Category Archives: Pedagogy

Spinoza with Wordsworth: substance and “the life of things”

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Like many readers of this blog, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Wordsworth lately. As all who’ve read the “The Prelude” know, “nature” is really important to the developmental trajectory that Wordsworth traces in recursive manner throughout the various versions of the poem. It’s hard to say, however, what exactly Wordsworth’s concept of nature is. The relation between the speaker’s mind and “nature” is configured in different ways, and “nature” is continually being lost, subordinated to the poet’s creative impulse, and recovered. Continue reading Spinoza with Wordsworth: substance and “the life of things”

In Defense of Mr. Byron

DPS GirlsThe boys of the newly formed Dead Poets’ Society are holding one of their weekly meetings (except Knox Overstreet, who’s at a party trying to talk to the girl of his dreams) when there’s a sound—the likes of which strikes terror into the hearts of teenage boys: a girl’s laughter.  Charlie leads them in, offers them cigarettes, while the rest of the group stares on in silence, not sure what to say, what to think, or even whether or not they’re allowed to speak.  The boys eventually try to talk, though it’s Charlie who eventually succeeds in properly “wooing” the girls by of course reciting poetry: first a poem by Elizabeth Barret Browning, and then a second one by George Gordon, Lord Byron. Continue reading In Defense of Mr. Byron

Evil Tyger Max -#12

12813973_973669702686210_2245842652532621818_nIf you want to understand the Title you have to wait till the end.

This semester happens to be my last in grad school, and so I thought I would treat myself to only two classes; that way I would be able to spend more time writing.  My, what a foolish dream that was.  In my ignorance, or clueless bliss, I’m not sure which, I forgot that Graduate School, even if it’s just for a Master’s degree, is a Deathclaw from Fall Out 4: a monstrous soulless beast designed to rip, tear, bite, and devour the body before digesting the soul in its black pit of a stomach.  Despite that colorful description, I should note for the reader that I am actually enjoying school, despite the fact it’s slowly fallout4_deathclaw_3_by_jd1680a-d9guojlkilling me. Continue reading Evil Tyger Max -#12

Hacking Non-Romanticism Teaching Assignments

It’s almost March. The time of year (at least in my department) that we get our teaching assignments for the fall semester. Many of us greatly look forward to this, especially if it’s our first time teaching our own courses: there’s something intoxicating about finally getting to design your own class. The possibilities are endless.

Until you read the course description of the class you’ve been assigned.

Continue reading Hacking Non-Romanticism Teaching Assignments

Ozy Ozy Everywhere, & Not a Man to Marvel

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Every chance I get, I read Ozymandias. I should clarify, though, because that makes it sound like all I do is read the same poem over and over again (in the shower, in lines at Burger King, or mowing the lawn)—that’s just not the case at all. Fall Out 4 recently came out, and my lovely-lady-scientist wife bought it for me as an birthday present. In between the soul-crushing bouts of non-stop homework, I play it endlessly. That is, of course when I’m not busy reading graphic novels for a book club I participate in every two weeks, and when I’m not playing with my puppy Huckleberry, or talking to esb70bikixyck77szfmyfriends over a weekly meeting I call “Coffee with Jammer” (I’m currently in talks with PBS about making it into a series) or when…you know, perhaps it’s better to be honest, and say whenever I stumble upon the poem, I take the time to read it. Continue reading Ozy Ozy Everywhere, & Not a Man to Marvel

The Romantic Reply to the that Terrible Question: Valuing the Humanities

One option out of a wide array of graduate seminars to choose for this current Spring semester ranging from the theory heavy to the literature heavy, and usual contenders (i.e. my much beloved courses on Modernism and the 18th c. novel) stood out among the rest in sheer ambiguity: the public humanities. The seminar is an interdisciplinary course that includes graduate students from various departments. Continue reading The Romantic Reply to the that Terrible Question: Valuing the Humanities

Finding “Romance of the Forest” in a Scrap of Toilet Paper

Like many who have read Ann Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest, I began the novel with the knowledge—one could even say the predisposition—that I would find in it the moments that Jane Austen parodies in Northanger Abbey. In Northanger, Catherine Morland finds a scrap of paper that she is certain will prove to be the last testament of General Tilney’s late wife—only to find that the memento is actually a laundry bill. This scene is one of many in which Austen communicates how Catherine’s excessive engagement with gothic novels has prejudiced her ability to interpret her immediate surroundings and experiences. I’ve read Northanger a handful of times and have always been a big fan, so I approached Radcliffe’s work anxiously, waiting for her heroine, Adeline, to find some damning piece of paper, which would fulfill my own expectations of gothic horror conventions.

Sure enough, a little over 100 pages in, Adeline stumbles upon the manuscript of a man who had years before been captured and killed in the abbey where she and her guardians, the La Mottes, are hiding from the French authorities. The “MS” horrifies yet captivates her, and for the next few chapters, she continually rushes back and forth between the room where she keeps the manuscript and the other rooms of the abbey, where she finds herself having to fight against the Marquis de Montalt’s sexual and marital advances. Her attention is torn between the written fragment of the past—much of which has been obscured by the erosion of ink on the page—and the immediate dangers of her present.

Did it fulfill my desires for cliché yet disturbing gothic goodness? Absolutely. But when I got to that part of the novel, I didn’t think of Northanger Abbey. Instead, a completely unexpected picture flashed through my mind:

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Continue reading Finding “Romance of the Forest” in a Scrap of Toilet Paper

Teaching “Intro to Women’s Literature” as a Romanticist

Last semester I got my first taste of teaching an “Introduction to Women’s Literature” course at CU Boulder. As winter break now comes to a close, I’ve been pondering the revisions I’ve made to my syllabus this month – revisions that have prompted me to analyze familiar questions: What is women’s literature? How does one teach a survey of women’s literature as a Romanticist? What are the desired outcomes of such a course? Continue reading Teaching “Intro to Women’s Literature” as a Romanticist

A Bird’s Song, and Two Men Divided by Death, United by Age

England-winter1It’s nearing the end of the year, finals are over, papers are due, but we’re literature majors here, so of course the only thing that matters is the symbolism of winter. The year is dying and ready to sleep forevermore — bringing in its death a spark of new life, new possibilities, and the mass cultural/capitalistic orgy that is the Christmas season. Parting with the cynicism, however, I decided that rather than construct coherent argument, I would instead remember a moment from one of my Romanticism courses and muse on the experience. Continue reading A Bird’s Song, and Two Men Divided by Death, United by Age

Charles Dickens vs. Leigh Hunt: Charity, Social Reform, and the Problem of Hell

My sister and I have two very important holiday traditions: 1) we always go to a haunted corn maze before Halloween, and 2) we always watch The Muppet Christmas Carol before Christmas. We don’t often admit to the second tradition (and when we do, we kind of pretend that we only enjoy the Muppets “ironically”), but it’s something we’ve done for as long as I can remember. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until Katie and I are sitting on the couch, singing along to the song “Marley and Marley” while two enchained muppet ghosts rattle around the TV screen, bemoaning their eternal punishment.

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Continue reading Charles Dickens vs. Leigh Hunt: Charity, Social Reform, and the Problem of Hell