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Level 6

6AACTL75 Romanticism and Revolution: Byron, the Shelleys and Greece

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: Professor Roderick Beaton
Teaching pattern:  20 x 1 hour classes (2 per week)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 2 x essay of 2,500 words (50% each)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand, there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

The Romantic movement in the arts, from the 1780s to the 1830s, was closely linked to the series of social and political upheavals that during the same decades laid the foundations of modernity: revolutions in America (1776) and France (1789) and the industrial revolution. The module examines the inherently revolutionary character of Romanticism, through exploring the poetic and political engagement of the English poets P.B. Shelley and Lord Byron at once with the legacy of ancient Greece and with the prospect and then the reality of a Greek revolution that in 1830 would establish Greece as the first newly created nation-state in modern Europe.

Students are encouraged to approach canonical texts of English Romantic literature in a context that is as much political and historical as purely literary, in order to understand how the poetics of the Romantic Movement may have helped to forge the political world of Europe that we are familiar with today. They are also introduced, through translations provided, to selected texts of Greek poetry from the 1820s, which provide a comparative framework.

Teaching plan

  1. Understanding the Romantic movement: poetry and politics
  2. Greece in the poetic imagination.
    Text for study: Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, canto II (1809-12)
  3. Greece before 1821: perceptions and political realities.  
    Text for study: Byron’s ‘Notes’ to Childe Harold (1811) 
  4. Bringing the past back to life.  
    Texts for study: Byron, The Giaour (1812-13); Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1816-18)
  5. Words and things: Byron’s ‘The Isles of Greece’ in context (1819).
    Text for study: Byron, Don Juan canto III, lines 617-816
  6. ‘The poetry of politics’: Byron, the Shelleys and the revolutionary movement in Italy (1817-21). 
    Texts for study: Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, canto IV (1817), stanzas 96-109; Shelley, ‘Ode to Liberty’, (1820); Byron, ‘Ravenna Journal’ (1821)
  7. 'We are all Greeks’.
    Text for study: P.B. Shelley, Hellas (1821)
  8. The politics of poetry: Byron’s intervention in Greece (1823-4).
    Texts for study: Byron’s writings in Greece, 1823-4, edited by Peter Cochran; Pietro Gamba, A Narrative of Lord Byron’s Last Journey to Greece (1825, selected passages); William Parry, The Last Days of Lord Byron (1825, selected passages)
  9. Liberty in verse: Shelley, Solomos, Kalvos.
    Texts for study: Solomos, ‘Hymn to Liberty’ (1823), Kalvos, ‘Ocean’ (1824), with reference to Shelley, ‘Ode to Liberty’ (1820), from Week 6
  10. Conclusions and discussion

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

Textbooks – primary

  • Lord Byron, The Major Works, ed. Jerome McGann (World’s Classics series), Oxford University Press, 2000
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Major Works, ed. Z. Leader and M. O’Neill (Oxford World’s Classics), Oxford University Press, 2003
Textbook – secondary 

  • Beaton, Roderick, Byron’s war: Romantic rebellion, Greek revolution, Cambridge University Press, 2013 (paperback 2014 and ebook)

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