Read the entire “Don’t Go to Art School” series:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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For year three of our Nearly-Free English Degree, we’ll be covering the Romantic through Post-Colonial times.

schoolEach “course” below is worth one credit. You’ll need to pick three of them, from at least two of the groups, and then pick three electives. One of these other electives can be another literature class from any of the categories for any year, but two of them should be non-English courses from the selections I’ll give you once we’ve covered the English ones.

For each course, you’ll follow the same work pattern: Consult Wikipedia for the “lecture” before you read each book, and then do the reading, using the study techniques you developed in year one (Quiller-Couch’s methods or the highly recommended notebook-based self-study techniques used in the recommended but non-free Bauer title).

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GROUP 1: Romantic Period

Romantic Poetryschool
“The Norton Anthology” lists a lovely selection here. The major poets included are:

• William Blake
 Percy Bysshe Shelley
• Samuel Taylor Coleridge
• Anna Letitia Barbauld
• Robert Burns
• Thomas de Quincey
• George Gordon, Lord Byron
• William Hazlitt
• John Keatsschool
• Charles Lamb
• Walter Savage Landor
• William Wordsworth

GROUP 2: Victorian Period

Victorian Literature 1: Studies in Dickens

Part 1: Introductory Criticism

 Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens by G.K. Chesterton

Part 2: Selected Shorter Works

 A Christmas Carol
 Some Christmas Storiesschool
 Three Ghost Stories
 Poems and Verses
 Speeches, Literary and Social

Part 3: Great Novels (choose three)

 A Tale of Two Cities
 Great Expectations
 David Copperfield
 Oliver Twist
 The Old Curiosity Shop
 Dombey and Son

Victorian Literature 2: Victorian Poetry

 Victorian Songs by Various Authorsschool
 Browning’s Shorter Poems by Robert Browning
 Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
 The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
 Idylls of the Kings by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Victorian Literature 3: Popular Novels of the Victorian Era

 Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
 The Warden by Anthony Trollope
 The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
 Middlemarch by George Eliot
 North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
 Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

GROUP 3: Post-Colonial Period

Post-Colonial Literature 1: Early Canadian Authors

 Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie
 The Backwoods of Canada by Catherine Parr Trail
 Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
 The Imperialist by Sara Jeannette Duncan
 Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock
 Pilgrims of the Wild by Grey Owl (PG Canada)
 The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses by Robert W. Service (PG Canada)
 In Flanders Fields and Other Poems by John McRae

Post-Colonial Literature 2: Early American Authors

 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
 The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon by Washington Irving
 The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
 The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
 Walden by Henry David Thoreau
 The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Post-Colonial Literature 3: American Slave Narratives

 Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
 Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet A. Jacobs
 The Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Sojourner Truth
 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
 Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington
 Slave Narratives: A Folk History (multiple volumes)

Coming next: Year Four! Literary Theory and studies in special topics


  1. Frank—here is your answer, from Part 1 of the series: “Don’t get me wrong: I do still think the humanities have value. But I think that what they don’t have any longer is exclusivity. If you want to learn about art and literature, I don’t think you need someone with a PhD to teach it to you. So my advice to all my younger friends would be this: Get a degree in something practical. And study the arts yourself.”

  2. @Johanna, in Part I the topic was art school. Part II shifted from whether it is wise to go to art school or not to pursuing the “nearly free English degree,” Perhaps that should have been the “nearly free equivalent to a degree in English Literature.”
    I certainly agree with you that “If you want to learn about art and literature (or anything else), I don’t think you need someone with a PhD to teach it to you.” The one proviso is that you have already learned how to be a successful independent learner. This is the most important objective/outcome in compulsory K-12 education because it opens up all other possibilities.
    However, making a livelihood out of what you have learned requires convincing others that you have indeed acquired a recognizable collection of knowledge, understandings, skill and other attributes. A degree awarded by a reputable source achieves that end very efficiently if not perfectly.
    Another, more time consuming and effortful, way to become creditable is to build a portfolio of work that convincingly makes and substantiates the same assertion. In the visual arts, this is a path that is often chosen over seeking a degree from an art school. Even for those who do earn a degree from an art school, the hope and expectation is that the portfolio will eventually eclipse the importance of the degree in obtaining meaningful and remunerative work.
    Similar choices face the would be writer. Shall I enroll in a creative writing program and seek a Masters in Fine Arts degree or shall I set out on my own to establish a compelling portfolio of publications, awards, associations and so on? Staying alive and well while that happens is quite important.
    Unfortunately, it is no longer practical to take this path in the natural and social sciences. It must have been great to have been an aristocratic (self-financing) nineteenth century anthropologist, biologist or physicist.

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