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2. Language

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about Romanticism’s reflections on language, focusing in particular on: (i) the interest in the origin and character of language in the 18th century, especially the work of John Locke; (ii) the view of poets such as Alexander Pope and John Dryden that poetry should be composed in language that was elevated, cultured, refined, etc.; (iii) Wordsworth’s reaction against this view, and his idea that poetry should be composed in the same kind of language as was used in ordinary speech; and (iv) Shelley’s belief in the importance of poetry as a means of renewing and refreshing language.


In this twelve-part course, Dr Ross Wilson (University of Cambridge) explores Romanticism, the literary movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the eighteenth century. In the first module, we think about the question of genre in Romantic poetry. In the second, we think about poetic language. In the third, we explore the theme of emotions, sensations and feelings in Romantic poetry before turning in the fourth to the concepts of ‘poetry’ and ‘the poet’. In the fifth module we think about the important concept of the sublime in Romantic poetry before moving on in the sixth to consider the presentation of nature more generally. In the seventh module, we think about the presentation of the supernatural in the poetry of the Romantic period, while in the eighth we consider the political context in which the poetry of the Romantic period was being written. In the ninth module, we think about the idea of the Romantic canon, before turning in the tenth to the manifestation of Romanticism in other media, including architecture, painting, music and theatre. Finally, in the eleventh and twelfth modules, we turn to some more recent criticism of Romanticism, looking first at the twentieth century, and then at the twenty-first.


Ross Wilson was born in Salford and brought up in north Manchester, where he attended Philips High School and Bury College. He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and University College London before completing his doctorate at Cambridge in 2004. He held a Research Fellowship at Emmanuel (2004-7) and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in the Faculty of English, Cambridge (2007-9) before being appointed to a lectureship in Literature in the School of Literature, Drama, and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2009. He returned to Cambridge in 2013 as Lecturer in Criticism in the Faculty of English and took up a fellowship at Trinity College. He is editor of Romantic Circles Reviews & Receptions and very occasionally tweets @RossWilso . In 2015-16 he is the Crausaz Wordsworth Fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Wilson, R. (2019, February 12). Romanticism - Language [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Wilson, R. "Romanticism – Language." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Feb 2019,

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