What is the course about?
Arguably the most important cultural shift in Europe since the Renaissance, Romanticism still greatly affects the outlook of each of us today in our attitudes towards the self, creativity, freedom, and individual rights. With the French Revolution at its heart, this period of great hopes and fears produced an extraordinary flowering of English poetry which is still exciting and challenging to read two hundred years later.
Laurie Smith has taught writing and literature at The City Lit for some years, focussing on modernism and writers’ radicalism. He researches and teaches at King’s College London, helped to found Magma poetry magazine which he sometimes edits and has been a Trustee of the Poetry Society.
What will we cover?
We will explore how Wordsworth and Coleridge created a new approach to writing based on expressing personal feeling more directly than ever before; how Blake and Shelley responded to the times with political radicalism; how Keats and Tennyson expressed complex feelings in new ways; and how Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti responded within the period’s expectations of women, including Rossetti’s erotic masterpiece Goblin Market.
We will consider the political background which included (from fear caused by the French Revolution) the most repressive police state that Britain has ever endured, together with personal relationships and the role of the imagination. We will investigate several intriguing aspects such as Wordsworth’s refusal to allow The Prelude to be published for 50 years until after his death, why Blake deliberately made his prophetic books incomprehensible, Coleridge’s withdrawal from writing poetry and Tennyson’s 17-year mourning for Hallam which led to his masterpiece, In Memoriam.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Understand how and why Romanticism in English poetry arose and developed
• Appreciate these poets’ originality
• Enjoy reading and discussing many fine poems.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
You should be interested in how and why Romantic poetry developed. No particular knowledge or skills are needed.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The sessions are run in a seminar style with all students included in discussions led by the tutor. You will receive copies of the poems the previous week so you can read them to be ready to discuss them. Each week there will be
some popular and some less well-known poems.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
No. Photocopies of all the poems will be provided.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Have a look at other poetry courses offered under Literature in History, Culture and Writing on the web, www.citylit.ac.uk and under Humanities in the prospectus.