This blog site profiles my 2012 Simon Fraser University Liberal Studies 819 travel study / program to Italy with the focus of  “Landscape, Politics and Poetry”.

The blog site also includes ‘Sappho’s Stories’, a current project on which I am collaborating with Digital Storytelling 106 called The Burgeron Family Reunion. My character is Sappho.


Liberal Studies 819 Course Description

This is SFU’s Liberal Studies 819: a travel study / program to Italy with the focus of  “Landscape, Politics and Poetry”.  As much as possible, the 2012 cohort will share the ‘sentiments of existence’ with the poets Byron, Shelley and Goethe through travels in Italy. We have read their biographies and poetry for a year and studied the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau which form the underpinnings of their radical political thought in a post Napoleonic Europe. In Italy, our travels begin in Venice on May 20th and end in Rome on June 25th; we will hold daily seminars of our readings and Italian impressions in the late afternoons. I am Janet Webster, the creator of this blog, and these are my intellectual and real-time travels.


In the 18th century Switzerland and Italy were the primary destinations for English and European travelers seeking culture, the sublime, intellectual breadth and a taste of antiquity.  In the early years of the 19th century this lure of all things Italian continued, but with the added feature of Italy being a place of refuge and escape for those opposed to the new conservatism of post-Napoleonic Europe.  In this course we will focus on Goethe’s impressions of Italy during his two year visit (1786-88) and the writing of three dissident exiles in the early 19th century, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley.  Well known as “Romantic” writers, we will assess that dimension of their work but also look closely at the political and philosophic contributions they made to modern European thought.

With the ‘value added’ dimension of ‘being there’ we will endeavour to, on the one hand, read their work as nearly as we can in the places where it was written or at least from whence it was inspired and, on the other, to explore the impact of the landscape and culture on each of us. Our subjects – Goethe, Byron, the Shelleys and others, were primarily interested in the Classical heritage embodied in Italy but they engaged as well with the artistic and cultural heritage of the Italian Renaissance and lived amidst the excesses of the Baroque and Rococo, and we will find ourselves in the same situation

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