The First Session of “Leading Lecture Series on Frontier Studies” of Zijingang Global Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies 2024 Successfully Held in Zhejiang University


On February 28, 2024, the first session of “Leading Lecture Series on Frontier Studies” of Zijingang Global Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies 2024, organized by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of World Literature of Zhejiang University, was held on Zijingang Campus, Zhejiang University. Marshall Brown, former editor of Modern Language Quarterly and Professor Emeritus of the University of Washington, delivered an enthralling lecture entitled “British and American Romanticism: A Brief Introduction”. The lecture was moderated by Professor YANG Gexin of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of World Literature and was attended by undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral students from the School of International Studies of Zhejiang University.

Professor Brown started the lecture by elucidating the historical context for the birth of Romanticism and its evolution, saying that American Declaration of Independence and Reform Act of Britain provided fertile intellectual ground for the emergence and development of Romanticism. He then elaborated on the poetic precepts of British-American Romantic poetry. For example, William Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads provoked thoughts among readers about poets and the nature of poetic language, as poetry is a dialogue among humanity. Percy Bysshe Shelly in his A Defence of Poetry, emphasized that poets are unrecognized legislators of the world, underscoring the irreplaceable significance of poetry in human society. It is not merely a literary work but also a profound insight and critique of the real world, an exploration and reflection on human life, morality, and culture. Subsequently, Professor Brown analyzed John Keats’ view of “Beauty is Truth” through Keats’ correspondence with Shelley and his Ode on a Grecian Urn. For Keats, beauty represents a noble ideal, and truth is the expression of this ideal. With vivid rhythm and cadence, Professor Brown read William Blake’s poem, Tyger, explaining how Blake empowered the tiger with different vitality in his poems. While discussing the poetic creations of Lord Byron and Alexander Pope, Professor Brown highlighted the need to ponder why humans are considered “human” rather than just a species, which is the profound insights Romantic poetry offers to humanity.

In the Q & A session, Professor Brown answered the questions concerning the human nature in Keats’ poetry and the artful integration of history and rhythm in his poems. He underscored it is our contemplation of nature that distinguishes us as a species beyond mere biological being. In the end, Professor YANG highlighted the importance of delving beyond the superficial categorization of British and American Romantic literature based on representative figures and ideas. Instead, he advocated a profound understanding of the cultural nuances behind these literary phenomena. He proposed “individualism” and “emotion” as pivotal terms for a dialectical interpretation of Romanticism.

The lecture was the first session of “Leading Lecture Series on Frontier Studies” of Zijingang Global Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies 2024, and the systematic and insightful presentations by Professor Brown and Professor YANG have laid the groundwork for a deeper understanding of the works of British-American Romantic writers.

The lecture is supported by the major project of the National Social Science Fund “Collation, Translation and Research of Contemporary Western Ethical Criticism Literature” [Project No. 19ZDA292].

“Zijingang Global Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies”, named after Zijingang Campus, the main campus of Zhejiang University, aims to provide an interdisciplinary platform for scholars engaged in humanities at home and abroad, especially those who are devoted to literary studies, to facilitate theoretical advancement, methodological innovation, intellectual promotion, and information exchange. As a foundational part of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of World Literature, “Zijingang Global Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies” launches a series of academic activities and keeps its participants informed about current scholarship in the field. To be more specific, it  consists of four major forums: “Leading Lecture Series on Frontier Studies”, “Leading Publication of Academic Achievements”, “Leading Forum on Interdisciplinary Studies for Young Scholars”, and “Leading Forum for University Students”.  

Text/Photos: ZHANG Caiyi

Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of World Literature, Zhejiang University

February 28, 2024

Translated by GONG Ruizhi, Proofread by XU Xueying


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