Skip to main content

EN227 Romantic and Victorian Poetry

Course Team:
Dr Emma Francis (Convenor) & Dr Helena Goodwyn
This module is an optional core for English Literature and Theatre Studies year 2 students. It is also a Pathway Approved Option for the English Pathway and a Distrbutional Requirement for the Theory, World and North American Pathways. 


2016/17 - seminars: Monday 14:00 - 15:30 - Room G03, Tuesday 13:00 - 14:30 - Room H543, Wednesday 11:30 - 13:00 - Room H507 and Tuesday 2-3:30 Room H501.

This module focuses on significant poets from the Romantic and Victorian periods and situates their work within the cultural, social, political, economic, scientific and aesthetic debates of the period. You will need to pay close attention to both formal and contextual dimensions of the poems. The set texts are nearly all in the anthologies, those not can be accessed by clicking on the links on the set texts page. You are welcome and encouraged to read other poems written in the period 1780-1900 in addition to the set texts.

Recommended introductory reading

Recommended introductions to the period include: Isobel Armstrong, Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics, and Politics (1993); Marilyn Butler, Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries (1982); and Stuart Curran, Poetic Form and British Romanticism (1986).

Impotant historical prose works, with which it is essential you become familiar include: Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757); Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (1869): Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (1859); Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man (1791); Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). As for 17th and 18th Century poets writing in English, the language, imagery and narratives of the King James Bible remain crucial for the poets we will consider, as points of reference, or repudiation, or both. You should familiarise yourselves prior to the commencement of the module with, particularly, the books of Genesis, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Job in the Hebrew Bible; and the book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, all in the King James Version.

A particularly useful recently published resource, which presents and discusses both key 20th and 21st century critical work, and key 19th century prose works with which the poets are in dialogue is Jonathan Herapath and Emma Mason, Nineteenth Century Poetry: Criticisms and Debates (Routledge: 2015) Students are advised to secure access to this resource, as it will be refered to frequently as we work through the thematic debates of the module. The Norton anthologies assigned as module readers, which contain most of the set texts of the module, also contain extracts from a wide range of the contemporaneous social, political, religious, aesthetic and economic and scientific debates, to which students will be directed as the module progresses.


The module is assessed 50% by coursework and 50% by a 2-hour summer examination: this is assessment route (C). The coursework comprises 2 essays: (1) an close reading essay, 1500 words (submission of this essay is a requirement of the module, but the grade received for it does not form part of our courework mark); (2) an assessed research-based essay, 5000 words; the grade received for this comprises 50% of your final mark.

Text books

You need to buy two books: The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume D, The Romantic Period, ed. Stephen Greenblatt (W. W. Norton & Co, 2012); and The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume E, The Victorian Age, ed. Stephen Greenblatt (W. W. Norton & Co, 2012). Discount, of £2 off the cover price for each volume, whether bought together or separately now live in the Arts Centre bookshop!


William Blake, 'Glad Day'