Emails on Romantic Anthologies by Members of the NASSR Listserv
From Nan Sweet, University of Missouri, St. Louis
Absent from the list for a while, I find a substantial discussion emerged about women poets of the Romantic period after Avery Gaskins framed a question about the inclusions in Norton II (6th ed.) . . . .
Unlike some others, I do find that Ashfield  and McGann in particular do the work of anthologizing effectively, so that one gains a taste of the particular poet's voice and tone and ends by wanting to read more. I think Ashfield's selections from Seward, Barbauld, and others and McGann's of Hemans are quite delicious. It may be, again, in the area of *tone* that we have the most to learn about the reading of these poets and their poetics—as some of us were concluding last winter in a thread on Jane Austen and the role of tone in women's writing. See Mary Ellman's wonderful book on that subject from the 1970s and still one of the best companions to the reading of women's writing. There's a music there, would we but teach ourselves to hear, with the sort of range Austen has, to include the insouciant, the astringent, the quietly outraged, the critically allusive . . . I could go on. It's a muted palette that I'm speaking of, but none-the-less a pleasure for all that. Part of the pleasure lies in tracing tone into investment and investment into interest, I think—a process that allows many students who are familiar with arguments about women's material interests (whether sympathetic with them or not) to read their way back into the (after all) bi-gender conversation that Romantic poetry-making surely was. Women and men poets alike gain readers when we can re-engage with them.
I think Mr. Willett lamented the lack of "poetics" in the treatment of such writers as Mary Robinson . . . but one might, and a student of mine has, write rather handily on her use, in "The Camp," of Hudibrastics. Best wishes to all who are experimenting with the new appreciations of Smith, Baillie, Robinson, Hemans, et. al.
From David P. Haney, Auburn University
I'm teaching from Duncan Wu's anthology for the first time, and I like most things about it, including the two versions of the Ancient Mariner, and the many potential links between the literary texts and the political, etc. writing. However, I notice that he uses the quotation marks in Christabel differently from every other edition I've seen, including E. H. Coleridge's 1912 version and other anthologies and selections (Oxford Standard Authors, the old Perkins). I always thought it was important that quotation marks are used for Geraldine's speeches only after the line "But soon with altered voice said she—" (204), but Wu puts marks around all the speeches (including Christabel's) throughout the poem. I wondered if anyone knew if this move had any manuscript authority, or if it is just part of his modernization of punctuation, which he does defend in his introduction. If it's the latter, it seems unfortunate.
From Alan Richardson, Boston College
Let me pick up on an old thread [of discussion].
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich decided to go with both the Mellor-Matlak anthology (due out in a year or so?) and a revision of the Perkins (now available). Most likely they felt that there were two constituencies (and/or two kinds of courses) to serve, one more oriented toward poetry and the received canon, one ready to leave the association of British Romanticism and poetry in the dustbin of history and democratize the field in terms of genre as well as number and gender of writers represented. The Mellor-Matlak anthology, if it's going to stay close to the working table of contents distributed at the NASSR meeting at Duke, will indeed be a wonderful teaching resource and help us create quite new Romantics courses (or implement the ones we've already created without overtaxing the department xerox machine).
Someone on the list described the new Perkins as a "conservative" revision, which is true enough in that it conserves almost everything that was in the old one. (It also maintains the high production values of the old one and, as yet someone else mentions, adds those great full-page color plates from Blake's _Songs_). In its addition of women writers, though, I'm not sure it's *more* conservative than the Wu anthology, just more selective in terms of authors represented.
The Wu anthology gives us (these numbers are approximate, I haven't double-checked) 27 women poets but often only one or two poems by each: in all, 27 poets and 58 poems and two brief selections from longer poems. The new Perkins selects only 8 women poets, but reprints 46 of their poems and a long selection from Tighe's _Psyche_ (some 400 lines as opposed to 85 lines in Wu. The new Perkins also included (alas only) two longer poems, both very important: Barbauld's "1811" (335 lines) and Hemans's "A Spirit's Return" (262 lines)—there's nothing comparable in Wu. Similarly, in terms of women's prose, Wu includes 6 authors and about 20 pages of prose, whereas Perkins has five writers but about 55 pages. So in terms of lines and pages, Perkins gives *more* representation to women writers, just not to as many.
So if one's going to do an author-based syllabus (again, perhaps the conservative approach here) Perkins seems far more useful. One can do a class or two each on Barbauld, on Hemans, on D. Wordsworth, teach M. Shelley's "Transformation," build a class on the more generous selections from Mary Wollstonecraft (*why* didn't Perkins include Barbauld's "Rights of Woman"?), give a class on L.E.L., etc. The problem with the Wu approach (lots of authors, few poems by each) is that one is forced to make "garlands" of women poets to teach, as though the women aren't up to the sort of sustained attention Wu's anthology gives to the guys. So for my money, the Perkins is a better anthology—but then, it's not my money, it's my students', and there the lower price of the Wu makes me rethink.
In the meantime, as we're waiting for the Mellor-Matlak, does anyone know if the Ashfield _Women Romantic Poets_ anthology advertised last year and then retracted has since come out? It would be nice to have something more substantial than Breen,  which follows the same principle as Wu with one or two exceptions (e.g. More's _Slavery_, which I miss in Perkins, especially since he's now included _Visions of the Daughters of Albion_: now there's a coupling made in hell).
From David E. Latane, Virginia Commonwealth University
RE: New Perkins
I'd like to thank Alan Richardson for the detailed analysis of our sudden anthological riches. I was worried, in fact, that Perkins and the approach it represents would disappear—and perhaps a little miffed that after ten autumns with the length of—ten autumns, actually—that after ten autumns with the Perkins anthology the publisher didn't send me a new one. But I also have a bone to pick about the notion that we should be ready to "leave the association of British romanticism and poetry in the dustbin of history and democratize the field in terms of genre as well as number and gender." My reluctance to leave behind Romanticism and poetry (I teach women poets in the course, this Fall the Curran _Charlotte Smith_) has to do with two things: 1) students at my university have little opportunity to study poetry as such, and many graduate without a minimal ability to read it; 2) the "democratization" is in some ways a false consolation. I'll explain the latter. I once did a fairly reliable survey and concluded that the University of Virginia library had fewer than 2% of the books published in Britain in a single year (from the 1830s), and out of that, of course, 99% have never been taught or received scholarly attention. Thus the "democratic" expansion doesn't significantly increase democratic representation, only reshapes an oligarchy. Much significant writing is just as silently unrepresented on the new shop counter as in the old wares in the dustbin. So I'll probably stick to teaching the period's poetry, and choosing what I think, using fairly traditional criteria, are the best-made poems to teach. Otherwise, why be limited by the selections of Mellor or Wu? How much Malthus, Ricardo, Bentham, Mackenzie, Brougham, Price, Alison—to name just a few prosers off the top of my head—are we going to teach in a semester, and if none, why not? When we teach Baillie & not Brougham, we're making an undemocratic selection, it seems to me, based on criteria that are just as suspect as when we taught "Prometheus Unbound" rather than "A Spirit's Return" because it seems a better crafted, more complex poem by a more significant poet.
But for now, back to my exam (in "Form & Theory of Poetry").
February, 1996 - Postings about the new Mellor-Matlak Anthology
From: Onno Oerlemans, University of Ottawa
I've just received my examination copy of Anne Mellor and Richard Matlak's "British Literature: 1780-1830." It really is wonderful, almost exactly what I've been hoping for over the past five years. At last we can teach the women poets along side the men without apologizing for the inadequacy of the selections. Now if I could only convince my department to allow me to turn the "romanticism" course into a two-semester affair.
I have two questions inspired by browsing through the book this morning. First, is it available in a more affordable paperback version? Many of my students are not going to pay $71 Canadian for a text, no matter how good I tell them it is. They'll struggle along with the Norton and miss exactly those new texts I'm most excited about.
Second, I'd like to hear ideas about how people are going to cope with the embarrassment of riches in the new anthology. There is now enough material for a two-Year course in the period formerly known as romanticism (couldn't we come up with a hieroglyph for this new period?). Every year I add an author or two, and every year I have to drop texts that I used to think were essential. This year, I dropped all of Blake, and Wordsworth's "Michael" and the "Intimations Ode," among other things. With Mellor's text one could now happily assign ambitious essay topics allowing students to explore uncovered authors on their own, and much can be assigned as background reading that is not explicitly covered in class. Even so, there are dozens of great (essential?) poems that NEED discussing, that most students just will not grasp without some in-class guidance. Have any of you come up with strategies for covering the diversity of the period that you feel happy with?
Thanks for any help.
From Eugene Stelzig, State University of New York, Geneseo
The canon expands, but the semester doesn't. I've taught the one-semester course at our college (offered only once every two years) by doing the traditional six from Blake to Keats, supplemented by selections from Dorothy W.'s journals, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and some prose selections from Hazlitt and DeQuincey. Next fall, I want to begin to add some of the newly recovered women writers (beginning with Mary Robinson, some of whose poetry I scanned and was impressed by on the Web). But I certainly don't want to eliminate any of my currently assigned readings, and I also doubt my department would go for (the obvious) solution of a two-semester British Romanticism sequence. So I too ask in considerable perplexity, what is one to do?
From Ken Johnston, Indiana University
Surely one always makes selections in any offering of the usual one-semester undergrad romanticism course? And if different faculty teach it, the students get different selections. And one would get tired of teaching the same selections all the time, even without new anthologies and rediscovered writers. So, without minimizing the obvious problems of inclusion and coverage, we could re-phrase our new situation not as a problem but as an opportunity: more texts available to select *from.* And a fuller anthology like the Mellor-Matlak will automatically enable us to make the point to our students that *all* courses and all anthologies and all literary history involves selectivity. My starting question is to ask them, "What is the name of the literary/cultural period we are currently living in?"
From Ted Underwood, Cornell University
I would be very glad to hear attempts at an answer to Bruce Graver's question: "3. When Blake fought his way into Romanticism surveys, he displaced something that was well-entrenched. Can anyone remind us what it was that Blake edged out?"
That question leads naturally into a further question I would also like to hear answered. Let's call it 3a.
3a) Does it seem to anyone else that the *terminus ab quo* of our period has been steadily moving back into the eighteenth century? It seems to me that there was a time when people assumed that Romanticism was a term strictly for things after _Lyrical Ballads_. (Though I could be wrong about that; people with longer memories, help us out.) But 1789 has also become a popular starting date, perhaps because, if you're going to take Blake seriously, you have to include the whole decade of the 1790s. McGann's recent anthology begins in 1785, though, and Mellor-Matlak begins in 1780; both moves are probably reflections of the fact that these critics take Della Cruscan and Unitarian poets of the 1780s more seriously than they have been taken for a long while. Am I wrong that these developments are relatively new?
If it sticks, this chronological stretching of the period will, in itself, force us to redefine what we mean by Romanticism. I'll put my cards on the table and confess that I'm rather in favor of it, because I find texts from the late eighteenth-century fascinating, because it's a neglected period, and because I think there's a significant continuity with later Romantic texts.
But there's and interesting institutional corollary. People like myself and other grad students I know who have been trying to prepare ourselves to understand the whole period from, say, 1770 to 1835, are a bit nonplussed when we run up against a job market that often (at smaller schools) still divides into Restoration-and-Eighteenth-Century on the one hand and Nineteenth-Century on the other. I would be tremendously pleased for selfish reasons to see these tectonic plates realign themselves, so that I don't find myself straddling a fault—although I don't expect them to.
FROM: Susan Wolfson, Princeton University
For reasons I won't go into, I've just been looking at this question in terms of anthologies. The 1798 determines Lyrical Ballads—and things usually go forward with a halt at the first Reform Bill. But Russell Noyes's anthology, the standard before Perkins, begins with Thompson's Seasons (1725 or so) and threads forward to the 1840s. To include the 1790s of course takes the French Revolution as some sort of marker and it's not just to include Blake, but also Barbauld, Wollstonecraft, Hays, Radcliffe, Robinson, and hey, why not, Boswell's Life of Johnson. In looking at the Oxford "period" anthologies (were these what was in use before Noyes? or were separate editions for each author used?), there is "Regency Verse." Mellor and Matlak polemically avoid the R-word (Romanticism, that is), and so are free to define whatever half century they want, within which the literature that has defined "Romanticism" is a vital but not the only presence. It's interesting to me that they were able to convince Harcourt Brace to forgo "Romanticism" in their title, since I know that publishers are keenly committed to keeping their anthologies keyed to how most courses are listed in course announcements.
From Onno Oerlemans, University of Ottawa
It's interesting that so many of us find real pleasure in erasing boundaries, and not just those as defined by the 'romantic ideology,' but of the time frame of the period itself. It certainly is more exciting to teach a course when we can, as most of us do, change the syllabus every year, representing the diversity we wallow in not so much in any single course, but over the history of the course in our lifetime as teachers.
Yet it is also true that most of our students crave exactly the kind of order (call it narrative structure or ideology) that we are busy undermining. I feel pretty comfortable doing this with individual works, suggesting multiple readings, but I am far less comfortable doing this with the course as a whole. After all, I suppose most of us have had the comfort of courses in Romanticism in which it was not only defined for us, but also shown to consist of a relatively fixed canon (even if that canon had in fact been changing through the century). We are perhaps rebelling against the artifice of that fixity now with our delight over the complexity of the new anthologies.
I want in my own course both to give a sense of the apparent unity of the old canon, to let students know what texts people have been talking about for 2 centuries, and to see that other literature around it which has been ignored. This other canon is examined both in its own right, and to set romanticism in relief. The problem I continually confront is, as I suggested earlier, how to do both adequately. I drop Blake this year, feeling vaguely comforted by the fact that I can skip someone else next year. But what about that class of 40 people who perhaps never read Blake? Mixing and matching from year to year makes us feel adept, but how do we define our duty to our students? Periodization is probably not the answer. If we were to define ourselves each as covering 2 centuries or 2 national literatures, then perhaps we could feel better organizing courses explicitly around ideas, or genres. Maybe we should abandon the very concept of a survey as doomed to create more problems than it solves, and make each course an 'intensive' examination of some idea, author, conflict, etc. . . . , which would at least leave students with something other than bewilderment by the end of the term.
From Ken Johnston, Indiana University
One anthology everybody should look at in this matter is that edited by Arthur Symons in 1909, called The Romantic Movement in English Poetry. It starts with John Home (1722-1808) and ends, 87 entries later!, with Thomas Hood (1799-1845)—and then has a last chapter on "The Minors," which includes another 59 names! In short, just about 150 names. (Actually it's not an anthology but a sort of literary facts encyclopedia.) I use this Table of Contents as a starting point in my grad seminars on "new" writers in the 1790s—because of course Barbauld, Smith, Robinson, etc. are all included, and a couple of dozen other writers, even in the "main" contents, whom I have (still) never heard of. One assignment is to send students out to discover their "new" Romantic writer of the week.
Of course, this book goes to the opposite extreme/error, of including just about everybody who wrote a poem during the era, so its "Romantic Movement" is suspect from the point of view of over-inclusiveness. But it certainly does work, like my opening question to undergrads ("What's *our* cultural period called?") to expose the constructedness of all period definitions—among which, when you come to think of it, "Romantic" is one of the strangest.
From Alan Richardson, Boston College
Like Bruce Graver, I have a few old anthologies on hand, and now I know at last what I've been saving them for.
As Bruce Graver points out, the older anthologies look uncannily like the newer ones in many ways—more authors, more genres, a longer time frame, a more "democratic" approach to the canon. So when a lot of Blake is added, a lot of little things get cut—some "minor" writers, some Lamb essays, the "pre-Romantic" selections (like what, from my few examples, looks like the standard 10 pages of Cowper), etc.
But, in answer to Bruce Graver's earlier question, if there's any one big loser when the Blake section gets seriously beefed up in the 60s, it's Walter Scott (as a poet). There are approximately 130 pages of Blake in the '67 Perkins, and about 10 of Scott. But in the 1950 edition of Woods's anthology, "almost the same" as the 1916 edition save for "a large number" (?) of Blake selections, there are still only 32 pages of Blake and 40 of Scott. In Bernbaum's 1948 edition of his 1929 anthology, there are 23 pages of Blake and 65 pages of Scott. We need a much larger sampling, of course, but it would seem that Scott was displaced as the sixth Romantic poet by Blake, who then went on to garner a greater share of the anthologies than Scott ever had, to the detriment of a "minor" writer here, a Hunt essay there.
In relation to how changes like this filter down to the secondary school level, I note that my father (who would have turned 16 in 1940) can still recite lots of Walter Scott lines, and I've heard others now in their 70s speak of how large Scott loomed in their secondary educations. My 7th-grade teacher (this would have been 1968 or 69) had us memorize the 16 lines from "Lay of the Last Minstrel" beginning "Breathes there a man with soul so dead," which seems to have been a standard recitation piece. But that 16 lines were all the Scott we knew—and all we needed to know?
From Robert J. Griffin, Tel Aviv University
The answer to Bruce Graver's question about what Blake displaced may possibly be Cowper. Remember that Coleridge in *Biographia Literaria* thought of his own era as "from Cowper to the Present." I also recall a passage in Richard Ohmann's book on English in America where he cites a 19th-century American syllabus that began the romantic period with Cowper. A little later, however, one can find literary historians such as Henry Beers's *A History of Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century* (1898) focusing on what would shortly be defined as "pre-romantic" writers. Lovejoy, Wellek, and, following them, Harold Bloom all refer to the beginnings of "romanticism" as occurring in the 1740s with Joseph and Thomas Warton and Collins and Gray. I have also seen anthologies from the first half of the 20th century that include these authors as well.
The positive characteristics of "romanticism" are notoriously difficult to define; Lovejoy began with this problem, and Wellek, in my view, fudged it by synthesizing differences out of existence. But what everyone seems to have agreed on is that "romantic" can be opposed to "classic" and in many formulations has been opposed to "the 18th century." If what you discover is that much of what one wants to define as "romantic" actually takes place within the 18th century, or alternatively, within the cultural contexts established in the 18th century, you may have to re-conceptualize as Ted Underwood has reasoned.
What this exposes is the way "romantic" is more conceptual than it is chronological. Let's say we accept the 1790s as important; then why not study Boswell's *Life of Johnson* (1791, with its opening hit at French philosophy), as Susan Wolfson suggests? Boswell has been ignored as not pertinent just the way Charlotte Smith and Mary Robinson were although for different specific reasons. Actually, probably the most immediate, lively, first-hand information about James Lowther, the first Earl of Lonsdale, comes from Boswell. Boswell courted Lonsdale's patronage hoping to be a candidate for English Parliament in Lonsdale's district. In Boswell's experience, Lonsdale was a thoroughly unreliable and despicable character (see *The English Experiment 1785-1789*). It is all there in lengthy detail. This is the period, of course, when Wordsworth was in his late teens, and the same Lonsdale owed him money. Concepts of what is "romantic" and what is "18th century," however, would not lead us to look for information that may be pertinent to Wordsworth in Boswell's journals.
I, too, am pleased that these boundaries are being challenged. I want to suggest that any analysis of periodization needs to recognize the interplay between chronological and conceptual (or alternatively, diachronic and synchronic) elements. The diachronic element is that which structures its object by means of a narrative of beginnings and endings. If the current institutional structures are inhibiting, I can only urge people to try to come up with creative solutions. I have been fortunate in that I have gradually been able to convince the people who make these decisions that I am useful to them if I offer courses in the "period" 1660-1832. This semester I am teaching a seminar on Byron and Shelley and an advanced course on 18th-century women writers (beginning with A. Behn). Next year, among other things, I will be offering a graduate seminar on theoretical approaches to *The Prelude* and and undergraduate seminar on Johnson and Boswell.
From Eugene Stelzig, State University of New York, Geneseo
Ken Johnston, thanks for your commonsensical suggestions about the one-semester romanticism course as an "opportunity"; as for your (teasing?) question about the name of the literary cultural period we are living in, well, you know as well as the rest of us what our colleagues in contemporary lit and culture tell us: the postmodern age. To give that period or culture a truer designation (or a more revealing or provocative one) would presumably take a spirit like Nietzsche's, probing yet playful. How about the age or the commercial culture of instant celebrity? (O.k., I know Warhol is not Nietzsche.) "Every philosophy also hides a philosophy, every opinion is also a hiding place, every word is also a mask."
From Herbert Tucker, University of Virginia
Have I missed mention of Burns as chief claimant to have been covered by the cherub Blake? I'd conjecture, without benefit of anthological research, that Big Blake (prophetic books) crowded out Scott, but Lyric Blake outsang Burns. Bad news for Scotland in either case?
From Mary Lynn Johnson, University of Iowa
RE: Canon Displacement / the one-semester Romanticism quandary
The big loser in Blake's rise to "standard" status was Scott (the poems, especially). I remember the exact moment it happened, in a sophomore survey class, when my teacher (a Chaucerian who had taken up New Criticism), turned the page to give the next assignment, something by Scott, buried his face in his hands, and said "I just can't go through these another year—skip ahead to Byron."
Our upper-level undergraduate Romantics course used Bernbaum's anthology, which featured the Big Five, with a sampling of Blake and Burns as Pre-Romantics, and a good bit of Beddoes, Hood, some Leigh Hunt, and maybe a bit of John Clare. Although our teacher confided that there were really Six "major Romantic poets," he pled the time constraints of a quarter-length course and left Blake as a warm-up to the Big Five. Although he said nothing at all about gender, he also had us read (and write impromptu in-class essays on) *Emma* and *Wuthering Heights.*
At Tulane, however, where I went to graduate school (late '50s, early '60s), Richard Harter Fogle taught a one-semester course in the Romantics, the content of which alternated from year to year between Blake-Wordsworth-Coleridge and Byron-Shelley-Keats. So it was possible to take one set for credit and audit the other set. At Georgia State University I was able to teach a two-quarter undergraduate course in the Romantics and a three-quarter graduate sequence. (A predecessor there had expanded the graduate-level Romantic offerings by concocting a third-quarter course on "Blake and Byron," a combo I actually came to like very much.)
Yes, it takes time, but don't be discouraged—courses really do change as faculty members change. But hang onto the Intimations Ode—I'm with the curmudgeons on that one!
P.S. The reason I had to cover so much ground in my 140-page chapter on Blake in Frank Jordan's 4th edition of *The English Romantic Poets: A Review of Research and Criticism* (1985) was that Blake had been left out of the 3 previous "Big Five" editions; as his stature rose in the 1950s, Carolyn Washburn Houtchens and Lawrence Huston Houtchens sneaked him into their companion MLA volume on then-minor figures such as M.W. Shelley and Hazlitt, *The English Romantic Poets and Essayists: A Review of Research and Criticism* (1957; rev. 1966). I realized how thoroughly everything has changed when our 18-year old son, after hearing me utter a male pronoun with reference to "Shelley," said: "But Mom, Shelley was a woman!"
From Stephen Behrendt, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
It occurs to me that the new anthology really does open up entirely new possibilities for us in many respects. Of course, this collection is not limited to poetry, nor even to poetry and "fiction," which does an immediate service to those of us wishing to examine with our students the ways in which topics cross traditional genre boundaries.
I also think that we get a delicious irony here. There are a great many really inexpensive paperback versions of the canonical authors in print now; one can get a W Wordsworth or a PB Shelley for class use for only a couple dollars, and the new Dover Thrift editions are only $1 apiece. Now we have the chance to live with the reverse of what we used to have: an anthology that at last recognizes and incorporates into a "main" (hardbound) text some of those writers traditionally excluded—AND the need to get the canonicals in via "supplementary" paperbounds or even copies turned out in packets or in the back room. Interesting turnabout—not that I think turnabout is the issue. But in terms of the long-standing symbolism of "books" as opposed to "handouts" and "paperbacks," this does create interesting possibilities.
As far as the business of dates, dating, and periodization, I think it's time we think more seriously about what the Romantic mindset or ethos IS (or, more accurately, what those mindsetS ARE) and worry less about a Romantic "period." That will enable us to think more reasonably about the Romantic aspects of Shakespeare, Woolf, or Gary Snyder, which might prove liberating for all of us. Surely the Romantics thought much of what they thought, felt, and advocated to be timeless rather than timebound.
Just a couple random thoughts for a Friday morning from one who looks forward to trying the new anthology in a variety of contexts.
From Robert J. Griffin, Tel Aviv University
What I take from William Levine's observations on the apparent contradiction in Coleridge's versions of literary history in *Biographia Literaria* is that this is an excellent example of why critics should be suspicious of literary histories arranged according to epochs understood as constituting decisive breaks. One antidote to that kind of thinking is to consider genres and their transformations; luckily, I think for us, this has been done splendidly by Stuart Curran in "Poetic Form and British Romanticism."
A footnote on Bowles: he was the student of Thomas Warton at Oxford and before that of Joseph Warton at Winchester. When Coleridge refers to uniting the head and the heart, he is actually alluding to, echoing, citing from Joseph Warton's *Essay on Pope.* 
I think a possible reply to Stephanie Friedman about Cowper is that one often selects writers for historical reasons rather than aesthetic ones. Cowper's role in making blank verse viable seems to me important. And, of course, since Humphrey House's book on Coleridge (1962), the passage in *The Task* (Book IV, "A Winter Evening") that lies behind Coleridge's "Frost at Midnight" has been available and makes a very effective class. When students react by accusing Coleridge of plagiarism, one can reply by saying that originality lies not in inventing every detail but often in the *use* that is made of materials at hand.
From Alan Liu, University of California at Santa Barbara
On Tuesday, 27 Feb 1996, Kenneth Johnston wrote:
[A]nthologies and all literary history involves selectivity. My starting question is to ask them, "What is the name of the literary/cultural period we are currently living in?"
Ken, where does your opening question go? I'm intrigued by it as a pedagogical opening gambit.
The question does foreground the fact that our puzzlement over inclusion of materials is also fundamentally a question about teaching "period" courses at all in the present age of multi-textual and -contextual recovery. Comparisons between education and corporations have been much on my mind of late (I'm reading in all the business-oriented books on restructuring, reengineering, downsizing, the "learning organization," etc., to see what they have to say about "knowledge"). So I'll risk one comparison that predicts how a solution to our collective educational problem will have to go to suit the dominant ethos of our "postindustrial" time (whether we should go that way is another story). The comparison goes like this. Once Ford, Chrysler, etc., took several years to design each new generation of car models; then the model line was rolled out with fanfare as a paradigm shift. The whole industry went over to that paradigm, and huge inventories of all-alike parts and body frames built up around that model. But with the triumph of all the mytho-Japanese concepts that now reign in the literature of corporate correctness—"just-in-time" manufacture, "flexible manufacture," "continuous or total quality improvement," "mass customization" (i.e., custom models for everyone), "quick response," etc.—now those same companies are paring down their model turnaround time to months. Each new model is not a paradigm shift but an incremental shift ("continuous improvement"), and customer-ordered "mass-customization" is a desideratum. You see where I am going. Once we educators had a machine for instruction we called a "period." The design of that period took generations and led to standard paradigms around which heavy investments in inventory collected (e.g., textbooks). Now, if we go with the spirit of the times, we'll be turning out incrementally-different models of "Romanticism" every semester. Or rather, we'll be turning out mass customized models every semester (slightly different readers or selections in each course). For that matter, perhaps "semester" or even "quarter" is too long a time-span for the just-in-time era. The logical end of this prediction is that we'll be turning out micro-models of Romanticism every week. (Thus there might not be a course on "Romanticism." Instead there might be a succession of modules titled, "Week on Wordsworth," "Week on Keats," "Week on M. Shelley," etc.)
If you think I'm kidding about the education/corporatist comparison, take a look at the Continuous Quality Improvement list dedicated to bringing CQI to higher education. They have a web archive at http://www.webcom.com/rrpubs/coll/cqi/index.html (particularly amusing is the article on the "Resistance of Faculty"). 
I recognize aspects of my prediction in the course I have scheduled for next fall, even though I originally conceived of it as a way to go "meta" on the issue. The course is on "Canon Revision: History, Theory, Practice." There are a few weeks on canon formation in the 18th and 19th centuries (plus assorted recent works on canon, pro and con). Then the students break up into teams (did I mention that "team-working" is integral to the postindustrial vision?) each given the task of designing either a course (undergrads) or anthology (grads) in an area of interest. For example, I expect there will at least be an Americanist team and a Romanticist team (and probably others). They do the research in the field, they look at other courses and anthologies, they produce annotated bibliographies, they write sample introductions or headnotes or critical material for particular authors, then they put up the results on the web—sort of like those "dream cars" that the creative designers at the auto companies sketch every year.
I've never done a riskier course, in the sense that I'll be walking over vast terrains of personal ignorance hoping to hold together an enterprise that may not work at all. (There's something to be said, after all, for tried-and-true paradigms.)
From Robert Corbett, University of Washington
I know Alan is not kidding about the parallels between educational and corporate practice, although it seems to me that the process of canon (de)formation might well be compared to processes of commodification. Our ever more refined sense of what the student-consumer wants might be compared to the kind of commodification exemplified by Seattle entrepreneurs that is driving at least the service sector. What Seattle excels in is marketing choice. This comes from the abilities of various Puget Sound companies (Bill Gates, Starbucks, SubPop) to make what once was alternative to the mainstream a viable mass-market commodity. San Francisco may have invented cafe culture for America, but a Seattle business managed to turn it into a repeatable commodity. Unlike the products of a less consumerist mass economy of previous decades, these companies market difference rather than similarity, ratifying your perspicacity as a consumer rather than your allegiance to a brand. (To what extent does Gates belong here? Chaos as the guiding mode of management style, as eulogized by Tom Peters [is this someone you are reading, Alan?] takes place in the very corporations that are exploring synergy through ever more grandiose mergers!) Thus, in English departments, we now market choices in canons, rather than one Canon.
While the strategy of letting a hundred flowers bloom is certainly more interesting than having a preset canon that will always make everyone unhappy (and only Harold Bloom will be able to remember what it is), the proliferation of non-canonical authors and new canons for them still participates in the logic of late capitalism in an unabashed manner. I am sure that Alan is being just a bit ironic in the parallels that he is drawing to his educational practice and corporate theory, but it seems (call me a radical Arnoldian, if you like) that we need to oppose or at least question "getting and spending" in some real way if we are to responsibly occupy a position in an English department. This means offering the idea that commodification cannot be seen as an end in itself, but that it is a process that we must resist as well as embrace (I fear we have no choice but to embrace it as some level). Going "meta" on the canon issue may be the only responsible way to do it. At least that offers a space for asking why have canons at all. Yet I read and write as a confirmed romantic, and in two years time, I hope to have a piece of writing which adds yet another definition of that most amorphous term, and to me, holding onto such a period term implies the presence of a canon, however shadowy, in my own discourse. I suppose nothing could be more romantic than trying to escape the very shadow you are trying to catch . . . .
From Alan Liu, University of California at Santa Barbara
I had intended to respond first to Robert Corbett's excellent posting. But when I came across this also intriguing posting from Steven Willett I couldn't resist:
On Friday, 1 Mar 1996, Steven J. Willett wrote:
I don't know how far Prof. Liu may want to press the analogy of canon revision to commodification, but however far he does, it is vitiated by a serious logical flaw.
I'd press my analogy pretty far. But Steven's objection is solid (and it is) only to the extent that my original message analogizing the systems of canon revision and postindustrial production/distribution can be read as about "commodification" (which is not, if I remember correctly, my term). In fact, a vast part of contemporary commerce is not focused exclusively on the producer/consumer interface where the commodity exists. Much of the new corporate way, for example is about broadening the concept of producer-consumer to apply to the whole chain of suppliers and clients (both intra- and extra-corporation). Thus in the most nouveau corporations the engineering team is considered a "customer" of the design team (which has to "sell" its product to engineering and manufacturing). The upshot of this is that the foundational "commodity"-purchase decisions are made well upstream of where the end-user consumer gets to make a choice. (Example: we all can choose which computer we buy, but we have almost no input as regards which processor chips [Intel or other] are in those computers because that decision is being made well upstream by the computer-makers who are the customers of the chip-makers.) Application: undergraduates indeed have little consumer-choice in regard to Romanticism courses. The real choice is being made upstream: graduate students have more choice (they can and often do choose to work with other professors or specialize in other areas); and, even further upstream, professional colleagues are the decision-making "consumers" of the kind of work one does (the research half of which probably does have a bearing on the choices one makes, where allowed, in the classroom). In my personal experience, I have yet to encounter a university system (but I have only been at universities as opposed to colleges) where undergraduate student course evaluations have been a decisive factor in tenure or promotion reviews (except insofar as they confirm other factors either positively or negatively). The real feedback is on one's research (judged upstream by colleagues); and one's courses are merely a reflection or facilitator of that research.
[Steven Willett again:] (2) It is equally illogical to say that a student who selects an elective is, within the pedagogical environment of the class, a consumer in the sense that he can critique the teacher, the teacher's methodology, the readings or the other students' opinions and thereby modify the course content to his satisfaction. Consumption on this model becomes a process of individualized modification operating within a cooperative matrix.
I'm in agreement with Steven (though I have recently encountered many more students who have foundational objections; you should see what happens, for example, if you set up an e-mail discussion group for a course). But I'm not sure how this indictment of the non-choice and non-critique of the student distinguishes the student from the consumer wandering through the mall or watching T.V. (the classic sites of consumption critique).
[Steven Willett:] The application of commodification theory to mass consumer culture has a certain appeal, as the graduate presentations at last summer's NASSR show, and may even be a useful critical gambit. I can't see how it has any place as a description of what obtains in the average university classroom. A better analogy for the common relationship between teachers and students, if one really needs analogies to understand teaching, might be consular imperium.
Again, I don't think commodification is the issue. I'm at least Romantic enough not to be that cynical about our course/canon selections (as you are also, clearly). This doesn't mean, however, that commerce is not involved. Nor does it mean that we need apologize for commerce, which broadly considered (I've said this in print somewhere, with allusion to Kurt Heinzelman's work) is probably the most powerful form of imagination or speculation we know.
[Steven Willett:] All the charming talk about con-and-intertextuality, commodification, metanarratives and interpretive hermeneutics—to keep the catalogue within manageable limits—cannot supplant the primary decision that "this" is something worthy to teach and essential for learners to experience.
What does "worth" mean here?
From Alan Liu, University of California, Santa Barbara
On Thursday, 29 Feb 1996, Robert Corbett wrote:
. . . .
[T]he proliferation of non-canonical authors and new canons for them still participates in the logic of late capitalism in an unabashed manner. I am sure that Alan is being just a bit ironic in the parallels that he is drawing to his educational practice and corporate theory, but it seems (call me a radical Arnoldian, if you like) that we need to oppose or at least question "getting and spending" in some real way if we are to responsibly occupy a position in an English department. This means offering the idea that commodification cannot be seen as an end in itself, but that it is a process that we must resist as well as embrace (I fear we have no choice but to embrace it as some level). Going "meta" on the canon issue may be the only responsible way to do it. At least that offers a space for asking why have canons at all. Yet I read and write as a confirmed romantic, and in two years time, I hope to have a piece of writing which adds yet another definition of that most amorphous term, and to me, holding onto such a period term implies the presence of a canon, however shadowy, in my own discourse. I suppose nothing could be more romantic than trying to escape the very shadow you are trying to catch . . . .
The Continuous Quality Improvement (in higher education) list, as I mentioned, has articles on "resistance" to the mapping of the new corporatism over the academy. I think most of us in the academy who are (embarrassing to admit) latent Arnoldians and therefore latent Wordsworthians are on the same page on this issue—though, as you know, efforts to come up with an effective formulation of "resistance," "opposition," "subversion," "critique," etc., are now a tradition unto themselves.
My exchange with Steven Willett suggests that it may be looking too far afield to compare what we do to car-making if we want to get a solid purchase on the question in the context of the particular institutional-economics of the current academy (with its special variants on downsizing, restructuring, deskilling, etc.). In this vein, I recommend the chapter on "A Taxonomy of Teacher Work" in Stanley Aronowitz and William DiFazio's _The Jobless Future: Sci-Tech and the Dogma of Work_ (U. Minnesota Press, 1994), pp. 226-63. This seems to be on of the most honest, detailed, and relentless accountings possible of what academic employment is like in the current U.S. educational system across the board from "first" to "second" and "third-tier" institutions—including uncomfortable statistics on who coming out of one kind of institution can get hired by institutions on other tiers. Aronowitz and DiFazio work in the larger context of the issue of systemic downsizing in many sectors of work, and they have a thesis to grind. But I couldn't find any obvious place in the gritty-realist chapter on the academy that rang false or seemed thesis-driven (though I have no experience with all the varieties of teaching jobs they describe).
Reading their chapter makes me think to ask this uncomfortable variant of my question about how canon revision serves or resists the new world order (in the specific context of our academic order): does canon revision of the sort we are discussing on this list make more sense for certain kinds of institutions than others (e.g., research universities as opposed to community colleges)? Who, differentially, is canon revision serving?
P.S. Aronowitz and DiFazio's ultimate thesis makes me very uneasy. Basically (as I understand it), they argue that systemic downsizing driven by global competition means a permanent demobilization and deskilling of the labor force as technology takes over. There will be no jobs in the future (graduate students on this list: cover your ears). Therefore, the solution is to reform social consciousness so that having a job will not be so important (to our identity, to our welfare, etc.). (Their specific proposals seem to project a kind of caricatural ultra-Euro-welfare state.) No jobs: not a problem. No jobs: the solution!
Andrew Ashfield, ed., Romantic Women Poets, 1770-1838: An Anthology (New York: Manchester University Press; distributed by St. Martin's Press in the U.S.A. and Canada, 1995). ISBN: 0 7190 3788 3 (hardback); ISBN: 0 7190 3789 1 (paperback). Alan Richardson sent the following note: "I got a desk copy by sending $3.00 to St. Martin's Press / Scholarly and Reference Division / 257 Park Ave. South / New York, NY 10010. The number there is 1-800-817-2525."
Jennifer Breen, ed., Women Romantic Poets, 1784-1832: An Anthology (Rutland, Vermont: Everyman's Library, 1992. ISBN: 0 460 87078 5.
See also Robert Griffin, Wordsworth's Pope: A Study in Literary Historiography (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
Permission pending to publish Steve Willett's comments.
Since Alan Liu wrote this email message, the CQI site has been dismantled. When you follow the link using the URL provided by Liu, you will come to the Higher Education Processes network at http://heproc.org/ If you then follow the link toward the bottom of the page, "Things which May Return" (http://heproc.org/return.shtml), you will be taken to a list of dismantled archives including the CQI. HEPROC says to "look for it to return at some point."
|Auteurs :||Alan Liu, Robert Corbett et Steven Willett|
|Titre :||Emails on Romantic Anthologies by Members of the NASSR Listserv|
|Revue :||Romanticism on the Net, Numéro 7, août 1997|
Copyright © Michael Eberle-Sinatra 1996-2002 — All rights reserved