Welcome to ENGL 310, British Literature II: Romantics through the Present. This ebook will serve as one substantive part of our course materials for our work together as well as a venue for your regular written work. As the content of this anthology attests, our work this semester surveys literary works from:
- the Romantic period (conventionally and roughly 1770s-late 1830s);
- the Victorian Period (1837-1901, only more seemingly precise in being defined by the reign of Queen Victoria);
- Modernism (conventionally and roughly, late 19th century through early 20th century)
- Post Modernism (conventionally and roughly 1939-present)
As you can see from these dates, there is some woolliness in our temporal divisions between periods in large part because the histories of different aesthetic movements are not as tidily divided from one another or along the lines of literary-historical periods. For example, if the Victorian period is the height of realist novels and lyric poetry is a masterwork of Romantic-era poets, is it impossible that writers before or after these periods might be said to write realist fiction or deploy first-person narration in a related way? If literary historical periods have even rough dates marking their beginning and ending, how do we then account for authors who lived through the transition between periods? Is William Wordsworth only a Romantic poet even though he lived and wrote until his death in 1850? We will study the aesthetic movements and the literary products that scholars believe to define literary historical periods and, at the same time, break the rules of historical periodization.
We will learn the defining characteristics of literary works, and the aesthetic movements to which they belong, while also focusing our attention on key ideas that span periods, including but not limited to: nationalism and imperialism; revolution, civil rights and related liberationist philosophies; the “free” market and industrialization; and other theoretical and institutional constructs of modernity, including the concept of the “liberal individual.”