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Romantic Legacies

Class at Faculty of Arts |



This course will trace the fictional, poetic and dramatic legacies of three major representatives of the second English Romantic generation, namely Keats, Byron, and Mary Shelley, in 20th- and 21st-century texts. In the introductory section, spanning 2 seminars, we will discuss two short novels about Keats – Anthony Burgess’s experimental text ABBA ABBA (1977), about Keats’s dying in Rome and the art of the sonnet, and the uses of metafiction, and Andrew Motion’s intriguing novella The Invention of Dr Cake (2003) in which the former Poet Laureate and Keats’s biographer imagines an alternative afterlife for the poet, discussing the ethos of Romantic legacy per se. The next section will trace the 20th- and 21st-century legacy of one of the most innovative of Byron’s texts, the mock epic Don Juan (1819-1823). We will first look at Auden’s famous ‘Letter to Lord Byron’ from the autobiographical collection Letters from Iceland (1937), co-authored with Louis MacNeice. The second session will be on Burgess’ posthumously published verse novel Byrne (1995), which is written in ottava rima and Spenserians, focusing on 20th-century politics and adaptation of poetics. In the third session, we will explore a selection from the recently published A Modern Don Juan: Cantos for These Times by Divers Hands (2014) and its take on Byron’s mock epic in view of 21st-century poetics and politics. This section will close with Virginia Woolf’s draft text for an unrealised project, ‘Byron and Mr. Briggs’ (c. 1922). The third section of the seminar will focus on Benjamin Markovits’ Byronic trilogy, the 2007-11 novels Imposture (on doppelgangers, celebrity and Polidori) and selections from the next two novels, A Quiet Adjustment (on Byron’s marriage and Lady Byron) and Childish Loves (on memory, legacy, biography, and illicit love interests). In the final section of the seminar, devoted to Mary Shelley, we will discuss two legacies of Shelley’s debut novel Frankenstein (1818), namely Liz Lochhead’s award-winning drama Blood and Ice (1982) and Jeanette Winterson’s playful fictional reimagining Frankissstein (2019). The seminar will close with a discussion of inter- and meta-textual issues of Romantic literary legacy, and an essay workshop, where students are invited to present and discuss their research ideas for final essays.

ASSESSMENT: regular class attendance active participation in seminar discussion 1 short in-class presentation (5-10 mins) final essay (2000 words) whose outline has to be discussed with the course instructor


Virginia Woolf, ‘Byron and Mr Briggs’ (Essays of Virginia Woolf, ed. Andrew McNeillie, vol. III, 1919-1934)

W. H. Auden, ‘Letter to Lord Byron’ (1936)

Anthony Burgess, ABBA ABBA (1977)

Liz Lochhead, Blood and Ice (1982)

Anthony Burgess, Byrne (1995)

Andrew Motion, The Invention of Dr Cake (2003)

Benjamin Markovits, Imposture (2007)

Benjamin Markovits, A Quiet Adjustment (2008)

Benjamin Markovits, Childish Loves (2011)

A Modern Don Juan: Cantos for These Times by Divers Hands (2014)

Jeanette Winterson, Frankissstein (2019)


Week 1 – 23 February – Introductory session

Week 2 – 2 March – Anthony Burgess, ABBA ABBA (1977)

Week 3 – 9 March – Andrew Motion, The Invention of Dr Cake (2003)

Week 4 – 16 March – W.H. Auden, ‘Letter to Lord Byron’ (1936)

Week 5 – 23 March – Anthony Burgess, Byrne (1995)

Week 6 – 30 March – selection from A Modern Don Juan: Cantos for These Times by Divers Hands (2014)

Week 7 – 6 April – Virginia Woolf, ‘Byron and Mr. Briggs’ (c. 1922)

Week 8 – 13 April – Benjamin Markovits, Imposture (2007)

Week 9 – 20 April – Benjamin Markovits, A Quiet Adjustment (2008)

Week 10 – 27 April – Benjamin Markovits, Childish Loves (2011)

Week 11 – 4 May – Liz Lochhead, Blood and Ice (1982)

Week 12 – 11 May – Jeanette Winterson, Frankissstein (2019)

Week 13 - 18 May – Concluding discussion & essay topics presentations