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PS Wordsworth(s) : Course Description

Course Description ^top


subject area: English literature
language: English
books you need to buy:
copies of the Prelude-books are in the seminar folder (available in the library by the middle of September) - if you want to buy the Prelude, please buy the Norton critical edition (Norton, € 18,96);
poetry, journal excerpts and letters by the Wordsworths and Coleridge are in the seminar folder;
please buy M. Roberts, Fair Exchange (Little, Brown, € 11,10) and V. McDermid, The Grave Tattoo (Harpercollins, 7,45).
Keep in mind that shipping might take up to a fortnight!
film: Julien Temple, Pandaemonium (2000)
The film screening will take place directly after class. Attendance is mandatory!

cover Fair Exchange

Wordsworth, master-autobiographer and pre-eminent Romantic poet, is undoubtedly a rock-solid column of the British literary canon - or is he? In this course, we will try to do more than gather bunches of daffodils: You will be introduced to the works of William Wordsworth (especially his epic - and complex - autobiography The Prelude), but we will also go in search for the hidden Wordsworth(s) and try to figure out how contemporary literature and culture interact with and use both the works and the status of the canonised poet. We will discuss excerpts from the journals of Wordsworth's sister Dorothy and read about William's young adulthood in K.R. Johnston's biography The Hidden Wordsworth: Poet, Lover, Rebel, Spy, which depicts Wordsworth's time in revolutionary France - a period that is reappropriated in M. Roberts's Fair Exchange (1999). In the last part of the course, we will scrutinize (post)modern Wordsworths: J. Temple's film Pandaemonium, excerpts from J. Fforde's The Eyre Affair and V. McDermid's recent crime novel The Grave Tattoo (2007).

portrait Dorothy Wordsworth

Reading List ^top


Dorothy Wordsworth, journals (excerpts), selected poems + letters
William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805/1850, excerpts), selected poems + letters
Kenneth R. Johnston, The Hidden Wordsworth: Poet, Lover, Rebel, Spy (1998, excerpts)
Michèle Roberts, Fair Exchange (1999)
Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair (2001, excerpts)
Val McDermid, The Grave Tattoo (2007)

As we will combine our discussion of Dorothy and William Wordsworth's works, the order of the first two entries is not chronological. Please keep in mind that especially the complexity of Wordsworth's Prelude demands careful preparation. The reading load is therefore quite challenging. I will tell you by the beginning of September which books of the Prelude we are going to discuss - start your preparation during the summer holidays, some of the books definitely require re-reading!