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Lord Byron

Class at Faculty of Arts |


George Gordon, Lord Byron is an icon of the Romantic age, and one of the most influential literary figures of the nineteenth century. This course offers students the opportunity to study Byron’s key works in depth, in the contexts of both their historical/literary impact and their subsequent critical reception. The course will follow Byron’s development as a writer from the convention-breaking first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage through to Byron’s comic revision of epic tradition in Don Juan. It will trace the evolution of the Byronic Hero (from exile to rebel, murderer and proto-vampire), Byron’s radical recasting of a range of narrative, lyric and dramatic forms, and his exploration of themes such as the Promethean defiance of authority, liberty and libertinism, gender, sexual transgression, predestination and the nature of sin. The course will also focus on Byron’s poetic responses to, and representations of, contemporary historical events, travel (particularly to Greece, Switzerland and Italy) and personal scandal ‒ as well as his own debauchery, international celebrity and exile ‒ and his construction, through these, of the powerful, charismatic, cosmopolitan, ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ Byronic persona whose legacy is very much present in contemporary popular culture and iconography.


To introduce students to a wide range of influential poetic texts by Byron.

To trace Byron’s central thematic preoccupations and his exploration of these across his writing career.

To develop students’ appreciation of Byron’s formal inventiveness, and the motives for this, across a range of poetic forms and genres.

To introduce students to Byron’s significance in British and European culture in the nineteenth century.

To introduce students to some of the controversies and critical debates that have surrounded Byron’s life and work since the publication of his earliest poems.


Credits will be given on the basis of students’ short presentations, their regular participation in seminar discussion and a final essay (2500 words) whose topic needs to be discussed with the instructor.

MA students who wish to sign up for the graded paper (AAALA007B) will submit one long essay of 3500-4000 words to receive their course credits & graded paper credits. An outline with a brief bibliography for the long essay needs to be submitted & discussed with the instructor.

Erasmus students will receive their grade for their seminar work and a regular credit essay (2500 words).


The syllabus for this course will run as follows. Most of the texts can be comfortably read in a week. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan, however, cannot and you should try to read these in advance, especially Don Juan. The recommended printed editions are Jerome McGann (ed.), Byron: The Major Works (Oxford University Press, 2008) and Susan J. Wolfson and Peter J. Manning (eds), Lord Byron: Selected Poems (Penguin, 1996). Some recommended secondary reading and a list of online resources follows the syllabus below:

Winter Term 2020 Syllabus:

In the event of online teaching only, please follow instructions on Moodle.

Week 1 – 7 October - Introductory session

Week 2 – 14 October - Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage I and II

Week 3 – 21 October - The Corsair and Lara

Week 4 – 28 October – national holiday: NO CLASS!

Week 5 – 4 November - Manfred and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage III

Week 6 – 11 November - Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage IV, ‘Ode to Venice’

Week 7 – 18 November - Beppo

Week 8 – 25 November – Don Juan, Cantos I-VIII (extracts)

Week 9 – 2 December - Don Juan, Cantos IX-XVI (extracts)

Week 10 – 9 December – The Two Foscari

Week 11 - 16 December - The Island

Recommended Secondary Reading: available on Moodle

Bernard Beatty, Byron's Don Juan and Other Poems (Penguin, 1987)

Bernard Beatty and Robert Gleckner (eds), The Plays of Lord Byron: Critical Essays (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997) – selected essays

Drummond Bone (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Byron (Cambridge University Press, 2004)

Jane Stabler (ed.), Palgrave Advances in Byron Studies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) – selected essays

Online Resources:


The Corsair and Lara

Manfred & Beppo

Don Juan

The Two Foscari & The Island

Study programmes