Engl 450

HC 2.26. MWF 9.00-9.50;
Autumn 2003
Department of English, University of Alberta

David S. Miall.
HC 4.27 Tel. 492-0538

Office hours: TBA

"From the pleasant walks of the garden we see Vesuvius, a smoke by day & a fire by night is seen upon its summit, & the glassy sea often reflects its light or shadow." (P. B. Shelley, Letters (1964), II.60) [Graphic: Anon., "Der Vesuv"]

Course description | Texts required | Schedule | Assignments | Course rules | Internet resources

Course description

One of the best known relationships in literary history is that of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin with Percy Bysshe Shelley: their marriage took place in December 1816 (following an elopement in 1814) and lasted until Percy drowned in July 1822. It was a relationship embodying some of the most significant tensions and paradoxes of its period: the voice of the woman subdued by the hieratical stance of the poet; the conflict of community with the realities of exile endured by the Shelleys in their last four years in Italy; the liabilities of childbearing alongside the philosophy of freedom (sexual and otherwise) espoused by Percy. The most important text reflecting their relationship, Frankenstein (1818), signals these, and other contemporary issues in coded form. The novel was heavily edited (not always for the better) by Percy, prior to its first publication; he also provided the Preface, as though he and not Mary were the author. In this course we will examine a range of works by Mary and Percy that reflect both the strengths and conflicts of their relationship and the culture of their time. These will include Mary's Frankenstein, Mathilda, The Last Man, and her preface to the posthumous edition of Percy's poetry; a range of poetry and prose by Percy, including Prometheus Unbound, and the Defence of Poetry; and their joint production, History of a Six Weeks' Tour (1817) based on their two journeys to France and Switzerland in 1814 and 1816.

The intellectual background to their lives is strongly influenced by Mary's parents: Percy Shelley contacted William Godwin in 1812, anxious to know the author of Political Justice in person (who had by then sunk into relative obscurity); and Mary's famous mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, who died in 1797 just after giving birth to Mary, cast a long shadow over Mary's image of herself as a writer. Thus, in order to situate the writers historically, we will also consider some writing by both Godwin and Wollstonecraft, and its reception in the 1790s. In addition, we will consider the influence of Byron, especially during the famous encounter of 1816 near Geneva which saw the inception of Frankenstein.

Resources for the course will include a lab installation (Rutherford S. 2-03) of Miall and Wu, eds., Romanticism: The CD-ROM (Blackwell, 1997), which provides information on the Shelleys' travels in Switzerland and Italy, and a range of additional writing from the period; other materials will be provided through this course web page.

Texts required

The Mary Shelley Reader, ed. B. T. Bennett & C. E. Robinson (includes Frankenstein, 1818, Mathilda) (Oxford).
Mary Shelley, The Last Man (Oxford).
Shelley's Poetry and Prose, 2nd ed., ed. Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat (Norton).


Page numbers in normal text are from Shelley's Poetry and Prose, ed. Reiman and Fraistat; page numbers in italics are from the Mary Shelley Reader. Asterisked titles are from the Romanticism CD-ROM, eds. Miall & Wu (available in Rutherford S. 2-03). Additional materials for class discussion are linked on the right.

week of
notes, resources
Sept 3/5 Introductions; The background: Godwin, Wollstonecraft; the Shelleys; politics; feminism; the Gothic Introduction, notes
On love & marriage
Sept 8 Queen Mab VII.68-192 1813 (55-8); Letters to P. B. Shelley 1814 (389-391); "Alastor" 1815 (71)  
Sept 15 "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" 1816 (92); *History of a Six Weeks' Tour 1817, on Chamonix Shelley on Chamonix; notes on the Sublime
Sept 22 Byron and the summer of 1816; "Mont Blanc" 1816 (96) Shelley on "Mont Blanc"; ecology; a note on films
Sept 29 Introduction to Frankenstein 1831 (167); Frankenstein 1818 Essay I due Sept 29
Oct 6 Frankenstein cont., background documents Frankenstein File
Oct 13 13: no class; from "Modern Italy" 1829 (358); "Stanzas written in Dejection . . . near Naples" 1818 (135); *P. Shelley letters on Rome and Pompeii 1818 students' review of course; Shelley letters from Italy; Pompeii: photos
Oct 20 "Julian and Maddalo" 1818 (119); "Ode to the West Wind" 1819 (297)  
Oct 27 Mathilda 1819-20 (173) Mathilda, notes; Wollstonecraft, Vindication
Nov 3 Prometheus Unbound 1818-19 (202) Prometheus synopsis and notes
Nov 10 10: no class; "The Mask of Anarchy" 1819 (315) "Mask" notes
Nov 17 "Epipsychidion" 1821 (390); A Defence of Poetry 1821 (509) Defence synopsis
Nov 24 "The Triumph of Life" 1822 (481); The Last Man 1826 Essay II due, Nov 24
"Triumph" synopsis
Dec 1 The Last Man, cont. Last Man: synopsis; lecture notes
Dec 8 12:00 p.m. Submission of take-away examination Exam topics


Essay I, Sept 29. 1500 words. 30% Drawing on texts studied during the first four weeks of term give your critical assessment of either a) Percy Shelley's spiritual/religious concepts, or b) his representations of the sublime in nature; or suggest your own topic (clear it with me)
Essay II, Nov 24. 2500 words. 40% Choose your own topic, but let me know what it is before you start serious work on it
Exam, Dec 8. 30% To be based on topics and texts from the course as a whole.

New 4-point grading system: this is the university's explanation of it.

Essays should follow the current MLA style (see this site for details). Essays must be stapled in the top left-hand corner; do not use a paper-clip, a folder, or a binder.

Course Rules

To be eligible for this course you must have completed 6 credits of first year English.

Please note that term work will not be reconsidered after the final examination has been written and handed in on December 8.

Final Exam: The final covers the entire course. You will not be able to make up a missed exam unless you provide a medical certificate or some other compelling personal reason for failing to sit the exam.

Do not submit your assignments by fax, or email. They will be disregarded. Assignments must be handed to the instructor in person at the beginning of the class on the day they are due.

The penalty for late papers is one half grade per day, including weekends. Late papers may be accepted without penalty only if the student has compelling grounds and speaks to the instructor about an extension at least one day before the assignment is due.

If you have questions or feel you are running into problems with the course, please see the instructor first before consulting another member of the faculty.

Internet resources

  1. Frankenstein
  2. The Last Man
  3. Extracts from Letters and Journals of Mary Shelley (Nelson Hilton, U. Georgia).
  4. Crook, Nora. "Pecksie and the Elf: Did the Shelleys Couple Romantically?" Romanticism On the Net 18 (May 2000).
  5. Mary Shelley -- Percy Bysshe Shelley: Course (Stuart Curran, U Penn). See syllabus, questions for reflection, etc.
  6. Percy Bysshe Shelley Chronology (Carl Stahmer, U California at Santa Barbara).
  7. Pointers to the Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley: Vol. I: Shelley in England; Vol. II: Shelley in Italy (David S. Miall, University of Alberta). Selected letters indexed by page, date, topic, etc., in The Letters, ed. Jones (1964).
  8. The Necessity of Atheism (Internet Infidels). Not the short original version of 1811, but the one revised for inclusion in the notes to Queen Mab (1813).
  9. Percy Shelley's notes to Queen Mab (Stuart Curran, U Penn). Minus the Greek text.
  10. Concordance to selected poems of P. B. Shelley, R. Watt, University of Dundee.
  11. Love and Marriage: Wollstonecraft, Godwin, and P. Shelley (David S. Miall, University of Alberta). Brief extracts.
  12. Keats-Shelley Journal. Tables of contents and searchable bibliography.
  13. William Godwin archive (Dana Ward, Pitzer C., Claremont Colleges).
  14. Romantic Circles : specific focus on the Shelleys and Byron, but other writers also featured.
  15. Longinus on the Sublime
  16. Burke on the Sublime and the Beautiful
  17. Plato's Symposium, trans. Jowett. See especially, 11. The Ascent Passage (209e-212c)
  18. The Gothic: Materials for Study. Developed in a course led by Jerome J. McGann and Patricia Meyer Spacks, U Virginia.
  19. The Literary Gothic (Jack G. Voller, Southern Illinois U. at Edwardsville). Information on authors, texts; access to resources.
  20. Gothic Fiction course (David S. Miall, University of Alberta). Archived course materials, student reports.
  21. The Voice of the Shuttle (Alan Liu, University of California at Santa Barbara). Internet links for all the humanities disciplines. For Romanticism studies in particular, go direct to the Romanticism page.
  22. Canon-Formation and the Web. Panel discussion on Romanticism and the internet held at the MLA, December 1996.

return to Miall home page

Document created August 10th 2003 / updated December 3rd 2003.