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William Wordsworth: Course Introduction

Welcome to ‘William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place’. This short video will introduce you to the course. It is filmed outside Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s home in Grasmere in the English Lake District. Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage from 1799-1808 and it is where he wrote much of his greatest poetry, examples of which we will be studying on this course.
Welcome to Grasmere in the English Lake District, and to this online course, William Wordsworth, Poetry, People, and Place. I’m Professor Simon Bainbridge. And I’m the lead educator for the course, a unique collaboration between Lancaster University and the Wordsworth Trust. At Lancaster, we have a distinguished team of professors of Romanticism, all of whom will be contributing to the course. The Wordsworth Trust, which is an independent charity based here at Grasmere, looks after the poet’s historic house, Dove Cottage, as well as preserving a very important collection of his manuscripts. So this course seeks to bring together the Trust’s major resources and Lancaster University’s academic expertise to create a very special online learning experience.
This is Dove Cottage, which was home to William Wordsworth from 1799 to 1808. It was here, in this cottage and the surrounding area, that Wordsworth wrote and set much of his greatest poetry. One aim of this course is to help you understand just how important this area was for Wordsworth’s writing. And in the coming weeks, we’ll be visiting the key poetic locations, the places where he wrote the poetry, and the landscapes that he wrote about. The Wordsworth Trust site here at Grasmere is also very special, because it includes the Jerwood Centre here, where Wordsworth’s own manuscripts are kept, along with his library and a number of his possessions. For this MOOC, we’ve been given full access to this extraordinary collection.
And this enables us to carry out the second main aim of this course, which is to use Wordsworth’s actual manuscripts to study and to think about how he wrote his poetry. Throughout the course, we’ll be looking at these manuscripts. And we’ll be joined by Jeff Cowton, the Trust’s curator. Jeff will introduce us to the treasures of the collection and help us understand the processes by which Wordsworth produced some of the most enduring poems and collections in English literature. This MOOC is designed for people with all levels of understanding of Wordsworth’s works. We don’t require or expect you to have any knowledge of the poems.
And if that is your position, we hope that the course will serve as an enjoyable introduction to one of the greatest poets in English literature. If you’re already familiar with Wordsworth, we hope that the course will enhance your knowledge and appreciation of his wonderful writing, particularly by enabling you to study his poems in relation to place, and by making it possible for you to examine and interpret the manuscripts. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be studying particular poems or collections by Wordsworth, with reference to these two themes of the importance of location and the process of writing.
This week, we’ll be introducing the archive collection and considering one of the most significant volumes of poems in English literature, Lyrical Ballads, which Wordsworth wrote with his friend and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Next week, I’ll be looking at the themes of childhood and memory in Wordsworth’s great autobiographical poem, The Prelude. In Week 3, Professor Sally Bushell, one of the world’s leading experts on Wordsworth and his manuscripts, will focus on the poem “Michael” from Lyrical Ballads. Sally will tell us how Wordsworth wrote the poem, and explain the importance of its setting in Greenhead Gill, just up the valley from here.
Then in Week 4, we’ll be examining the importance of community and the sense of home that was created here at Dove Cottage. We’ll be joined by Kate Ingle, a postgraduate in our department and by Professor Sharon Ruston, a major scholar of Romanticism. Sharon will introduce us to the figure of Dorothy Wordsworth, the poet’s sister and an important writer herself. Dorothy’s letters and journals describe this area and the daily life lived here in great detail. As a team we have considerable experience of researching and teaching the writings of William and Dorothy both at Lancaster University and on site here in Grasmere.
For more than a decade, we’ve been bringing our own students up here from Lancaster on residential field trips, enabling them to study the poetry on location and to examine the great manuscripts of the poems themselves. In this course, we’re aiming to produce an online version of this very special learning experience. So join us here in Grasmere as we explore the work of one of Britain’s greatest poets, William Wordsworth.

Welcome to ‘William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place’. This short video will introduce you to the course. It is filmed outside Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s home in Grasmere in the English Lake District. Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage from 1799-1808 and it is where he wrote much of his greatest poetry, examples of which we will be studying on this course.

William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place

You are not required to have any knowledge of Wordsworth or his poetry at this stage. If you decide to enroll on the course, we will introduce you to all the poems we are going to study and provide you with copies of the texts. You may, of course, also want to make use of your own edition of Wordsworth’s writing. As we think it is important to hear poetry aloud, the course includes readings by Professor Keith Hanley and readings from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal by Dr Jenn Ashworth, from Lancaster University.

We recommend the following editions of Wordsworth’s work:

William Wordsworth, The Major Works, edited by Stephen Gill (Oxford University Press, 2008).

William Wordsworth, The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850, edited by Jonathan Wordsworth, M.H. Abrams and Stephen Gill (W.W. Norton and Company, 1979).

During the four week course, our students will encounter a range of study materials, including video talks and interviews with experts, readings, discussions, peer-review activities and quizzes. Many of our videos are filmed on location in and around Grasmere and also in the Jerwood Centre, the archive of the Wordsworth Trust that preserves the poet’s manuscripts.

The course is designed to give you a strong sense of the importance of place for Wordsworth’s writing and to introduce you to how he wrote his poetry.

The topics for the four week course are as follows:

  • Week 1: Introducing Wordsworth and Lyrical Ballads
  • Week 2: ‘Spots of Time’: Childhood, Education and Memory in The Prelude
  • Week 3: ‘Michael’: Wordsworth and the Importance of Place
  • Week 4: William and Dorothy Wordsworth in and around Grasmere

These weeks are designed to make the most of our chosen video location in Grasmere and our special access to the Jerwood Centre. They also draw on the research and curatorial expertise of the staff at Lancaster University and the Wordsworth Centre.

You will be able to work through the materials at your own pace and we encourage you to contribute to the discussions and other activities. You will notice that each step within a week is identified by the type of content contained within (such as video, article and so on). Each ‘step’, regardless of the specific type of content, contains a comment button that you are also encouraged to use in order to create conversation around the items. For content marked as ‘article’, there are often a number of open questions contained in the text, where you can use the comment tool as a method for responding.

New Feature: tagging your comments

Learning together is a strength of learning online with a large number of peers, but it will be impossible to read all the comments which interest you, so we have developed an interactive search tool to help you discover new conversations.

In order to make this tool sort through comments effectively, we ask that you #hashtag important words in your comments. For example if your comment is about #women in #wordsworthfamily or specifically aboout #grasmere or #lyricalballads you may wish to add these as tags. Here are some more tags you may wish to use: #william #dorothy #michael #prelude #dovecottage #history #poetry (etc.) – Feel free to make up your own tags or copy other people’s tags too, but ensure they are a single word (with no spaces). Be creative!!

After you have worked though a step, it’s a good idea to click the ‘mark as complete’ button, as this will allow you to track your progress through the materials.

It may be useful now to pause for a moment and think about what you may want to achieve from doing this course and feel free to apply when you are ready

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William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place

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