Romantic Era Literature Essay Assignment

The Romantic Period Essay

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The Romantic Period

The Romantic Period began in the mid-eighteenth century and extended into the

nineteenth century. Romanticism was about creative thinking, “thinking outside the box”,

completely contradicting Neoclassicism, which was about straight forward thinking,

“thinking inside the box”. It was a philosophical movement that redefined the

fundamental ways of what people thought about themselves and the world around them.

The Romantic period overlapped with the “age of revolution”, which included the

American (1776) and the French (1789) revolutions. This was a time of change, where

new skeptical ideas were “in” and old traditional ones were “out”. In romanticism poetry

came new concepts, like the…show more content…

In the first stanza he

uses a wide range of imagery to create a visual image of an autumn

landscape:

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, / Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; / Conspiring with him how to load and bless / With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; / To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, / And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; / To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells / With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, / And still more, later flowers for the bees, / Until they think warm days will never cease, / For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells,”(line 1-11).

William Blake’s writing style in the poem, “The Lamb”, creates a mood that allows the

reader when reading poem to picture a little fluffy white lamb playing in a green

meadow. In the lines, “Give thee such a tender voice, / Making all the vales rejoice?”(line

7-8), Blake puts the reader in a sort of melancholy mood as if they could actually hear the

lamb’s beautiful voice. The poem, “Daffodils”, by William Wordsworth creates mental

images for the reader through his use of similes and personification. In the first line, “I

wandered lonely as a cloud”, Wordsworth presents a simile comparing himself to a cloud.

This gives the

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This section contains descriptions of the two essay assignments for the course.

Essay One

For your first assignment, please write an essay (approx. 5-7 pages) focusing on one poem (or two sonnets) by Lloyd, Smith, Seward, Wordsworth, or Coleridge. You certainly may - though you are not required to do so - refer to additional poems or to Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads if it will help you illustrate a point. Keep in mind, though, that your essay should be conceived as an exercise in close literary analysis, and should present a coherent and contestable argument about the poem under examination. What appear to be the larger themes or preoccupations that emerge from a close reading of the poem? What were the poet's probable aims in writing the poem, and how are these aims expressed? What is the relation between the "meaning" of the poem (its thematic or symbolic content) and its formal features (such as genre, rhyme, meter, imagery, etc.)?

Wherever possible, focus on key passages that offer a particularly fruitful way to frame or address a question about the poem under discussion. Be as specific as possible, and develop your argument out of your reading of the text. Make sure that your quotations do some "work" for your argument: do not, in other words, use quotations merely to illustrate an otherwise self-evident point; by the same token, do not presume the self-evidence of your quotations, but describe what significance the quoted passage has within the whole or in the context of your argument.

This essay is due in Week 6.

Essay Two

For your second essay assignment, write an 8-10 page essay on one of the following topics. While your first essay explored a single poem in some depth, your second essay should have a comparative emphasis - that is, you should focus on and develop an argument out of a reading of two or (at most) three texts. Think of this as a variation on the "compare and contrast" essay, where you draw relationships and distinctions between a few texts, and consider what may be learned by reading these texts as formulations of or responses to a single issue or problem. Considered loosely as a group, what may these works teach us about your chosen topic and about the period of British Romanticism more generally? For each topic, I have listed some authors that you might consider; feel free to choose others if you wish.

  1. Many of the texts we've read this semester have described the exercise of reason in relation to some other human faculty or condition (emotion/passion, imagination, madness, etc.). Write an essay reflecting on the opposition between reason and its others in at least two of the following authors: Wordsworth, Wollstonecraft, Robinson, and Percy Shelley. What is the status of reason relative to other human faculties? Are these faculties necessary to each other, mutually reinforcing, or absolutely opposed?
    • A related topic, but one that you are welcome to approach independently if you wish, concerns the relationship of Romantic writers to science and/or scientific knowledge. From Wordsworth's critique of murderous dissection to Frankenstein's monster, the literature of Romanticism is clearly skeptical of much scientific activity. Yet many writers of the period describe poetry and science as profoundly compatible enterprises. Discuss Romantic attitudes towards scientific pursuit and understanding in the work of at least two of the following authors: Wordsworth, Hazlitt, Keats, and Mary Shelley.
  2. The period of Romanticism is characterized not least by the frequency and force of claims made in this period on behalf of the poet and the faculty of imagination. Analyze these claims, and the relationships between them, in works by two or more of the following authors: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, and Hazlitt. What sort of power is imagination, and what are its effects? What are the grounds upon which the poet is claimed to be a privileged figure in the modern world? And what are the difficulties facing the poet (and the imaginative faculty more generally) in that world?
  3. While many of the texts we've read seem, at one level, to celebrate the joyous potential of individuality, discussion of these same texts has often led us to consider the limitations of autonomous selfhood. Write an essay on the problematic nature of individuality in two or three texts, including The Prelude, Frankenstein, and Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale."
  4. As a fourth alternative, you may write an essay on a topic of your choice, provided that you meet with me in advance to discuss your ideas for the topic.

This essay is due in Week 14.

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