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Reading Romantic Poetry

ISBN: 978-1-4051-9155-5
248 pages
May 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Reading Romantic Poetry (1405191554) cover image


Reading Romantic Poetry introduces the major themes and preoccupations, and the key poems and players of a period convulsed by revolution, prolonged warfare and political crisis.
  • Provides a clear, lively introduction to Romantic Poetry, backed by academic research and marked by its accessibility to students with little prior experience of poetry
  • Introduces many of the major topics of the age, from politics to publishing, from slavery to sociability, from Milton to the mind of man
  • Encourages direct responses to poems by opening up different aspects of the literature and fresh approaches to reading
  • Discusses the poets' own reading and experience of being read, as well as analysis of the sounds of key poems and the look of the poem on the page
  • Deepens understanding of poems through awareness of their literary, historical, political and personal contexts
  • Includes the major poets of the period, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Burns and Clare —as well as a host of less familiar writers, including women
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Table of Contents


Chapter One: The Pleasures of Poetry.

Painful Pleasures.

Public and Private.

Chapter Two: Solitude and Sociability.

Romantic Solitude.

The Romantic Resistance to Solitude.

Public and Private Friendships of Poets.

Friendships Tested and Trie.

Chapter Three: Common C.ncerns and Cultural Connections.

Common Causes: The Abolition.

Common Culture: Romantic Rainbows.

Chapter Four: Traditions and Transformations: Poets as Readers.

The Sonnet Revival.

Paradise Lost.

Native Traditions.

Chapter Five: Reading or Listening? Romantic Voices.

The Language of Conversation: Lyrical Ballads.

Oral and Rural.

Standard English and the Freedom of Speech.

Chapter Six: Sweet Sounds.

Romantic Nightingales.

Hidden Birds that Sing.

Sound and Sense.

Chapter Seven: Poems on Pages.

Romantic Poets: Then and Now.

Illuminated Books.

From Vision to Volume.

Christabel, and Other Poems, 1816.

Reading according to Composition or Publication?


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Author Information

Fiona Stafford is Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford. She has published on a wide range of Romantic literature, and is especially interested in the literary relationships between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Her most recent work, Local Attachments: The Province of Poetry, explores the vital connection between poetry and place from the Romantic period to the present day.  She has also edited novels by Jane Austen and Mary Shelley and is the author of Brief Lives: Jane Austen.    

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“There are gems of insight on every page of this engaging and clarifying book, which opens up familiar and unfamiliar poems to considerations of verbal texture just as much as it reveals them in their cultural and political contexts. Stafford’s Reading Romantic Poetryteaches as much by example as by precept. This is how to read Romantic poetry and it is, as such, an ideal introduction to the period’s literary culture as a whole.”  (The BARS Review, 1 October 2014)

"These engagements with the nature of poetry are no mystical celebration of a mysterious power—on the contrary: by focusing on specific attempts Professor Stafford underlines the demystifying facet of these poems which lay bare their own artifice to their readers." (Cercles, 1 December 2012)

"An excellent, well-written resource for those interested in Romantic poetry … Stafford brings a new sensibility and fresh eye to the subject ... Highly recommended." (Choice, 1 October 2012)

"This is an extremely accomplished, elegant and wide-ranging account of Romantic poetry. The readings of poems are astute and helpful, and the author writes with the tact and good sense of a first-rate appreciative critic, able to bring out the larger implications of details. Foregrounds blend effortlessly with backgrounds; texts and contexts coexist harmoniously and stimulatingly. Fiona Stafford has produced a splendid volume which anyone teaching Romantic poetry would want to read and want their students to read."
Michael O'Neill, Durham University

“A wonderful introduction to the subject by one of Britain's foremost readers and critics of Romantic poetry. Stafford is infinitely sensitive to the poems themselves, but also shows the importance of historical contexts. An excellent study.”
Jon Mee, University of Warwick

“A brilliantly informative guide that pinpoints the essential qualities of Romantic verse. With its emphasis on the pleasures of poetry, the artistic inventiveness and intellectual ambition of Romantic writers, and the challenging cultural conditions in which they worked, this is the perfect introduction to Romantic poetry, unmatched in its breadth of reference and critical sensitivity.”
David Duff, University of Aberdeen

"A pleasure to read - this is an engaging, sensitive and wide-ranging study. There is a real relish here for poetry - a delight in its forms and voices, sounds and rhythms. A wonderful guide to Romantic poetry, offering a rich appreciation of its historical engagements, pleasures and possibilities."
Dr Mina Gorji, University of Cambridge

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