The romantic poets and higher education.
Inaugural Professorial Lecture, UWE, Bristol, University of the West of England, Bristol, 16 November 2006.
Publisher's URL: http://www1.uwe.ac.uk/hlss/english/staff_r_jarvis_...
This inaugural professorial lecture begins by describing what it was like to be a student at Oxford or Cambridge – then the only universities in England – in the late eighteenth century, exploring contemporary debates on their failings and tracing the emergence of the modern “Idea” of the university. It then explores the early lives of the four major Romantic poets who went to university: William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron. The main argument is that Oxford and Cambridge, denounced in the period as backward, corrupt and unfit for purpose, nevertheless played an important part in the intellectual histories of all four poets, providing them with unlimited time and freedom to develop as individuals and allowing them to launch their literary careers. In showing how these four very different poets all benefited from the Oxbridge student experience, the lecture also suggests links between the apparently obscure and irrelevant world of late-Georgian higher education and modern debates on the nature and purpose of the university.
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