ENGL439K - Spotlight on Major Writers; Two Madmen: William Cowper (d.1800) & John Ruskin (d. 1900)
This class is based two madmen writers: The first, who died in 1800, is William Cowper (born 1731; name pronounced as "Cooper").
He was a major poet, but a serial madman and religious fanatic who often imagined he was going straight to hell. The rest of the time he was the foremost poet of pastoral life in England, its wildlife and plants, its green and pleasant land. He is also the subject of the second-best literary biography ever written, THE STRICKEN DEER, by Lord David Cecil (1929). (BTW, the first is Boswell's LIFE OF DOCTOR JOHNSON, 1791.) Cowper was perhaps the last Enlightenment poet, about to be swallowed whole by the Romantic tsunami.
The second madman, who died exactly a century later, was John Ruskin (1819-1900), a copious prose writer (whose collected works run to 19 volumes in the official Cook & Wedderburn standard edition), philosopher and historian of art, co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, booster of the art of JMW Turner, architectural critic, social reformer, European traveler and cultural historian, geologist, artist, pioneer of working-men's education, and autobiographer. We shall read his autobiography, Praeterita (1889). Ruskin is often called The Last Romantic. Three exams, 30 pages of writing, one in-class presentation, and attendance at a professional play in D.C. or Baltimore are required.
0101 - Michael Olmert
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