Caspar David Friedrich, Woman at a Window (1822)

If you choose one of these essay prompts, you must still follow the general guidelines (i.e. at least 2 authors but no more than 3, authors from both “generations” must be included)

1. As we have noted several times during the semester, the Romantic period was a time of great social upheaval. All of the authors we have read were quite aware that they were sending forth their work into a quickly changing world. They also saw themselves and their work as contributing to the sociopolitical debates raging around them. However, the authors we have read over the semester — writing between the 1790s and the 1820s — certainly had very different ideas about how the Imagination and artistic production (i.e. poems, novels, tales, plays etc.) might influence the “world of pains.” Indeed, their political positions vary greatly. In your essay, discuss ideas about the role the Romantic writer’s work might play in “changing,” “reforming” and/or “influencing” society.

2. Discuss shifting representations of “Nature” throughout the Romantic period. M.H. Abrams argues that “While many major [Romantic] poems…set out from and return to an aspect or change of aspect in the landscape, the outer scene is not presented for its own sake, but only as a stimulus for the poet to engage in the most characteristic human activity, that of thinking” (“Lyric,” A Glossary of Literary Terms). Some questions you might want to employ when formulating your thesis include: Does Abrams’ statement hold true for all of the authors we have read this semester? Does it embrace the work of prose writers as well as poets? What type of “thought” is engendered by Nature and does that change for different authors? over the course of the period (1790s to the 1820s)?

3. In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Anne Elliot tells Captain Harville:

Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove any thing. (243)

In spite of Anne’s assertion that men have always wielded the pen, we have read several works by women authors over the course of the semester, including Austen’s own novel. Anne’s debate with Captain Harville over the “constancy” of women and literary history points to the sometimes contestatory nature of gender relations during the Romantic period. Indeed, many of the works we have read either implicitly or explicitly comment upon the differing social positions of men and women and the effect such differences have upon their relationships with each other, their place in society, and/or its effect upon authorship. In your essay, discuss representations of gender relations in the Romantic period.