English 166

Special Topics: Romantic Science

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2018 Goldstein, Amanda Jo
Note new time: TTh 2-3:30 Note new location: 300 Wheeler British 18th-Century
British 19th-Century
Special Topics

Book List

Blake, William: Selected Poems; Mee, John: Romanticism and Revolution: A Reader; Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein; Williams, Raymond: Keywords; Wordsworth & Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads

Other Readings and Media

Course Reader:  poetry and prose from Percy Shelley, John Keats, Lord Byron, John Clare, Dorothy Wordsworth, Joana Baillie, Erasmus Darwin, Anna Barbauld, Gilbert White, E.T.A. Hoffman, James Hutton, Joseph Priestley, Thomas Malthus, Joseph Banks, James Cook, Georges Cuvier, Lord Monboddo, Luke Howard, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, John Locke, and David Hume, along with selected historical and critical resources.

Visual materials will be available through the course website.


Today we use the word “experimental” to designate both the most respected scientific method and the most outlandish works of art. This course on Romantic era literature and science explores a key phase of the hidden interrelation (and rivalry) between literary and empirical experimentation: the decades around 1800, a period of intense political, social, and technological change during which the word “experiment” could also invoke the exhilaration and terror of the French, American, and Haitian Revolutions. Since nowadays being “a romantic” means being passionate, idealistic or sentimental – all apparent opposites to the “scientific” disposition – it may be surprising to learn that the poets and novelists who defined literary Romanticism were intensely engaged in problems of evolutionary biology, neuroscience, chemistry, botany, geology, climatology and voyages of scientific exploration. This class approaches Romantic writing with the understanding that science and literature, subjective and objective knowledge, the humanities and the natural sciences, were not always firmly divided. We will focus, then, on a series of controversies that Romantics tackled through a multiplicity of technical and imaginative forms: controversies about the truth of sensation, the origin of life, the being of machines, the depth of racial difference, the age of the earth, the relations between knowledge and empire. What kinds of knowing do specific kinds of writing enable or obstruct?

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2019
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Gothic Duncan, Ian
166/2 Special Topics: Marxism and Literature Gonzalez, Marcial
166/4 Special Topics: Poetry and Prose of Race and Social Class Giscombe, Cecil S.
166/5 Special Topics: Asian American Literature - World, Nation, Locality Leong, Andrew Way
166/6 Special Topics: Realism, Then and Now Cordes Selbin, Jesse
166/7 Special Topics: Anton Chekhov Muza, Anna
Fall, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/2 Special Topics: Alfred Hitchcock Bader, Julia
166/3 Special Topics: Journeys: British World-Building, c. 700-1700 Miller, Jasmin
166/4 Special Topics: "this morning's minion": Sonic Mysticism in Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson Stancek, Claire Marie
166/5 Special Topics Le, Serena
Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Comedy & Violence Flynn, Catherine
166/3 Special Topics: Classical & Renaissance Drama Knapp, Jeffrey
166/4 Special Topics: Marxism & Literature Lye, Colleen
166/5 Special Topics: Emily Dickinson Shoptaw, John
166/6 Special Topics: Speculative Fiction Jones, Donna V.
Summer, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Speculative Fictions, Possible Futures O'Brien, Geoffrey G.
166/2 Special Topics: Games of Thrones, Medieval to Modern Strub, Spencer
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/3 Special Topics: Black Science Fiction Serpell, C. Namwali
166/4 Special Topics: Writing Poetry and Nonfiction, Writing as Social Practice Giscombe, Cecil S.
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Marxism and Literature Lye, Colleen
166/2 Special Topics: Studies in Literature and Environment (Shelter and Weather) Francois, Anne-Lise
166/3 Special Topics: Slavery and Conspiracy Wagner, Bryan
166/4 Special Topics: Literature in the Century of Film Goble, Mark
166/5 Special Topics: Modern Irish Literature Falci, Eric

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