Romantic Poetry and Visual Art: Wordsworth, Constable, Byron, Turner, and Their Contexts

The emphasis on selfhood in both romantic painting and romantic literature in the early nineteenth century presents itself in two very different ways. On the one hand, Wordsworth and Constable use the vehicle of landscape to move the human subject to the margins of representation, resituating consciousness amid the vastness of its surroundings (environment or cosmos) while celebrating the imaginative power of this very gesture. On the other hand, Turner and Byron–who also have ways of miniaturizing the represented figure–sustain the values of history painting and social description as their narrative and emotional focus, albeit with a deepened and newly dynamic sense of nature as backdrop, to connect attitudes derived from classicism and the Enlightenment to a more personal preoccupation with heroism in history and the artist as hero. The first weeks will provide the prehistory of poetry and painting from which Wordsworth and Constable emerge. The hinge of the seminar will be a session on the romantic portrait. To conclude, the influence of Byron will be explored not just in Turner but in Bonington, Gericault, and Delacroix. The question underlying the entire seminar will be: how did the nonhuman in all its forms acquire independent importance and then perhaps (in Byron and Turner) lose it again?

Undergraduate Course #: 
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm
WR, Hu
Pre-1900 Lit, Pre-1800 with permission