Romantic Conversations: Percy Bysshe and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley
English 360: Major Authors
MW 3:00-4:30, Jones 203, Spring 1999

Professor: Dan White
Office: Library 263, x. 3428
Office Hours: Tuesday 3:00-4:30, Friday 2:00-3:30, or by appointment
Home Phone: (206) 328-5548 (Discretion is advised)

Course Focus: In this course we will try to understand the writings and, perhaps, the lives of two extraordinary individuals. Percy and Mary Shelley, like all who live through romantic periods, sought alternatives to personal and political histories that vacillated between hope and despair. Their friend Byron described this dilemma of cyclical history as follows:

There is the moral of all human tales;
'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory -- when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, -- barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath, but one page ...

During the early nineteenth century, Percy and Mary Shelley lived, read, and wrote in order to imagine and realize other pages. By examining Percy Shelley's letters, lyric poetry, and dramas along with Mary Shelley's letters, journals, and novels, we will discover how these two authors simultaneously wrote with and against one another in response to the politics and aesthetics of the British Romantic period.

Requirements: Two (5-7, 20 pp.) or three (5-7, 5-7, 10-12 pp.) papers; Oral presentation; Class participation. The final paper will require some research and readings in secondary sources.

Grading: Your grade will be a combination of the papers (60%), oral presentation (20%), and class participation (20%). If you have difficulty engaging in public discussion, please see me.

Readings: Many of our readings will be from Mellor and Matlak's British Literature 1780-1830, indicated parenthetically below as "M." At the bookstore you will also find William Godwin's Caleb Williams and Memoirs of Wollstonecraft, and Mary Shelley's longer novels. I will distribute Percy Shelley's letters and "Epipsychidion," selections from Mary Shelley's History of a Six Weeks' Tour, and Goethe's short lyrics.

Section I. Historical Context: Revolution, War, and Reform


January 20 Introduction


January 25 Group 1: 1789-1815

January 27 Group 2: 1815-1832

Section II: Burke, Wollstonecraft, and Godwin: Gender and Revolution


February 1 Edmund Burke, from Reflections on the Revolution in France (M 9-19)

February 3 Mary Wollstonecraft, from A Vindication of the Rights of Men (M 20-24); Thomas Paine, from The Rights of Man (M 25-28); William Godwin, from Political Justice (M 90-95)


February 8 Wollstonecraft, from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (M 371-413), from "Letters to William Godwin" (M 425-26)

February 10 Godwin, from Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman; Topic and Provisional Thesis for Paper #1 due; Oral Presentation

Section III: Romantic Interlude I: Lyric and the Symbolic Expression of Desire


February 15 William Wordsworth, from "Preface" to the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads; Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from Biographia Literaria, Ch. 13 (M 749-50)

February 17 George Gordon, Lord Byron, "Prometheus" (M 920-21), from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (M 901-18, 947-53)

February 19, 4:00 p.m., Paper #1 due (5-7 pp.)

Section IV: Percy Bysshe Shelley: Ashes and Sparks


February 22 Mary Shelley, from History of a Six Weeks' Tour; Percy Shelley, selections from Shelley's letters

February 24 Shelley, from "A Defense of Poetry" (M 1167-78), "To Wordsworth" (M 1062), "Feelings of a Republican on the Fall of Bonaparte" (M 1062-63), "England in 1819" (M 1166), "Song to the Men of England" (M 1166-67)


March 1 Shelley, "Mont Blanc" (M 1063-64), "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" (M 1065-66), "Ozymandias" (M 1066)

March 3 Shelley, "Ode to the West Wind" (1100-1102), "To a Skylark" (M 1138-39)


March 8 Shelley, Prometheus Unbound (M 1102-38); Oral Presentation

March 10 Shelley, Prometheus Unbound (M 1102-38)

WEEK 9 No class (Spring break)


March 22 Shelley, The Cenci (M 1066-1101); Oral Presentation

March 24 Shelley, The Cenci (M 1066-1101), from "Julian and Maddalo" (M 1149-55); Topic and Provisional Thesis for Paper #2 due

Section V: Romantic Interlude II: Godwin's Caleb Williams


March 29 Godwin, Things as They Are; or, the Adventures of Caleb Williams; Oral Presentation

March 31 Godwin, Things as They Are; or, the Adventures of Caleb Williams

April 2, 4:00 p.m., Paper #2 due (5-7 pp.)

Section VI: Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley: Romanticism, Gender, and Power


April 5 Mary Shelley, from The Journals of Mary Shelley (M 1323), Letters (M 1323-30), other letters to be handed out

April 7 Mary Shelley, Journals and Letters, cont.


April 12 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus; Oral Presentation

April 14 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus


April 19 Mary Shelley, Valperga: or, The life and adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca; Johann Wolfgang Goethe, "Über allen Gipfeln," "Kennst Du das Land"; Oral Presentation

April 21 Mary Shelley, Valperga: or, The life and adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca


April 26 Mary Shelley, The Last Man; Oral Presentation

April 28 Mary Shelley, The Last Man


May 3 Mary Shelley, from Letters (M 1333-36), from Rambles in Germany and Italy, in 1840, 1842, and 1843 (M 1336- 39); Shelley, "Epipsychidion"; Topic and Provisional Thesis for Final Paper due

May 5 Conclusions

May 13, 4:00 p.m., Final Paper due (10-12 or 20 pp.)

Daniel E. White