Romanticism and the Idea of Literature
Professor T. Rajan
Winter Half Course.
This course will focus on ideas of the aesthetic in the Romantic period. Whether because the New Critics traced their notions of organic form back to Coleridge, or because later critics such as Clifford Siskin have absorbed the Romantic period into a “Nineteenth Century” that professionalized the category of literature, criticism has often attributed ideologically or philosophically conservative conceptions of literature and/or the aesthetic to the period. In contrast, I will suggest that work in the life sciences, medicine and historiography had a deeply deconstructive impact on the Romantic practice and (in Germany) theory of art. In the light of new conceptions of what constitutes life and organized bodies, as well as new conceptions of history as a working out of an unprocessed “idea,” the period witnessed a profound revolution in its sense of what counts as literature, the intertextual relationships between the parts of an author’s corpus, and in later philological work on authors who showed a resistance to the finality of publication, it also witnessed the introduction of the category of “literary remains.” Topics to be taken up will obviously be oriented by the literary texts we discuss and the aesthetic dilemmas that they thematize, but will also include what Romantic writers saw as the role of “poetry” in a world increasingly dominated by prose, and what they saw as the role of prose fiction in relation to the emergent social discipline of the Novel.
View the course syllabus here: English 9145B.