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English 9104B
the Power of Romanticism

Professor Jan Plug
Winter Half Course.

This course will trace how a number of key works in the Romantic tradition attempt to come to terms with power. While most obviously this will mean following how the Romantics attempt to negotiate authority (the most obvious site of this encounter being the French Revolution, no doubt), we will not be concerned with a simple resistance or disruption of power, at least not as this is commonly thought.  Rather, the course will seek to come to terms also with how the Romantic tradition itself comes to embody a complex and deeply ambivalent relation to power, power that is never merely that of a political sovereign but is in fact never far from what is perhaps the cornerstone of Romantic thought (“Imagination—here the Power so called / Through sad incompetence of human speech, / That awful Power rose from the mind's abyss / Like an unfathered vapour that enwraps, / At once, some lonely traveller”).  One of the central figures of the play of power will be the mythic and the violence that, as Benjamin shows, attends it.  Throughout the course, our first priority will be to read the texts, both Romantic and critical, as carefully as possible, not least in the effort (not) to succumb to their power.

Possible Texts:

William Godwin, Caleb Williams, St. Leon, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice
Percy Shelley, Prometheus Unbound
Mary Shelley, The Last Man
John Keats, Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion
William Wordsworth, The Prelude
Heinrich von Kleist, Amphitryon, Prinz Friedrich von Hamburg, “The Earth Quake in Chili”
Kant, Critique of Judgment

View the course syllabus here: English 9104B.


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