Saturday, July 22, 2006

British Literature Timeline Podcast

British Literature Timeline

Beth Ritter Guth: Hi, my name is Beth Ritter-Guth and I am the instructor for English 201, British Literature, at L Tri C. This is our first podcast and you'll have the opportunity to hear some lecture notes, about the timeline of British literary history. What I'd like you to do is pause here, get your notebook and pen, and use the slides I've prepared for you as a guideline as we talk about the various genres and time periods in British literary history.

We begin our journey in British literary history in the Anglo-Saxon period, also called the Old English period. We're going to be talking in greater detail about this period, but just a few things to pique your interest. Mostly, this period is known for oral traditions of literature; storytelling, and these fantastic tales that have lasted and been passed down through generations. Poetry is the dominant form, and there's a unique verse form that we're going to be talking about a little bit later. A strong belief in fate and there was a lot of discussion and a lot of contention between the church and the pagan worlds. Of course, Christianity is relatively new, seeing that it's only 449 AD. The Anglo-Saxon period lasts until 1066. So, you know, Christianity isn't too long in this world. Heroic warriors were the hot topic of the time, and especially heroic warriors who prevailed in battle. Really, all the tales, whether they were written or oral, expressed a religious faith and were didactic in nature, which means that they instructed the audience in some way.

So that's where we start our exploration of British literature, and from that period, we'll move on to the next time period. I neglected to mention that the work that you've probably heard of from the Old English period is Beowulf. That's usually what's read in high schools, so that is the one key piece of the time.

The Medieval period, which is also called the Middle English period, begins in about 1066 and lasts to 1485 AD. This also contains a lot of oral tradition, a lot of folk ballads, mystery and miracle plays, there are romances. There's of course a great code of chivalry and honor that the Medieval period is noted for historically as well. Of course, the plays are didactic as well, and the texts are didactic and they're religious in that they express the religious expectations of the time and they reflect a religious devotion or seeming devotion of medieval persons.

Let's see. Some famous people you may have heard of, I'm sure all of you have heard of Geoffrey Chaucer, and if you haven't heard of Geoffrey Chaucer, you're going to in this class, because you're going to spend a good deal of time discussing Geoffrey Chaucer. So this is our second period of literary history.

The third period, of course, is the Renaissance, which begins in about 1485 and lasts until the 1660's. The world view is shifting here, from religion and this devotion to religion, to a focus on human life on earth, humanity on earth, and the idea that humans can be molded and shaped into new and better things. Some popular themes: love, of course, courtly love, lost love, those things which are still quite popular today. The most popular genre, of course, is poetry, of course and drama. Some people you may have heard of: I know you've heard of William Shakespeare, and we'll be talking a lot about him as well, because we'll be reading Othello and listening to Shakespeare upon iPod. John Dunne, Chris Marlowe, Andrew Marvel, those are some pretty heavy hitters of the time.

The Neo-Classical period, or the Restoration, begins in about 1660 and lasts until about the late 1790's, 1798, somewhere in there. This is a time period of a complete reversal. We're no longer focusing on religion. Now we're focusing on reason and logic. The works are emphasizing a stability between harmony and wisdom. The social contract comes into play and the government. There's a lot of upheaval in the government because now people are expecting life, liberty and property as fundamental or natural rights. Of course satire is very popular, poetry remains popular, essays, letters, diaries, biographies and novels start coming into the forefront of literary texts. Some famous people that you probably have heard of are Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, and his satire, Samuel Johnson, Daniel Defoe, we'll be talking a lot about Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe.

This period is followed by the Romantic period, which begins in 1798 and lasts until about 1832. This is a little bit different from the American Romantic period, because of course it precedes the American Romantic period, but it really is this reaction to the idea that reason and logic are the only things out there to explain the world. In the Romantic period, human knowledge consists of ideas that are formed within the individual. So there is that idea of relativism that of course we embrace so readily today. There's the introduction of Gothic elements and horror. This of course is the very first horror story, Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley, is written during the Romantic period. The idea that in nature, a person can find comfort and peace, that you just can't get in urbanized towns and factory environments. This is a crucial cornerstone to this movement. Poetry, of course, is a popular form, and lyrical ballads, very descriptive lyrical ballads, are popular. Some novelists of the time that you probably have heard of are Mary Shelley, of course, who wrote Frankenstein, and Jane Austen. We'll be talking about both of them, and of course, we are reading Frankenstein. Some of the poets: Robert Burns, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Shelley, William Wordsworth, and of course the letters of John Keats. We'll be talking about sort of that love gone unnoticed and he pines away. John Keats, of course, is an incredible writer, probably one of my favorite Romantic poets, but he writes these wonderful letters to Fanny Brawne, this woman he's so in love with, and of course she doesn't have the time of day for him. So an interesting, interesting period of time.

The Romantic period is followed by the Victorian period, which lasts from 1832 to 1900, and it's a beautiful period, as far as paintings are concerned, and city life is concerned. It's a time of great beauty, but there's a conflict between the people in power and then the common masses of the poor and the laborers. There's this conflict between the rich and the poor; the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and there's really this idea that writers are responsible in some way to illustrate and illuminate the problems of the poor. So there are a lot of texts that sort of expose the shocking life of children who are put to work in sweatshops and there's a lot of reform literature. There's a lot of literature that sort of compares country life and city life. Sex, of course, is starting to make its way into the literature of the time in much more obvious ways than, perhaps, in Shakespeare or Chaucer. There are now heroines, coming much more readily to the forefront. More women are writing and so there are more female heroines, and there's just a lot more sex talk going on than there ever has been before. A lot of marriages where there are several different lovers involved, and it's a crazy period in time. But it does illustrate sort of the idea that the Romantics wanted to get across, which is that people needed to be a little bit more liberated. Of course we see that in the Victorian period, sort of closeted by the fact that society itself is still very, very conservative and a lot of time and energy is placed on dress, a constricting dress with the corsets and the sort of clothing that women and men wore. So, a very interesting time period. Some people you may have heard of, I hope, you probably have heard of: Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, the Bronte sisters, Robert Browning, Oscar Wilde, George Elliot, She's A Woman, Alfred Lord Tennyson. We'll be talking about Alfred Lord Tennyson in great detail and talking about Lady of Shallot.

This period, of course, is then followed by the Modern or the Post-Modern period, which goes from 1900 to 1980 and that's a huge chunk of time. But it's an interesting period, because it's the individual trying to find peace and comfort in a world that has just lost it's idea of value and tradition. And really, 1980 is pretty current, so if you were living in the '80's, you know that we've moved from the idea of tradition and traditional styles, to what makes the individual comfortable, so it's an important period in literature. Man is nothing except what he or she makes of him or herself, so everybody really has to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and we'll see that a lot in modern literature as well. The hero, we lose the hero in literature, the hero and the heroine are no longer crucial to the text. And technology, of course, destroys everything, and that's sort of where we are now. Poetry is still very popular, and memoirs and speeches and epiphanies and novels. There's a lot of stream of consciousness writing, and a lot of things are written in present tense as opposed to past tense. Some people you may have heard of are James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, George Orwell, William Butler Yates, Bernard Shaw.

So that's where we are in 1980, when we go to the Contemporary period, which is the Post-Modern period as well, and 1980 is sort of where we start the period we're in now. There's lots to talk about.

Transcription by CastingWords

Welcome Podcast Transcription



Beth Ritter-Guth
Hi, my name is Beth Ritter-Guth. I teach English full-time at Lehigh-Carbon Community College in Schnecksville, PA. This is just a hello for my students in English 211, Brit Lit II, offered in the second six-week summer session at L-Tri-C.

I just want to take a few seconds to go through, with you, the syllabus and my expectations of you in this course and hopefully that won't take too long. All of this information is available to you on the Wiki, which you must have found, because you're listening to this. If you click on the link on the syllabus, you'll see just the rules and regulations of the course. You'll see my office number. I'm full time at L-Tri-C so I have an office, although I'm not there in the summer, but I can be if we need to meet. It talks about the course description and my grading philosophy. You can read through that at your leisure. There will be a few opportunities for extra credit. And, of course the policy for academic integrity is included there. I talk about final drafts and how they need to be submitted through WebCT, and talk about student behavior, the ADA policy and the Writing Center. You should take a peek at those materials so you know the rules of the course.

The class blog, which is located on Blogger, is listed next on the Wiki. In order for you to join and be a posting member, you will need to email me an email address you use often so that I can send you an invitation. You are not required to post on the blog. If you would rather respect your privacy, you may answer any discussion post in email to me privately through WebCT.

You then see the course assignment grid and how much each component weighs, as far as your final grade is concerned. There are three essays, two exams, two projects, 10 exploration assignments, and you are graded on your participation, either on the blog or in email to me. I explain the type of assignments that I expect of you in this course and those are just an overview of what the assignments are. For your essays, I expect that you've had English I and/or English II at your home institution or at L-Tri-C, and so I'm expecting that you understand how to write an academic essay. I won't be reviewing thesis development, I won't be reviewing grammar in any cohesive way, because I expect that you've come to me with that sort of preparation.

Your books are in the bookstore, and while you don't need to buy them, because I try to make everything available to you online, you should invest in the Portable Brief Keys for Writers that I have for you there. That comes with a free subscription to tutoring through, and if you had to pay for that, you'd have to pay 30 bucks an hour. So it's really a bargain if you think about it. For those that have had me before in Brit Lit 1, you know that I'm a pretty tough grader, so you'll definitely want that support. So I encourage you, if that's the only book you can afford to buy, buy that one, because you'll want that pass code. You also get extra credit for submitting your work to Smart Thinking. You just need to send me their markup copy and you get some gold stars added to your paper. So you want to take advantage of that. I do have some tips here. I would recommend that you read those tips and understand them. An academic essay is never less than 800 words, so that is a key. And then there are rules about using personal pronouns and citations and MLA documentation.

And then the way that I have the Wiki set up, I have it set up that since a six-week course, there are six weeks of instruction. You'll have some readings, you'll have some assignments and you'll be asked to discuss. And you receive points not just for discussing on the blog, but also commenting on the posts of others. If you are submitting through email, you can submit your comments to me about other people's blogs through email if you are choosing that route.

So you'll see that each week has something to do, and this is a six-week course, but you're covering 14 weeks of material. It is a lot of reading. If you don't have the time to commit to the reading then this is perhaps not the course for you. And it is offered in the spring session in a 14-week format. I know that it is sometimes attractive to see a six-week summer course needed, especially for our education majors, but really this course flies through the material and really expects you to be diligent and motivated and responsible for your work.

If you have any questions at any time, please feel free to email me or call me. I'm more than happy to help you. I'll be having surgery the first week of class, so please bear with me. I will try to respond to email through audio, as I won't be able to type. But I will at least try to respond to your questions. I'm available to talk on the phone, and hopefully my recovery will be pretty speedy, so that you're getting the answers that you need. I welcome you to this class. It's going to be a lot of fun. This course starts off with my favorite period, which is the Romantic Period, and some of the greatest stuff ever written in England is written during the Romantic Period in my humble opinion. And we're going to have a lot of fun. We're going to be talking about a lot of heavy topics and a lot of interesting issues and all about the relationships between people and how they're treated, and children and how they're treated, and the relationship between humans and their government, and religion and science. So we have a really crazy quest before us. I look forward to it and I welcome you to this class, and again, if you need anything, just let me know. Thanks.

Transcription by CastingWords

Victorian Podcast Transcription


Beth Ritter-Guth: Now we're going to talk about the Victorian Period. I need to always say my name at the beginning. This is Beth Ritter-Guth and I teach English 211, Brit Lit II at Lehigh Carbon Community College. All right, I got that out of the way.

I'm going to talk about the Victorians now. All movements react against the previous movement, so it isn't surprising that the Victorians are kind of seen as this prudish, repressed and old-fashioned group of writers because they are reacting against the free love and free spirited Romantic period that was before it. But, I would think that it's inaccurate though, and a few of the texts that you are going to read actually say this. It is inaccurate to say that progress wasn't made -- they certainly weren't repressed in the fact that they were going backwards. In science and technology, because of the Industrial Revolution there was this great emphasis on invention, and so in a lot of ways, the Victorian Age is the birth of many of new inventions -- things that we love today. The seeds for digital cameras come from the camera and being able to use photography, so a lot of things that we take advantage of today, their seeds were initially thought of during the Victorian Age. So ,it wasn't repressed in the sense that they were going backwards. I think one of the texts that you'll read calls it a renaissance, similar to that of the Elizabethan Age.

I don't know that I'd go that far, but I think it is fair to say that they didn't lose ground in the Victorian period. There's great wealth, considering that the industrial nation made a lot of rich people a whole lot richer. But, with that kind of wealth comes an entirely crazy middle class and poverty class, and so the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Some of the same kind of things g
o on: the poor are extremely poor, the working class, they're making ends meet, and, of course the rich are getting richer. The Victorian period is categorized by the reign of Queen Victoria, in case you want to know where the name came from.

In religion people are doubting Christianity, and when that happens -- there are different periods and pockets throughout British literature where people question religion, but it's kind of squashed because the church excommunicates people who do that -- the Roman Catholic Church, and burns people as heretics. You have a few pockets here and there, and certainly the Romantic period, with Godwin, for example, as an atheist; you had some people speaking out. But, for the first time, society as a whole accepted the idea that you could question Christianity. Whenever that happens there's always -- even from that point until today -- there's always a movement of people who become zealous the other way to prove the point, and certainly Matthew Arnold is an example of that.

There's a story that's on the website, I remember reading it somewhere else. He chastised an Anglican bishop for pointing out mathematical inconsistencies in the Bible. He didn't do it because he thought the bishop was wrong -- I guess he agreed with the bishop -- but he was angry because he thought that was irresponsible pastorship, and that the Anglican pastor shouldn't have pointed that out to the people, that he should have left them in the dark. That's kind of an interesting look-see into the philosophy of Matthew Arnold.

One of the people we are going to be doing this period -- of course all of you have heard of Charles Dickens, and one of your assignments is to rent a version of "A Christmas Carol." You can rent the Muppet version, I don't care which one you rent, but you want to compare it to what you learn about Charles Dickens in your readings, and then when you watch the movie, what do you think? Now you're going to have to be careful because, obviously something like the Muppet movie is an interpretation of the original text, so you need to document where you get stuff and that it is close to his original text.

Originally, I thought the Bronte sisters an interesting crew. The whole Bronte family is just an interesting group of people. You're going to focus on the two famous ones, Charlotte and Emily. But of course, there are other writers in there too, and you're going to tell me which one was your favorite of the two.

By far, my favorite poem in all of Christendom is "The Lady of Shalott," by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and we're going to be listening to a version by Loreena Mckennitt. You have to listen to it on WebCT because on the wiki, in open source format we don't have the rights to publish music, but because this is for educational use, we're protected under educational fair use as long as I have it password protected for you. So, that's why you have to listen to it on WebCT. But, listen to it as you're reading it because the song just really helps you get it. I think music is an incredible way to understand poetry. Being an essay person myself, and not necessarily a poet -- short fiction and essays and that sort of thing -- I appreciate any help I can get with poetry. I don't think you're going to read anything by T.H. Huxley, I think I just put an overview in there for you to look at, so you know who he is.

It's an interesting period of time because there's this idea that writers are responsible to instruct the public, and certainly not in the confessionalist way that the Romantics did it. It is interesting, certainly the clothing and the art is incredibly beautiful -- there was that great attention to detail. Romantics would celebrate the chaos of nature, and the Victorians, of course, had these magnificent gardens -- very tailored, even structured, things were evenly spaced and planned out -- a beautiful time period, but it is fair to say that the prudish, repressed fashion stereotype is accurate because there seemed to be this movement against the free love of the preceding period. It's good stuff, and I think you'll enjoy reading some of it. I hope you like the "Lady of Shalott" that we're going to go over. I think that's it for me.

Transcription by CastingWords

The Modern Age Podcast Transcription


Hi my name is Beth Ritter-Guth. I teach English full time at at Lehigh Carbon Community College and this is a podcast on the new world writers.

We are going to cheat, we are going to start with Oscar Wilde who was actually a Victorian playwright but we are going to start with him because I think his ideas are revolutionary and I want to start out with two quotations that are attributed to him. The first one comes from "Lady Windermere's Fan" and in there it says
"I prefer women with a past, for they are so damned amusing to talk to." I just think that is great.

The second quotation that I have here that I like, that is really telling about his personality, is from "The Soul of a Man Under Socialism" and the quotation is
"The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing." And where is not that statement is true today as well?

Oscar Wilde, of course, is an extremely famous poet. He was writing at the head of the Victorian era, he wrote about the human condition, he wrote a lot of children's stories as well. You are going to be reading one in the "Happy Prince". He only wrote one novel in his lifetime, "Dorian Gray," and it was very controversial. It was considered very immoral by the Victorians because it had a homo-erotic theme. So here is this guy at the cutting edge you kind of see this romantic's heart coming back again.

He is most famous for his play you probably heard of or did at your high school called "The Importance of Being Ernest."

We go from him to talking about Rudyard Kipling. I have to say that I do not like anything that Kipling has written. I shouldn't say that, some of the stuff is alright to read. Personally I think the guy is a racist. He wrote "The White Mans Burden", and it is just completely racist to me. Some say that he redeems himself in the "Recessional." I do not know, I think he is a racist. He is there because he is part of the genre and I am supposed to teach him.

He is actually the first Englishman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. And you probably know him for his most famous work called "The Jungle Book" which of course has been made famous - is not that ironic?

The next one we go on to is Joseph Conrad, he was actually born Polish but he is often considered English. His family was exiled to Russia because of his fathers political views. But his parents died of tuberculosis and he joined the navy, and he wrote "The Heart of Darkness", which is what he is most famous for - you probably read that in high school - which has a lot of elements of Dante's "Inferno" in it which of course is what makes it interesting to me because I am a huge Dante fan.

I will go from him to William Butler Yeats who was an Irish poet. We are going to talk about a few Irish poets here and Irish writers. He too won the Nobel Prize and he was very interested in his national heritage and so he is a champion by the Irish culture and he wrote of a Celtic festival in Bethlehem, and a lot of people talk about William Butler Yeats and he is a fascinating guy.

George Bernard Shaw who referred to himself as Bernard Shaw, who is also Irish. His mother left him and his father when he was - I think - a teenager, probably a late teenager, so a lot of his plays focus on the problematic parent-child relationship. He too won the Nobel Prize.

Then I want to talk about H. G. Wells. You probably know him as the author of "The War of the Worlds". He kind of handles life with a sort of pessimistic view of the nature of man and mans options. "The War of the Worlds" was an exciting spoof because people thought it was real and thought there was an alien invasion. They play it usually around Halloween time.

We move on from him to James Joyce, another Irish writer, who used an experimental form of language in "Ulysses" and "Finnegans Wake," which I am going to talk about a little bit in a second. He created his own language. He is famous for a few different works "Dubliners," "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," and he is quite famous and very, very popular. But there is two sides to that popularity. Some people really, really like him and think he is brilliant for creating this language, and other people, and I actually belong to this camp, think that "Ulysses" is just completely difficult to understand.

I have read it twice. Once as an undergrad and once as a graduate student, and I was very careful both times and honest to Pete, I do not understand it, I do not know, I think that language should be assessable to the reading public, but certainly his creativity should be noted.

D. H. Lawrence is the next one. He is a good interesting guy. He wrote "Lady Chatterley's Lover" that he is most famous for which has been banned, actually I think it is still banned in some places. It is about a wealthy woman who is having this huge affair with one of the guys who works for her husband's estate, you know, all that immorality going on it is a great story.

I follow it up with T. S. Eliot, I actually love T. S. Eliot. "The Waste Land" is just a brilliant, brilliant piece of work. I should love him because I was raised in the Anglican Church and so a lot of the Anglican imagery, a lot of the religious imagery, I am very familiar with because I was raised in the Anglican Church.

He was good friends with Bertrand Russell, a philosopher, you may have heard of him in philosophy class, until Russell had an affair with T. S. Eliot's wife, so that kind of ended that. But he is just a brilliant, brilliant guy, very, very well versed, very knowledgeable. He actually studied at Harvard in what became the golden age at Harvard, but he is still considered British. He is still lumped in with the British writers.

Graham Greene comes next. He was a headmaster. Since he was kind of shy as a kid I will lecture a lot about treachery and betrayal. He is actually - this is fabulous like stuff I did not know - this is something I learned doing some research about him, he was actually sued by 20th Century Fox for criticizing Shirley Temple. [laughs] I just think that is brilliant.

He was severely depressed and he had many, many extramarital affair kind of a wild kind of guy and he is the last writer that we study, he died in 1991. So you can see that we are kind of coming up to the modern age and the novels that you have in this period to read are actually in the next section, are some current stuff that is being written now.

Those are my notes.

Transcription by CastingWords

British Romantic Period Overview Transcription


Beth Ritter-Guth:
Hi, my name is Beth Ritter-Guth, I teach English 211, British Literature II for Lehigh Community College, and what I'd like to do is take a few minutes to go over some notes about the British Romantic period. You'll be reading a lot of different texts from the period.

I'm pretty excited about the period, actually, because it is my favorite in British literature. It's my favorite because it's marked by some crazy, crazy characters. Lord Byron is a crazy guy. John Keats writes these incredible love letters to Fanny Braun -- it's a great age. I don't want to give you a lot of notes, I could probably really go overboard, and I don't want to do that, I don't want to bombard you with information, but I do want to give you an outline of some things that I'd like to pay attention to -- some key people you might be interested in jotting down in your notes.

Basically, the British Romantic period is defined by the reign of two kings. The first is George the Third, he was very eccentric; he was an odd kind of guy and people loved talking about his health and his eccentric behavior. He had really unruly children, one of them whom becomes king after him, George the fourth, who was very extravagant. He had a ton of mistresses and he was very sexually promiscuous and he was considered politically incompetent. So these two leaders are controlling England, and the extravagance and the way they distributed their wealth -- very flashy -- does have a pretty big impact on the society.

The British Romantic period is, of course, marked by two wars, the American Revolution for Independence and the French Revolution, and then the Industrial Revolution, which is not an exact event of course, but has had the most impact on both the British and the global culture. The Industrial Revolution, of course, makes things more readily available, there's a rise in the middle class, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, travel is possible because railroads are being put in all over the place and people can get around to different places a little bit faster. Lord Byron called it the age of oddities. Certainly, I think, that is a good way to look at the British Romantic Period.

Besides Byron, the other primary writers of the time are William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Southy, Charles Lamb, Lord Byron, of course, I already mentioned him, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, John Keats, William Godwin, Lee Hunt and Jane Austen. Jane Austen writes at the same time, but she is not considered romantic.

What's interesting about these folks is that often they are said to be responding to the previous period, the Classicist period, and that their interest in the exotic and the foreign contradicts the writing of the period before. But, really that isn't exactly altogether true because these writers did return to what we would call native themes, or traditional themes. They do revisit and uncover a lot of historical texts and historical ideas.

They were kind of frustrated, especially the poets, because the reading public, especially the middle class, wasn't all that interested in this kind of literature, they were much more interested in what we would consider Harlequin Romance kind of stuff, so they were a little bit frustrated that the audience wasn't more intelligent or more engaged by their writing, which is interesting if we think about it now.

The romantic age, if we could put it in a nutshell, what we call the romantic imagination could be summed up as an age of transition. There's a lot going on all around the world. A lot of political unrest, a lot of radical ideas are being thought about and expressed, and of course, wars are happening. There's a focus on the foreign, the exotic, on being frivolous, and, of course, that comes down from the leadership in England. The poets see this as an opportunity for a new order; for a new way to express ideas, and certainly, the Romantic period does reflect those ideas.

I like the Romantic period; I like John Keats the best. I think I like his letters the most because I believe that for the first time we're seeing a lot of the philosophy or the understanding about science, nature and religion -- we're seeing that really come through quite clearly, in some of the writing of the time. And so, I think that the writing is rich and exciting and the language is beautiful, of course.

Those are the notes I want to give you. Not too many notes; I wanted to keep this kind of short. You have tons and tons of stuff to read and take notes from. Remember that anything listed on the wiki is fair game is fair game for the mid-term exam, so please take careful notes as you read.

Transcription by CastingWords

Romantic Notes 2 Podcast Transcription


Beth Ritter-Guth
Hi, this is Beth Ritter-Guth. I teach English 211, Brit Lit II, for Lehigh Carbon Community College.

This is the second podcast of notes for the Romantic period. We're going to be talking about some pretty cool people, and I hope you will agree that they were pretty cool.

You'll notice that I went a little bit out of order on the wiki. I did that on purpose because I think that too often we study the authors in chronological order and sometimes it's better to look at the founding fathers last, to see how far the movement came from when they started it. So, I like to play around with the order of things, and so I put the two founding fathers, William Blake and William Wordsworth, at the end of the segment on the Romantics.

In this section, we're going to be talking about Percy Shelley, the husband of Mary Shelley. You'll read different things, but just some things to point out -- Percy Shelley was more famous than Mary Shelley in his time because he was like that cool guy that became like the "I wrote for the future generations," especially the Praetorians.

He's known as a lyric poet. A lyric poet is a little bit different than an epic poet because they don't intend to tell a story, but instead, it's more confessional; it's more of a personal nature. It addresses the reader directly; it's writing between the poet and the reader and it portrays personal feelings or emotions, ideas, thoughts about what's going on. Percy Shelley was noted for that. It's interesting that now people will more readily recognize Mary Shelley than Percy Shelley, because of course, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 19 years old, if you can even believe it!

The story goes that they were sitting around a campfire and Lord Byron had asked her to tell a ghost story and Mary Shelley started the seed of "Frankenstein" then. I suspect that everybody added to it a little bit, but collaborative writing, that's coming back in style now, was also very popular then, so that wouldn't have been unusual. She took that seed and developed "Frankenstein" from it.

Of course, "Frankenstein" isn't about a guy with bolts in his neck and is green; Frankenstein is actually the name of the doctor, not the character. The character doesn't have a name, which speaks to a lot of different things. A lot of people think that "Frankenstein" was a way for Mary Shelley to work out the motherless-ness that she felt in her life, the difficulties she had with pregnancy and with death that went on around her, and that she was working out her thoughts in connection to the monster. There is a lot of that criticism out there. It's a fascinating study; in your free time you might want to check it out in the resources available to you.

Percy Shelley had a very unconventional life. He was an idealist, and he didn't compromises his idealism. He was sort of the skeptical voice of the age, and because of that he was notorious. He had a little bit of fame as the wild boy -- sort of the anarchist. It's cool, we think about these guys as old and dead and predominantly white; there's not a whole lot of diversity in the English writers of the time. We think of them as boring because their language is so different from what we're used to in modern English, but he was a pretty revolutionary guy. He was pretty hip and cool for the time in which they lived. In a sense, these are the rabble-rousers; this is the Howard Stern of the Romantic period. We don't really hear too much about Percy Shelley these days, more Mary, but certainly, he was an important figure for the time.

Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin are the parents of Mary Shelley. Mary Wollstonecraft was a feminist; she wrote a book called "A Vindication of the Rights of Women." William Godwin, her father, was a well-known anarchist philosopher and journalist. He was a proclaimed atheist, which of course, can you imagine that in those times! They actually believe in a philosophy called free love, which we heard about in the 60s, but it was much more radical in the time of Wollstonecraft and Godwin. They lived together without being married for a long time, then they got married and Mary was born. Ten days after she was born, Wollstonecraft died; probably from complications from the birth and Mary Shelley always live with that guilt.

It's interesting, for as much as Godwin was this anarchist, philosopher, atheist and into the free love movement, he didn't apply that concept to his daughter, Mary, and refused to talk to her for two years when she started going out with Percy Shelley. That's kind of incredible -- do as I say, not as I do -- it was hypocritical of him. I don't know, I think a lot of his stuff is trumped up garbage anyway. I think he was saying it just to sound cool. I think he was jealous of Percy Shelley, to be honest, because Percy was getting the sort of recognition that he wanted. That's just my personal spin, but I have a feeling there was a little bit of animosity and jealousy going on there.

Next here we talk about Wordsworth and Blake, both Williams, these were like the defining members of the Romantic Movement. Wordsworth had a deep love of nature and love of simplicity. He wasn't as wild and crazy as Byron or Shelley, but he was certainly popular in his lifetime.

William Blake was not. He was a poet, painter, visionary, mystic, and professionally, he was an engraver. He proclaimed the supremacy of the imagination over rationalism and materialism. Now remember, this was the Industrial Revolution, so everybody's a materialist. He was considered eccentric in his time and didn't celebrate a whole lot of popularity during his lifetime, but he did some pretty incredible work. I don't remember all of things that he engraved, but if I remember right, he did something with Dante's Inferno, which was incredible. His engraving was just incredible. There were a lot of engravers because that was a very popular art form, so he had a lot of stiff competition. He pretty much became popular after his lifetime because he was considered eccentric.

I love the Romantic period. I actually teach British Romantics for DeSales from time to time, and it's just an incredible period. You will see that we spend two weeks on it, so it must be important to me! It is probably the period I know most about in this whole section of this semester. What I love about these guys is something that I think we've lost because I definitely think we've gone back to that rationalist, scientific approach. Not that science is bad or that rationalism is bad, but I think we've lost the celebration of the imagination, and that's sad because the terrain is beautiful. I just think that these guys to us are old and their stuff is boring, but the lives they led! Byron and Shelley, there were out there! They were crazy and were doing really controversial stuff -- Mary Shelley shacking up with this guy and her father hates him. Her father, this super liberal guy, hates Percy because he's jealous of him and refuses to see her -- that's a pretty big deal. This is cool stuff; these are crazy, crazy people, and I love this period and I hope you do too.

That's all I have to say really, but it's a great period. Enjoy the readings, especially "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience, " they're beautiful.

All right, that's it for me!

Transcription by CastingWords

British Literature II Overview Transcript


Beth Ritter-Guth: Hi my name is Beth Ritter-Guth. I teach full time at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schnecksville, PA. This is an introductory podcast to English 211, British Literature II at Lehigh-Carbon Community College This is a six-week summer course offered online, and what I'd like to do in this space is to talk a little bit about the works we'll be reading and the themes we will be discussing.

We are going to start off this semester by doing a brief overview of British literary history, from Beowulf until where we're going to start, which is in the British Romantic period. We're going to start this semester by reading Jane Austen's Emma even though that's out of place chronologically. I think it's a good way to start the semester because we can do some work with video and talk about themes. One of the themes we will be talking about through the entire session is the role of women and the definition of women and how it changes. As I think I mentioned in my WebCT biography, my area of expertise is in women's literature and women's studies, so while we won't focus exclusively on that in this course, it will be a big part of it because that is what I know most about. We will talk about other themes like war. We will be discussing the strife between England and Ireland. We'll be talking about the Great War, and World War II, up through the Gulf War and England's current activity abroad. Those are some of the things we are going to discuss. We are going to talk about the Industrial Revolution and the impact that had on the culture of England. We are also going to talk about the shift of the monarchy system to a more democratic system and what that has culturally done to England since the Romantic period. That's where we are going to start. We're going to talk first about Jane Austen just because I think it's a good place to start. We're going to be reading, "Emma," and you will have the opportunity to watch the movie for extra credit, and we'll talk about manners and customs that exist in the book, and are exemplified further in the movie.

We are going to move from there to talk about the American Romantic period, rather, the British Romantic period. We're going to start out with a discussion of the sublime, the beautiful and the picturesque. We'll be reading some materials by Edmund Burke and I will be talking about, "A Vindication of the Rights of Women" which is available in its full form in our bookstore, but we'll just be reading parts of it and you will have access to that on the web. We will talk Anna Letitia Barbauld and her work with the poor. We're going to talk about Charlotte Smith. We're going to move from there to talk about the rights of men in the revolution. When we begin our discussion there is a lot going on with England and with France, and with a lot of different countries. We are going to talk about the French Revolution because it does have a great impact on England. We are going to talk about, "The Rights of Man" by Thomas Paine and the role of women in Mary Washington Craft's, "The Vindication of the Rights of Women." We'll talk about William Godwin; that was Mary Washington Craft's partner and then husband, in, "About Politics."

Then we'll move on to talk about justice. From there we're going to focus on an author. We're going to focus on William Blake, one of the great romantic authors. He is revolutionary because he writes about all religions being one. There is no natural religion. It is pretty controversial. We are going to look his "Songs of Innocence and Experience." They're very interesting. You may have heard of, "The Chimneysweeper." That's often read in American high schools, and perhaps you've heard of, "The Marriage and Hell," which we'll also discuss.

We're going to talk a little bit about Robert Burns. He's the author of the poem, "Auld Lang Syne," which everyone sings at new years. We're going to talk about his poem, "A Red Red Rose."

We'll move from there to talk about William Wordsworth. He wrote a lot of different things, but you may have heard of, "We are Seven" or, "The World is Too Much With Us." We'll also talk about, "The Prelude" and, "Lyrical Ballads." We're going to talk about his sister, Dorothy Wordsworth and her "Grasmere Journals," and her "Address to a Child."

From there we're going to move onto one of my great favorites Samuel Taylor Coleridge who wrote, "The Rhyme of an Ancient Mariner," "Cristobel," and, "Kubla Khan." If we have time we'll talk a little bit about his, "Biographia Literaria."

We'll move from him on to George Gordon Lord Byron. He is famous for having a cleft foot and also for poetry like, "She Walks in Beauty Like the Night," "Child Harold," and, "Don Juan." He wrote about the Byronic hero in Manfred. He wrote, "Vision of Judgment," which we'll be reading.

We'll be reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. That's an incredible work as she is the mother of modern horror. Her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelly, who is famous for writing, "Prometheus Unbound." Then we're going to talk about Percy Shelly's, "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" and, "The Mask of Anarchy."

We're going to talk about a little known author Felicia Hemans. She wrote three very interesting, a lot of very interesting things, but we're going to read, "The Last Banquet of Anthony and Cleopatra," "An Evening Prayer at a Girl's School," and, "The Graves of a Household." Interesting texts, and pretty new to the literary cannon.

Then we're going to talk about John Keats, who is my all time favorite British poet. We're going to talk about a lot of different things he wrote, but some things you may have heard of: "Ode on a Grecian Urn." We're going to focus on his, "Letters to Fannie Brawn," his long time love unrequited.

Then we'll move from the Romantic period to the Victorian age. We'll talk about Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle. We'll talk about John Stewart Mill. He wrote some interesting stuff called "Subjection of Women," "Statement of the Repudiation of Husbands," "The Rights of Husbands." An interesting piece.

We're going to move from him to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She wrote "Sonnets for the Portuguese," and her famous poem "How Do I Love Thee" is often confused as a Shakespearian sonnet, so we'll be talking about that.

We'll be talking about Alfred Lord Tennyson. If you had me for British Literature I, you had the opportunity to read and listen to, "The Lady of Shalott." We'll do that again.

We're going to talk a little about Charles Darwin and the impact that he has on sociopolitical movements of the time. We'll talk about his work on, "The Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection." We're going to focus on the portion called the struggle for existence and we're going to talk about his sketch of an infant.

We're going to be talking about Robert Browning who wrote, "A Woman's Last Word," and, "Love Among the Ruins," among other things.

We'll talk a little more about Charles Dickens and his view of the Industrial Revolution especially as it is exemplified in the Christmas Carole. We are not going to read, "A Christmas Carole," but I am sure you have seen the movie or at least heard of it.

We're going to talk about the Bronte sisters. We're going to talk about George Elliot, who is actually a woman. She wrote, "Middle March."

We're going to talk about Queen Victoria. She wrote a lot in her letters and journals about the position of women, so we're going to talk about her.

We're going to talk about Matthew Arnold who wrote some interesting stuff called, "Culture and Anarchy." Within "Culture and Anarchy," he talks about sweetness and life, and doing as one likes. Good stuff to read.

We're going to read, from Dante Gabriel Rosette a piece called, "The House of Life," and from Christine Rosette, some interesting information from her.

We're going to talk about a little know writer William Morris. He wrote a piece called, "The Defense of Guinevere." If you had Brit Lit I with me earlier this summer you'll, remember the tradition that we talked about there.

We're going to talk about Lewis Carroll. All of you know him for writing "Alice in Wonderland," which the actual title is, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." We're going to read "Jabberwocky."

Then we're going to talk about theme of the invention of childhood because there is a shift between the expectations of children of being little adults to being actual creative developing humans. Within that theme we are going to talk about Beatrix Potter. I'm sure all of you are familiar with Peter Rabbit at least in concept. Then we are going to talk about mora
l tales: "The Mouse and the Cake," "Willy Winky," and, "The Owl and the Pussy Cat."

We're going to talk about some works from Rudyard Kipling and we're going to read a piece called, "Without Benefit of Clergy."

We're going to move from there to talk about Robert Lewis Stevenson. All of you probably don't know he is the author of, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

We're going to talk about Oscar Wild and Lord Alfred Douglas who wrote some interesting pieces called, "Two Loves" and, "In Praise of Shame."

We're going to move from there into the 20th century, where we talk about Joseph Conrad who wrote, "The Heart of Darkness."

We're going to talk about Thomas Hardy and Rebecca West who wrote a piece called, "Indissoluble Matrimony."

We're going to talk about William Butler Yates who wrote some meditations during the time of the Civil War and, "Crazy Jane Talks with a Bishop."

We're going to talk about EM Forester.

We're going to talk about James Joyce who is famous for Euless's but writes some other interesting and longer pieces. We're going to read Finnegan's Wake.

Then were going to move on to TS Elliot, an amazing author who wrote "The Love Song of J. Alfred Proof Rock" and, "The Waste Land."

Then we're going to checkout Virginia Wolf who wrote, "A Room of One's Own."

Catherine Mansfield, We'll talk a little about her.

DH Lawrence, Gram Green and we're going to look at some of the speeches of Winston Churchill.

We're going to talk about George Orwell, and Dylan Thomas who wrote, "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night."

We're going to talk about Samuel Becket, WH Audin, and Stevie Smith, who writes an interesting piece called, "How Cruel is the Story of Eve."

We're going to move from Stevie Smith into a piece by Philip Orken called, "Talking in Bed," which is quite interesting.

We're going to talk about SW Plath and Lady Lazarus, Ted Hughes, and Salman Rushdie.

We're going to finish the course with Shamus Haney and Evan Boland. A piece called Anorexic.

Within the course we are going to talk about the themes of women and children, the themes of war and the shift from a monarchal rule and the rule of the people, and we're going to talk about relations between religion and the state.

I look forward to this semester. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. We have a lot of things to read. If you made it through Brit Lit I where we covered a lot more information in that course, this course will probably seem like it is going at a slower pace. It is quite a bit of reading and a lot is expected of you. All of the information you need for this is located on the course wiki, and you can just follow along for each week. All your papers and assignments will be submitted in WebCT so I can grade it. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask my phone number is (610) 799-1717 and my email is Thanks.

Transcription by CastingWords

Jane Austen Lecture Notes


Beth Ritter-Guth:
Hi, my name is Beth Ritter-Guth. I teach English 211, British Literature II, for Lehigh Carbon Community College. This is Lecture 1, Jane Austen's Emma. What I would like to do is just give you an overview of some things that I would like you to think about as you're reading the texts. You will see in the Wiki that I've supplied you with links to a lot of different resources. You are responsible to read all of those texts and to take notes on them and to understand them. So I am not going to go into each reading in great detail. I am just going to highlight a few things that I think are important, but anything within those readings is fair game for the midterm exam, so please take careful notes.

Jane Austen is an English novelist, obviously; we are studying her in British literature. She is part of the Western canon. The Western canon is a collection of art and literature and poetry that is believed to shape Western thought. One of the questions that I always ask in my literature courses, especially women's literature, is how did these people get into the canon? Who decides who gets in the canon, why are they in the canon, and more importantly, who is not in the canon? How do people get excluded from the canon? So the big question that we're going to think about in relationship to Jane Austen is why is she in the canon? What part of Western thought does she influence? So you want to keep that question always on the top of your notebook page and it will be something that I will ask you on a test that happens halfway through the semester.

So let's move on from there. Jane Austen is known for her use of irony, her use of psychological time, which is different than chronological or real time, and for her use of form. She was only moderately successful in her own lifetime because she published anonymously. Because of that, she only celebrated a little bit of success in her lifetime. Emma, the novel we're reading, is the fourth of her novels and was published right before her death at the age of 41. She was 39 when she published Emma, and it is the first of her novels that actually uses the concept of seasons to determine time. So that's an important concept.

Jane was the daughter of an Anglican minister and his wife, Cassandra, and she's one of eight children. She had mostly brothers, I don't know, like six brothers and a sister, and her sister's name was Cassandra, and Jane. She never married; that's a very interesting concept when you think about her works because her works always focus on the concept of marriage, the economic marriage versus the marriage of love. So that's an interesting tidbit about her. She never did marry even though she was offered a marriage proposal, a very attractive marriage proposal that would have set her in society, which, of course, at the time was very important for women. And she declined. This placed upon her family the burden of her spinsterhood because a woman could not be self-sufficient and had to be cared for via a male member of the family. So after her father passed, then her brother was responsible for her care, and he did that, and took care of his mother as well, and his sisters.

But it's interesting that she chose not to marry for money because she believed that marriage should be for love. The idea that marriage is an economic institution and not one necessarily based on love surfaces in all of her novels. It's interesting because in Emma, Emma is one of her only heroines that is actually financially dependent. And so the concepts of marriage, while still important in the novel, don't carry the same sort of weight as they do in some of her other novels. So that's an interesting twist.

I'm going to pause here because my son just walked in the room.

Another important concept to remember, and this is key, and again will be something that you will see again on a mid-term exam: even though Jane Austen is publishing within the dates of the British Romantic period, it is important to realize that she is not, in fact, a romantic. She is not considered a romantic. Her contemporaries, Byron and Wordsworth are considered great romantics, but she is not, because that carpe diem approach that romantic writers are known for is not found in her novels because the women who act on impulse in her novels are often scarred or something bad happens to them. Whereas women who operate in moderation and rely on temperance, they are often the ones who are rewarded. So it's very important that even though she is included in the dates of the Romantic period, and you'll see we're starting off with her, she is not considered a romantic. Her writing has very little to do with the Romantic period, so keep that in mind as you're reading.

Emma is one of the most widely acclaimed of her novels, because of it's perfection of form and because it is a comedy of manners. She did have several critics, Charlotte Bronte among them, because Charlotte Bronte said that her novels merely scratched the surface of characterization and the form of relationships and so my question to you is, in reading Emma, do you agree with that concept? Do you think that it's just a shallow surface portrayal of women and relationships between women and men and an illustration of marriage, or do you believe that it offers an in-depth study of the differences between economic and love based marriage? So I'd like you to think about that.

It's interesting because critics today will argue that Jane Austen was not, in fact, feminist. And I suppose you could look at it through that lens if you want to, but we do need to recognize when the time in which this piece was written the roles for women and the rights for women were much different than they are today in England and, of course, in the United States. So I don't know that using that particular lens is altogether useful because there are different expectations of women within and out of marriage.

Most of her novels discuss the balance between financial necessity, being able to take care of yourself, against some other concerns; love and friendship, for example; religious or social morality. So that's important to think about as well. One of the things I'd like you to think about as you're reading Emma is whether or not people get married for love or for economic gain. You might think that people marry for love, but sometimes people don't marry for love. Some people do marry for economic reasons. Certainly we don't like to think that that's true, but certainly it is true. So that's something to think about.

Emma was published in 1816 and the theme, of course, is a misconstrued romance. The main character is Emma Woodhouse, and she is described as being handsome, clever, and rich, and just a little bit spoiled. So we'll see what we think of this Emma as we read. The principal characters, the main characters in the text: Emma Woodhouse, of course, I think she is 21 and she vows that she'll never marry, but of course she has money. So that's an interesting twist. By the end of the novel, she realizes that she is in love with someone. Let's see if you can figure out who that person is. As the neighbor friend, George Knightly, and he's probably in his late 30s, maybe early 40s, and so he's quite the senior of Emma. He is the only person within the novel that finds any fault with Emma, and that's interesting. It's interesting how their relationship pans out towards the end of the novel. Knightly is well respected and he's a very practical man, he's not a romantic, and that's interesting, considering that Austen is writing during the Romantic period against such authors as Byron and Wordsworth.

Every man that Emma meets, she measures against this Mr. Knightly, so he becomes a litmus test for all the other men that sort of approach her. There is Frank Churchill, and he's an interesting guy, he likes dancing and music, so he likes the manners of the time, and he enjoys that carpe diem approach. In a very interesting way, he is much like a Byron. He is not necessarily evil compared to some of the other characters in Austen's novels. He is not as evil or as subversive as they are, but he still is a person who certainly lives in the moment.

Jane Fairfax is a woman with very tasteful manners, but she's an orphan. She is very well educated and she can play the piano and she can sing and she has all the manners down pat but, of course, she has no money. So even though she is this gorgeous, beautiful woman, she has kind of a hard time finding a guy to court her. She is the only woman that Emma envies, and that is an interesting thing to think about, and I'd ask you why? Why do you believe that that's true? An interesting name she has. And Harriet Smith is a friend of Emma's, she's very pretty as well but she's very easily led around by others, especially Emma. She is an illegitimate daughter, nobody knows who her parents are, and she's been educated near Emma. Emma sort of takes her under her wing and Emma tries to do all sorts of different things to her. She tries to be a matchmaker for her, and it is interesting what happens and who Harriet marries. So keep in mind who Harriet marries and how that has to do with Emma, and Emma's work in Harriet's life.

Elton is important in the relationship between Harriet and Emma, so keep him in mind as you're reading. Augusta Elton is Mr. Elton's very wealthy but harsh wife and she is pretty snooty, actually. It is interesting that Jane Austen's novels always function a snooty woman like Mrs. Elton. I wonder what her role is? Why do you think this character is important to a Jane Austen novel? And finally is Mrs. Weston. It is interesting to see what Mrs. Weston, what role she plays for Emma. She's a voice of moderation and reason and as she factors into the novel, it's interesting to see how Emma responds to her. So you will want to definitely pay attention to her.

Emma, of course, is a wonderful novel; probably my favorite of all of Jane Austen's six novels. "Clueless," a movie that came out pretty recently, is actually a modern adaptation of Emma and so for your research paper for this particular novel, you are asked to compare and contrast "Clueless" to the novel Emma. There are a lot of web resources out there for you to use and I encourage you to use them. But I would discourage you from cutting and pasting from any of those sites because, of course, I have them all bookmarked and I will find it, and you'll get in lots and lots of trouble. I sit as the Chair of our Judicial Board, so you want to be careful about citations.

If you have any questions, about anything, please don't hesitate to ask. This is a great novel. You will love it. It is very funny in parts. I would take your time as you are reading it and take notes as you read. If you have anything that you would like to talk about, please feel free to post your questions on the blog or send me your questions and I will post them, if you want to send them to me through email. All right, take care. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. Thanks.

Transcription by CastingWords

Friday, July 21, 2006


This blog includes the transcribed versions of lecture notes for British Literature I and II at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schnecksville, PA.