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From Enlightenment to Romanticism c.1780-1830

This interdisciplinary module is designed to give you a critical understanding of this crucially formative period in modern European history. At its heart is a range of European texts associated with the epoch-making transition from Enlightenment to Romanticism. The texts include music, philosophical and scientific writings, historical documents, poetry, paintings and architecture by figures as diverse as Mozart, Rousseau, Davy, Byron, Goethe, Schubert and Delacroix – and topics as varied as Napoleon, the French Revolution, religious revival, African exploration and slavery, the Lake District, New Lanark, the Soane Museum and Brighton Pavilion.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
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Entry requirements
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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

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015 when it will be available for the final time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module and builds on the OU level 1 modules The arts past and present (AA100), Voices, texts and material culture (A105). These OU level 1 modules develop skills such as logical thinking, clear expression, essay writing and the ability to select and interpret relevant materials. They also offer an introduction to a range of subjects in the arts and humanities.

If you have not studied at university level before, you are strongly advised to study at OU level 1 before progressing to OU level 2 study.

Your regional or national centre will be able to tell you where you can see reference copies of OU level 1 study materials, or you can buy selected materials from Open University Worldwide Ltd.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

You may like to consult one or more of the following books:

  • An easy popular introduction to the subject is Duncan Heath and Judy Boreham, Introducing Romanticism, Icon Books, 2005. 
  • Norman Hampson, The First European Revolution, 1776-1815, Thames & Hudson, 1969 (1979 reprint) is a general historical survey with some attention to culture. 
  • Franklin L. Ford, Europe 1780–1830, Longman, 1989 and Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789–184, Abacus, 1988 are history textbooks which include some coverage of cultural trends. 
  • William Vaughan, Romanticism and Art, Thames & Hudson, 1978, provides clear coverage of the subject with lavish illustrations. 

Other recommended books are Hugh Honour, Romanticism, Penguin, 1991, and Marilyn Butler, Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries, Oxford, 1981. 

A DVD of Mozart’s Don Giovanni is provided with your study material. Stendhal's A Life of Napoleon will also be provided with your study material (see below), but is available at £16.99 in an edition published by the Davenant Press in October 2003, PO Box 323, Burford, Oxon OX18 4XN, with whom orders may be placed (Fax 01993 824129, email 

(Once you have decided to take this module, you may well want to acquire the set books as soon as possible. Please note, however, that if you do purchase items also supplied free of charge as part of the study material or at a discount through Eddington Hook, no exchange or refund is offered for a copy which you may have purchased independently.)


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

October 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 04/08/2015.

What's included

Books (seven books of module units); Stendhal, A Life of Napoleon, translated by Roland Gant, edited by A. Lentin; other printed materials; DVDs (including a full production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni), audio CDs, two CD-ROMs.

You will need

You will need a television; DVD player; audio CD player.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available. For this module you will also need to install software provided by the OU on a disk or USB stick.

A Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system is suitable for this module. You will be required to install Microsoft Windows specific software.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Donnachie, I. & Lavin, C. (eds) From Enlightenment to Romanticism Anthology I Manchester University Press £14.99 - ISBN 9780719066719
  • Goethe Faust Oberon Books £9.99 - ISBN 9781870259118
  • Park, M. Travels in the Interior of Africa Wordsworth Editions £3.99 - ISBN 9781840226010
  • Lavin, C. & Donnachie, I. (eds) From Enlightenment to Romanticism Anthology II Manchester University Press £14.99 - ISBN 9780719066733

If you have a disability

Written transcripts are available for the audio-visual material. The written study material is available in comb-bound format. The printed study materials are available in the DAISY Digital Talking Book format. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.