What you will study
This module develops your knowledge and skills across seven arts disciplines, building on those introduced at OU level 1 and preparing for further interdisciplinary or discipline-based study at OU level 3. You will study some of the great works of European art, music and literature, and other original and thought-provoking works produced across a period which marks the advent of the modern world. All of these works are placed clearly within their historical context.
From around 1780, as your texts will show, the mainstream European Enlightenment, with its emphasis on empiricism, scientific observation and neoclassicism in art and literature, gave way to a dawning Romanticism, driven by very different impulses. Romantic sympathies included a far greater receptiveness to emotion, imagination and nature; the cult of the individual, especially the artist, the 'genius' and the hero; the foreign and the exotic. But this revolutionary shift was not automatic or uniform, and, as you will discover, many of your texts reflect aspects of both Romanticism and Enlightenment.
To assist your study there are 32 units of published teaching material, supplemented by DVDs, audio CDs and two CD-ROMs. (Use of the CD-ROMs is strongly encouraged. However, their use is not compulsory: alternative materials are provided and module assignments will be set in such a way that they will be equally accessible to students not using the CD-ROMs.) The purpose of the teaching material is to assist your learning, to set the texts in context, and open up, comment on and explore them in depth, with exercises designed to help you engage actively with the texts: in short, to develop your understanding and enjoyment of them.
The units are divided into seven blocks, corresponding to seven basic themes:
Block 1, Death of the Old Regime?, is preceded by a Module Introduction which outlines and illustrates the characteristics of the Enlightenment c.1740–80 and explores how it led into Romanticism. Your first texts consist of works rooted in the Enlightenment which appear to challenge the social and religious status quo and perhaps the Enlightenment itself: Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni and writings on religion and morals by Hume, Rousseau and Sade. Unit 6 introduces you to the main facts and broad implications of the French Revolution, the crucial historical watershed of the period.
Block 2, The Napoleonic Phenomenon, will critically consider, through his biography by Stendhal and other contemporary documents, Napoleon as Europe’s indisputable dominating figure in the period, a moderniser rooted in the Enlightenment mindset yet a charismatic hero and icon of Romanticism. The block then explores the different ways in which artists such as Gros and David depicted Napoleon’s elusive and changing, but always dramatic, public persona.
Block 3, Religion, Exploration and Slavery, offers examples of verse and prose reflecting the religious revival in England by John Newton, William Cowper and William Wilberforce, prime movers in the spread of evangelicalism as well as in the campaign to abolish slavery. The focus then shifts to a classic text of exploration, Mungo Park’s Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa, followed by writings by victims of the slave trade, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, Robert Wedderburn and Mary Prince.
Block 4, Industry and Changing Landscapes, will consider the growing attraction of the Lake District through the writings of Thomas West, William Gilpin, Uvedale Price, William Wordsworth, and the paintings of Constable and Turner. You will examine notions of the sublime and the picturesque theorised by Burke and others and the appropriation of these notions by a burgeoning tourist industry. The tension between idealised, tourist representations and more pragmatic attitudes will be explored in the units on the model community established at New Lanark in Scotland by the social reformer and industrialist Robert Owen, and his progressive ideas on working conditions in A New View of Society.
Block 5, Davy and Soane: New Approaches to Science and Architecture, examines the social and political context of science through the work of Humphry Davy and the writings of Mrs Marcet which greatly popularised scientific experimentation. You will then go on to study the eclectic architect John Soane, by exploring his extraordinary treasure-house of art and sculpture, now the Soane Museum, London. Two associated CD-ROMs provide an innovative way of studying some of the material associated with Davy and Soane.
Block 6, New Conceptions of Art and the Artist, 'contains the conceptual heart of the module'. Here you will study the fundamental shift in the conception of aesthetic experience expressed in some key German texts. You will then encounter three acknowledged masterpieces of the period: Goethe’s classic verse-drama Faust Part One, a selection of Schubert’s songs in the form of musical settings of poems by Goethe; and Byron’s narrative poem Childe Harold, Canto III.
Block 7, The Exotic and the Oriental, will focus on the exotic and oriental aspects of Romanticism through study of the Regency pleasure-palace, Brighton Pavilion, and related texts, and the art of Delacroix. The block ends with a Module Conclusion, designed to help your revision and to prompt some overall thoughts about the shift from Enlightenment to Romanticism.
The module will enable you to develop your knowledge and skills across most of the disciplines studied in the Arts Faculty: the texts include poems, historical documents, paintings, two remarkable buildings, a verse drama, an opera and much else.
For further information on this module visit the A207 website.