Course Assignments

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SHORTER ESSAY: Toward the end of this page are the topics for the shorter Hoffmann essay assigned in 1999.

FINAL PROJECT: Write a six to eight page essay - or compose a similarly sized project - on one of the following topics.  I have re-listed most of the topics that I suggested for the 1998 and 1999 versions of this course, and you are welcome to use one of those. However, it is likely that some will wish to consider the topics on Jane Austen's Persuasion (topics A, B, and C as listed below the numbered topics) or on De Quincey's writings.  Remember that, for the final essay or project, you may select your own topic, but in that case you should check with me if you need to make an appointment  for consultation. For those of you planning to go to graduate or professional school, I advise the use of some collateral books or essays: literary criticism, cultural studies, biography, letters, or essays written in the Romantic Period. In your essay, try to balance your in-depth analysis with scope of analysis. Several of you might elect to have your essays, with images and sounds, placed on the Internet (even if restricted to our Intranet).

1. The Height of Imagination in the Sublime View and Vision: Chamounix Group -- Scenes of the Alps Mountains. Shelley's "Ode on Mont Blanc," Turner's mountain paintings and watercolors, other odes by Keats or Coleridge, Frankenstein sections, and so on.

2. The Myth of Self-Creation: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Aeschylus Prometheus, Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra.

3. Various critical approaches to the "contraries" in William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In his prose poem, Blake states, "Without Contraries is no Progression." Consider also, in your essay, what Blake may wish us to progress towards.

4. Satanic Freedom: Romantic views of Satan and Milton's Satan as the source. This study should include Frankenstein and various Romantic notes and essays on Milton. (For someone who has read a good amount of Paradise Lost.) Milton's Satan is not the consciously created Satan imagined by the Romantics. How, then, is their analysis brilliant though differing from Milton's intent and his accomplishment?

5. "The Opiate of the Imagination": De Quincey, Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," Homer's "Lotus Eaters, " and so forth, possibly Freud's cocaine papers. Meyer Abrams has written an introductory book on the subject.

6. Witches, Snakes, Women, and Imagination: Variations on a Theme -- Homer's Circe, Christabel, Keats's "Lamia," Heinrich Heine's "Lorelei," and Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter:

7. The Eternal Quest for Redemption: Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"; the medieval Fisher King legends (Arthurian Romance: Jessie Weston provides fine background concerning the myths and legends. Eliot used her book in writing his Waste Land), T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land; the recent film, The Fisher King. This topic provides occasion to contrast Modern and Romantic concepts of, or studies in, redemption.

8. The Romantic Artist as Hero: Shelley, Byron, Berlioz (Symphony Fantastique and Lelio), Delacroix (French painter, friend of Berlioz) or (more accessible) Turner. Richard Wagner's life and many of his main heros also illustrate this theme. A Wagner opera could be studies in relation to this course's main themes.

9. Turner's paintings (or water colors) as painterly expressions of the Romantic Sublime. Compare with lyric poems of Byron, Shelley, Coleridge. One possibility is Byron's Childe Harold and Turner's depictions of its scenes. Incidentally, Berlioz's symphony, Harold in Italy, is loosely based on Byron and strongly based on Berlioz's own experiences in Italy.

10. Constable's landscapes as a painterly expression akin to Wordsworth's philosophy of nature in the "Immortality Ode,."' early sections of The Prelude, etc.

11. Women as creators and beholders of the sublime vision: Mary Shelley and Dorothy Wordsworth: Frankenstein, journals, letters, recent literary criticism and biographical analysis.

12. A study of Turner watercolors and/or paintings at the British Art Center. Pick a theme or stylistic tendency in Turner which offers a parallel to theme or style in Romantic literature we've read or which you would like to read. Turner's Staffa, Fingal's Cave,is one of the important paintings at the BAC. This topic needs a much finer focus.

13. The Romantic Critical Imagination: Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater (part One) looked at for its understanding of and social criticism of drugs and other specific aspects of early nineteenth-century British society. You may wish to read in Siegmund Freud's Opium Papers for a comparative study of two fine minds, one Romantic the other modern, thinking about drugs.

14. Analysis of the frozen imagery and related themes in Franz Schubert's Die Winterreise (The Winter Journey), composed in 1827, based on Wilhelm Muller's cycle of poems. No musical knowledge needed. I can supply the CD or tape, and, if you wish, an analysis of the original Muller poems.

15. De-Romanticizing Frankenstein: Consider what Romantic concepts are lost in one or both film versions directed by James Whale (1931) and Kenneth Branaugh (1995) respectively.

16. Frankenstein lives! -- a study of modern short fiction based on Mary Shelley's novel.

17. Romantic Demon Figures: Victor/the Creature (Frankenstein), Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), General Tilney (Northanger Abbey), Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre), Geraldine ("Christabel"), etc.

18. Write the next chapter of Frankenstein, imitating features of Mary Shelley's style, imagery, characterizations, etc. In other words, assume that Volume Three did not end where actually it does end. Then, analyze the details of what you have written, discussing the techniques you have used in writing your chapter. Within this analysis, you should discuss how your chapter connects with themes in Frankenstein and with Mary Shelley's life, biographical details concerning her, P.B. Shelley, or Byron. Views of select literary critics, or selections from letters or journals might be used within your analysis.

19. Likewise, write a prose version of the conclusion to "Christabel" or an addition to "Julian and Maddalo" (an project similar to number 18).

20. Earlier we read Thomas De Quincey's essays on Macbeth and on "Literature of Knowledge and Literature of Power." Study the ways in which his Confessions of an English Opium Eater embodies ideas discussed in those two essays. Included in your essay might be a consideration of imagination and its manifestations or perversions.

21. An Internet Project: In addition to the fact that any of your efforts might be placed on the Internet, this particular project would involve placing images of Turner or Blake or other paintings or water colors on the Internet, providing their credits, and writing short paragraphs or essays on them, separately, and then as the work of one artist. You would include a short biography of the artist, discuss his relationship to writers and artists included in our course, and provide links to other relevant Internet sites.


A. The social conventions and restrictions of early nineteenth-century society were secure and yet are troubling to the contemporary mind.  The lime-tree prison enclosure of Coleridge's poem, as a metaphor, may not be so far from the sweet security of the households through which Jane Austen's young women move.  Discuss Austen's critique, in Persuasion, of social restraints women face.

B. Romanticism often presents prisons and castles as infinitely fascinating puzzles and mazes through which young women need to pass with safety. What similarities are there between these and other forms of imprisonment within Jane Austen's society as depicted in Persuasion?

C. In all of Jane Austen's novels, marriage is the inevitable promise for the woman, for the clear minded and intelligent woman as well as for those less endowed with good sense.  But is the seemingly mild-mannered Jane Austen a subtly dark Romantic in seeing marriage and human relations as a trap?  Can Persuasion be read as a Romantic critique of social conventionality and the restrictions it places on individuality?


This short essay is due before the Thanksgiving break, thereby leaving you with sufficient time to work towards your final course essay or project.

I. E.T.A. Hoffmann as a Unique Romantic: Identify first what are the Romantic elements in select tales by Hoffmann. Then, establish what is unusual and unique in his tales, as set against some of the other Romantic literature we have read this semester. In your essay, you might consider Hoffmann's styles of narration, his characters, his metaphors, his themes, and so forth.

II. The Mechanical Element in E.T.A. Hoffmann: In addition to the character of Olympia in "Sandman," we find several uses of the figure of "The double." In what ways do the mechanical woman and the double provide similar critiques of human foibles? Study Hoffmann's use of these figures as means to proble the darkness of the human mind, and/or to provide social criticism.

III. E.T.A. Hoffmann as a Critical Romantic: As imaginative as Hoffmann is, he provides a devastating critique of the Romantic vision, and perhaps of imagination itself. How so?


* Please use MLA parenthetical format, which you use in all composition and literature courses. The general feature of parenthetical quotation are:

   for prose: ..." (138-39).

   for poetry: "as we went along / But sang a song of love" (ll. 178-80).

  for drama: "as we left the gate" (I.iv.27).

For English majors who want it, the MLA Guide is available for purchase in paperback. In addition, to understand format, you can look at any PMLA essay in the QC library or in my office, where I also have sample student essays in that format.

* Concerning documentation for electronic sources, please visit the following site:

The Columbia Guide to Online Style by Janice R. Walker and Todd Taylor
The Columbia Guide to Online Style by Janice R. Walker and Todd Taylor (Columbia UP, 1998) presents a guide to locating, translating, and using the elements of citation for both a humanities style (i.e., MLA and Chicago) and a scientific style (APA and CBE) for electronically-accessed sources. The unique element approach used makes this a useful reference book for citing electronic sources regardless of the specific bibliographic style you may be required to use.

* Images on the Internet can be downloaded onto a disk, and then inserted into Word or Word Perfect for integration within your essays, or - generally with permission, as needed - placed within your Web project. Images can also be scanned for use within a word processor or other programs. Once more, educational use only and accurate attributions must be observed.

* For those working at the British Art Center (only during a weekday, remember), there is an art library that includes the journals, Blake Studies and Turner Studies.

* I will appreciate it if those using the Internet clue me in to good literature sites.

* In addition to the books on Turner and Blake that are in my office, I own CD's and/or cassette tapes of the musical works listed above. I'm delighted to loan them as well as various books in my office that you may find relevant, challenging, indispensable, or just plain fun.

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 Last modified: 11/25/2000
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