English 100

Junior Seminar: Why Do We Cry? The Literature of Sorrow, Sympathy, and Indifference

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
14 Spring 2008 Goldsmith, Steven
Goldsmith, Steven
TTh 3:30-5 259 Dwinelle

Other Readings and Media

Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Period, Vol. C; Austen, J.: Sense and Sensibility; Douglass, F. & H. Jacobs: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave & Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Mackenzie, H.: The Man of Feeling; Solomon, R.: What Is an Emotion?; Sterne, L.: Sentimental Journey


�Why do we cry?� asks Jerome Neu. �My short answer is: because we think.� Neu, like many other philosophers, believes emotions express intelligence rather than physiology. In this class, we will test Neu�s proposition, first by considering some prominent texts from the philosophy of emotion (from Adam Smith, William James, and Freud to recent authors such as Nussbaum and Fisher), then by discussing the literary representation of emotion between 1750 and 1850, a period in which poets and novelists responded to the ever-increasing rationalism and instrumentalism driving modern life. To get at the high stakes of emotion then (and still today), we will take up a number of questions: What do emotions tell us about the relationship between mind and body? What are the social functions of emotion? Are emotions biological constants or are they culturally and historically variable? Is it possible to distinguish between authentic and inauthentic emotions? How do literary representations of emotion act on the emotions of readers? Is it possible (or desirable) not to feel emotions? To get at these questions, we will read many lyric poems (by Gray, Collins, More, Charlotte Smith, Blake, Wordsworth and others) and a few novels (by Mackenzie, Sterne, and Austen), focusing on the scenes of sorrow, loss, and sympathy that dominated this period.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Back to Semester List