ENGL 352 - Romantic Poets: Rebels with a Cause
Semester Offered: Fall
Intensive study of the major poetry and critical prose of Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge (ENGL 352), and Byron, Shelley, and Keats (ENGL 353 ) in the context of Enlightenment thought, the French Revolution, and the post-Napoleonic era. Readings may include biographies, letters, and a few philosophical texts central to the period. Some preliminary study of Milton is strongly recommended.
Why is it that the most influential and ambitious work in queer studies has rarely emerged from the field of Romanticism? As Michael O’Rourke and David Collings rightly note, “We have had [scholarly studies called] Queering the Middle Ages, Queering the Renaissance, Victorian Sexual Dissidence, and Queering the Moderns—but no Queering the Romantics.” Accounting for this critical gap, Richard Sha argues that the Romantic period has been mischaracterized as a “seemingly asexual zone between eighteenth-century edenic ‘liberated’ sexuality…and the repressive sexology of the Victorians.” In reality, this relatively brief cultural moment in England produced a diverse range of queer figures, both historical and literary: from Anne Lister, whose diary records hundreds of pages in code about her sexual relationships with women, to the Ladies of Llangollen, who openly cohabited with the support of English high society, to the myth of the modern vampire, a deeply sexualized and often queer figure. Given the richness of the terrain, then, why are queer studies lagging behind in Romantic circles?
In this advanced seminar, we address this underdeveloped area of scholarly research through our reading of primary and secondary texts, our class discussion, and our critical research projects. Reading theory and criticism from Romanticism studies and adjacent scholarly fields, we ask ourselves—what is queer about this literary-historical moment that has not yet been accounted for? Our goal is to redefine the boundaries of queer Romanticism—beyond a simplistic search for queer characters in the primary texts—to include broader theoretical categories such as queer affect and queer temporality, among others. We focus primarily on the poetry of the period, but also attend to some prose genres, including the diary and the essay. Kathleen Gemmill.
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