This class introduces you to Romanticism—an artistic, philosophical, and literary movement in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe. The course will pay particular attention to the ways that Romantic writing uses sentiment, sensibility, nature, and history to imagine an organic national community. We will consider the relationship between nature and nations, land and language, and people and places as we study poetry and novels. The course will begin by defining key terms in romanticism, and then study romantic nationalism in England, Ireland, and Scotland.
By focusing our attention on literature’s production of and relationship to romantic nationalisms, we will confront many complexities and contradictions within Romanticism. Although Romantic literature often celebrates the individual genius, it is also profoundly concerned with communities and political forms; although it is often cosmopolitan—invested in universals and human nature—, it also can be patriotic; although its focus is often nature, it helps shape culture and represent history. We will also consider the complexities of nationalism by examining both its cultural and political dimensions. Studying these complexities will help us question narrow definitions of Romanticism, develop a critical vocabulary about nationalism, and better understand literature’s role in culture and politics (even today!).