Jonathan Bate will explore the life and work of the original celebrity poet - Lord Byron. He will show how Byron was simultaneously a Romantic and an anti-Romantic, and how his influence spread to almost every corner of Europe, from the Russia of Pushkin to the Greek War of Independence.
The word Romanticism makes us think of mountain tops and stormy seas, but the younger generation of English Romantics (above all, John Keats) were Londoners through and through. They were even mocked as ‘the Cockney School of Poetry’. Jonathan Bate will track Keats to Hampstead and tell of the extraordinary circle of writers – opium-eater Thomas De Quincey, essayist Charles Lamb, master-critic William Hazlitt – who wrote for The London Magazine, until its gifted editor was killed in a duel with a rival critic.
When Daniel Defoe rode through the Lake District in the early 18th century, he described the area as ‘the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England.’ But for Victorians such as Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin, the Lakes offered a landscape of supreme beauty. How did this change come about? Jonathan Bate will follow in the footsteps of the 18th-century inventors of the ‘picturesque’ and show how Wordsworth shaped the vision of his native region, leading to the foundation of the National Trust and the idea of a National Park.
The Romantics invented the modern idea of childhood. In the third of his lectures on the rhetoric of Romanticism, Jonathan Bate will explore how they did so, with particular emphasis on the role of children in the poetry of Blake and Wordsworth. He will also show how Wordsworth's memory of his own childhood allowed him to invent something else as well: the art of poetic autobiography.
'The sense of a new style and a new spirit in poetry came over me', wrote William Hazlitt, recalling the day in 1798 when he heard William Wordsworth reading aloud from Lyrical Ballads, 'It partakes of, and is carried along with, the revolutionary movement of our age'.Jonathan Bate will explain what Hazlitt meant and why Lyrical Ballads, the product of Wordsworth's intimate friendship with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is one of the greatest and most influential volumes of poetry ever written.
The historian Isaiah Berlin described the Romanticism of the late 18th and early 19th centuries as 'the greatest single shift in the consciousness of the West that has occurred'. What is the justification for this claim, what do we mean by 'Romanticism' and when did it begin? In the first of a series of lectures on English Romanticism, Jonathan Bate will go on a journey from the Scottish Highlands to a teenage suicide in London to the Geneva of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in search of the origins of Romanticism.
Download the lecture video hereEver since classical antiquity, poets and playwrights have written about famous heroes and anti-heroes, lovers and politicians. But they have also yearned for posthumous fame themselves. How do they achieve it? This final lecture will show how Shakespeare helped to immortalize the famous figures of ancient Greece and Rome, and how he in turn became famous after his death – as the classics were to Shakespeare, so Shakespeare became a classic. He is our classic.
Download the lecture video hereWhere do the ghosts in Shakespeare come from? And what about the magic? In this lecture, Jonathan Bate will summon up the ghosts of Old Hamlet, the victims of Richard III and Julius Caesar, revealing their origins in the bloody plays of Seneca. He will then show how such figures from classical mythology as Theseus and Medea provide a key to the association between supernatural powers and Shakespearean art.
Download the lecture video hereIt is well known that Shakespeare lived in an age of monarchy and wrote powerfully in his English history plays about the duties of the sovereign. In this lecture, Jonathan Bate will tell another, forgotten story: of how Shakespeare was also fascinated by Roman political models, especially the theory of civic duties expounded by Cicero, who appears as a character in Julius Caesar. He will also show how Shakespeare looked to Horace for a model of the public role of the writer.
Download the lecture video hereWilliam Shakespeare made his name as a poet before he became famous as a playwright. His erotic poem Venus and Adonis was the most popular work of literature of the Elizabethan Age, while its dark companion piece The Rape of Lucrece set the mould for Shakespeare’s exploration of the tragic consequences of sexual desire turning to violence. Jonathan Bate will show how Shakespeare developed these themes from his reading of the great Roman poet Ovid.