Module Catalogue 2022/23

SEL3379 : Enlightened Romantics: writing on the margins

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jennifer Orr
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Code Title
SEL1003Introduction to Literary Studies 1
SEL1004Introduction to Literary Studies II
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



What does it mean to be human? How can we shape our own destiny? And are some destinies considered to be more important than others? These philosophical questions, central to Enlightenment and Romantic thought, were discussed widely in the Eighteenth Century from the University to the village hall. Today, the discipline of the Humanities demands that we consider these questions from the perspective of different voices, asking critically why some voices have been, and continue to be, heard above others.

The Eighteenth Century was a period of revolutionary change, inspired by the philosophical ideas of Enlightenment. It was also the creation of the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland out of the emerging British Empire, the consequences of which we are still living with today. It was one of the most exciting periods in the expansion of literacy and print culture; newspapers, lending libraries and sociable gatherings extended opportunities for people across society to read, debate ideas and to demand change. City merchants in coffeehouses, artisan weavers gathered in cottage bookclubs and working people gathered in the local pub not only engaged with these conversations but could themselves become fitting subjects as writers sought to capture real life and local character.

Yet until recently, the version of Romanticism taught in schools was mostly confined to poetry written by middle class, white, English men. While we don't exclude these writers, we want to look at British Romanticism as a 'four nations' movement where the idea of being a corner of an emerging Empire with a global reach was looked at critically. Some embraced it, some resisted it and others engaged with it whilst seeking to preserve and animate their own local cultures on the page.

A growing literary marketplace which included larger numbers of middle- and working class readers, as well as the wealthy, desired to hear an 'authentic' voice emerge from the page, one that engaged with the deepest human questions and echoed their own human desires and aspirations. The labouring-class poet took the marketplace by storm, particularly in the glamorous ploughman-poet figure of Robert Burns whose 'heaven-taught' poetic skill seemed to offer the British public a taste of the deepest feelings of the human heart in the real language of men. But there is more to the labouring poet than meets the eye. Engaged with the philosophy and politics of their day, they took ideas to the widest possible audience, subverting audience expectations to set their own literary agenda and paving the way for the marginalised voices for centuries to come.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will examine: the invention of the 'self-taught' poet, the growing idea of individual genius and individual worth the changing conceptions of national and cosmopolitan identity within Britain, the individual poetic voice, the importance of sentiment and sensibility, and the growth of revolutionary writing.

The module will cover a number of general literary themes (including gender, class, place, politics, thought, colonialism, love and loss) and will include the following themed topics:

The Birth of Great Britain: Enlightenment, Nation and the Union
Self and Society
Place and the People
Letters, Epistles and Social networking
Labouring class poetry
Writing the landscape
Poetry and politics
Poetry, Patriotism and Empire
Love, Sex and the Body

As well as studying literary works, students will get to work with archival source material (the best part of academic scholarship IMHO). We will analyse essays, letters, journals and newspaper excerpts in which these writers expressed their theories of poetry and their relationships to their contemporaries.

The module will refer widely to a number of important thinkers and writers but we will focus mainly on Robert Burns, Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, James Orr, Samuel Thomson, Mary Ann McCracken and Anna Letitia Barbauld.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

To complete the module successfully, the student will be required to demonstrate:

(1) an understanding of the historical and philosophical contexts in which writers of the 'long' Eighteenth Century wrote;
(2) an ability to discuss the variety and significance of literary forms deployed by the writers;
(3) an ability to discuss the diversity concerns expressed by the writers;
(4) an ability to evaluate contemporary and current positions towards the writings studied;
(5) an ability to compare and contrast the writings studied;
(6) an ability to critically re-evaluate traditional or 'standard' conceptions of 'the canon' in terms of both literary and linguistic considerations
(7) an ability to appreciate the relevance of the material to central questions of our Humanities discipline, particularly critical thinking.

Intended Skill Outcomes

By the end of the module, the student who has completed this module successfully will have shown the ability:

(1) to exercise sensitivity to verbal creativity both orally and in writing;
(2) to offer historically-informed insights into specific texts both orally and in writing;
(3) to assimilate information from a number of different sources;
(4) to evaluate the critical views of others;
(5) to produce with others, in small groups, notes and oral presentations;
(6) to work with scholarly sources and archival material.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture101:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion430:00120:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity101:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study134:0034:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDissertation/project related supervision116:0016:00One-to-one meetings to discuss essay
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures introduce students to knowledge outcomes relevant to the module. They address themes common to the authors studied and encourage the students to think comparatively. They also provide short examples of close reading technique to be practised further in seminar.

The seminars allow for the development of knowledge outcomes through close reading of specified texts, and the practice of skills, especially oral presentation and interpersonal communication.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2A1004000 word essay
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise1MN/A
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Assessment by written exercise at the end of the semester is appropriate for a Stage 3 module. Formative writing practise (including commentary, close reading, transcription exercises) both in seminar and in self-study time ensures that students are engaging appropriately with the module at an early stage and can benefit from continuous feedback. The above exercises develop important research and comprehensions skills and are tested in the summative assessment.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.