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Unit information: Landscape, Poetry, and Aesthetics in 2016/17

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Unit name Landscape, Poetry, and Aesthetics
Unit code ENGL20053
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Pite
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit, taught by Jessica Fay, will explore the idealised, natural, and realist representations of landscapes developed by poets, artists, and garden designers in the long eighteenth century. It will appeal to students with an interest in the relationship between art and literature. As poets moved away from idyllic pastoral portrayals of rural life, painters and theorists of picturesque aesthetics developed “ideal” landscapes, and English garden designers attempted to make gardens more “natural” by applying the principles of landscape art. Tourists and artists viewed gardens and picturesque landscapes from an elevated distance but Romantic poets celebrated interior prospects.

Students will study a range of landscape poetry alongside eighteenth-century essays on picturesque aesthetics. The unit will investigate how and why tensions between nature and artifice in poetry, painting, and garden design evolved and became internalised in the Romantic period. Students will be encouraged to view eighteenth-century landscape art at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, and to think about the interactions of artists such as Beaumont, Haydon, Hazlitt and Reynolds with poets including Keats, Coleridge, Scott, and Wordsworth. They will also consider the afterlives of landscape art and literature in contemporary culture.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to demonstrate;

(1) a detailed knowledge of a range of landscape poetry and debates surrounding picturesque aesthetics;

(2) an ability to reflect critically on the tensions between nature and artifice in the eighteenth century and how these evolved in the Romantic period;

(3) a critical understanding of the social and cultural conditions behind shifts between idealism and realism in written and visual art;

(4) a critical understanding of the evolution of the pastoral and georgic modes, and the context of the wider Romantic re-evaluation of genre theory

(5) skills in academic writing, close textual analysis, argumentation, and evaluation of evidence from primary texts and critical literature, appropriate to Level I/5.

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

1 essay of 2000 words (40%)

1 essay of 3000 words (60%)

Both essays will assess ILOs 1-5

Reading and References

James Thomson, The Seasons (1730)

George Crabbe, The Village (1782)

William Gilpin, Three Essays, On Picturesque Beauty, On Picturesque Travel, and On Sketching Landscape (1792)

Uvedale Price, An Essay on the Picturesque (1794)

William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805)

Stephen Copley and Peter Garside (eds.), The Politics of the Picturesque: Literature, Landscape and Aesthetics Since 1770 (Cambridge, 1994)