LITR 4328 American Renaissance
lecture notes



Email to students 29 August:


Dear students, Thanks for helping our first class this Monday. Here is a hot link to our LITR 4328 course website:


Let me know if any questions or problems.


For 17 Sept. I assigned one additional presentation to a former student who will visit to lead Rip Van Winkle discussion.


At our next meeting on 10 Sept. Rudy and Virginia (thanks) will lead discussion of Emerson & Poe, and we’ll preview more presentation options, etc.


Otherwise, Happy Labor Day.





Pleasure of course: students interested, share a somewhat Romantic set of ideas, but learn to express


Not first people to have thought through these issues, can benefit from previous thinkers while extending and developing your own ideas


as in most Literature courses, starting points of learning and sharing are terms


Romanticism: > midterm

purpose of today's class: familiarize range and terms of concept, how many different ways you may hear it used or applied

and this is just for starters

"umbrella term"

objective 1




Question before presenter:

If you hadn’t had a week of this course and already learned a few of the many signs that indicate “Romantic” or “Romanticism,” but someone asked you what was “Romantic” about today’s readings, what would you guess?


Possible answers (not complete):

Emerson: individual alone in nature, separate from masses

Childhood Romanticized

Poe: longing for perfect love, missing Ligeia = “romantic” in popular sense

Again individual separate from masses (neither in society)

Poe: dark or demonic side of Romanticism: gothic

Emerson: sunny or spiritual side of Romanticism: Transcendentalism

But not rules, only conventions or tendencies that can be varied (Romantic comedy more social)


These answers are right. You can use them. What you know or connect with will be your foundation.


But you can’t use only what you start with. Connect or extend your reactions or insights to ideas or materials the course provides.


Build terms on terms. Use texts to illustrate and develop and question.


Comment you don’t want to see on exam: “You’re good at expressing yourself, but you could have written this without taking the course.”




Poems last week: Romanticism as extravagance, excess; both intimate and expansive

Dickinson might be about sex, might be about God / mystical experience

Poe: long ago in a kingdom by the sea, angels


Contrast here and now of reality, which you can’t want, with what was long ago or yet to be, which you can



Emerson genre: sermon? Lecture? Meditation

The sublime



4. superlatives

End of story: desire/loss



 sublime E 6

Poe 24; correspondence & psychology



Ligeia presentation

open floor


Romantic Rhetoric

4. superlatives; 7, 8, 9 [explain superlative form]






3. For Romantic style, identify the gothic, the sublime, correspondence, and the romance narrative in both texts.


4. Transcendentalism (Emerson) and the Gothic (Poe) are two of the most recurrent styles in American Romanticism. How are they both "Romantic" and thus potentially similar? How do they differ from or complement each other?




Ligeia notes

romantic diction (Romantic Rhetoric)

Romanticism as a world beyond, behind, beside ours, either adding or alternating value


1 decaying city near Rhine


2 a wildly romantic offering on the shrine of the most passionate devotion?  (Romantic Rhetoric)


3 emaciated, marble hand


4 skin purest ivory


6 the many incomprehensible anomalies of the science of mind [psychology


approaching the full knowledge of their expression—felt it approaching—yet not quite be mine—and so at length entirely depart! [Romance; desire/loss]

Yet not the more could I define that sentiment, or analyze, or even steadily view it.

innumerable other instances


7 the character of Ligeia. An intensity in thought, action, or speech,


8 the acquisitions of Ligeia were gigantic, were astounding; . . . infinite supremacy


9 grief

The wild eyes blazed with a too—too glorious effulgence

Words are impotent to convey  . . . the intensity of her wild desire for life


10 strength of affection

pour out before me the overflowing of a heart whose more than passionate devotion amounted to idolatry

the principle of her longing


12 Are we not part and parcel in Thee?* [*compare Emerson, Nature, para. 13]


13 exhausted with emotion


14 an abbey, which I shall not name, in one of the wildest and least frequented portions of fair England. [<gothic>]The gloomy and dreary grandeur of the building, the almost savage aspect of the domain, the many melancholy and time-honored memories connected with both, had much in unison with the feelings of utter abandonment which had driven me into that remote and unsocial region of the country.


14 the fair-haired and blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanion, of Tremaine. [Rowena as fair lady, Ligeia as dark lady; cf. Alice & Cora in Last of the Mohicans]


15 no system, no keeping, in the fantastic display

ceiling, of gloomy-looking oak, was excessively lofty, vaulted, and elaborately fretted with the wildest and most grotesque specimens of a semi-Gothic, semi-Druidical device.


16 the couch, too—bridal couch

an endless succession of the ghastly forms


17 my wife dreaded the fierce moodiness of my temper—that she shunned me and loved me but little—I could not help perceiving; but it gave me rather pleasure than otherwise. I loathed her with a hatred belonging more to demon than to man. My memory flew back, (oh, with what intensity of regret!) to Ligeia, the beloved, the august, the beautiful, the entombed. I revelled in recollections of her purity, of her wisdom, of her lofty, her ethereal nature, of her passionate, her idolatrous love.

excitement of my opium dreams (for I was habitually fettered in the shackles of the drug)


18 a bed of suffering


19 motions which she then saw, but which I could not perceive


20 some palpable although invisible object had passed lightly

a shadow—a faint, indefinite shadow of angelic aspect—such as might be fancied for the shadow of a shade

a gentle footfall upon the carpet

brilliant and ruby colored fluid


22 a sob, low, gentle, but very distinct, startled me from my revery [dream-state].—I felt that it came from the bed of ebony—the bed of death.


23 Rowena still lived

endeavors to call back the spirit


again gave myself up to passionate waking visions of Ligeia


24 Amazement now struggled in my bosom with the profound awe [the sublime]


25 time after time, until near the period of the gray dawn, this hideous drama of revivification was repeated;  [Romance; desire/loss]




Emerson, Nature





1 original relationship to universe; revelation, not history


2 nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us


3 curiosity inside, order outside


4 to a sound judgment, the most abstract truth is the most practical.


5 Nature / Soul. Will > Art


ch 1 Nature


6 alone, stars, sublime


8 natural objects / mind, influence


9 stick of timber of the wood-cutter, from the tree of the poet; integrity of impression [Realism > Romanticism?] cf. 19


10 few adult persons can see nature; shines into the eye and heart of the child


11 wild delight (Romantic Rhetoric)


11 every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind,  [<correspondence>]


12 man, child, woods, perpetual youth


13 part or particle of God   [union of human with divine through nature]


14 an occult [mysterious] relation between man and the vegetable [plants]. [<correspondence>]


15 harmony of both [<correspondence>]


Ch 3 Beauty


16 a well colored and shaded globe Transcendentalism


Ch 5 Discipline

[17] . . . every natural process is a version of a moral sentence. The moral law lies at the centre of nature and radiates to the circumference.  Transcendentalism


17 What is a farm but a mute gospel?


17 catalogs


18 unity in variety [metaphysics]


ch 8 Prospects


19 highest reason


19 Empirical science is apt to cloud the sight, and, by the very knowledge of functions and processes, to bereave the student of the manly contemplation of the whole. [cf. 9]


19 a dream may let us deeper into the secret of nature than a hundred concerted experiments.


20 all thought of multitude is lost in a tranquil sense of unity


20 I cannot greatly honor minuteness in details, so long as there is no hint to explain the relation between things and thoughts [Realism > Romanticism?]


20 a certain occult recognition and sympathy in regard to the most unwieldly and eccentric forms of beast, fish, and insect


"Man is one world, and hath another to attend him." [Romantic metaphysics: x-here & now implies another world; cf. religion]


draws men to science, but the end is lost sight of in attention to the means


22 man = god in ruins


23 understanding alone [cf. mechanics]


24 darkness, gleams of a better light


24 reason as well as understanding


24 a power which exists not in time or space, but an instantaneous in-streaming causing power.


25 restoring to the world original and eternal beauty, is solved by the redemption of the soul.


25 Kindle science with the fire of the holiest affections, then will God go forth anew into the creation.


26 see miraculous in common


26 the real higher law Transcendentalism


27 the world exists for you


28 Build, therefore, your own world.


28 So fast will disagreeable appearances, swine, spiders, snakes, pests, madhouses, prisons, enemies, vanish; they are temporary and shall be no more seen. The sordor and filths of nature, the sun shall dry up, and the wind exhale.

[Realism > Romanticism?]