Byron’s Don Juan: 'The grand Napoleon of the realms of rhyme
Time: 14:30 - 16:30
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT18
Duration: 10 sessions (over 11 weeks)
What is the course about?
Don Juan is Byron’s crowning achievement – a picaresque mock epic intended to be ‘a little quietly facetious upon everything’. The poem, however, is more complex and engaging - a vision of life predicated on paradox: witty and melancholy, sarcastic and sentimental, romantic and classical, resigned and defiant. This course will illuminate the many facets of Byron’s unprecedented masterpiece.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
We shall consider carefully (and in context) selected extracts from each of the poem’s cantos, taking in the inflammatory Dedication, Juan’s family and youth, his adventures at sea, in Greece, Constantinople and St. Petersburg, and his subsequent arrival in England. At every stage we shall reflect on Byron’s use of the ottava rima stanza to offer ebullient, affecting and disputatious observations on the possibilities, purposes and (in)significance of human life.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
-Demonstrate understanding of Byron’s purposes in composing his discursive mock epic.
-Appreciate how Byron’s appropriation of the ottava rima stanza form is crucial to the poem’s impact.
-Identify how Byron’s life and circumstances influenced his most ambitious poem.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
No particular prior knowledge will be assumed, but you will be motivated by the prospect of reading and discussing Don Juan in its entirety. You will be willing and able to read sections of the poem in advance of each class. You will be interested in listening to – and learning from – the responses of other students to the poem, and in developing your analytical skills.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Teacher explanation; group discussion.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You will be provided with edited, illustrated selections week by week. However, in order to gain the most from the course, you will also need to have the complete text to hand. The Penguin Classics edition of the poem, edited by T.G Steffan, E. Steffan and W.W. Pratt is the most accessible and is well annotated. The complete poem is also included in Lord Byron:The Major Works (Oxford Classics), although the annotation here is less extensive.
There is also a scrupulously edited online edition on Peter Cochran’s website (which contains much valuable material on Don Juan and on Byron generally). I would suggest using this to supplement your choice of printed text.
Ottava rima poems | Peter Cochran’s Website - Film Reviews, Poems, Byron… (wordpress.com).
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other literature courses at www.citylit.ac.uk/courses under History, Culture and Writing/literature.
Peter Brennan is a poet, and was for many years Head of English at The Latymer School, Edmonton. He founded Visionary Company courses in 2005, and is Editor-in-Chief of Perdika Press.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.