English Romanticism


Though it has long been customary for modernists to want to present and define their work in contradistinction to that of the English Romantic poets, theorists, and novelists, Romanticism always was the father of Modernism. Modern self-consciousness, perspectivism, skepticism, fragmentation, and iconoclasm, as well as modern melancholy and modern political disillusionment made their first appearance in the Romantic period. One cannot underestimate how much the innovations of Wordsworth and Coleridge managed to set our standards for what we now consider poetry. In light of their absorption, and, one could say, deconstruction of the legacy of the Enlightenment, the Romantic poets have even served as the proving ground for a great deal of modern critical theory. Though the focus of this topic is on poetry, I would also like to consider the advent of the modern novel as part of the monumental significance of what happened at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Some possible questions:

— In what ways is Romanticism a prelude to modernism with respect to the methodologies, theories, and political perspectives of individual poets?

— In light of the work of Locke, Berkeley, Burke, Hume, Kant, Rousseau, and others, what is the relationship between the legacy of the Elightenment and treatments of, say, reality (metaphysics) or politics in the work of a given Romantic poet or prose writer? How does this discussion anticipate modern concerns?

— Why does the spontaneous "overflow of emotion" often translate as dejection, mourning, loss, and darkness in the poetry and prose of the English Romantics, and in what ways do the poetics of Romanticism necessarily entail treatments of loss, the work of mourning, and the metaphysics of recompense?

— What is the conceptual justification for the proliferation of fragments and fragmentary works during the Romantic period? I'm thinking of Coleridge's poetry in particular, but Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats produced their share of "incomplete works" as well. Why were the Romantics the first to fashion these forms?

— How have critical takes on key issues in Romanticism (such as the relation between "Man" and "Nature") evolved or changed over the course of the last century? Why have the Romantics (Wordsworth, Shelley, Goethe, Hoffmann, Schlegel, etc.) appealed so strongly to modern philosophers as well as psychoanalytic and deconstructive critics in particular? Can the views of these latter critics be reconciled with those of the earlier New Critics, for instance, or those of the later New Historicists?

— In what ways does Wordsworth's poetry, his very use of language at almost any given moment, engage political as well as personal issues?

— How does the work of the "second generation" of Romantics (specifically P.B. Shelley, Mary Shelley, and Keats ) compare to that of Coleridge and Wordsworth?

— How do the most famous prose theories and fiction works of the Romantic period both jibe with and contradict the ironies of individual Romantic lyrics? In what ways is Romantic irony intrinsically subversive?
— In what ways is the modem novel "invented" during the Romantic period? Is Jane Austen a Neoclassicist or a Romanticist (in her treatments of pride, prejudice, sense, sensiblity)? What are Mary Shelley's perspectives on vision, reason, ethics, art, and human nature?


NOTE: collected editions of the poets' work contain the equivalent of several books

— Collected Poems
— The Portable Coleridge, ed. I.A. Richards (New York: Viking, 1978)
— Shelley's Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald Reiman (New York: Norton, 1977)
— Frankenstein, ed. Marilyn Butler (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998)
— John Keats, ed. Elizabeth Cook (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990)
— Pride and Predudice
— Sense and Sensibility


Abrams, M.H.
— The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1953.
— Wordsworth. A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall. 1950.
— "Coleridge's 'A light in Sound': Science, Metascience, and the Poetic Imagination," PAPS 116, 1972: 458-76.
Adorno, Theodor
— "Parataxis: On Holderlin's Late Poetry" in Notes to Literature II. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992: pp 109-153.
Benjamin, Walter
— Reflections. Schocken Books, 1986.
Benzon, William
— "Metaphoric and Metanymic Invariance," MLN 96, Winter, 1981: 1097-1105.
Bloom, Harold
— The Visionary Company. New York: Doubleday, 1961.
Burwick, Frederick
— Poetic Madness and the Romantic Imagination. University Park: Penn State University Press, 1996.
— "Coleridge's Limbo and Ne Plus Ultra: The Multeity of Intertextuality," Romanticism Past and Present, 9:1, 1985.
Chase, Cynthia
— Decomposing Figures: Rhetorical Readings in the Romantic Tradition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press,. 1986.
Crawford, Walter
— Reading Coleridge. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979.
De Man, Paul
— Allegories of Reading. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.
— Blindness and Insight. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.
— The Resistence to Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.
— The Rhetoric of Romanticism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.
Gill, Stephen and Frank Kermode, eds.
— William Wordsworth. A Critical Edition of the Major Works. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.
Gilpin, George H.
— Critical Essays on William Wordsworth. Boston: GK Hall, 1990.
Hartman, Geoffrey H.
— Criticism in the Wilderness: The Study of Literature Today. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980.
— Wordsworth's Poetry. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964.
Levinson, Marjorie
— Wordsworth's Great Period Poems. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Liu, Alan
— Wordsworth: The Sense of History. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989.
Nalbantian, Suzanne
— The Symbol of the Soul From Holderlin to Yeats. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.
Paley, Morton D.
— Coleridge's Later Poetry. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.
— "Coleridge's Limbo Constellation," SIR 34, Summer 1995.
Rajan, Tilottama
— "The Supplement of Reading," New Literary History 17.3, 1986.
— "Coleridge, Wordsworth, and the Textual Abject," South Atlantic Quarterly 95:3, summer 1996.
Richards, I.A.
— The Portable Coleridge. New York: Penguin, 1950.
Simpson, David
— Wordsworth and the Figurings of the Real. London: Macmillam, 1982.
Shawcross, John
"Opulence and Iron Pokers: Coleridge and Donne," John Donne Journal 4: 2, 1985.
Vendler, Helen
— The Odes of John Keats. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1983.
Wasserman, Earl
— Shelley: A Critical Reading. Baltimore: Twayne, 1969.
Willey, Basil
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge. New York: WW Norton, 1972.
Wordsworth, Jonathan, M. H. Abrams, and Stephen Gill, eds.
— The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850. New York: Norton, 1979.