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The Lives and Works of the English Romantic Poets

Gain the tools to better understand and enjoy scores of the greatest poems ever written.
Lives and Works of the English Romantic Poets is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 41.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spot on This course was amazing and so educational. Always curious about these poets and what made they them so unique and brilliant. Now I know. The professor was brilliant and made the poems come to life for me. So amazing and what a scholar. His poetry readings were so moving. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Date published: 2022-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderfully fascinating and highly informative I always enjoy learning more about a subject I already love and this course set of lectures on the Poets of the Romantic era and their lives was absolutely eye-opening for me with a lot of insight into many of the poems written by the various poets. That said, I do wish there was more devoted to the female poets of the Romantic era. Hmm, there's a possible future Course topic to consider. If one enjoys all kinds of literature, especially poetry and history, and biographies, this has it all rolled into one. If that's of interest to one, I'd highly recommend this course for them. It's a great audio course.
Date published: 2022-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tips for getting the most from this course Spiegelman is a superb teacher. One genuinely learns a lot about the six major Romanticist English poets and their poetry in the course. To get the most from this course, do read the selections after listening to each lecture/section on a particular poet. Harold Bloom's anthology (1961) English Romantic Poetry is an excellent complement to this coursebook. The poetry can get a bit tedious at times. (I agree with Poe's line that Spiegelman quoted that poems should be short.) Don't rush through it. Take a break from the course and pick it up again. You will enjoy it less if you try to rush through it, complete it for the sake of completing it.
Date published: 2021-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Lectures The Professor is great and has created pleasurable lectures that are wonderful to listen to. He makes poetry come alive.
Date published: 2021-09-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The content is good but the sound from my IPhone is not that clear. The problem is not my phone because I have audible books on it that are very clear,
Date published: 2021-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from SUPERB SUBJECT, SUPERB TEACHER I listened to this with some friends several years ago and we were enthralled. Yes, we love poetry, love literature, but the readings in this course made us remember what we knew about these immortal poets but much, much more. I enjoy most poetic forms, but have to admit the Romantic poets are my favorites. If you loved poetry in school years ago, and have memories of how much you enjoyed that subject, you will really enjoy this course. The teacher knows his subject so well.
Date published: 2021-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title described the contents of the course I remember enjoying the English romantic poets in high school English class. I purchased the course to relive those good times and reacquaint myself with the poets and what they offered the world. I was not disappointed. Professor Spiegelman provided historical, cultural, and biographical context as well as insights into genius of the poets as revealed in the selections. His knowledge of European poetry and poets and his masterful readings added much to my satisfaction.
Date published: 2020-05-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Big disappointment This is a fine example of a professor succeeding in making a fascinating subject boring. He has no ear for poetry at all. His recitation of "Kubla Khan" was particularly cringeworthy--he missed all the music, all the interplay of sounds. I soldiered on through the course until I got about halfway and then I couldn't take any more.
Date published: 2018-08-27
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With dazzling technique and beautiful language, the collected verse of English romantic poets continues to endure well over 100 years since it first appeared. This course provides you with tools to better understand and enjoy scores of the greatest poems ever written, including the works of six of the English Romantic Era’s greatest: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, and Byron.


Willard Spiegelman

Marilyn Monroe said she read poetry because it saves time. It also expands time and awareness, by using language in the most condensed, most suggestive ways.


Southern Methodist University

Dr. Willard Spiegelman is Duwain E. Hughes Jr. Distinguished Professor of English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He earned his A.B. degree from Williams College magna cum laude and with highest honors in English. He did graduate work at Harvard, where he held Woodrow Wilson and Danforth fellowships and earned an A.M. and a Ph.D.

Professor Spiegelman has won three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as major grants from the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations.

He has been twice named an “Outstanding Professor” at SMU, and all of his books have been named “best faculty publication” by the university. He is also the recipient of the Perrine Prize of Phi Beta Kappa for distinguished intellectual achievement.

Professor Spiegelman is the author of two books about the English Romantic poets: Wordsworth’s Heroes and Majestic Indolence: English Romantic Poetry and the Work of Art. He has also written The Didactic Muse: Scenes of Instruction in Contemporary American Poetry and dozens of scholarly articles on English and American poetry. He is a regular contributor to the “Leisure & Arts” page of The Wall Street Journal, and since 1984 he has been the editor-in chief of The Southwest Review, the country’s fourth-oldest, continuously published literary quarterly.

Romantic Beginnings

01: Romantic Beginnings

Standing in the shadow of Shakespeare and Milton, the Romantics would take the epic themes of the masters and try to recast them in their own voice, suited to their own times, to "make it new."

35 min
Wordsworth and the

02: Wordsworth and the "Lyrical Ballads"

Wordsworth's goal in Lyrical Ballads was to trace the "primary laws of our nature" by showing how the imagination colors ordinary experience in a state of excitement, and by using the "real language of men." The results, in "The Two April Mornings,"; "The Fountain," and "Nutting" are straightforward and simple, but sometimes these still waters run deep.

30 min
Life and Death, Past and Present

03: Life and Death, Past and Present

In his famous "Lucy" poems, Wordsworth's title character represents his view of mortality as part of a continuous and proper cycle. But the "still, sad music of humanity," as he calls it, also rings in the changes of age for one's very self. In "Tintern Abbey" and the "Intimations Ode," he asks what may be recovered of what time takes away.

32 min
Epic Ambitions and Autobiography

04: Epic Ambitions and Autobiography

The Prelude is an effort to plumb the depths of a single human psyche, and craft it into a model for a common human collective consciousness. It is also a search for the origins of consciousness. How, Wordsworth asks, does the boy become the man? In the mode of an almost Christian confessional, he searches through memories of joy, guilt, and fear for the answers.

30 min
Spots of Time and Poetic Growth

05: Spots of Time and Poetic Growth

In this second lecture on The Prelude, Dr. Spiegelman shows how Wordsworth locates the building blocks of a mature personality in what he calls "spots of time." These sublime experiences, usually connected with nature, carry him beyond himself to a love of the world, and from there to love of man. His completed epic on moral education through nature would influence great writers to come.

30 min
Coleridge and the Art of Conversation

06: Coleridge and the Art of Conversation

A brilliant talker, it is appropriate that Coleridge is known for his "conversation poems." "Conversation" has multiple meanings, referring to informal language, but also to connections; to discourse between individuals and similar relationships between man and nature. In "The Eolian Harp" and "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison," Coleridge first signals his belief in one common heart, shared by all living things.

30 min
Hell to Heaven via Purgatory

07: Hell to Heaven via Purgatory

Coleridge once wrote "I believe most steadfastly in Original Sin that from our mother's wombs our understandings are darkened...our organization is depraved, and our volitions imperfect." In "Cristabel," "Kubla Khan," and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," he explores these themes of fallibility in man, and the possibilities of redemption.

29 min
Rivals and Friends

08: Rivals and Friends

Although there is no doubt that Coleridge loved Wordsworth, he came to be plagued by the suspicion that his one-time student had surpassed him. Convinced of his own artistic impotence, he would write beautiful and troubling poems about his own fears and uncertainties.

31 min
William Blake—Eccentric Genius

09: William Blake—Eccentric Genius

If Blake was the most Christian of the Romantics, why did he toil in obscurity, so far outside the mainstream? Blake's rebellion was tied up with his Protestantism and his concern for humanity above hierarchy and authority. Yet his ironic satire of English society can easily go unnoticed by virtue of his Songs' apparent simplicity.

30 min
From Innocence to Experience

10: From Innocence to Experience

In The Songs of Experience, the veil has truly been torn away, the scales fallen from the eyes. In poems like "The Pretty Rose Tree," "The Garden of Love," and "Ah Sunflower," Blake takes such stable notions as the virtue of sexual fidelity, the value of organized religion, even the very concept of heaven, and complicates them.

31 min
Blake's Prophetic Books

11: Blake's Prophetic Books

Blake famously wrote "I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man's." In his Marriage of Heaven and Hell, The Four Zoas, and other prophetic books, he advances feminism, abolitionism and other refusals against the status quo in a grand, apocalyptic, and visionary voice.

30 min
Women Romantic Poets

12: Women Romantic Poets

One might expect that the popular Romantic verse of women, such as Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans, celebrated domestic virtues. One might be surprised by the pointed social commentary and wide ranging erudition that these women, writing under difficult circumstances, incorporated in their work.

30 min

13: "Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know"

An aristocrat and a rebel, an egotist who could laugh at himself, a seducer and a loner, Byron captivated all who knew him with the multiplicity of his character. The same variety marks his verse, deceptively difficult, but light and easy in its touch.

31 min
The Byronic Hero

14: The Byronic Hero

This lecture examines the dimensions, characteristics, and the longstanding appeal of the dark, brooding, melancholic, sexually alive, and magnetic creature we call the Byronic hero. As seen in Manfred and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, he is not of this world, nor of our species, but curiously above it.

30 min

15: "Don Juan"—A Comic Masterpiece

Don Juan is the showcase for Byron's forté in full-flower: the polysyllabic, improbable, almost gymnastic rhyme. Over the course of this meandering epic, he touches almost every aspect (psychological, emotional, and physical) of human love while making it all look easy.

30 min
Shelley and Romantic Lyricism

16: Shelley and Romantic Lyricism

Of all the poets, Shelley most invokes feelings of dualism. "Ozymandias" punctures the idea of human ambition, but acknowledges the permanence of passion. "To a Skylark" is skeptical that the poet can approach nature in its artistry, but marshals all its lyric force to do just that.

31 min
Shelley's Figures of Thought

17: Shelley's Figures of Thought

Shelley was a serious intellectual with philosophical interests. In "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" and "Mont Blanc," he is able to incorporate inquiries on the transcendence of truth and the nature of the divine into a poetic form.

30 min
Shelley and History

18: Shelley and History

That Shelley was a radical but not a revolutionary is no small distinction. In Hellas and other poems, Shelley yearns and hopes for progress, but is hard-headed about the limits of political solutions. Mere man, absent "mind-forged manacles," has the true power to free himself.

30 min
Shelley and Love

19: Shelley and Love

Shelley's own romantic exploits certainly leave him vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy and caddishness, but his poetry evokes a tremulous, elevated sexuality that transcends mere sensuousness. Never has erotic freedom enjoyed such a compelling poetic argument.

31 min
Keats and the Poetry of Aspiration

20: Keats and the Poetry of Aspiration

Keats's rapid ascent from apprenticeship to mastery seems fueled by an almost preternatural awareness of his mortality. His first masterpiece, "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer," displays one of the hallmarks of his work, an occupation with the inner realms of thought.

31 min
Keats and Ambition

21: Keats and Ambition

Keats was both thirsty for, and wary of fame. Resigned to providence in life as he would be in death, he felt poetic greatness must come naturally or not at all. In "On Fame" and other poems, he suggests that the fretting over the things of this world is eased both by escape from self-consciousness and revelry in it.

29 min
Keats and Eros

22: Keats and Eros

Keats is always concerned with the interrelations between sexuality and human imagination. In The Eve of St. Agnes, he employs language that engages every sense to serve the theme of sexual fulfillment. "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" reflects the darker, antithetical side of Eros.

31 min
Process, Ripeness, Fulfillment

23: Process, Ripeness, Fulfillment

In "Ode to A Nightingale" and "To Autumn," Keats locates the paradoxes of melancholy dwelling with beauty, and of true immortality dwelling within death. This moving lecture concludes with Keats embracing death with heroic equanimity.

30 min
The Persistence of Romanticism

24: The Persistence of Romanticism

Echoes of the English Romantics can be heard in popular music lyrics of the 20th century, including American rock n' roll, but their real legacy comes in the form of the English-language poets, especially in America, who have profited from them, responded to them, and reacted against them.

31 min