and Reading and Writing the Romantic Age pages I've posted three things that formed the basis of that conversation: English 330: Criteria for Papers in the Class; The Grid (click here); and Notes towards the RSP (click here).

Writing: First edition for the RSP (click here for the full assignment). We will also be taking up the writing you did for February 14 on Hemans and Landon.

February 19

NO CLASS--Presidents' Day Holiday

February 14

NOTE: During Monday's class I handed out a copy of an RSP done the last time I taught this class; I had a fancy plan for using it. But that plan won't work. So instead of whatever I told you in class, we will spend about fifteen minutes on this paper in class on February 14. (My special valentine to you!) What I'd like you to do is read the paper, then reread the Romantic Survival Project assignment, and finally write just two sentences: 1. What (if anything) in this paper seems particularly strong? 2. What (if anything) in this paper left you wanting more information, or feeling unclear about the argument, the exposition, or any thing else? (If you missed class on Monday, you won't be able to do this--you'll have to catch up on Wednesday.)

Reading: Hemans, Casabiana, The Homes of England, A Spirit's Return. Landon, The Proud Ladye, Love's Last Lesson, The Little Shroud.

Writing: In reading the assigned Hemans or Landon poems, imagine that you do not know their authors are women. Could you figure that out from anything in any one of the poems you read? If so, how might you know just by the poem itself that its author was a woman? How is "women's" poetry here any different from "men's" poetry? If not, then imagine where someone else might think they could tell, and you then explain why in your view that wouldn't be evidence enough. (There is not necessarily any "right" answer here; this is a question aimed at sparking reflection and exploration.)

February 12

Reading: Keats: Ode to a Nightingale, To Autumn. Shelley: Mont Blanc.

Writing: Nominations for RSP texts due--response paper length. NO MORE THAN TWO PAGES! You can either submit them as hard copy printouts, or you can submit to me via e-mail as embedded files.

So What does this Mean? This means I want you to propose to me what "contemporary" work you'd like to use as the focus for your Romantic Survivor Project. The assignment describes what you need as "a recent cultural artifact that in your view depends either directly or ironically on major Romantic themes or concepts." This doesn't have to be a "perfect" example--as I also say in the assignment: "In evaluating the artifact you select it will matter to me less how perfect your example is than how well and how extensively you bring your understanding of romantic themes and conversations to bear in your discussion."

Your proposal should explain as well as you can what you see surviving from the romantic age in the work you nominate. Were you proposing Pirates of the Caribbean, you might talk about freedom by recovery as a powerful theme--or indeed, any of the many that showed up on epost the night we did the movie. You should also try to describe what you think is NOT romantic about your work.

February 7

Midterm. This will be an e-midterm. I will post the exam to the website at approximately 6pm, and I will email a copy to you at the same time. Your job is to write the exam--within the space limits I will include--and submit it to me in an email, with your answer embedded in the email, and NOT included as an attachment, by 9pm. Anything posted after 9 will incur a lateness penalty. I'll go over these technical details in class on Monday.

February 5

Reading: Keats, The Eve of St Agnes. NOTE: this is less reading than I'd first planned for you--and that reflects my sense that as we approach the midterm we need a class more tightly focused on the problem of reading this poetry well.

Writing: Your task for Monday:

think first about the story the poem tells, and make your best explanation of why Keats chooses to tell it to us. That's a way to start on the problem of defining the poem's project--the work it seeks to do.
Then, pick two stanzas from the poem, from different parts of it, and explain for each what you think its role in the poem is, and how it does it.
Finally, think of another poem we've read that can serve as an instructive parallel/contrast to one of your stanzas.

To help you get into the poem, here are a few preliminary observations about The Eve:

This is a poem full of eroticism, paradoxes, Romantic themes. Keats gives us a plea for life in the face of death; images of richness and embellishment, of the phantasy deployed to build a world around the ordinary, transcend the limits of normal perception in order to make rich and full an otherwise cold and frightened existence. He builds a world of myth, or superstition, of supernatural wishes, of youth still innocent, yet somehow also informed with the world’s cautionary experience.

We get a series of Keatsian paradoxes and contrasts: Frieze vs. freeze; cold vs. hot; gray and white and frost against porphyry. But all are balanced against the sense of the power of what they rebel against—it is home, parents, convention, the power represented by castles and ritual and church and, even, death itself. It is a wonderful dream, but can it be sustained? Will it last?

Note that the poetry here calls for a kind of transcendence, but it’s not a transcendence like either Coleridge or Shelley; rather it’s a transcendence made by art—it is the Pleasure Dome without the connection to a pantheistic metaphysical presence. It really does seem entirely secular, a set of very powerful tricks of thought, taking their energy from erotic drive. One begins with the powerful creative drive of eros towards beauty, pure sensuality, isolation, complete absorption in another—to a kind of “truth” in the full absorption into a state of feeling, loving, counter-thinking available through art, and from there one resolves upon action--or at least, that's how the story here goes. We will want to ask finally about this poem: does it simply create for us another kind of beautiful Grecian Urn, something to contemplate, to "read" in order to achieve a heightened understanding, or does it also provide a vision and a rationale for action?

January 31

Reading: Keats: On first looking into; On Seeing the Elgin Marbles; When I have Fears; La Belle Dame Sans Merci; Ode on a Grecian Urn.

Writing: I will assign you a stanza of the Ode in class. I want you (having read the whole of the poem) to do a what/why analysis of your stanza, and then go on to propose a project statement for your stanza. In a VERY SHORT paragraph, end your response by explaining which of the four short lyrics you are also reading for tonight most closely shares Keats' project in the Ode.

January 29

Reading: Shelley: 1. To Wordsworth; Ozymandias; England in 1819; Ode
to the West Wind; To a sky-Lark; When the lamp is shattered.

2. Having read 8-10 postings (or more) on the class E-Post site, be ready for an inclass quiz on which of today's poems might best be chosen as an analog for Pirates.

January 24

Reading: NO ASSIGNMENT!!!!!! Catch-up on Coleridge evening, along with an introduction to the RSP via Pirates of the Caribbean.

Writing: An E-POST class assignment: click on the Catalyst link above, and that will take you to the class E-Post bulletin board. Once there, post up to one full screen full nominating an appropriate analogue text to Pirates of the Caribbean. Post this paragraph NO LATER THAN 8:00 am MONDAY.

January 22

Reading: Coleridge: Dejection, an Ode, and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. RWRA: "Romantic Conversations: Things the Romantics Loved to Talk About" (Accessible through the link at the top of the Reading and Writing the Romantic Age page)

Writing: Of the two poems for today, the Rime is probably the easier to read, even if it’s long. The don’t look alike, they don’t feel the same. Yet in many ways they ARE the same—or at least, the work, or project, each undertakes share a great deal—and that is a resolve to encounter and even explore “the Dark Side.”

I talk about that aspect of Romantic literature in “Romantic Conversations: Some Things Romantic Writers Loved to Write About.” Read that section if you haven’t already, or reread it if you have, and pick a stanza-length segment from either poem (a 4-6 line segment of the Ode) that seems to you to be engaging with “the dark side.” What do you notice in the stanza about Coleridge’s poetic choices, and why (i.e., with what sense of the work he wants this stanza to do) does he make them?

January 17

Reading: Coleridge, Eolian Harp, Kubla K; RE Chap 1 Quiz. (Start RE Chaps 3-4). And though I haven't said anything about this before, you should be reading as a matter of course the introductions to each of the authors we read--very helpful in getting a sense of the interpretive ballparks their poetry plays in.

Writing: These two poems, as different as they seem, can be understood as having very similar projects. Develop and write out a project statement for one of the two, and then explain as best you can first how the poem goes about effecting that project (don't worry if this sounds really difficult--we'll be talking more about project statements on Wednesday), and second, locate a place in the other poem that seems to be doing the "same" sort of thing.

NOTE: We spent the class last Wednesday evening working on the notion of project statement. I talk about it in RWRA in section III--in the So What section. Talking about the "project" of a poem is a way of talking about the cultural work it is doing, and a "project statement" is simply a sentence or two that states clearly what you think a poem's project is. The example I use in RWRA is "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"--we spent time in class on Wednesday talking that poem through and showing how one might go about creating an argument about what it was doing. The snow prevented some of you from getting to class so you missed that. You also missed our working through "Nutting," but you can get a good sense of our discussion there by re-reading the last section of the "Wordsworth on Poetry" essay where "Nutting" is specifically addressed.

That may sound like a lot to work through before our next class, but you do have a full week. So do what you can with this writing assignment, working from the pages I spend on poetic projects in RWRA. We'll return to this (obviously) next Wednesday. We'll begin by picking up "Resolution and Independence," and then go on to Coleridge.

Finally, when you read "Kubla Khan" be sure you read the notes which precede it as well as the actual "poem."

January 10

Reading: Wordsworth, "Nutting," and "Resolution and Independence." RWRA: Section V: Worthsworth on Poetry.

Writing: For "Nutting," pick two lines you find interesting--either together or singly. Type them out and explain what interests you. For "Resolution and Independence," pick a stanza you find interesting, type it out and explain (again!) what interests you.

(Keep in mind: you don't have to be giving me "truth" or "wisdom" here--I'm just asking you to find something you like, and to explain as fully as you can why you like it. This isn't about being "right"--it's about finding a way to engage intelligently with the reading.)

January 8

Reading: Wordsworth, Lines Written; Expostulation; Strange fits; She dwelt among; Three years; A slumber; Lucy Gray; I wandered; My Heart Leaps.
RE: Start Intro and Chap 1. RWRA: Sections I, II, and III. (Quiz on

Writing: Pick one of the lyric poems you are reading for today, look at it closely, and locate three What's, and then for each, write a paragraph describing as fully as you can, and in as many ways as you can, Why you think Wordsworth made the choice he did.