English 143 -- Gothic/Romantic Age

Dr. Eric Sonstroem
Office: WPC 137 Phone: 946-2619 
Office Hours: TBA, or by appointment. 

Fall 2007
M, W, F 2:00 - 3:20
WPC 224


Around the beginning of the nineteenth century, a revolution of daring, young, college-age writers overran the literary world. They came with bold new ideas about society and nature; sex and death; God and ethics; life, the universe, and everything. We haven't been the same since.  In fact, the ideas of romanticism and the gothic are still very much with us--they have significantly helped to shape our modern world.

Why did the age that produced optimistic nature poetry also produce profoundly dark and disturbing fiction?  The romantic and the gothic have often been regarded as separate phenomena-- romanticism happening in effete, upper-class poetry and gothicism happening in novels written for a popular audience--even though they both occurred in the same historical period.  This class will introduce you to the rich and varied world of romantic and gothic literature, and explore the way these two literary phenomena are related to each other and to the world today.  You will develop your written and oral communication skills, as well as your analytical, argumentative, and close reading skills.

Required Texts:

Various printouts from the web and from e-reserves

Three Gothic Novels. Peter Fairclough, ed. ISBN: 0140430369

Charles Maturin. Melmoth the Wanderer. ISBN: 0192835920

Thomas Love Peacock, Nightmare Abbey.  ISBN: 0140430458  Buy it here or here or here.


Attendance is required.  You may miss three "personal days" for any reason (and I don't want to know the reason).  After that, your final class grade will drop 1/3 of a letter grade for each additional day missed.  If you have a valid, documented reason for needing to miss more classes (eg, a valid medical reason) talk to me about that early in the course. Chronic or extreme lateness will also not be tolerated, and may count as absences as well.  The same applies to failure to participate in classroom discussion or activities.

Print out and read the assigned reading.  The reading load is designed to be manageable and it should be varied enough to remain fun and interesting.  If you keep up with the reading, then you can participate actively in classroom discussion and write papers that are engaged and interested.  In lieu of making you buy a very expensive anthology for the class, many of your assignments are online or on e-reserves.  The assignments that are online or on e-reserves must be printed out and brought to class.  I don't want you using your computer in class.  Reading will be assessed by periodic, unannounced reading quizzes throughout the semester (in lieu of any exams).  Of course, failing to keep up with the reading is likely to adversely affect other components of your grade besides just the reading quizzes.  For example, without reading it would be hard to bluff your way through:

Active participation in discussions.  This is a small, seminar-style class, and as such it will be more discussion-driven than other classes you may have taken.  Every student counts.  We will learn from each other here, and discover the connections between our course material as a group.  Discussion skills (framing and supporting a complex argument in real-time, active listening, etc.) are some of the most valuable skills you can take away from an English class.  If you refuse to participate in classroom discussion, you do yourself a disservice by neglecting these skills, and you do a disservice to your classmates by depriving them of your insights and perspectives.  Active and regular participation in classroom discussion will therefore be assessed as a significant part of your overall grade.  Students who contribute thoughtfully to discussion, and who listen respectfully to their classmates, will be rewarded.  Students who don't contribute, or who attempt to dominate discussions at the expense of their classmates, will not.  Here's how to prepare for discussion:


You will notice that there is a web page for the class, which you are reading now.  This more or less takes the place of both a syllabus and a coursepack.  You will be required to access this web page throughout the semester, for readings, assignments and other material.  Some reading assignments may be placed on electronic reserve at the library.  Computer access is therefore vital to the class.

Written work will probably be submitted to me electronically.  Hard-copy assignments should be printed on white paper, in a standard 12-point font, with one inch margins. Your papers should be double spaced, and should contain my name, your name, the course number, the date, and a title.

Late papers will be marked down 1/3 of a letter grade for each calendar day they are late.  I will consider giving short extensions on assignments if you contact me ahead of the due date and you have a good reason for wanting the extension.  All assigned work must be completed to pass the course.


Please refer to your Student Handbook (Tiger Lore) for a complete statement of the University Honor Code, an essential element in the academic integrity of our campus community.  If I believe you to be in violation of the University Honor Code I will refer the matter to the Office of Student Life.  Penalties for violating the Honor Code can include suspension from the University.  In other words, if you plagiarize in this class, I will probably catch you, and you will probably end up in serious trouble.

Plagiarism is the attempt to pass off someone else's text or ideas as your own. If you copy or paraphrase from any outside source, even another student, and fail to formally acknowledge this in your text, you are guilty of plagiarism. If someone else writes a paper for you, or even part of a paper for you, you are guilty of plagiarism. If you are found guilty of plagiarism, you will receive an F for the assignment, an F for the course, and a letter will be sent to your dean. There are no exceptions.


The bulk of your grade will be determined by two five-page papers and one somewhat longer paper or project which you will present to the class.  Students will also each be required to lead one class session (with help from me).   There will also be a number of unannounced reading quizzes, which will be no problem if you have kept up with the reading. 

Papers 1 and 2----- 35%
Final Paper/Project----- 25%
Class Participation----- 20%
Reading Quizzes----- 10%
Lead a Class----- 10%
Total----- 100%


Tentative Schedule of Classes:

This schedule is more tentative than usual for 2 reasons:

1) This is a seminar class.  That means that you, the student, are encouraged more than ever to help shape the direction and form of the class.  Student suggestions for additional readings and/or changes to the reading are strongly welcomed.

2) This is a new class, which is exciting but which also introduces some healthy uncertainty.  I have a pretty good idea of some of the places this class will end up, but I can't be completely sure until we get there.  I will make changes to the reading schedule to help focus the class themes as they emerge over the course of the semester.

Week: 1 Begins: August 27 -- Introduction
M   No Class.
W   Welcome.
F   Coleridge "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" , and Byron "Darkness"


Week: 2 Begins: September 3 -- Why Write?
M   Labor Day.  No Class.
W   William Wordsworth, from the Preface to Lyrical Ballads"There Was a Boy"(read the 1800 version, but look at the other two), and "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal".
F   Wordsworth "Expostulation and Reply", "The Tables Turned", "Simon Lee";  Coleridge "The Eolian Harp", Hannah More "The Riot" (you should print out the transcription because that's easier to read, but check out the pdf of the original broadside too).


Week: 3 Begins: September  10 -- Energy & Revolution
M   William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Read Plate 2 through Plate 10. View the Illustrated Manuscript here (click on the links for "object 1" through "object 10"), and print out the text here.  In-class Blake resources:  here.
W   Blake:  Songs of Experience and Songs of Innocence

By the way, I was going to have you read America: A Prophecy for a taste of the "real" Blake, but without good footnotes this would be a difficult read.  So this is optional, if you are curious.

F   Charlotte Smith "Sonnet LIX", Coleridge "France: An Ode"Percy Shelly "Sonnet: England in 1819".


Week: 4 Begins:  September 17 -- Energy & Murderous Hats
M   Walpole, The Castle of Otranto p. 39-72 (prefaces and chapter 1)
W   Walpole, The Castle of Otranto p.73-112 (chapter 2 & 3)
F   Walpole, The Castle of Otranto p. 113-148 (chapter 4 & 5)


Week: 5 Begins:  September 24-- What is Nature?
M   William Wordsworth Two-Part Prelude
W   Percy Shelley "Mont Blanc", Keats "Ode to a Nightingale", John Clare "The Nightingale's Nest", Coleridge "Frost at Midnight", Jane Taylor "The Star"
F   Mary Robinson "The Haunted Beach", Wordsworth "Tintern Abbey"


Week: 6 Begins:  October 1 -- The World Gets Bigger
M   Paper 1 draft due
W   Paper 1 due.  

In class: Coleridge "The Lime-Tree Bower My Prison" & "Kubla Khan," Shelley "Ozymandias"

F   No Class.  Fall Break.


Week: 7 Begins: October 8 -- The World Gets Bigger and Weirder
M   De Quincey, from Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
W   De Quincey, from Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
F   Beckford, Vathek From the start through p. 186 "...the rest were carried back to their beds, from whence, being heartbroken with sorrow and shame, they never arose again."


Week: 8 Begins: October 15 -- Bigger and Weirder
M   Beckford, Vathek From p. 186 "The succeeding night, Vathek, attended by his mother..." to p. 218 "...pyramid of wood, neatly piled to furnish the necessary fuel: for the air was bleak in the hollows of the mountains."
W Bushra C. Beckford, Vathek From p. 218 "At evening two fires were kindled on the brink of the lake, and the two lovely bodies..." to the end.
F   Byron, Don Juan Canto V  (Reading note:  With 159 stanzas, this might seem a little long and daunting.  It isn't.  Don Juan, especially by Canto V, is the literary equivalent of popcorn.)


Week: 9 Begins: October 22 -- Children, The Sick, and The Poor
M Jason S. James Hogg, "Some Terrible Letters From Scotland" (not on reserve; click the title)
W   Wordsworth "The Old Cumberland Beggar," "Alice Fell," "The Solitary Reaper," "Resolution and Independence," "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," Charlotte Smith "Sonnet LXX"
F Christine K. John Polidori, "The Vampire"


Week: 10  Begins: October 29 -- Romantic Era Science
M   Byron Manfred Act 1
W Lauren F. Byron Manfred Act 2
F Rachel W. Byron Manfred Act 3


Week: 11 Begins: November 5 --
M   Draft of Paper 2 due
W   Paper 2 Due
F Liz C. Keats The Eve of St. Agnes


Week: 12 Begins: November 12  --
M Angela E. Maturin, from Melmoth the Wanderer (p. 7-60)
W Christine L. Maturin, from Melmoth the Wanderer (p. 73-130)
F Faith M. Maturin, from Melmoth the Wanderer (p. 131-173)


Week: 13  Begins: November 19
M Jerry M. Maturin, from Melmoth the Wanderer (p. 173-215)

Class Meets in Morris Chapel

W Happy Thanksgiving


Week: 14 Begins:  November 26 --
M Kent L. Peacock, Nightmare Abbey, Chapters 1-5
W Liz P. Peacock, Nightmare Abbey, Chapters 6-8
F   Peacock, Nightmare Abbey, Chapter 9 - end.


Week: 15 Begins: December 3
M   No Class; work on your presentations
W   Individual meetings
F   Student presentations of final papers/projects:  Christine, Christine, Bushra


Week: 16 Begins: December 10 -- Student presentations of final papers/projects
M   Student presentations of final papers/projects:  Faith, Jerry, Kent
W   Student presentations of final papers/projects:  Rachel, Lauren, Liz P.
F   Student presentations of final papers/projects:  Liz C, Angela, Jason

Final paper/project due.