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[CANCELED] Crash Course on English Poetry – Lyrical Ballads

July 11, 2022 at 8:00 pm - July 15, 2022 at 9:00 pm EDT

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Join literary scholar and Interintellect editor Timothy Wilcox for a crash course on one of English poetry’s greatest and most influential works. For one week—five short evening salons—we will work through a few poems each day as a cozy summer retreat.

This is a five-day series of 1 hour salons—booked together in one price below. Each salon runs from 8 PM to 9 PM EDT.

A collaborative project by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads is a revolution in the world of poetry. Reading just a few poems each day, you will develop a strong understanding of this Romantic project with many memorable reading experiences along the way. Our readings are structured in conceptual groupings that will open up many of the core considerations of the work and contextualize the contributions of each poet.

No prior knowledge is required, though note that I am approaching this foremost as as a serious study of a particular poetic project, not an introduction to reading poems in general.

Please try to read through all the poems linked for each day. Wordsworth wrote that “Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.” At the start of the week, you will likely have many questions, but if Wordsworth and Coleridge are truly great, you should end the week with a taste for their poetry.


I include links to all poems we will read below. If you’d like to follow along with a book copy, there are good options from Oxford World’s Classics and Broadview Press. Note that the Penguin Classics edition of Lyrical Ballads is a reproduction of the original 1798 edition only, which is an excellent collection and a worthy object of study, but we will be reading from material added in 1800.

If you’d like to attend, but are a student or otherwise unable to pay, please contact tim@interintellect.com.

# Date Episode
1 Monday, July 11
Perhaps a Tale You’ll Make It

In his preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth warns that the reader will find few personifications of abstract ideas, for “in these Poems I propose to myself to imitate, and, as far as possible, to adopt the very language of men.” Against what expectation is Wordsworth writing and how does he pursue his poetic revolution? We start with the opening two poems of this second edition (“Expostulation and Reply” and “The Tables Turned”), a short poem on gossip (“The Thorn”), and a short poem which pleads for you to see past the lack of tale related (“Simon Lee, the old Huntsman”).

2 Tuesday, July 12
The Mariner Hath His Will

Though Wordsworth contributed the majority of poems and later preface to Lyrical Ballads, the work was a collaborative effort with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who contributed one of the book’s most famous poems: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Alongside Coleridge’s cursed, albatross-carrying mariner, we will also read another short Wordsworth poem. The young girl in “We Are Seven” lacks the mariner’s overt supernaturalism, but is perhaps just as cursed—and just as willful.

3 Wednesday, July 13
To Be a Jarring and a Dissonant Thing

Getting more into the work’s social concerns, Coleridge addresses in “The Dungeon” the impact of imprisonment on criminals, while Wordsworth in “The Old Cumberland Beggar” reacts to efforts to set the nation’s growing poor out of view, and in “Michael” to constraints on pastoral life. Expressing the value of natural scenes for which these poets are more widely known, these poems also demonstrate their deep perception of human concerns.

4 Thursday, July 14
The Touch of Earthly Years

Across several poems in Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth writes of a lost love figure he calls Lucy. Of these, we will read “She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways” and “A Slumber did my Spirit Seal.” Again in the spirit of this collaborative collection, however, we will couple these poems of loss with another Wordsworth poem on untimely death (“Animal Tranquillity and Decay”) and a more hopeful reframing by Coleridge in “The Nightingale.”

5 Friday, July 15
We See Into the Life of Things

Concluding both the first edition of Lyrical Ballads and the first volume of the second edition, “Lines written above Tintern Abbey” merges personal recollection with a poetically crucial desire for a better future for others. Near the start of Volume II, however, we return to untimely death—and echoing nature—with “There was a Boy.” Reading these poems side-by-side, we will gather our closing thoughts on Lyrical Ballads and where poetry goes from there.


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July 11, 2022 at 8:00 pm EDT
July 15, 2022 at 9:00 pm EDT
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