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Romantic Symbolic Poem: Coleridge, Shelley, Keats - part I: Coleridge

Class at Faculty of Arts |



The course will focus on close reading of selected major poems by the above poets in the context of recent critical theory. It is divided into three semester-long sections dedicated to the work of individual Romantic poets. The first part will deal with the structure and function of symbols in the major poems of S.T. Coleridge: ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ ‘Kubla Khan’ and ‘Christabel.’ These will be discussed in the context of selected ‘conversation poems,’ such as ‘This Lime Tree Bower, My Prison,’ ‘The ‘Æolian Harp,’ ‘Frost at Midnight,’ ‘Fears in Solitude,’ ‘Love’ and ‘Dejection: An Ode,’ and passages from Coleridge’s major theoretical work, Biographia Literaria. Readings will address the following issues: the forms and functions of subjectivity and otherness (in terms of culture, gender/sex), political implications of and the limits of representation in Coleridge’s poetry. Further contextualization, discussing the shifting functions of Romantic symbolism (existential moments, irony), will include comparisons with the works of E.A. Poe (The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym), and Herman Melville (selected chapters from Moby Dick). The closing part will focus on alternative genres, i.e., the prose fragment (‘The Wanderings of Cain’) and drama (Osorio), where we will discuss the symbolism of otherness in terms of revenge, guilt and remorse.


Sessions will open with presentations (15 minutes max.) given by all students on the texts assigned in the week-by-week schedule. Discussion will follow, concluded by the instructors’ comments. In the remaining part of the session students will divide into small groups and present interpretations of a key problematic passage from the assigned text. The passage will be chosen by the instructors and assigned during the previous session.


The Cambridge Companion to Coleridge, ed. Lucy Newlyn (Cambridge: CUP, 2002).

Kathleen M. Wheeler, ‘Kubla Khan and the Art of Thingifying,’ in Duncan Wu (ed.), Romanticism: A Critical Reader (Oxford and Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 1995) 123-50.

Karen Swann, ‘Christabel: The Wandering Mother and the Enigma of Form,’ in Duncan Wu (ed.), Romanticism: A Critical Reader (Oxford and Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 1995) 151-72.

Sophie Thomas, ‘The Fragment,’ in Nicholas Roe (ed.), Romanticism: An Oxford Guide (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005) 502-20.

Martin Procházka, ‘Coleridge’s Love Poetry,’ in Michael Gassenmeier, Katrin Kamolz and Kirsten Sarna (eds.), Romantic Visions and Revisions of a New World (Essen: Die Blaue Eule, 1995) 22-35.

---- ‘Between Hoax and Ideology Phantasms and Simulacra in Coleridge’s Theory of Imagination,’ in Transversals (Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2014) 108-15.

---- ‘Imaginative Geographies Disrupted? Representing the Other in English Romantic Drama, European Journal of English Studies, 6:2 (2002) 207-20.

Mirka Horová, ‘Romantic Play: From Ludus to Paidia, from Agon to Ilinx,’ Litteraria Pragensia 30:60 (2020):

For Czech students:

Martin Procházka, Romantismus a osobnost (Praha: Kruh moderních filologů, 1996), kapitoly 1 a 2.

Zdeněk Hrbata a Martin Procházka, Romantismus a romantismy (Praha: Karolinum, 2005)

Some primary texts and most secondary texts will be available in the course e-reader on Moodle.


Credits will be given on the basis of students’ presentations (max. 15 min), their participation in class discussion and a final essay (3000-3500 words) whose proposal will be discussed with the instructors during the last session. NB: students who have signed up for the graded paper (AAALA031B) write 1 long essay (4500-5000 words) for their combined credit and graded paper assignment.

SCHEDULE: see Moodle

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