Course No: 350:561
Distribution Requirement: A4, B
Tuesday - 9:50 a.m.
Romanticism, Immediacy, Loss
Toggling between two theoretical positions with particular bearing on Romantic-era literary and cultural production—Paul de Man’s “The Rhetoric of Temporality” and Walter Benjamin’s “On the Concept of History”—we will examine the force or sense of the past, and the materialisms associated with it, in a variety of period-based texts. For de Man, Romanticism is primarily a discourse of loss, where any claim to immediacy or presence or engagement with the world is belied by the unchanging anteriority to which language and figuration are perennially directed. For Benjamin, by contrast, the past is never lost to time but simply to historical accounting and it can, accordingly, flash up at any moment—and in any text-- as a site of chance and possibility and often as a kind of shock. This dynamic plays out not only at the usual sites—for example Wordsworth’s poetry—but in unexpected places as well, notably the fictions of Jane Austen. We will also read key texts by Keats, Shelley and Byron. Theoretical and critical readings will include writings by Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Freud, LaCapra, Edelman, Alvin Noe, J.J. Gibson, M. H. Abrams, E. P. Thompson as well as earlier writings by Thomas Reid, William Gilpin and William Hazlitt. Throughout attention will be paid to the institution of Romantic studies as a subdiscipline and its bearing more broadly on English studies as they have evolved: from its early function as a counter to formalist method and ideology, to its absorption of various theoretical positions, from deconstruction to historicism, and finally, the relationship of Romanticism as a disciplinary category to broader period configurations in the “long centuries,” both eighteenth or nineteenth.
There will be one long paper in addition to one-page single-spaced response papers each week.