This section contains descriptions of the two essay assignments for the course.
For your first assignment, please write an essay (approx. 5-7 pages) focusing on one poem (or two sonnets) by Lloyd, Smith, Seward, Wordsworth, or Coleridge. You certainly may - though you are not required to do so - refer to additional poems or to Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads if it will help you illustrate a point. Keep in mind, though, that your essay should be conceived as an exercise in close literary analysis, and should present a coherent and contestable argument about the poem under examination. What appear to be the larger themes or preoccupations that emerge from a close reading of the poem? What were the poet's probable aims in writing the poem, and how are these aims expressed? What is the relation between the "meaning" of the poem (its thematic or symbolic content) and its formal features (such as genre, rhyme, meter, imagery, etc.)?
Wherever possible, focus on key passages that offer a particularly fruitful way to frame or address a question about the poem under discussion. Be as specific as possible, and develop your argument out of your reading of the text. Make sure that your quotations do some "work" for your argument: do not, in other words, use quotations merely to illustrate an otherwise self-evident point; by the same token, do not presume the self-evidence of your quotations, but describe what significance the quoted passage has within the whole or in the context of your argument.
This essay is due in Week 6.
For your second essay assignment, write an 8-10 page essay on one of the following topics. While your first essay explored a single poem in some depth, your second essay should have a comparative emphasis - that is, you should focus on and develop an argument out of a reading of two or (at most) three texts. Think of this as a variation on the "compare and contrast" essay, where you draw relationships and distinctions between a few texts, and consider what may be learned by reading these texts as formulations of or responses to a single issue or problem. Considered loosely as a group, what may these works teach us about your chosen topic and about the period of British Romanticism more generally? For each topic, I have listed some authors that you might consider; feel free to choose others if you wish.
This essay is due in Week 14.