Instructor: Carlson M 3:35-6:25pm
Poetry and Mediality
British Romantic poetry—famous for its invocations of voice and nostalgia for the bygone orality of the bard—flourished in an age of print. More than 5,000 books of original verse were published between 1789 and 1824, an era in which the population of Great Britain is thought to have doubled and its numbers of readers to have quintupled. As we will discover, Romantic poets were themselves interested in communication technologies, the reading public, and poetry’s medial status—the means by which it was conveyed and apprehended by reading, listening, or feeling bodies. This is evident both in its foregrounding of sound, speech, writing, and print and in its paradoxical claims to immediacy, its frequent self-presentation as unmediated “vision” or “imagination.” In this class we will read a wide variety of poems: some with pre-histories as enchanting recitation pieces or as vulnerable leaves of degrading manuscripts; some with pre-cinematic visual sequences; some that engaged in exciting metrical and rhythmical experimentation or highlighted the sounds of stutterers, foreigners, rustics, and the mad; some wildly popular best-sellers and some non-letterpress multimedia texts with limited circulation. As we examine the ways in which the medium of Romantic poetry was often the message, we will consider what light Romantic poetry sheds on poetry, and its publication, in our own dynamic and complex age of media shift.