Romantic Ecology: Nature and Identity
Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains, and of all that we behold
From this green earth, of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear (both what they half-create
And what perceive) — well-pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
William Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey"
The Romantics were known as the poets of nature—but what was at stake in their relationship to the environment? How did Romantic poetry help to shape the history of Western environmentalism? As the above quotation from William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” illustrates, Romantic writers made the non-human environment central to the construction of individual identity, meaning, and value. "Nature," however, is not the same for every writer. Moreover, claims about nature were often used to bolster established ideas about gender, race, and class during the period. In order to explore the different meanings of “nature” during the Romantic era, we will explore the works of poets from different social positions—including Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, and John Clare—as well as novels by Mary Shelley and Emily Bronte. By exploring how diverse Romantic writers wrote about nature in different ways, we will begin to get a feel for how and why people continue to construct different versions of "nature" today.
This course will be primarily asynchronous with some optional opportunities for synchronous discussion. Course assignments will include several short writing assignments.
Most reading selections will be available on Canvas. Additional required texts will include:
Frankenstein : Or, the Modern Prometheus (Oxford World's Classics), by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, edited by James Kinsley
Wuthering Heights (Oxford World’s Classics) by Emily Bronte, edited by Helen Small and Ian Jack