English 100

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

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2007 Goldsmith, Steven
Goldsmith, Steven
MW 4-5:30 221 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2; Austen, J.: Sense and Sensibility; Mackenzie, H.: The Man of Feeling; Solomon, R.: What Is An Emotion?; Sterne, L.: Sentimental Journey; Stowe, H.: Uncle Tom?s Cabin


?Why do we cry?? asks the philosopher, Jerome Neu. ?My short answer is: because we think.? Neu belongs with those who believe emotions manifest intelligence rather than physiology. In this class, we will test Neu?s proposition, first by considering the philosophy of emotion (from Aristotle, Descartes, Adam Smith, Darwin, and Freud to recent authors such as Nussbaum, Fisher, and Terada), then by discussing the literary representation of emotion between 1750 and 1850, a century in which poets and novelists responded to the ever-increasing rationality 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: How do the emotions affect our understanding of 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? Is there a difference between emotion and sentimentality? How do literary representations of emotion act on the emotions of readers? Is it possible (or desirable) not to feel? To get at these questions, we will read many lyric poems (by Gray, Collins, Charlotte Smith, Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Poe, and others) and a few novels (by Mackenzie, Sterne, and Austen), focusing on the scenes of sorrow, loss, and sympathy that dominate this period. If time allows, we may finish with Stowe?s Uncle Tom?s Cabin.

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