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ENGLISH 3WE3 British Romantic Lit & Culture

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Dr. David Clark


Office: Chester New Hall 321

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23737


Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

Brief Course Description:

Arguably no moment in cultural and literary history is more momentous, complex, and consequential than the period that we now know as “Romanticism,” i.e., the tumultuous efflorescence of literature, politics, science, and culture that begins with the French Revolution in 1789 and more or less subsides when the forces of reaction and conservatism reassert themselves in decade following the world-shaking violence of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815). Romanticism is a period that sees the emergence of a wide range of elemental cultural phenomena that are familiar to us today. These include the invention of finance capitalism and the nation-state, as well as the birth of the bourgeoisie, mass consumption, the addict, the insurgent, the unconscious, and the public sphere. It is the period that sees the emergence of total war, war whose object is not only victory on the battlefield but also the outright extermination of the enemy. Not unlike our own times, it is an age of burgeoning global Empire and piercing critiques of Empire. It is also the period that bears witness to the full integration of slavery into the British economy and the emergence of robust political resistance to the traffic in human beings. Feminism and animal rights, as well as experimental science and the modern university, as we understand these terms today, also find their genesis in the Romantic period. During the last half of the eighteenth century, philosophers like Immanuel Kant make bold claims for the centrality of the faculty of reason, while artists of the sort that we study in this course make an analogously strong case for the significance of combining reason with emotion and affect in an attempt to do justice to individuals and communities. Romanticism also marks a period of intense interest in both the powers and the limits of language, figures, media, and representation, coupled with a complex self-consciousness about the role of the imagination and creativity in transforming human life. It is perhaps the first moment in literary history in which the psyche is acknowledged as possessing obscure depths worthy of worry and detailed exploration. Experimentation and self-revision are the order of the day, even and especially in the midst of an increasingly conservative social and political setting. Romanticism is an historical conjuncture that brims with surprises, some remarkable and affirming, others horrible and deleterious. It is a moment in cultural history that is characterized by literary practices that are as volatile and complicated as the society in which they are born and which they address--often in sharply dissenting ways. 

The objective of this course is to provide students with a good working knowledge of British Romanticism through an analysis of a selection of representative texts by men and women of the period. These texts include: poems, paintings, political pamphlets, autobiographies, and novels. Authors assigned in the course include:  Felicia Hemans, Mary Shelley, Thomas Clarkson, Ottobah Cugoano, William Blake, John Keats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Jane Austen, and William Wordsworth.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts:

Austen, Jane. Persuasion.  Ed. Linda Bree. Broadview, 1998.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus. Ed. D.L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf. 2nd Ed. Broadview, 1999.

Clarkson, Thomas and Ottobah Cugoano. Essays on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species. Ed. Mary-Antoinette Smith. Broadview, 2010.

Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. Ed. Joel Faflak. Broadview, 2009.

The William Blake Archive.  Eds. M. Eaves, R. Essick, J. Viscomi:



Method of Assessment:

Course Assignments and Weighting:

Midterm examination:                                                 20%     

Essay (10 pages / 2500 words):                                 45%

Final Examination:                                                      35%     

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Essay Due Date and Late Submission Policy:

There is one essay in this course. There are two due dates for that essay:

--at start of class, 22 March 2018; or in class, at start of class, 5 April 2018.

Essays submitted by the first due date will receive a full marking commentary. Essays handed in by the second due date will be graded exactly the same but without comment. No essays will be accepted after the last class of each term. A grade of zero/F will therefore be assigned to essays not submitted by the 5 April 2018 due date. 

Since the essay is weighted heavily in this course, students are encouraged not to leave working on this assignment until late in the term. Suggested essay topics will be posted on Avenue. You are strongly encouraged to discuss and develop your essay topic with either Dr. Clark or the course T.A., Stephanie Edwards. 

If you are a smoker, please ensure that you print your essay in a smoke-free environment.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Provisional Lecture Schedule


Jan       4          Prefatory Remarks

            11        William Blake

            18        William Blake + Wordsworth

            25        Wordsworth + Hemans

Feb      1          Coleridge

            8          Jane Austen, Persuasion

            15        Jane Austen, Persuasion + Barbauld

            22        Reading Week 

March  1          Midterm Examination

            8          Keats

            15        Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

            22        Mary Shelley, Frankenstein [First due date for essay.]

            29        De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

            29        De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater + Thomas Clarkson and Ottobah Cugoano

April    5          Thomas Clarkson and Ottobah Cugoano, Essays on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species [Last day to submit essay.]


Other Course Information:

 Important Notes About the Course

1. Class cancellations:

In the unlikely event of a class cancellation, students will be notified via email through Avenue.

2. E-mail policy and protocols:

McMaster University policy requires email communication between students, instructors and T.A’s to be conducted using McMaster email accounts. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.

Since we are in a professional working environment, all e-mails to your instructor or T.A. must be written in full sentences (i.e. no point form, no text-messaging short form), and must contain a subject line that includes the course designation, “3QQ3E."  All e-mails must contain some form of salutation and valediction (i.e., “Dear Dr. Clark,” “Dear Stephanie and “Yours sincerely,” respectively, or equivalents).  Receipt of all e-mails from your instructor or your TA must be acknowledged.  For example, a simple “Thank you for getting back to me” will suffice. Be professional, courteous, and respectful in all communications. 

Be assured that your instructor or T.A. will respond to your e-mail in a timely manner. Do not assume that you will hear back immediately. 

3.  Contacting the course Teaching Assistant:

Students are free and encouraged to contact Dr. Clark with all questions regarding the course. But questions should first be directed towards Stephanie Edwards, the course Teaching Assistant, who will happy to assist you. (See Stephanie’s contact information and office hours on the first page of this course outline.)