LS 819 Landscape, Politics and Poetry: English Romantics In Switzerland and Italy

Summer 2003  |  Summer Travel Study  |  Dr. Stephen Duguid
A Simon Fraser University/Graduate Liberal Studies Travel-Study course


In the 18th century Switzerland and Italy were the primary destinations for English and European travelers seeking culture, the sublime, breadth and a taste of antiquity. Italy was also a site of plunder, the source of decorative additions to great estates from Manchester to Berlin. Switzerland was at the same time the birthplace and spiritual if not literal home of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose literary and political writing in the latter decades of the 18th century made a decisive contribution to the emergence of a politicized romanticism in England, France and Germany. Among the English, this influence was felt in the work of Godwin, Wollstonecraft, Hume, and Wordsworth, but the most interesting connections are with the next generation of Romantics, particularly the Shelleys and Byron. In this course we will begin at the shores of Lac Leman where Byron and the Shelleys began their last great Continental adventure and follow them across the Alps to Venice, to the valley of the Arno and to Rome. Along the way we will read selections from their poetry and attempt to discover for ourselves their sense of connection between poetry, landscape and politics.


Pre-Departure Classes

During April and early May 2003, we will have four pre-departure seminars, giving us an opportunity to review some of the key events and personalities that contributed to the development of Romanticism. Of special importance here are the increasing interest in classicism, the influence of Rousseau and the French Revolution, and the rise of radicalism in England with its attendant repression during the Napoleonic period.

Since we aim to ‘travel light’, you will be encouraged to read recommended biographies of Rousseau, the Shelleys and Byron before we depart. A course reader will be made available which will contain all the materials necessary to conduct our seminars while on the road.

Course Requirements

Each person on the trip will lead us in a discussion of one of the readings. These seminars will generally be held in the afternoon or evening and last about two hours. Most of the seminars are based on the poetry or other writings of the major figures we are studying.

Those travelers taking the course for credit will complete a written project, the nature of which is to be negotiated. The completed project is not due until we return to Canada.


Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Julie, Or the New Heloise: Letters of Two Lovers Who Live in a Small Town at the Foot of the Alps, (University Press of New England, 1997)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Reveries of a Solitary Walker, (Penguin)

Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Penguin)

Course Reader