English 203

Graduate Readings: Literature & the Science of the Feelings, 1740-1819

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2012 Goodman, Kevis
Goodman, Kevis
M 3-6 305 Wheeler

Book List

Burke, Edmund: Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (Oxford World's Classics); Coleridge, S. T.: Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Major Works (Oxford World Classics); Darwin, Erasmus: The Temple of Nature; Hume, David: A Treatise of Human Nature (Oxford Philosophical Texts); Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein (Norton Critical Editions); Smith, Adam: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence); Smith, Charlotte: The Poems of Charlotte Smith (ed. Curran); Williams, Raymond: Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society; Wordsworth and Coleridge (ed Gamer and Porter): Lyrical Ballads, 1798 and 1800 (Broadview Edition)

Other Readings and Media

A Course Reader (probably two volumes).  Many of our texts are uncollected or appear in collections of which they are too small a part for me to ask you to purchase them.


William Wordsworth’s 1800 declaration that poetry “is the history or science of feelings” cuts many ways, as such genitive constructions often do.  His phrase alludes both to the contemporary human and life sciences that made the feelings their object of study and to the peculiar “science” or epistemology that the feelings may possess. It also promises a historical account of sensation and emotion, and it points to the feelings as a site of historical experience.  This course will take up each of these angles by studying the variously oppositional and appositional relations between literature (primarily but not exclusively poetry) and several sciences during the later eighteenth century and Romantic periods in Britain, as pressures from global expansion, the revolution in France, and other aspects of modernity conspired to release feelings in excess of individual agency, personal identity, and available modes of cognition.  Weekly topics will include, among other concerns: sympathy and the vagrancy of the passions, association psychology and materialism, empiricist aesthetic theory, chemistry and revolution, literature as experiment, geology and memory, physician-poets and poetic physicians.

We will read – selected, combined, and juxtaposed – texts by the following writers: Anna Barbauld, Charles Bell, Edmund Burke, S.T. Coleridge, William Cullen, Erasmus Darwin, David Hartley, David Hume, James Hutton, John Keats, Joseph Priestley, Adam Smith, Percy and Mary Shelley, Charlotte Smith, and William Wordsworth.  Within the constraints of time, we will also take the measure of developments in the study of literature and science, as well as in the history of emotions, including work by Michel Foucault, Bruno Latour, Alan Bewell, Maureen McLane, Noel Jackson, and others.

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