Tuesday 2:00 PM – 4:50 PM
But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think . . .
Byron, Don Juan, Canto III
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, and feeling bodies. This is evident in the poetry’s formal and rhythmical experimentation; its foregrounding of sound, speech, writing, and the page; and in its paradoxical claims to immediacy, its frequent self-presentation as unmediated “vision” or “imagination.” In this seminar we will read a wide variety of influential Romantic-era and post-Romantic poems and manifestos, by writers such as Robert Burns, Walter Scott, William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, John Clare, Felicia Hemans, Thomas Hardy, Christina Rossetti, and others. As we trace the ways in which the medium was often the message, we will consider the light these texts shine on poetry, and its publication, in our own dynamic and complex age of media shift.