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When Lyrical Ballads first appeared in 1798 the word 'romantic' was no compliment. According to Thomas Paine, it meant 'fanciful', 'light', even 'inconsequential'. Wordsworth and Coleridge resisted its application, and - twenty years later - the second generation of romantic writers recognized romanticism only as an element in a critical debate conducted against what August Wilhelm Schlegel considered the "mechanical" tendencies in classicism. It was only later generations of poets and critics who defined the concept of romanticism and identified the Romantic Movement, without, however, coming to an ultimate consensus. One of the aims of the seminar is to discuss aspects of romanticism and to work out the poets' critical response to and involvement in the dramatic social as well as cultural transformations of that period.
In accordance with more recent criticism that has seriously challenged the notion of a monolithic Romantic school, the course will explore the diversity of poetry and poetic theory produced in the period between the 1790s and the Reform Act of 1832. We will focus on texts written by the canonical 'big six' male poets - Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, and Shelley - as well as by women poets, such as Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Hannah More, Charlotte Smith, and Felicia Dorothea Hemans. Useful anthologies: Romanticism. An Anthology, ed. Duncan Wu (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998); Romantic Women Poets. An Anthology, ed. Duncan Wu (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997).