Green Romanticisms


The British Romantic movement, it has been said, produced the first “full-fledged ecological writers in the Western literary tradition.” To make this claim, however, is to provoke a host of volatile questions. What exactly did Romantics mean by “nature”? What were the aesthetic, scientific, and political implications of so-called Green Romanticism? Most provocatively, is modern environmental thought a continuation of Green Romanticism or a necessary reaction against it? This yearlong seminar considers such issues through the prism of late 18th and early 19th-century British literature, with additional forays into contemporary art, philosophy, and science writing, as well as American transcendentalism and modern responses to the Romantic legacy. Possible areas of discussion may include the following: leveling politics, landscape design, Romantic idealism, colonial exploration and exploitation, astronomy and the visionary imagination, “peasant poetry,” vegetarianism, the sex life of plants, breastfeeding, ballooning, deism, sublime longings, organic form, gardens, green cities, and the republic of nature—with works by  J. J. Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Edmund Burke, William Gilpin, John Ruskin, Gilbert White, John Clare, Charlotte Smith, Dorothy and William Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, Percy and Mary Shelley, John Keats, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, John Ruskin, William Morris, Iain Hamilton Finlay, and Tom Stoppard, among others.