English 9188A

Metaphysicals to Melancholics: Embodied Mind in Poetry, 1640-1790

Instructor: Professor M.H. McMurran
Fall Half Course.

The history of poetry from the Renaissance to Romanticism might be understood as an evolution in the emotive expressions of the self: poets seem to turn inward, roaming within their own consciousness for the springs of thought and feeling. In this course, we will read this poetry of self-aware affect through an inquiry into the mind-body relation and specifically how that relationship produces and enables affect. Drawing on some contemporary theories of embodied cognition—the idea that we literally think with our bodies—we will compare such neuroscientific accounts to the period’s transformative views of how bodies and minds interact, especially in the articulation of extreme feelings of joyful transcendence and sluggish sadness.

We will study a range of poets and poetic forms; they will include John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Katherine Philips, Anne Finch, William Collins, and Charlotte Smith. Theoretical readings from Mark Johnson and George Lakoff, Philosophy in the Flesh; Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch, The Embodied Mind, and relevant secondary criticism on the poets.