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EN936 Rivalries and Couplings in Romantic Literature

By the end of this module you should:

  1. Be familiar with some of the key texts of the Romantic period
  2. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of key writers of the Romantic period, and be able to discuss different modes of influence and cultural cross-fertilization
  3. Be able to posit other forms of literary and cultural pairings, both in the Romantic period and other periods
  4. Acquire a more sophisticated understanding of the stereotype of the solitary genius in the Romantic period
  5. Be able to work individually and as a member of a small team to investigate questions of literary partnership
  6. Be able to construct credible theses about the cultural rationale and impact of literary partnership and express them plausibly in both oral and written forms
  7. Recognize historical imperatives affecting literary representations

Module Description

This module premises that the Romantic period saw an explosion of literary pairings, both positive and negative. It aims to build on students' awareness of the famous Wordswoth/Coleridge partnership, arguing that creative cross-influencing characterizes the period as a whole. To this end, students will read a variety of texts and genres to investigate and contextualize the notion of Romantic partnerships. The overall aim of the module will be to offer students an enlarged and enhanced understanding of literary and social interaction during the Romantic period through in-depth study of both canonical and unfamiliar texts and authors.

Teaching Methods

1. Seminars (weekly, 2 hours)

2. Essay (8000 words, topic decided in consultation with tutor)


Module Requirements

1. Attend seminars, having prepared material in advance

2. Make regular contributions to discussion

3. Deliver at least one in-class presentation of approximately 20 minutes, and prepare and distribute a bibliography of 3-5 key texts

4. Submit one essay of 8000 words


Texts to buy

Romanticism: An Anthology, ed. Duncan Wu (Blackwells, 1998)

Mary Robinson: Selected Poems, ed. Judith Pascoe (Broadview, 2000)

Ann Radcliffe, The Italian (OUP)

Matthew Lewis, The Monk (Broadview, 2003)

Mary Wollstonecraft, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Broadview, 1997)

William Godwin, Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Broadview, 2001)

Mary Shelley, Mathilda (Penguin Classics; ebook at; also in Volume 2 of Novels and Selected Works of Mary Shelley, PR5397.A1, in Learning Grid))


Selected secondary texts

‘Romantic Couplings’: special issue of Romanticism on the Net 18 (May 2000)

’Chamber Music: essays on the life-writings of Wollestonecraft, Godwin, and May Shelley’ (website Romantic Circles:
William St Clair, The Godwins and th Shelleys (John Hopkins UP, 1989)


Probable Syllabus:
Week 1
Introduction: Partnerships, Influences, Rivalries, Couplings, Infectious influence.
Text: Richard Polwhele, ‘The Unsex'd Females’

Week 2. The Source of Romanticism: William Wordsworth and Charlotte Smith: Elegiac Sonnets (3rd edition)/ 1807 sonnets

 Week 3. Wordsworth and Smith: The Emigrants/‘Tintern Abbey’/Beachy Head

 Week 4. Fruitful Partnership: Wordsworth and S.T. Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads (1798)

 Week 5. Metrical Influences: Coleridge and Mary Robinson: ‘To the Poet Coleridge’ and ‘Kubla Khan’; Metrical Rivalries: Wordsworth/Coleridge and Robinson: Lyrical Ballads vs. Lyrical Tales

 Week 6. Sexual Partnerships: Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin: Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Memoirs of the Author of Vindication of the Rights of Woman

 Week 7. Gothic Influences: Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis: The Italian and The Monk

 Week 8. Sexual Partnerships, Incestuous Narratives: Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: The Cenci; Mathilda; Byron, Manfred

 Week 9. Denying Influence: John Keats and Mary Tighe: the Odes and Psyche

 Week 10. Popular Rivalry: Lord Byron and Letitia Landon: the ‘Eastern Tales’ and ‘The Venetian Bracelet’ and other poems (both in xerox)