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Romanticism: Reason, Revolution, Imagination


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Dr Luisa Calè
  • Assessment: a coursework assignment (10%) and two 2500-word essays (45% each)

Module description

In this module we introduce you to a range of works produced in the period 1750-1850, an era of revolution, innovation and imperial expansion which had a transformative impact on European literature and culture.

You will explore the profound implications of Romantic works for the modern understanding of the self; the relationship between experience, memory, language and processes of invention and the creation of scientific knowledge. You will study Romantic spaces (both interior and exterior, ideal and commodified), how Romantic works configure and theorise the role of climate and the elements in the production of culture and the origin of genius (how light and darkness affect the imagination), and how these elemental aspects translated into processes of cultural production, the rise of tourism and the souvenir. You will discover how Romantic communities were imagined in local, national, cosmopolitan and colonial terms, and how imperialism shaped the new categories of identity and humanity associated with the modern world.

The module is divided into four blocks:

  • 'Romantic sensibilities'
  • 'Nation and empire'
  • 'Relocations and transformations'
  • 'Romantic knowing'.

We will explore Romanticism as a multi-sensorial and multi-medial phenomenon, reading writing in dialogue with paintings, prints and other cultural forms, genres and media, from the illuminated book to the travel guide, the ruin and the souvenir.


  • William Blake, America a Prophecy (1793)
  • Edmund Burke, An Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1998)
  • Byron, Don Juan: Canto II (1819)
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 'Kubla Khan' (1797/1816)
  • Thomas De Quincey, Suspiria de Profundis (1845)
  • Maria Edgeworth, Belinda (1801)
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ‘Roman Elegies’ (1795)
  • Keats, Complete Poems, and Letters, or The Major Works
  • Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave (1831)
  • P.B. Shelley, ‘Mont Blanc’ (1816); 'Mutability' (1816), 'The Cloud' (1820), 'The Sensitive Plant' (1820), 'Epipsychidion' (1821, extracts), 'Ozymandias', extracts from Adonais (1821)
  • Anne Louise Germaine de Stael, Corinne: or Italy (1807)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria; or the Wrongs of Woman (1798)
  • William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (1798)
  • William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805), book VI, extract
  • Dorothy Wordsworth, Grasmere JournalsRecollections of a Tour Made in Scotland, extracts

Learning objectives

By the end of the module, you will be able to:

  • discuss key themes, debates and cultural forms of Romantic period culture
  • discuss Romantic aesthetics and other cultural practices
  • close-read Romantic cultural forms
  • articulate a relationship between a specific passage, picture, etc. and broader cultural phenomena, debates, disciplines
  • apply interdisciplinary approaches to Romantic period literature and culture.