ENGL 5059-001

The Later Romantics, Jill Heydt-Stevenson

This graduate course will explore a central phenomenon during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: the relationship between literature and the fine arts. In their writings, William Blake, Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, Maria Edgeworth, John Keats, Lord Byron, Thomas Love Peacock, Felicia Hemans and many more authors drew on painting, drawing, and sculpture to imagine and reimagine how to depict their world as well as how to describe what moves them in representations themselves (for example, Keats writes about the Elgin Marbles and Peacock about the ruins of Palmyra).  This class will offer the exciting prospect of learning about literature and the fine arts (though no specialized knowledge of art history is necessary). We will explore varying ways that these two fields intersect: does the literature “redeploy” the statue, ruin, or landscape’s intensities and energies? Does the novel or poem’s description displace what is being viewed? How might a representation of a representation (novel describing a painting) change how we see the “original”? Inversely, how might the remaking of a literary scene or character into a physical artifact dislodge that original liveliness into new performances, new meanings? What does it mean to embody words in marble or gold? What are the benefits and limitations of description? Where do the concepts of originality and authenticity figure in when an author depicts the work of a painter, or vice versa. To help frame and answer such questions, we will look at a few essays by Thing Theorists (such as Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter) and other Romantic-era and contemporary philosophers.  Our focus, however, will be on the literature. Assignments will probably include a short paper, a long paper, and a presentation.

MA Designation: Literature After 1800, Poetry Intensive, A (Formalisms)