BA English Language and English Literature / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Romantic Venice

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL34071
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
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, George Sand and Henry 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.

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

Seminar Presentation (including Powerpoint slides) 20%
Comparative Close Reading 30%
Comparative Essay 50%


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 200

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Alan Rawes Unit coordinator

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