BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Romantic Venice

Unit code ENGL34071
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


Venice today is a manifestation of Romanticism’s continuing influence on modern-day culture: Romantic-period literature transformed the city from an almost forgotten backwater into the iconic city of modern tourism. This course is focused on the international re-imagining of Venice by Romantic-period writers such as Goethe, Radcliffe, de Staël, Byron and P. B. Shelley, and the influence of this re-imagining across Europe and beyond. However, this international focus on ‘Romantic Venice’ will also enable students to re-think Romanticism in Britain, in terms of its inherently international nature and its international impact. It will do this by foregrounding Romanticism’s interest in urban as well as natural worlds; its reinvention of literary genres to address new aesthetic, social and political objectives; the importance of writers (especially women writers), and kinds of writing (especially travel writing), often marginalised in scholarly accounts of Romanticism; and the influence of ‘Romantic Venice’ on writers such as Dickens, Sand and James.


 The aims of this course are:
- to analyse representations of Venice, as a case study of Romanticism’s engagement with place, in a range of texts;
- to introduce students to the comparative analysis of texts (in translation where necessary) from different national traditions;
- to introduce students to key Romantic-period texts and the influence of these on later texts;
- to analyse the ways in which texts interact with their cultural and historical contexts;
- to consider issues such as gender and nationality as they affect the texts studied;
- to compare texts across a range of different genres (including drama, poetry, prose fiction and travel writing), especially in terms of their formal and thematic innovations;
- to develop skills of critical thought, speech and writing in relation to Romantic and later texts;
- to develop skills of independent research and persuasive argumentation.


Wks 1-3: Romantic Venice before Napoleon

Wk 1: Travel 1
Hester Lynch Piozzi, Observations and Reflections ... through France, Italy and Germany (1789), selected extracts (available on Blackboard)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey (1816-29), selected extracts in translation (available on Blackboard)

Wk 2: Gothic Venice 1
Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), selected extracts (available on Blackboard)

Wk 3: Gothic Venice 2
Friedrich von Schiller, The Ghost-seer (1798; trans. by Andrew Brown (London: Hesperus, 2003)


Wks 4-7: Romantic Venice after Napoleon

Wk 4: Travel 2
Madame de Staël, Corinne, or Italy (1807), selected extracts in translation (available on Blackboard)
Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and P. B. Shelley, selected letters (available on Blackboard)

Wk 5: Poetic Venice 1
Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage IV (1818) and Beppo (1818)

Wk 6: Poetic Venice 2
Lord Byron, ‘Ode to Venice’ (1819), Marino Faliero (1821) or The Two Foscari (1821)

Wk 7: Poetic Venice 3
P. B. Shelley, ‘Lines Written Among the Euganean Hills’ (1819) and Julian and Maddalo (1824)


Wks 8-11: Romantic Venice: Legacies and Afterlives

Wk 8: Travel 3
Lady Morgan, Italy (1821), selected extracts (available on Blackboard)
Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy (1846), selected extracts (available on Blackboard)

Wk 9: Poetic Venice 4
Robert Browning, ‘In a Gondola’ and ‘A Toccata of Galuppi’s’ (1855)

Wk 10: Nineteenth-Century Venetian Novels 1
George Sand, Consuelo: A Romance of Venice (1842-43), selected extracts in translation (available on Blackboard)

Wk 11: Nineteenth-Century Venetian Novels 2
Henry James, The Aspern Papers (1888)

Teaching and learning methods

This class will have a 1 hour lecture and a 2 hour seminar, plus one office hour.

Materials including selected primary texts, lecture slides, bibliographies, study questions, handouts, etc will be posted on Blackboard.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course, students should be able to:
- demonstrate a good familiarity with a range of texts and contexts;
- demonstrate a good understanding of some of the dialogues between these texts;
- demonstrate a good understanding of the developing representation of Venice, c1790-1890, and some of the wider literary, social, political and historical implications of this;
- demonstrate an ability to critically compare texts (in translation where necessarily) from different national literary traditions;
- demonstrate a critical knowledge of, and engagement with, the existing critical debate about individual texts, their inter-relation, and Romanticism’s engagement with place.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course, students should be able to:
- think critically, and make critical judgments, about a wide range of Romantic and post-Romantic representations of Venice in particular, and of place more generally, and the wider literary, social, political and historical implications of these;
- critically compare texts from different periods and (national/international) contexts;
- analyse course texts in a detailed, critical and persuasive manner, orally and in writing;
- identify, and critically engage with, key claims, issues and problems in existing scholarly debates about Romantic literary traditions and legacies.

Practical skills

- plan, execute and present independent research on topics relating to the course;
- make good use of library, electronic, and online resources pertaining to the course;
- speak and write clearly and persuasively about literary and other texts;
- critically assess the language of both primary and secondary texts relating to the course.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

- retrieve, sift, organise, synthesise and critically evaluate material from a range of different sources, including library, electronic and online resources;
- deliver oral presentations in front of a lecturer and a seminar group;
- produce written work, in language appropriate for an academic audience, that collects, integrates and presents evidence to persuasively formulate/test a critical argument;
- display basic negotiating skills in understanding, working and debating with others;
- improve one’s learning through reflection, self-evaluation and time management.

Assessment methods

Presentation on one text; 5-10 mins (15%)

Close comparative reading of two passages (from two texts); 1,500 words (25%)

Comparative essay on two texts; 3,000 words (60%)

Recommended reading

David Barnes, The Venice Myth: Culture, Literature, Politics, 1800 to the Present (London: Routledge, 2014)

John Julius Norwich, Paradise of Cities: Venice And Its Nineteenth-Century Visitors (New York: Viking, 2003)

John Pemble, Venice Rediscovered (London: Faber and Faber, 2009)

Tony Tanner, Venice Desired (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992)

Michael O'Neill, Mark Sandy and Sarah Wootton (eds), Venice and the Cultural Imagination: 'This Strange Dream upon the Water' (London: Routledge, 2012)

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Alan Rawes Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Timetable for 2019/20:

Lecture: Thu 12pm - 1pm

Seminar 1: Fri 10am - 12pm

Seminar 2: Thu 4pm - 6pm

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