Romanticism's Social Media

Romanticism’s Social Media

Lauren Neefe
Marion L. Brittain Post-Doctoral Fellow, Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Literature, Communication, and Culture

Click here for a Prezi presentation about this course.

Online syllabus:
ENGL 1102, Sections A3, J, P1.
Georgia Tech, Fall 2015


Lauren Neefe /
Office hours: MWF, 11:15am–12:15pm at Highland Bakery or by appointment


A3: MWF 9:05–9:55am / CULC 125 // Portfolios due: Fri. 12/11 by 10:50am
J: MWF 10:05–10:55am / Skiles 156 // Portfolios due: Mon. 12/7 by 2:20pm
P1: MWF 1:05–1:55pm / Skiles 154 // Portfolios due: Mon. 12/7 by 5:40pm


Building on the WOVEN strategies of composition and process you began to develop in ENGL 1101, this course tours the “social media” of writing during the Romantic period, traditionally defined as the decades between the French Revolution and the ascendance of Queen Victoria in 1837. Recently scholars have taken an interest in the artistic and cultural revolutions of this period as anticipations of the telecommunications innovations of the later nineteenth century (telegraph, telephone, photograph, film, phonograph). Surveying the range of Romantic genres, from lectures, coterie readings, and letters to poetry, tales, and the novel, we will take stock of the ways in which period artists and audiences perceived what has been called the “dream of communication” and the networks that make that dream seem attainable. Along the way, you will be asked to put what you learn about Romantic voice, circulation, and networks into practice with three projects that advance your rhetorical awareness and introduce strategies for developing and presenting a researched argument.


  • WOVENText. The official handbook for Georgia Tech’s first-year composition sequence is available for purchase in hard copy at the campus bookstore ($100).
  • Austen, Jane. Emma. Edited by Frances Ferguson, Longman Cultural Edition, Pearson Longman, 2006. Available at the campus bookstore ($30) or (ISBN 13: 9780321225047). You are welcome to use another edition as well.

Readings available online on the course schedule:

  • Heinrich von Kleist, “Useful Inventions: Proposal for a Cannonball Postal System”
  • Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?”
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [On Imagination and Fancy], Biographia Literaria
  • Percy Shelley, “A Defence of Poetry”
  • Charles Lamb, “Distant Correspondents”
  • Thomas De Quincey, The English Mail-Coach (“The Glory of Motion” and “Going Down with Victory”
  • Coleridge, Christabel
  • John Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes

For your reference: A link to The Norton Anthology of English Literature’s timeline of significant events and publications during the Romantic period is available on the course website.

There is a $10 fee for our papermaking session at the Paper Museum.


You should plan to bring your laptop as well as paper and pencil/pen to class.

You should have access to the Microsoft Office software suite and the Adobe Design suite, either on your computer or via one of the university's media labs.


* Project One Video and Comments (5% / 50 points)

You will create a 60- to 90-second video of your personal response to the Project One reading. You will have time to brainstorm and draft your response to the suggested questions in class. You will submit your video with an appealing caption on the course blog, where students from the other sections of this course will be able to view it and you will comment on one another's responses. You will then post two (2) 150-word comments to the blog: one in response to a video and one in response to someone else's comment. Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, Nonverbal

* Assignment 1: Adapting Media Audio Post, Annotated Bibliography, and Lecture (20% / 200 points)

You will research the biography and original publication of any one of the Romantic writers we have read (Kleist, Kant, Coleridge, Shelley, De Quincey, Lamb), then adapt the argument and translate the medium into today's media landscape. You will develop your adaptation in two stages, using three genres: 1) a 90-second version of your lecture, recorded and posted to the course blog with an inviting caption; 2) an annotated bibliography evaluating five (5) sources you use to develop your argument; and 3) a three-minute oral presentation of your argument, delivered to the class with a single visual slide. The class will ask you one question in response to your lecture. Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, Nonverbal

* Assignment 2: Gothic Poem Broadside and Artist Statement (20% / 200 points)

You will design a broadside for a hypothetical public reading of Christabel (Coleridge), or The Eve of St. Agnes (Keats). Your design will incorporate the details of the event, a passage from the chosen text, and a visual element that represents your interpretation of a prominent motif or conflict in the poem. You will write an artist statement that describes your imaginary reading and give the rationale for your design choices; it will include a thumbnail image of your broadside with an explanatory caption. Written, Visual, Electronic, Nonverbal

* Assignment 3: Highbury Social Media Proposal, Annotated Bibliography, and Pecha Kucha Prezi (25% / 250 points)

In groups of four or five, you will develop a concept for a social media network that serves Emma Woodhouse and her community in Highbury. Responsibility for the research—on historical conditions, technological solutions, and social dynamics—will be divided up among the group members. Annotated bibliographies of the research will be compiled and written individually. Together, the group will write, assemble, design, and deliver a Pecha Kucha presentation (20 slides x 20 seconds) of their concept with Prezi accompaniment. Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, Nonverbal

*Final Portfolio (25% / 250 points)

At the end of the semester, you will assemble three to four artifacts from all the work you will have done over the course of the semester into a portfolio that demonstrates where you've been and where you want to go as a communicator in the world. The portfolio will be introduced by 1200- to 1600-word essay that reflects on your strengths and weaknesses, successes and mistakes. Each artifact will also receive a short introduction. All of the WOVEN modes should be represented in your portfolio.

*Participation (10% / 100 points)

Your success and the success of this class depends on your active participation in the community we develop. You need to listen generously and respectfully to others' ideas, and you need to share your own, generously and respectfully.


In addition to those outcomes determined by the Writing and Communication Program and Georgia Tech, the following learning outcomes may be expected in this course:

  • Awareness of the enduring dialectic of Enlightenment and Romantic paradigms
  • Knowledge of the major preoccupations and genres of the British Romantic period
  • Understanding of the social context of Romantic writing and its circulation
  • Greater historical perspective on twenty-first-century anxieties and fantasies about social media, their uses, and their effects.


I am a Romanticist, which means that of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world of English literature, I chose to specialize my expertise in the culture, ideas, and writing of the Romantic period: that is, the turbulent, revolutionary, ambitious years between the American and French Revolutions (1776, 1789) and the institution of the Fugitive Slave Act in the United States (1850).

It also means that I want to help you cultivate, in John Keats's inimitable words, your “negative capability,” that is, your tolerance for “being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” This is NOT to say that I want you to avoid “reaching after fact and reason.” Those two friends are essential elements of any successful rhetorical appeal. It IS to say that I want you to carve out space and time for taking risks in your thinking, your process, your writing, and your collaboration, because that uncomfortable space of uncertainty is precisely where you learn. Engineers and product designers like to call this space of risk taking “tinkering.” In this course, I encourage you to develop your capacity for uncertainty both on your own and in your interactions with your peers. It is as important to me that you learn from one another what I can’t teach you as that you learn from me those things I absolutely can.

My greatest ambitions for the course and for the class, therefore, are that you surprise me, that you surprise yourself, and that we surprise one another with what we didn’t know we could think and do.


The Writing and Communication Program at Georgia Tech teaches communication as a multimodal practice. In other words, we want you to develop a sense of communication as the synergy of several modes, assembled into the acronym “WOVEN,” which stands for Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, Nonverbal. You may therefore expect the activities and assignments in this course to engage you in rhetorical situations by way of several, but not necessarily all, of these modes.

Written communication. You need to make writing your friend, and you need to learn how to get good at it. In this course, you'll do a lot of different kinds of writing, directed at different kinds of audiences and structured around different purposes: audio posts to the course website, written drafts of oral presentations, annotated bibliographies, display copy for a visual design, proposals that defend your ideas, and reflections on your process, strengths, and weaknesses for each. The final portfolio requires a 1,200- to 1,800-word reflection on the work you will have done over the course of the semester.

Oral communication. You need to make speaking your friend, and you need to learn how to get good at it. In this course, you'll be asked to speak effectively in a variety of situations and you should learn from your peers by listening to how your classmates perform and participate in our conversations. In addition to delivering a lecture to your classmates, you'll record your lecture as an audio post, present your social network proposal to the class, conduct peer reviews, and participate in class discussion.

Visual communication. You need to make design your friend, and you need to get good at making the form and the content of your arguments, in whatever mode or medium, work together. In this course, you'll create a visual design—called a broadside—that represents any social dimension of a text we read in class and create a slide show for a group pecha kucha presentation of your social media concept.

Electronic communication. Software is probably already your friend, but you need to refine and advance your facility with the applications you know and expand your toolkit of applications. In this course, you will use the course website as a social forum, learn the Adobe Design software to create your broadside, and use Google docs to conduct peer review.

Nonverbal communication. You know the adage You need to think about what and how you're communicating even when you aren't using your words. In this course, you will use body language to help you deliver a lecture to the class, arrange words and images into a compelling visual design, and edit a selection of images that make your social media concept compelling.

Lecture on Adapting Romantic Media Theory for C21 (20% / 200 points)

90-second audio post with caption due before class on September 14.

3-minute lecture with single slide delivered in class on September 18, 21, or 23.

Annotated bibliography, lecture outline, and slide due on T-Square by 5 p.m. on September 23.


This assignment asks you to research the author, original publication, and publication history of one of the Romantic media theory texts we read from in the first weeks of the term (Kleist, Kant, Coleridge, Shelley, De Quincey, Lamb). It asks you to then research our contemporary media landscape in order to imagine how and where that writer would deliver his argument in twenty-first-century America, adapting the writer’s language to your contemporary idiom. You will compile an annotated bibliography of the sources you use to develop your speculative argument, and you will deliver a 3-minute lecture in front of the class, accompanied by a single slide for backdrop. You will prepare for your lecture with a 90-second audio post that presents your initial research and drafts your argument.

In short, there are three components to this project: an annotated bibliography, a 90-second audio post, and a 3-minute lecture, with slide, delivered before the class.

Due on T-Square by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, September 23. You will create an annotated bibliography of the five (5) most important sources you use to develop your portrait.

Your bibliography must include:

  • at least one (1) source about the author of your chosen text
  • at least one (1) source about the publication history of the chosen text
  • at least one (1) source about the contemporary media landscape
  • at least one (1) source from a periodical (newspaper, magazine, academic journal, etc.)
  • at least one (1) digital source (periodical, archive, website, etc.)

The bibliography entries should follow MLA citation format for Works Cited documents.

Each entry in your bibliography will be followed by a succinct paragraph that annotates the source. The annotation should include the following:

  • a justification for your use of the source (why is it relevant to your argument?)
  • a concise summary of the source (its main argument, its audience, its purpose)
  • a quotation from the source that you might incorporate into your discussion

Audio Post

Due on the course blog before class on Monday, September 14. You will draft and record a 90-second audio post that introduces your subject to the class, proposes your initial idea for adapting your writer’s argument for the twenty-first century, and incorporates at least one source from your developing bibliography.

As you did for your Project One video posts, you should:

  • post a title that is both descriptive and alluring,
  • write a caption that both summarizes and teases, and
  • embed your audio file in the post.

You should also:

  • cite the source you reference in the post (MLA style).

Class Lecture

Due in class on September 18, 21, or 23 (Friday, Monday, or Wednesday). From your audio post, you will develop a 3-minute lecture that (1) describes the larger work to which the excerpt we read belongs, (2) describes the historical context of the larger work and its author, 3) explains how that argument would be made in the contemporary medium you nominate, and 4) adapts the argument to your contemporary idiom. Your lecture should answer the following questions:

  • Does the text we read belong to a larger work? How does the text or the larger work fit into the development of this writer’s literary reputation?
  • When and how was the larger work originally published? How did it circulate before it was published?
  • If the writer were to make his argument today, what medium should he choose to make it in? Why?
  • How would the argument be framed, or expressed, in contemporary, twenty-first-century terms?

You will create one slide as a backdrop to complement your lecture and help your audience remember the most salient point(s) of your argument.

Therefore, you will be largely relying on the power of your voice and your body language to engage the class and hold its attention on your train of thought. Consider how you are going to poise yourself, survey the audience, and gesture in ways that draw your peers in and emphasize your key points.

Students who sign up to lecture on Friday, September 18 will receive 10 additional points to compensate for the lost weekend.


At the end of this assignment, you should:

  • have a working knowledge of a major Romantic author’s work and career,
  • have a greater sense of how writers “use their reason in public” during the Romantic period and a broader sense of how intellectuals “use their reason in public” today,
  • be more comfortable thinking of yourself as writing and speaking in intellectual conversation with your peers,
  • have greater facility with audio recording, as well as blog protocols and etiquette,
  • be more sensitive to the difference between the written and oral modes and recognize the challenges inherent to writing that imitates speaking,
  • utilitze strategies for speaking to and engaging an audience of your intellectual peers,
  • appreciate why it is important to explain and defend your interpretation of a source’s significance to your argument, not just summarize its content, and
  • demonstrate improved ability to cite sources in MLA format.


Your bibliography, post, and lecture are worth 200 points, which is 20% of your final grade. You will be evaluated on:

  • whether your bibliography follows MLA citation format,
  • how well you summarize and defend the significance of each bibliography entry,
  • the polish and allure of your post’s presentation and the research progress it demonstrates,
  • the clarity and structure of your oral delivery in the audio post,
  • how well you present and analyze your initial evidence in the post,
  • your thoroughness in explaining the importance of your selected text to the author’s literary reputation,
  • how well you explain the rationale for your twenty-first century adaptation/outlet for your chosen Romantic media text, and
  • how creative and poised you are about engaging the class with your voice and body language in your lecture.

Gothic Poem Broadside and Artist Statement (20% / 200 points)

Important dates and due dates

September 30: Papermaking day at the Paper Museum

October 5: Initial broadside sketch due on Google Drive by 6 p.m.

October 9: Carving day 1 in library studio, second floor

October 13: Draft artist statements due on Google Drive

October 16: Carving day 2 in library studio, second floor

October 19: Printing day at the Paper Museum

October 21: Broadsides due in class; artist statements due by 6 p.m.

October 26–November 13: Broadside exhibit in Clough

November 18–20: Broadside exhibit at Paper Museum for Poetry@Tech

10 extra credit points for participating in the exhibit and reading


This assignment asks you to create a broadside of a public or coterie reading of either Coleridge’s Christabel or Keats’s The Eve of St. Agnes, along with a 600-word artist statement that describes the event, the rationale for your visual design choices (the passage, the images, the arrangement), and how these choices express your interpretation of some motif or conflict in the poem. Your artist statement should include a thumbnail photograph or scan of your broadside with an explanatory caption.

There are two components of this project:

  1. the handmade broadside and
  2. an artist statement and design rationale, including a thumbnail photo or scan of your broadside.

We will have class at the Paper Museum on September 30. You will be making the paper you use for the broadside. The paper we are making is 5 inches by 10 inches in size. Everyone should end up with about ten sheets.


I will pick up your broadsides from the Paper Museum and bring them to class for an exhibit/critique on Wednesday, October 21. You will save your artist statement, including an image of the broadside, as a .pdf and submit it on T-Square by 6 p.m. on October 21.


The broadside is due in class on Wednesday, October 21.

You are designing a broadside for a hypothetical reading of either Christabel or The Eve of St. Agnes, to take place (or have taken place) somewhere in Atlanta and given by a specific performer or group of performers before a particular audience.

Your broadside must include the following four elements, arranged into a compelling visual design:

  • the precise date, time, and location of the event
  • the identity of the performer
  • a visual representation of a motif or conflict in the poem
  • a significant passage from the poem

You will choose the precise date, time, location, and performer(s) as a way of interpreting the motif or conflict in the poem.

The imagery you use in your design may or may not refer to the passage you include in your design. The two elements should still work together to form your interpretation of the poem.


Your broadside both advertises the poem while it documents the event. The audience for the broadside is not necessarily the same as the audience of the event, though they are likely to overlap. The broadside audience includes people who attended the reading and want a souvenir of the event, people who wanted to attend the event and couldn’t, and people who like poetry or these poems in particular.

Artist Statement, including Photograph of Posted Broadside

The artist statement, including the captioned photograph, is due as a .pdf on T-Square by 6 p.m. on Wednesday, October 21.

To explain your broadside, you will write a 600-word (approximately two pages in 12-point Times New Roman) essay that describes the imaginary event your broadside documents, gives the rationale for your text and design choices, and explains how these choices express your interpretation of a motif or conflict in the poem. Your statement should include a thumbnail image of your broadside with an explanatory caption.

Your photograph should be well sized and placed in your document so as to illustrate the content of your statement. The caption should complement, not merely reiterate or substitute for visual detail.


Your artist statement is your opportunity to testify to your understanding of the poem and the intelligence of your design. It should appeal to people who might attend a museum or gallery exhibition such as the one to be held at the Paper Museum in November. The persuasiveness of your statement increases the value of your broadside in the cultural marketplace.

Intellectual and Practical Goals of the Assignment

At the end of this assignment, you should:

  • have developed a persuasive interpretation of a motif or conflict in Christabel or The Eve of St. Agnes
  • have a better understanding of how textual and visual choices form an argument or interpretation
  • have a practical understanding of printmaking and the uses of print ephemera


The broadside assignment is worth 200 points, which is 20% of your final grade. You will be evaluated on:

  • how precisely you imagine and evoke your imaginary reading of the poem
  • the focus and specificity of the interpretation represented by your design and artist statement
  • how clearly your rationale explains your design choices as an interpretation of the poem
  • the concrete detail—in referring to your design, the fictional event, and the poem itself —used as evidence to explain your design choices
  • the visual cohesiveness of the broadside’s four required elements

Highbury Social Media Proposal, Annotated Bibliography, Prezi (25% / 250 points)

Due Dates

November 4: Initial bibliography (2 sources, author and title, in Google Doc)

November 9: Annotated bibliography draft (4–5 sources, bring hard copy to class)

November 13: Group proposal draft (every individual brings a hard copy to class)

November 18 and 20: Pecha Kucha Prezis (in groups, in class)

November 23: Final proposal and annotated bibliography (everyone submits both to T-Square)


In groups of four or five, you will develop a concept for a social media network that serves a communication need in Highbury, where Emma Woodhouse and her community live. Each member of the group will conduct individual research (on historical conditions and social dynamics in a town like Highbury, on twenty-first-century technological solutions), resulting in a distinct annotated bibliography. Together the group will write a proposal, pitched at a specific character in the novel, describing the social media concept and the community need the proposed platform serves. Ultimately, the group will create a Prezi of its concept and deliver it Pecha Kucha–style to the class.

There are three components of this project:

  1. an annotated bibliography of five individually researched sources,
  2. a written proposal prepared collectively by the group and submitted individually, and
  3. a Pecha Kucha presentation delivered by the group to the class.


Drafts of your initial bibliography, annotated bibliography, and group proposal should be printed out and brought to class on the dates given above (November 4, 9, and 13, respectively).

Each group will deliver a Pecha Kucha–style Prezi of its concept proposal to the class on either November 18 or 20.

The final draft of your annotated bibliography, concept proposal, and Prezi, should be submitted together on T-Square before class on November 23. Every member of the group will individually submit the same collectively written concept proposal.

Concept Proposal

Every member of the group will individually submit the same collectively written concept proposal (with bibliography and final Prezi) on T-Square before class on November 23.

Each group will compose a proposal addressed to a specified character in Emma, persuading that character that Highbury should adopt your group’s proposed social media platform, which you’ve tailored to a particular communication need in the community. The proposal should be 1,000–1,250 words and consist of an introduction, community profile, platform description, comparison with competition, and concluding restatement of the solution. Attached but not included in the word count should be a Works Cited list of the sources referenced in the proposal.

The introduction should briefly define the problem or opportunity the proposed social media platform addresses, including the Highbury niche or community it serves and the need it fulfills. It should then outline the purpose and organization of the rest of the proposal. The introduction should clearly identify the social media platform and define the key or specialized terms that will be used throughout the proposal.

The community profile should describe or characterize Highbury or the Highbury niche the proposed platform would serve and the problem or opportunity it addresses. What makes the group of characters a community? How is the community organized? What brings them together? Where, when, and how often do they get together? What aspect of the community’s activities could be served by a social media platform? How, in the novel, does the community express the need your platform addresses? Your profile should incorporate quotations from the novel to support and illustrate its claims.

The platform description should clearly identify the platform and the twenty-first-century device on which it is best used (smartphone, computer, tablet, something else? drone?). The description should cite a vivid situation from the novel in which the identified problem arises and how the proposed platform either solves the problem or alters the fate of characters. Note: You may adapt an existing platform and brand the adapted platform with a new name.

The competition comparison should present your research on platforms that character might also be tempted to consider as a solution to the problem you’ve identified. What are those platforms’ advantages and disadvantages? Why is your proposed platform better?

The concluding restatement of the solution should review the main points of the proposal and emphasize the strongest case for your proposed platform. Persuade the specified character from Emma that the identified community will communicate better or arrive at a different fate if it adopts your concept.

The Works Cited is a bibliography of only those works referenced in the proposal. It need not be annotated, and it need not include the sources in the respective group members’ annotated bibliographies.

Annotated Bibliography

Your individually researched and annotated bibliography is due on T-Square on November 23. An initial bibliography is due November 4. A complete draft is due November 9.

Each member of the group will compile a bibliography of sources used to develop the proposal. In addition to traditional scholarly work on Jane Austen, Emma, and the historical conditions of Regency England, you may use trade publications like Wired or CNET. You may use scholarly research (articles or books) on social media and communication.

The primary audience of your annotated bibliography is the other members of your group; the professor is your secondary audience. Every group member’s bibliography should be different, though they can overlap slightly. As a group, you might consider dividing the research you need to do for the different elements of the proposal among the group members, in which case your annotations serve to inform the group members of your findings. As in the Lecture assignment, the annotation should explain why each source is relevant to your proposal and summarize the source to emphasize that significance.

Pecha Kucha Prezi

Each group will present a Pecha Kucha–style Prezi to the class on November 18 or 20. Each member of the group will individually upload the Prezi file, with an individual bibliography and the group proposal, to T-Square before class on November 23.

Each group will translate its five-part written proposal into a five-part Pecha Kucha presentation addressed to the class—not the character from the novel—and accompanied by a Prezi visual aid. Pecha Kucha is an efficient and dynamic presentation of exactly 20 slides, allowing no more than 20 seconds to each slide for a total of about 6 and a half minutes. Each member of the group must present a roughly equal number of slides; you may distribute and choreograph the speaking parts however you like to most effectively present your concept to the class. Slides may contain text and/or images, but be sure to create slides that prompt you while illustrating or reinforcing your point. Do not simply read the slides.

Intellectual and Practical Goals of the Assignment

At the end of this assignment, you should:

  • have developed an interpretation of the social dynamics in Highbury, the setting of Jane Austen’s novel Emma,
  • have thought carefully about the nature of a single character to the extent that you can make a compelling rhetorical appeal to that character,
  • have speculated alternative plots or conclusions for the characters in Emma,
  • have a better understanding of how technology and communication are integral to the way communities form and interact,
  • have improved confidence and competence explaining the relevance and significance of a source to your developing argument,
  • have greater awareness of how to contribute to and share responsibility in a group,
  • have greater familiarity with research databases and how to assess sources appropriate to your genre and audience,
  • be convinced that Prezi is better than PowerPoint,
  • have strategies for speaking to an audience efficiently while effectively referring to visual aids, and
  • have achieved competence in MLA citation format.


Your annotated bibliography, group proposal, and Pecha Kucha Prezi are worth 250 points, which is 25% of your final grade. You will be evaluated on:

  • how well you summarize and defend the significance of the sources you contribute,
  • the appropriateness of your sources to your concept and for addressing the character who is your target audience,
  • how thoroughly your proposal covers the five required parts of the proposal,
  • how clearly you describe the Highbury need and how your proposed concept meets that need,
  • how substantively you contribute to the success of the group’s proposal and presentation,
  • how well your speech and slides complement each other,
  • how poised you are about engaging the class during your presentation, and
  • how well your bibliography follows MLA citation format.