Romantic Literature and the Secularization of Nature
This course offers an introduction to the topic of Romantic literature (1780-1850) by focusing primarily on texts from the British and French traditions that challenge inherited ideas of ―nature‖ and of the human relation with the natural environment. In particular, we will question how the development of technology and scientific exploration at the end of the eighteenth century led to a new theorization of nature that openly contradicts Biblical accounts of the creation of the earth. How, that is, does the Romantic mind conceptualize nature as it discovers that men inhabit a complex ecosystem that is in constant evolution rather than a regulated and fixed natural space preordained by the Christian God? Also, what type of imaginative spaces and philosophical investigations did this new understanding of nature offer to the Romantic writer? We will start by reading sections from the Book of Genesis and continue with Jean-Jacques Rousseau‘s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and The Reveries of a Solitary Walker, William Wordswoth‘s Prelude, and a selection of shorter poems by Wordsworth and Samuel T. Coleridge.
In order to better understand the environmentalist implications of some of these texts you will be introduced to some fundamental concepts in Ecocriticism and Green Studies. This will lead us to consider further and somewhat wider questions such as: Does our cultural background shape the way in which we think about nature? What can the natural world do for us and can literature do something for the environment? Is it possible not to think of nature in anthropomorphic terms or is our experience of the outer world always already framed by our mindset and cultural données? Ultimately, the goal of this course is to provide students with the necessary tools to become competent readers and critical thinkers and writers. Class time will thus include close reading and critical discussions of the literature, intensive writing workshops and peer editing.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Trans. Franklin Philip. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN-10: 0199555427
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Reveries of a Solitary Walker. Trans. Russell Goulbourne. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN-10: 0199563276
Wordsworth, William. The Major Works. Ed. Stephen Gill. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN-10: 0199536864