English 495 - Romanticism and Gender


English 495: Seminar in Special Topics

Fall 1996
U.M.-St. Louis
Nanora Sweet

Required Texts in Order of Use:

Émile, or On Education, J.-J. Rousseau, ed. Allan Bloom
Literary Women, Ellen Moers
Coursepack of articles
British Literature, 1780-1830, ed. Anne Mellor and Richard Matlak
Mary and the Wrongs of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, ed. Gary Kelly
Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
Byron, Lord Byron, ed. Jerome McGann
Corinne, or Italy, Madame de Staël, ed. Avriel Goldberger

Recommended Texts:

A Glossary of Literary Terms, M.H. Abrams, 6th ed.
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, J. Gibaldi, 4th ed.

seminar topic and work

Like the culture wars of the 1990s, the international movement known as Romanticism took shape as a struggle over traditional and transgressive ideas of gender. Influenced by Rousseau and others, British writers such as Wollstonecraft, Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, and Byron offered their revisions of femininity and masculinity. The results included male sentimentality, a female version of Reason, an idea of Nature as feminine, and new cross-dressed hero(in)es such as the woman warrior and Don Juan-as-ingenue.

In this course we will read Romantic literature for its revisions of gender and their influence on us. The course introduces students to theories of gender including influence theory, specularity, "différance," queer theory, and post-modern theories of desire. Articles by Harold Bloom, Camille Paglia, Eve Sedgwick, and others will offer perspective on Romanticism as part of today's "gender wars."

Students will write four 1-page responses to the readings, one 2-page theory "position paper," and a 15-18 page seminar paper on a topic of their choosing. They will give one "discussion opener" orally (one of their four responses) and also one report on a critical article. Critical readings and syllabus questions should help stimulate and guide discussion, responses, and papers.

papers and reports

"Responses." On four occasions during the semester, write 1-2 pages (200-400 words) of response to the work. Offer your own reactions AND connect them with one or more of the guiding questions and concepts of the course. 20 pts

"Discussion starters." Choose one week's reading and begin the class with your own responses to the reading (10-15 min.). Rather than "foreclosing" the discussion, pose questions and problems for us to continue discussing. 5 pts

"Report." At several points below, critical or theoretical selections are listed for individual reports (all should be on Reserve in the TJ Library). These usually respond to issues in class and coursepack and extend them into further debate. Choose one of these items for your 10 min. report (time it!). Give us a brief and fair summary of the selection and your sense of the selection's contribution to the debate over Romanticism and gender. Help us to understand its contribution by placing it on our "map" of critical and ideological schools and by relating it to other criticism that we are reading and writing. 10 pts

"Discussion and Participation." You will be rewarded for your timely, helpful, apposite, and collegial participation--in class and in smaller groups! 40 pts

"Theory position paper." Literary criticism doesn't happen in a vacuum--certainly not in a course in Romanticism and gender! Criticism is part of a larger intellectual world of assumptions and approaches and (perish the word!) theories. What are your working assumptions? the approach(es) that you're invested in? the theory/ies you've been drawn to this semester or previously? In preparing for this 2-page paper, look for the work of one relevant work or theorist (Barthes, Bakhtin, Bloom, Rubin, Irigaray, Sedgwick, Deleuze & Guattari, etc.) in order to challenge and extend your own thinking (about structuralist reading, the dialogic, influence theory, materialist feminism, specularity, queer theory, anarchist postmodernism, etc.). Then, in your own words summarize your approach and suggest its implications for literary study. 15 pts

"Seminar paper." 15-18 pages, 5 or more secondary sources cited and used, 1 or more primary works. See interim due dates. I will offer a list of suggested topics, but you may also craft your own. Something may germinate as you read or in a report or response that you do. Pursue your own interests and concerns within the larger academic conversation of the class and its readings (i.e., show that you understand what the class has done with the topic, texts, and issues you pursue; and go beyond what we have done). In writing, place the criticism or theory that you oppose in the background and place your own approach and argument in the foreground. Your exploration of relevant theory and criticism may start with the coursepack, report, and other Reserve items. Also, our texts offer many fine bibliographies. Listen for updates on the library's index holdings in literature. In writing, use MLA documentation style consistently.

interim work 10 pts

paper 40 pts

total grade points 140 pts

ranges: 140-127, A; 126-113, B; 112-99, C; 98-0, F. No +s or -s.

guiding questions (and add your own)

1. What is the relationship between Romanticism and gender? Is Romanticism as a cultural episode more or less bound up in issues of gender than other episodes?

2. What is Romanticism? Is it one or many? Does it exist? Where? Or must it be invented? Why?

3. What is gender? Essence or accident? Nature or culture? One, two, or many? Determined/ing or free/ing? Fiction or fact? Is it important to distinguish feminine and masculine? Why?

4. Why do we think about gender? What is to be gained by doing so? What are "gender wars"? Then? and now?

5. What is the connection between gender and literature? Gender and language? Gender and genre? How is gender related to "writer and reader"? To literal and figurative? Tradition and innovation? Canon and counter-canon?

6. What is literature? Is it "masterpieces of writing"? A useful term? Does literature satisfy expectations or defy them? including our own expectations of it. Is it powerful or weak? Is it one or many? Can nonfiction be literature? Does Romantic literature blend genres or divide them? Consider genres as protocols and genders as protocols.

7. Do our ideas of literature change and, if so, why and how?

How can we generalize about literature? Should we substitute another term? Is there a better way to consider the writing in/of culture?

8. Why has Romanticism (however ghostly the concept) generated and absorbed so much influential criticism and theory (even the notion of "literature")?

9. Are we still living in Romanticism? What are the signs, or counter-signs? Pleasures or dangers?

10. Put romance, romanticism, and gender in a triangular relationship. What is/was "romance"? Work the triangle in different ways and pursue the meanings and causal contingencies of the terms.

11. Triangulate popular culture, Romanticism, and gender.

12. What is feminist criticism? What is gender studies? Are they different? Should they be?

13. Are Romanticism and its notions of gender a discrete cultural episode (synchronic)? Or are they evidence of cultural continuity (diachronic)? Western culture; or Eastern as well (as Raymond Schwab argues)? What is happening when Rousseau, Robinson, Byron, Staël, and Wordsworth refer to Plato, Plutarch, Sappho, Ovid, Petrarch, and Milton?

12. What does the study of Romanticism and gender say about our understanding of human individuals? Have we oversimplified them or overcomplicated? Underestimated or overestimated? We have tested the roles played by citizens and exiles, lovers and spouses, fathers and mothers. We have considered asymmetry and equality, disguise and spontaneity. And psyches destroyed and fulfilled in/by fictions of gender. What have we learned about people?


Key: CP = coursepack assignment
MM = Mellor & Matlak pages
CA = critical article for individual report
[] = suggested reading

Note: Read introductions in MM and the other books, and entries in GLT, as needed and desired.

Aug 28 Introduction

Williams "To Sensibility"; Wordsworth "Sonnet on Seeing..."; MM 504-05, 563
Byron Childe Harold's Pilgrimage 3.77ff MM 912-
groups form and sign up for responses and discussion starters
GLT Neoclassicism and Romanticism

I. Age of Sensibility, Age of Reason

Sept 4 Eighteenth-century Sensibility

Rousseau Emile 37-53, 203 (para. 1), 316-44, 357-450, 469 ("The Study of...")-480
CP Green Woman of Reason 65-81
GLT Structuralism 280-, Semiotics 275-, Deconstruction 225-
Linda M.G. Zerilli, Signifying Woman: Culture and Chaos in Rousseau, Burke, and Mill 1994: 16-30, 39-50.
Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History 1984. "Readers Respond to Rousseau." 215-56.

Sept 11 Reason and Desire, 1790s, 1970s

Barbauld "To a Lady with Some Painted Flowers" MM 167-68
Wollstonecraft Vindication of the Rights of Woman MM 366-413
Robinson, "Sappho and Phaon" MM 319-20
GLT Feminist Criticism 233-
CP "Gender," Myra Jehlen (Lentriccia Terms)
Moers Literary Women 141-62
Sedgwick Preface vi-x, Introd.-Ch. 1, 1-27
Reports -- Gender as Dilemma and Desire
Kaplan, Cora. Sea Changes: Essays on Culture and Feminism 1986. "Pandora's Box: Subjectivity, Class and Sexuality in Socialist Feminist Criticism." 147-76.
McGann, Jerome J. "Mary Robinson and the Myth of Sappho." MLQ 56 (March 1995): 55-76.
Rubin, Gayle. "The Traffic in Women: Notes toward a Political Economy of Sex." Toward an Anthropology of Women. Ed. Rayna Reiter. 1975. 157-210.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia 1972. 1-8, 51-56, 165-66, 221-30, 378-82.

Sept 18 From Sensibility to Romanticism

Wollstonecraft Wrongs of Woman 69-231
CP Ross Contours of Masculine Desire 3-13
Mellor Romanticism & Gender 11-15

II. High Romanticism and Its Ways of Gendering

Sept 25 Mythologies of Gender

Blake "A Little Girl Lost," "To Tirzah" MM 304
Coleridge "The Eolian Harp," "Christabel" MM 760, 721-29
"To William Wordsworth..." (handout)
Keats "Ode to Psyche," "Hyperion: A Fragment," Letters 3 May, 18 July 1818: MM 1295-96, 1264-66 ["Lamia" or "Eve of St. Agnes]
GLT Archetypal Criticism 223-, Phenomenology 255, Influence 239-, Marxist criticism, 241-, Cultural Materialism, 252-
CP Paglia Sexual Personae 1-39
Bloom Anxiety of Influence 3-45
Levinson Keats's Life of Allegory 1-44

Oct 2 Romanticism, Nature, and Gender

Wordsworth "Nutting," "Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower," "Resolution and Independence," "To a Butterfly," "The Sparrow's Nest": MM 585-86, 593-95, 600-01 ["Michael" 586-92, The Excursion Book First 611-21]
CP Ross "Naturalizing Gender" ELH vol. 33, 1986
GLT organicism 72; Psychological & Psychoanalytic Criticism 263-; Dialogic Criticism 230
Reports -- Gender, its Deforming and Performing
Wilson, Douglas B. The Romantic Dream: Wordsworth and the Poetics of the Unconscious 1993. Ch. 3 "Dream Displacement: Projecting the Abandoned Woman." 83-110.
Jacobus, Mary. Reading Woman: Essays in Feminist Criticism 1986. "Is There a Woman in This Text?" 83-109.
Gelpi, Barbara Charlesworth. Shelley's Goddess: Maternity, Language, Subjectivity 1992. 3-5, 35-63.
Fay, Elizabeth. Becoming Wordsworthian: A Performative Aesthetics 1992. Ch. 1, 13-58.

Oct 9 Romantic Aesthetics of Gender

Burke A Philosophical Enquiry...the Sublime and Beautiful MM 134-37
Burke Reflections on the Revolution in France MM 15-17 ("History will record...," "...ought to be lovely")
Wollstonecraft Vindication of the Rights of Men MM 20-24
Wordsworth "The Two-Part Prelude of 1799" MM 624-35
P. Shelley "Mont Blanc," "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" MM 1063-66
Byron Childe Harold's Pilgrimage 3.49, 60-104
Reports -- Art, Patriarchy, and Feminization
Jacobus, Mary. Romanticism, Writing, and Sexual Difference 1989. "Gender Genre, and Autobiography: Vaudracour and Julia" 187-205.
Ellison, Julie. Delicate Subjects: Romanticism, Gender, and the Ethics of Understanding 1990. On Coleridge 109-32 and passim to 213.
Page, Judith. Wordsworth and the Cultivation of Women 1994. Ch. 1 "From the Sublime to the Beautiful" 11-28.
Sweet, Nanora. "History, Imperialism, and the Aesthetics of the Beautiful:Hemans and the Post-Napoleonic Moment." At the Limits of Romanticism: Essays in Cultural, Feminist, and Materialist Criticism 1993. Ed. Mary Favret and Nicola Watson. 170-84.

Oct 16 Language, Rhetoric, Desire

Burns "A Red Red Rose," "The Fornicator. A New Song--," "Green Green the Rashes. A Fragment" MM 363-64
Wordsworth "The Thorn," "The Solitary Reaper" MM 567-70, 599-600
Robinson "Deborah's Parrot" MM 324-36
Austen Letters, to J. Edward Austen, to Cassandra Austen MM 767-68
Byron Childe Harold 4.78-79, 88, 99, 102, 104-05, 114-27
[Shelley "Adonais" or "Triumph of Life"]
CP de Man "The Epistemology of Metaphor" (On Metaphor 11-28)
Cixous "The Laugh of the Medusa" (Signs 1, 1976)

III. A Late Romantic Turn - to Hero(in)ism

Oct 23 Medium or Mediatrix

Staël Corinne, or Italy 1-272
Moers Literary Women 173-89, 200-20

Oct 30 Triumphant or Abandoned

**2-page theory "position paper"

Stael Corinne 273-end
Byron Childe Harold 4 (note on Staël, to l. 478) 203-04
Taylor "To Mad. de Staël" MM 845-46
Hemans "Corinne at the Capitol," "Women and Fame" MM 1246-47
Landon MM "Sappho's Song" 1379

Nov 6 Heroic Conversions

**topic for seminar paper

Byron Childe Harold 2.36-38, 51-62, 71-72, 83, 97
Barbauld "Washing-Day" MM 187-89
Byron Childe Harold 1.53-63
Hemans "The Widow of Crescentius," "The Bride of the Greek Isle," "Evening Prayer at a Girl's School" MM 1227-32
[P. Shelley The Cenci MM 1066-1101]
GLT Poststructuralism 258-
CP Sedgwick ch. 2 (Shakespeare's Sonnets)

Nov 13 Gender and its Bending

Byron Don Juan 1-4 (Byron 373-548)
Reports -- Gender, as Abandonment, or Control
Lipking, Lawrence. Abandoned Women and Poetic Tradition 1988. Ch. 2 "Lord Byron's Secret: The School of Abandonment" 32-56; also 222-25.
Wolfson, Susan J. "'Their She Condition.'": Cross-Dressing and the Politics of Gender in Don Juan." ELH 54 (1987): 585-617.
Felski, Rita. The Gender of Modernity 1995. Ch. 5 "...Reading the Popular Sublime" 115-44.
Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae. 347-64 (Byron and Elvis).

Nov 20

**working bibliography for seminar paper, 5 pts.

Don Juan 5-10 (548-720)

Nov 27

**introduction OR outline for seminar paper, 5 pts.

Don Juan 11-17 (721-879)

Dec 4

**Seminar Paper due

Weds. Dec. 18 7:45- at Spiro's?