Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit





Unit rationale, description and aim

A serious study of the Enlightenment and Romanticism is indispensable for understanding the imaginative, historical, and cultural foundations of our own age. The period is not only an important source for our current understanding of reason and the imagination but has greatly affected the way that we think about the environment, the dignity of the individual, human diversity, and the common good. 

This unit will guide students in a creative and philologically patient study of the Enlightenment and Romanticism and will cross disciplinary, generic, and chronological boundaries. Students will also consider how the unit crosses the boundaries between modes of expression. Blake expressed himself in poetry, music, and visual art. Kant thought not only about cognition, ethics, religion, and geography, inter alia, but also about the fine arts and the judgment of the beautiful. Goethe not only wrote poetry, prose, and drama but was also a politician and scientist.

The aim of the unit is to reinforce that with every text, students should be ready to open categories to question, including the categories ‘Enlightenment’ and ‘Romanticism’ themselves.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Acquire an advanced, integrated, research-based knowledge of a few select works from the Enlightenment and Romantic traditions, with the conceptual, theoretical, and/or ethical implications of those texts (GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA10)

LO2 - Critically evaluate and synthesise knowledge, concepts, and theories from diverse sources and communicate complex ideas and findings with sophistication and confidence to a range of audiences in diverse contexts (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO3 - Research, develop, and apply disciplinary theories and practices to a range of bodies of knowledge drawn from the Western intellectual tradition (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO4 - Apply disciplinary knowledge and skills from diverse disciplines in order to formulate intellectually grounded, evidence-based judgments about given texts (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics, authors, and texts may include selections from the following list:


  • The creative imagination
  • The idea of genius, Madness, Reason
  • Sensibility, emotion, the affects
  • Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Judgment, ‘What is Enlightenment?’
  • Goethe, Faust Parts 1 and 2
  • Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit
  • La Rochefoucauld, Maxims

Politics, Culture, and Society:

  • Voltaire, Selected Writings
  • Hobbes, Leviathan
  • Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, History of England, other essays

The Thinking of Poetry and Literature:

  • Wordsworth, Prelude, Lyrical Ballads, Selected Prose
  • Coleridge, Selected Poetry, Selected Prose including Biographia Literaria
  • Milton, Paradise Lost
  • Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew and D’Alembert’s Dream
  • Hölderlin, Selected Lyric Poetry
  • Shelley, Selected Prose
  • Burke, Origins of Our Ideas on the Sublime and the Beautiful
  • Dryden, Selected Poems and “Essay of Dramatick Poesy”
  • Pope, Selected Poems and Translations

The Thinking of Composers and Artists:

  • Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert
  • Jacques-Louis David, Goya, Caspar David Friedrich 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students will gain a familiarity with literary movements through class discussion in a small-group setting, where the texts and thematic concerns of the unit can be considered and debated in a supportive and inclusive manner. The small-group setting will facilitate the use of the ‘Socratic’ method, in which analytical discussion and dialogue are stimulated through the use of an engaging question-and-answer format to consider texts and ideas from the Enlightenment and Romantic periods. In addition to close reading of a range of texts, or extracts of texts, students will participate in writing activities, interpreting and evaluating texts, and critical and argumentative debates.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection and discussion. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

This 600-level unit is designed to include assessment tasks that build content knowledge and higher-order research and analytic skills. 

The close reading task requires students to study, with patience and attention, a text, or texts, from the Enlightenment and/or Romantic periods. As the Unit Rationale, Description, and Aim make clear, and as the Content and Representative Texts and References underscore, the study of the periods in question does not sit comfortably within a single disciplinary norm.  If such figures as Hegel, Goethe, Blake, and Hume work within a variety of disciplines, and if thinkers such as Kant influence innumerable discourses of thought, then close reading of any text from this period must recognise the interdisciplinary demands of close reading. For this reason, the close reading task requires that the analyses cross disciplinary norms.

The research essay requires students to produce a theoretically acute, graduate-level, interdisciplinary analysis of key texts on a topic proposed in consultation with the instructor. It is intended to develop skills in locating and evaluating sources on a cultural text, developing a sustained evidence-based argument, and active engagement with key theory debates.

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high-quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for graduate studies in the subject area. 

Minimum Achievement Standards

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks, meet the learning outcomes of the unit and achieve a minimum overall passing grade of 50%.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Close reading: challenging disciplinary norms

This task requires students to produce analyses that challenge disciplinary norms.


LO1, LO2

GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Assessment Task 2: Research Essay

This task requires students to produce a theoretically acute, graduate-level, interdisciplinary analysis of key texts or authors on a topic proposed in consultation with the instructor.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Abrams, M. H., Natural Supernaturalism (New York: Norton, 1973)

Burwick, Frederick, A History of Romantic Literature (Hoboken: New Jersey, 2019)

Cassirer, Ernst, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, trans. by Fritz C. A. Koelln and James P. Pettegrove (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009)

Collett, Anne, and Olivia Murphy, Romantic Climates: Literature and Science in an Age of Catastrophe (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)

Economides, Louise. The Ecology of Wonder in Romantic and Postmodern Literature, Literatures, Cultures, and the Environment (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

Engell, James, The Creative Imagination: Enlightenment to Romanticism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981)

Gumbrecht, Hans, Prose of the World: Denis Diderot and the Philosophy of the Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2021)

O’Neill, Michael, and Madeleine Callaghan, The Romantic Poetry Handbook (Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018)

Rosen, Charles, The Romantic Generation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998)

Taruskin, Richard, The Oxford History of Western Music (2005), vol. 3 (The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries) and vol. 4 (The Nineteenth Century) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs