Spring 2019

Comparative Romanticisms

, 3 pts, GU4820


The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries witnessed the explosion of Romanticism: a sweeping cultural movement that developed alongside—and deeply impacted—revolutions in politics, philosophy, industry, and the arts. Romanticism not only spanned multiple media (literature, visual art, music), but also was in essential ways a trans-national phenomenon, with rich cultural cross-pollinations among a number of countries and languages.

This course will introduce literary Romanticism as what William Hazlitt called “the spirit of the age,” primarily in the comparative contexts of Great Britain, Germany, and France. We will explore similar themes and concerns in some of the major writers in these traditions, and also ask what makes each “Romanticism” singular to its time and place. One particular thread for our inquiry will concern how writers confronted crisis and creativity in the religious sphere during a time of political upheaval. From the German Romantic Friedrich Schlegel’s call for a “new mythology,” to William Blake’s “Bible of Hell,” to Mary Shelley’s “modern Prometheus” and Victor Hugo’s wrestling with God and Satan, what new gods come to the fore in Romanticism, and what is their legacy today?

While our main focus will remain on Britain, Germany, and France, we will also glance at contemporaneous Romantic currents in Italy, India, and the United States. All readings will be provided in English translation, but students with reading knowledge of French and/or German are encouraged to read texts in the original languages.

Section Number
Call Number
Day, Time & Location
MW 4:10PM-5:25PM 337 Seeley W. Mudd Building
Joseph Albernaz