Fascination with the mysterious isolated
Mental state of the figure exiled from
society, haunted by guilt over past
transgressions, and defined by those
Women poets engaging in the topic as
Readings listed on syllabus:
Coleridge Rime of the Ancient Mariner (pp.
Feel free to watch the introduction to the
Byron Manfred (p. 638) (read the introduction
and skim the dramatic poem)
Shelley “Introduction to The Last Man” (pp.
*Was Wordsworth’s “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads” condescending
to the lower-class he claimed to be writing for?
*Wordsworth describes a poet as being knowledgeable of life,
giving a poet more understanding than a non-poet; does everyone
agree with this?
*Why didn’t Wordsworth want his friends’ opinions or help?
What does Wordsworth mean by “scenes taken from common
life”? Where do we see that in the readings so far?
What does Wordsworth say is the appropriate language of poetry?
Do you agree or disagree?
Coleridge later criticized Wordsworth’s claims for the language of
poetry in that he disagrees that the language of rustics is the best
language and that there is no difference between the language of
poetry and prose. How do you feel about this debate?
**Byron opens his “epic” with the statement: “I
want a hero.” What does this opening suggest
about heroic poetry in the Romantic period?
Why does he opt for Don Juan? What kind of
hero is he?
*Don Juan was said to be comedy though it
consists of great tragedy. What is it that
pushes a tragedy over the edge to a comedy?
How is Byron teasing us with his language [i.e.
“But this last simile is trite and stupid”
How do the “Introduction” poems represent the practice of
poetry? How are they different?
What does the lamb symbolize in “The Lamb”? How consistent is
this symbolic meaning when the image appears in other poems?
How does your interpretation of “The Lamb” change after you
read “The Tyger”?
*What made Blake single out a lamb and a tiger to question where
they come from?
What do the Songs of Innocence, taken collectively, suggest about
Blake’s use of the pastoral? Consider pastoral themes, such as the
loss of innocence, the healing power of nature, the triumph of life
*Do you think Blake’s poems shone a light on his criticisms
toward the culture of selling children for work?
*Who do you think the child was?
What does it mean when Shelley calls Bacon and
Plato poets? How does Shelley’s essay contribute
to the disagreement between Wordsworth and
Coleridge over the suitability of the language of
prose in poetry?
In what sense is poetry a moral exercise for its
What is the source of Shelley’s hope and idealism
in the essay and in the poems? Does his hope have
a practical basis?
*Is the whole point of the poem to express how he
wants the world to appreciate his poetry as much
as he appreciates the bird’s music?
How would you explain the poet’s relationship to the nightingale
in the ode? How does it change from the beginning to the end?
What is it that the poet seeks to escape when he fades “far away”
in the third stanza? What is the implication that Beauty will not
keep her lustrous eyes,/Or new Love pine at them beyond
tomorrow”? Compare this to the poet’s enthusiastic sympathy for
lovers on the Grecian urn.
In his letters, Keats writes that “poetry should surprise by fine
excess and not by Singularity…Its touches of Beauty should never
be half way thereby making the reader breathless instead of
content.” In another place he writes, “We hate poetry that has a
palpable design upon us…Poetry should be great and
unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not
startle it or amaze it with itself but with its subject.” To what
extent does Keats achieve these goals in his odes? How?
*How do Shelley and Keats use birds to illustrate their
philosophies on life?