Wordsworth Free Online Course – Week 1

These four posts will be a summary of the Futurelearn free course, William Wordsworth, Poetry, People and Place.

All of the course content is online and is a really good way to turn an interest into something more.


1.1 [Video]
A short introduction video from the university of Lancaster explaining the basics of the course, what it will cover, and what you would expect to learn from the course.

There is a breakdown of what the 4 weeks would cover;

•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

As ever with Futurelearn courses, you can work through these at your own pace which is a great option. However, there are many discussions that take place on the content of the course and, if you rush through or, alternatively, take too long, you may find that the impetus of many of the discussions has fallen away.

1.2 [Article]
Here, we meet our tutors;

Professor Simon Bainbridge, an author of many Poetry and Romanticism books.
Professor Sally Bushell, who’s area of expertise is inthe field of British Romanticism
Professor Sharon Ruston, who is working on the relations between literature, science and medicine of the Romantic period

1.3 [Video]
There is another short video which discussed Wordsworth’s life and talks about the collaborative work with Samuel Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads. It also mentions Romanticism as being a renewed interest in the natural world and the impact this has on the feelings of the individual. We are also introduced to Dorothy, William’s sister.

1.4 [Video]
Via another video, we are introduced to the Wordsworth Trust’s Jerwood Centre. This centre holds the archive of many of Wordsworth’s works. From the video, we can see it has a tremendous reading room that includes many first editions, manuscripts and also a watercolour collection (from other famous artists). Not surprising it has approximately 50,000 visitors a year!

The video goes on to show us examples of Wordsworth’s manuscripts which is a wonderful insight into how Wordsworth may have worked. We also see a first edition of Lyrical Ballads (1798) which, whilst looking so plain and un-important, is treated with extreme care – unfortunately, the book cannot even be opened!

1.5 [Quiz]
The all important quiz. Did I get them all right? Of course I did!

1.6 [Video]
This section has a video that covers the key priniciples of ‘Preface’ to Lyrical Ballads. The video focuses on the four main ideas contained in ‘Preface’, that is; definition of the role of the poet, poetry was for everyone, to write poetry in ordinary speech, and that poetry should be a spontaneous outpouring of feelings.

1.7 [Article]
Here we are asked to read the four specific extracts from 1.6 and then write what our own thoughts are on what Wordsworth was trying to say.

1.8 [Article]
This is an article discussing close reading and what are the main points we should, as readers of poetry, be looking for when analysing a poem. Areas discussed are Tone, Mood, Structure, Form etc.

1.9 [Video]
This is a video reading of The Tables Turned by Wordsworth. We’re also asked to think about the poem and to discuss some of its meanings and the message that is being portrayed.

1.10 [Video]
This video covers Professor Simon Bainbridge’s own thoughts and analysis on the poem.

1.11 [Video]
A video on how to read and interpret manuscripts.  Amazingly, in early history, we are told that the original manuscripts were destroyed once the work was published.  However, the Romanticism period was all about how the poet themselves were affected by their work, so many of Wordsworth’s manuscripts still exist – these have now been digitised and we can see them for ourselves in most university libraries. Also I never knew the right hand page is called the recto, and the left hand page is called the verso.

1.12 [Quiz]
quiz time! Only got one wrong and that was because the icons turned from circles to squares, which led me to think it needed more than one answer (it didn’t)

1.13 [Video]
Another video, this one introduces us to the poem, Old Man Travelling. I really enjoyed this poem and, haven’t heard it before, felt somewhat sad at the ending.

1.14 [Discussion]
Some reflective questions about the Old Man Travelling.

1.15 [Video]
A video that discusses the manuscript for Old Man Travelling and we find a surprising fact about the final six lines in the poem. Through attachments, we also get the ability to print off and make our own manuscript.

1.16 [Video]
Summing up. The tutors discuss the summary of week1; how enthusiastic how students have been and also higlight some of the brief topics that have been discussed. Unfortunately, the sound cut out after about two minutes of the seventeen minute video so I had to read the transcript for the rest of it. Interestingly, from what I read, it seems Wordsworth is a bit like Marmite – you either like him or you hate him.  Personally, I like him and am looking foward to week 2.

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