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SEL3412 : Writing Liberty in the Romantic era

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Michael Rossington
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The aim of this module is to examine the ways in which writings of the Romantic era (c. 1790-1830) address social oppression and imagine liberty. Particular attention will be paid to literary works which focus on marginalised groups in Britain, the struggle for freedom of peoples in continental Europe and those oppressed globally by slavery.

Outline Of Syllabus

The principal focus of the module is likely be on the writings of two pairs of writers of different generations who were strongly engaged with one another's work as well as with liberty in Britain, continental Europe and elsewhere: William Wordsworth & Dorothy Wordsworth and Percy Shelley & Mary Shelley. Other writers with a global perspective such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Lord Byron and Mary Prince will also feature. The module is committed to giving due attention to writing by women. Genres to be explored will include poetry, prose fiction and prose non-fiction (e.g. travel writing, letters, journals, autobiographical writing).

Attention will be given to the manuscripts and early editions of some of the texts we study through digital resources such as ‘The Shelley-Godwin Archive’ and ‘Romanticism: Life, Literature, Landscape’. Access to Newcastle University Library's Special Collections and the Jerwood Centre Reading Room at Dove Cottage, if the public health situation permits, will enable students to see the material objects (manuscripts and rare books) in their original form.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1118:00118:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity91:009:00Students will be required to meet nine times in study groups for one hour.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The first lecture will introduce the module and the last will provide practical advice on the final essay and the short reflective piece. The other lectures will focus on the chosen texts. Lectures are the most appropriate method of delivering such content.

Two-hour seminars will allow students to make connections between texts and writers and to ensure that the imagining of liberty is addressed through deep and extensive discussion as appropriate for a Stage 3 module. Part of one of these seminars will take the form of accessing Newcastle University Library's Special Collections (using the virtual reading room service, if the public health situation does not allow for an in-person visit) to examine its early editions of some of the writers we study and to look at its Romantic-era manuscripts (including those of Byron and Mary Shelley).

Students will be required to meet the module leader in his consultation and feedback hours to discuss work on their mid-semester formative essay and to have their final essay title approved and to discuss their essay plan.

Study groups are a useful way of ensuring that students are adequately prepared for seminars and also building their participation and engagement skills.

It is hoped that an optional in-person Field Trip to the Jerwood Centre Reading Room at Dove Cottage, Grasmere, will be possible. This trip will be of great benefit in showing the students the earliest manuscript and print forms of some of the poetry and prose we study. If an in-person trip is not feasible, I hope that an optional online virtual tour of the Jerwood Centre Reading Room and display of some MS and print items by the Curator and Head of Learning at the Wordsworth Trust may be possible instead.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A85Final essay (2,500 words).
Reflective log1A15Reflection on participation and engagement with module (300 words).
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay1MCritical commentary (1200 words).
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Students will research and write a 2,500-word essay (85% of the assessment). Apart from the stipulation that they write about texts studied in this module, they will have a lot of scope about how to frame and title their essay. At the drop-in surgery with the module convener in Week 10 students will discuss their essay plan and have the final wording of their essay title approved. This combination of allowing students scope for their own initiative with guidance and support is appropriate to assessment at Stage 3.

The mid-semester formative assignment will take the form of a critical commentary of 1200 words. It is essential for students to consolidate their learning in the first six weeks through a piece of written work on which they get feedback before submitting their final essay.

A component of the overall mark will be for seminar participation and engagement (15% of the assessment). This will take the form of a short reflective piece of 300 words on the student's participation and engagement with the module.

Reading Lists