English 203

Graduate Readings: Poetry and the ?Science of the Feelings

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2006 Goodman, Kevis
Goodman, Kevis
M 3-6 103 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Burke, E.: A Philosophical Enquiry . . . Sublime and the Beautiful; Coleridge, S.T.: Major Works (Oxford Authors); Hume, D.: A Treatise of Human Nature; Keats, J.: Complete Poems; Smith, A.: Theory of Moral Sentiments; Smith, C.: Poems of Charlotte Smith; Williams, R.: Keywords; Wordsworth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800; Wordsworth, W.: The Prelude 1799, 1805, 1850; plus two Course Readers for the first and second halves of the semester, respectively


"William Wordsworth?s often-quoted statement that poetry is the ?science of the feelings? is double-edged, as such genitive constructions always are. It evokes both the contemporary sciences that took the feelings as their object of study (e.g., the physiological and other human sciences of the eighteenth century) and the modes of knowledge that the feelings may peculiarly yield?the domain that would, during the Romantic period, gradually come to be known as aesthetics, the ?science of sensuous cognition.? This class will read the poetry of the later eighteenth century and Romantic periods in tandem with selections from the period?s human and natural sciences in order to consider the ways that ?poetry??and literature more generally?was construed not only in opposition but also in apposition to ?science??even as an extension of scientific practice. As those guarded quotation marks might indicate, a central part of our task will be to understand, rather than take for granted, just how these terms were constituted and extended during the period under consideration, particularly as ?poetry? came to describe something more and other than just verse writing (as in Shelley?s ?Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World?). Another burden of our inquiry: to comprehend why, or at the least how, literary criticism and theory of the last decade has embraced such terms as ?feeling,? ?emotion,? and ?affect? so dramatically, entering what might be construed as a second?but also ?secondary? or scholarly?Age of Sensibility.

For poetry, the focus of our reading will fall on Wordsworth, Coleridge, Charlotte Smith, Erasmus Darwin, and Keats, but we will also read selections from Collins, Cowper, Barbauld, Beddoes, and Shelley. On the moral-philosophical and scientific side: selections from Cheyne, Willis, Locke, Burke, Hume, Adam Smith, Reid, Davy, Priestley, Hutton, and Kant. "

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