Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog


The Romantic period is a fascinating one to study not only because of its profound influence on our thinking — indeed, they give us many of the ideas we just “take for granted” as true, particularly the importance of individualism — but also because they strike an often-difficult balance between the rigid structure that marked the Enlightenment period (think of Pope and those marching Greek columns of heroic couplets!) and the apparently chaotic structure (if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron) of the Modernists.  In fact, it’s often helpful to think of Romantic poetry as being “buried structure.”  The structural moves of rhythm, rhyme, end-stopped lines or enjambment, and so forth are less “in your face” in this era’s poetry than basically at any other since the Metaphysicals, especially Donne.  You could even make the argument that the Romantics have more in common with the Metaphysicals than they do with the folks who came immediately before them in time.  We’ll look at some of the key elements of Romantic poetry in this unit.

Preliminary Fun!

Are You a RomanticTake this self-diagnostic quiz!

Film – Sense and Sensibility


Prereading Questions

1. As the title suggests, Sense and Sensibility is, in some ways, a debate about the principles of rationalism and those of Romanticism.  One of the tenets of Romanticism is that instinct and emotion are better moral guides than reason. 

a. Do you agree with this argument? 

b. Do people usually know when they are doing something wrong?

Note: Questions taken from Reading Group

Sense and Sensibility Quote Analysis Assignment

Sense and Sensibility Resources

  • Sense and Sensibility on Netflix!
  • Resource: The Republic of Pemberley the biggest Jane Austen site on the Net!
  • Resource: Jane Austen’s World – This helpful blog is a treasure trove of all things Jane, including wonderful information such as how much ten thousand pounds really brought back in the day — adn why Mr. Darcy could rightfully be considered the Bill Gates of England.
  • Resources: Sense and Sensibility Information on the Jane Austen’s World site!

Background Reading

 Please make sure you take notes on all background reading assignments.  You will be most glad you did so.  All of these assignments refer to your textbook, The Language of Literature.

  • Please read the background information on Romanticism.pp.698-708.
  • Please read about The Big Six: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats.
  • Please read background about William Blake, p. 709 and 716.
  • Please read background about William Wordsworth,  pp.722-724.
  • Please read background about Samuel Taylor Coleridge, pp. 741 and 767.
  • Please read background about George Gordon, Lord Byron, pp. 773 and 780.
  • Please read background about Percy Bysshe Shelley, pp. 781 and 791.
  • Please read background about John Keats, pp. 798 and 807.


All readings refer to pages in your text, The Language of Literature unless otherwise noted.

  • Please read William Blake, “Infant Sorrow” (see link — the poem is not in your book), “The Tyger,” p. 712, and “The Sick Rose,” p. 714.
  • Blake, Infant Sorrow Worksheet
  • Please read William Wordsworth, “The World is Too Much With Us,” p. 733.
  • Please read Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” p. 745-765.
  • Please read Lord Byron, “She Walks in Beauty,” p. 774-775.
  • Please read Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ozymandias,” p. 782, and “Ode to the West Wind,” p. 783-785.
  • Poems of Power: Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and “England in 1819”  Questions
  • Please read Percy Bysshe Shelley, “A Defense of Poetry,” pp. 792-793.
  • Please read John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.”  Note: Please click the link because the text is not in your book.
  • Please read John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” pp. 799-800.
  • Please read Keats’ discussion of a poetic quality he called “negative capability” in this letter to his brother.  Note: Please click the link because his text is not in your book.

Assorted Questions

Blake, “Infant Sorrow”

We’re going to be looking at Blake’s “Infant Sorrow” in detail as an example of how the Romantics used “secret structure” or “buried structure” in their apparently artless poems.  Basing our investigations on pp. 29-32 of Helen Vendler’s Poems, Poets, and Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology, 2nd Ed. (not required — I just thought you might like having the reference handy, and it’s a wonderful book anyway), we will look at the following issues in the Blake, Infant Sorrow Worksheet.

What we’re doing, as I hope you’ll see, is looking for patterns — and deviations from those patterns.  Both the pattern AND the deviation from the pattern reveal crucial information — or at the very least, they signal to you that you should be asking “WHY?”  The answer to that is usually well worth the effort of investigation.

Keats, “Chapman’s Homer”

Using Helen Vendler, Poems, Poets, Poetry, pp. 125-133, we will explore this poem (and others!)  from the following angles:

  1. Meaning — What does the poem mean?  Can you paraphrase the general outline of the poem?
  2. Antecedent Scenario — that is, what has been happening before the poem begins?  What has “disturbed the status quo and set the poem in motion” (Vendler 126)?
  3. Structure — What is the division of this poem?  How many stanzas does it have?  sentences?  Where does the break come, and why?
  4. Climax — What is the high point, the climax?  How can we recognize a poem’s climax?
  5. The Other Parts — What about the grammatical form?
  6. The Skeleton — What is the curve of the emotion, the progress?
  7. The Tone
  8. Agency, Speaker — Who speaks?  Who has agency in this poem?
  9. Roads Not Taken — What other choices could the poet have made?  Why did he make the choices he did?

Resources for the Media-Minded

All of the following are optional.

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