English 521: Requirements

A chinese lion statue


Each week you will be asked to choose a primary work in the canon of Romanticism that we haven't already studied in class and write a one-page, single spaced annotation on this work. The annotation should address one aspect of the work you find compelling. Curiosity should be your guide and you should use quoted text as evidence. Your annotation may include outside sources, although this is not a requirement. However, often when we find something fascinating, this fascination leads us to explore other books or articles on the subject. So feel free to cite other sources in your annotation. The annotation can be written in the familiar first person or the more scholarly third person. I will post annotations weekly here so that we can share our ideas an interests with one another. The annotations will form a class canon for Romantic Literature from which we can all benefit. At the end of the course, you will be asked to turn in an electronic copy of all annotations (including any changes or revisions you have made) for a grade.

Oral Presentation

Throughout the course, you will be asked to present material and lead discussion either singularly or in groups. These leadership opportunities are designed to give you mastery over material that is important to your work. I will give you feedback on these presentations and discussion. While your participation in these presentations will contribute to your overall grade, they will not be "graded."

Suggested steps for collaborative presentation:

-After class today, exchange contact information with your collaborators.

-Using Google and library databases such as the MLA Bibliography, explore primary and secondary sources related to your topic.

-Meet with your collaborators and exchange ideas.

-Set up a 45 minute meeting with me anytime from Friday, Sept 17 through Thursday, Sept 23. My schedule is totally open at this moment. We will discuss the shape of your presentation as well as the constellation of primary and secondary texts you will assign.

-Get all texts to me a week and a half prior to your presentation date so I can put them on the online schedule. The sooner the better. Also include any preparation you would like students to make (such as a pre-class activity)

The presentation will last 2 hours and should include the following elements, though not necessarily in this order:

-Primary scientific and/or travel texts
-Primary literary texts (novels, poems, essays)
-1 or 2 secondary critical sources
-Background to discussion
-Discussion (a series of questions for one longer or several shorter discussions)
-An in-class activity designed to bring out aspects of the topic not covered by the discussion and presentation, or designed to deepen the topic in interesting ways

Optional elements:

-Film clips, slide shows, Power Point presentations or handouts that help illuminate your topic(s)

Travel and Science Paper and Talk

We’re extremely lucky to have a wide range of old travel books in the MASC here at WSU.  Your assignment will be to choose a book and write an 8-page paper and present it to the class. The paper should include the following, if possible, and not necessarily in this order:

  • A short biography of the book’s author or authors.

  • A short publication history of the book. Who published it and what can you find out about the publisher? did it go into multiple editions? was is translated into other languages? etc.

  • A brief physical description of the book (Trevor Bond can be of immense help in this category).

  • A consideration of how the book fits into the travel narrative genre of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—or before, if you choose a book from an earlier period—as you understand it. How does it compare to other travel narratives? Does it use standard travel narrative conventions, such as the inclusion of ethnographic information or botanical catalogues? Does it make use of the “romantic hero”?  Who was it dedicated to?  Was the traveler a free agent or sent by a government? How widely read was it?  What kinds of people read it, and why? Was it seen as adding to geographic knowledge? Was the traveler going to a place that had been little remarked on by European writers, like Africa, or to a place that had been visited before, like India, or even colonized by Europeans for many years, like the West Indies?

  • A consideration of what it contributes scientifically, if at all. If it doesn't touch on science at all, you should ask "why not?"

  • A summary and evaluation of the book’s content. Besides a summary, you should determine how the book might be thought of in terms of critical ideas like globalization and identity. How is the book positioned in terms of some of the theoretical concepts discussed in class? What is its relationship to the current “craft” of travel narrative? Did it inspire literary or scientific texts?

  • An overview of the book’s impact over the centuries. How has the book held up within its field? Was it simply forgotten? Do other writers allude to it?

  • A brief consideration of what the text has to offer students of literature, cultural studies, history, or the sciences today.

Suggested steps:

  • Choose a travel book in MASC that was published in the nineteenth-century or before (pre-1900).  Trevor Bond will show you a number of these texts, but you can also locate them by searching Griffin.  Hint: examine three or four travel texts and look around for secondary information (which you’ll need to complete the assignment) before you settle on “the one.”

  • Read the book.  Hint: travel texts, as you’ll discover, are often wordy and repetitive. You’ll quickly learn where to skim and where to focus as you read.

  • Make use of the wide range of useful reference material available at the library. Besides Google (which is always a good place to start), the MLA Bibliography and the ITER Bibliography electronic databases may be helpful in locating secondary material about your book or author.  The Dictionary of National Biography may help with biographical information.  The Pollard and Redgrave Short Title Catalogue…1475-1640 and the Wing Short-Title Catalogue for books published between 1641 and 1700 for earlier periods.  It is also possible to find out where the manuscript sources for these books are, and contact other librarians directly (Stedman’s papers are at the University of Minnesota, for example, and the Sierra Leone settlers at the University of Illinois-Chicago) for invaluable information.  Trevor Bond can also help you in this search.

  • Present your research to the class in 10 minutes. Be sure to have Trevor call up your book. You may make handouts or outlines, although this is not required.

  • Turn your paper in after class.

Seminar Paper

You will be asked to turn in a 20 to 25 page scholarly paper including bibliography on Romanticism and Science or Romanticism and Travel, or--if it is appropriate--Romanticism, science, and travel. Your paper needs to have an arguable thesis and a review of the literature section that demonstrates you are adding something new to the scholarly conversation. More on this to come!


You will participate in a small-group workshop on your seminar paper with your peers and myself. Do not miss this opportunity!

Attendance and Participation

You should come to class having read the assigned material. If you have to miss a class or meeting, be sure to email me PRIOR to your absence. Otherwise, I worry.