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Recap of RC Pedagogies Spring Reading Group on MWS's "The Mortal Immortal," by Holly Hirst

The spring meeting of the Romantic Circles Pedagogies Reading Group took place on 19th March. Participating were Holly Hirst (Manchester Metropolitan University), Kirstyn Leuner (Santa Clara University) and Dana Van Kooy (Michigan Technical University) looking at Mary Shelley’s 1833 tale ‘The Mortal Immortal’. The tale is narrated by the eponymous ‘mortal immortal’ Winzy, who tells the tale of his own apprenticeship to Cornelius Agrippa, his relationship with his childhood sweetheart Bertha and the elixir that gave him an enduring and possibly immortal bodily life.

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Author's Preface

P R E F A C E

1.         IN this age of revolutions, when RELIGION, that never-failing source of comfort to the good, and the sinner’s hope in repentance, is impiously represented as a chimera; when, under the shield of toleration, principles subversive of all social order, of all morality, are

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Title Page

A
Description

OF THE
VALLEY OF CHAMOUNI,
IN
SAVOY.



By SAMUEL GLOVER

“If we were told of a man, who, placed on a wild rock among the clouds, yet, even on this height, surrounded by a loftier amphitheatre of

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Charlotte Smith Story Map

May, 2018

The British author Charlotte Turner Smith (1749-1806), best known for her acclaimed and innovative Elegiac Sonnets (1784), has a life story as interesting and difficult as her literature was admired and influential. This StoryMap, by Elizabeth A. Dolan and Gillian Andrews, demonstrates the way in which Smith's residential (in)security was related to her dependence on her father and husband, a situation common to eighteenth-century women. The Charlotte Smith Story Map is the first piece of scholarship to integrate information from all the known letters that Smith wrote; those included in Judith Stanton's 2003 Collected Letters of Charlotte Smith, and also all the letters discovered in the last 15 years.

The Material Sublime and Theory of Mind in Coleridge and Keats

This essay examines the cognitive underpinnings of affect circulation in the poetry of Coleridge and Keats, poets who sought to shape the reading experiences of their contemporary and future audiences. Both poets utilized the automaticity inherent in reading popular genres like the Gothic and Romance, as they immerse their readers in a flood of sensation. Yet, interruptions to the narrative flow complicate moments of composition and reading, ultimately highlighting a complex cognitive and affective work happening through passive reading. While such sensational forms of reading were often disparaged during the Romantic period, modern cognitive psychology shows these “passive” or “immersive” forms are actually complex in their affective work. By structurally regulating the sensory experience, controlling the affective overflow, and calling attention to the cognitive and cultural processes at work underneath the fiction, these authors ensure we will not be caught in a dream world for long without awaking more enlightened.

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Introduction

This volume presents new work by scholars working at the intersection of British Romanticism and affect studies. Each essay takes a different approach to affect and emotion, from a piece on Joanna Baillie’s passion plays, co-written by a literary scholar and a cognitive psychologist, to a piece that utilizes affect theory and rhythmic studies in a reading of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. This volume does not propose a single definition of “affect,” but all of the essays share the conviction that the kind of interdisciplinary work demanded by affect studies is beneficial to both Romantic studies and affect studies. Much more than a passing trend, affect studies has transformed the study of emotion for a generation of scholars.

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Affective Textualities: Restructuring Subjectivity in Blake’s Marriage

William Blake’s perpetually protean Marriage of Heaven and Hell has proven somewhat elusive for those seeking to articulate “what” the work means. Given its unusual form/s (organized along both verbal and visual axes), its visionary commitments (evoked through its apocalyptic imagery), and its intertextual engagements (from Aristotle and Jesus through Milton to Swedenborg [Blake’s primary focus]), one cannot arrive at a singular textual meaning. However, when one asks a different question—“How does the text make its meaning?”—the dynamic aims of the work do emerge. The fusion of these and other elements creates an art object with an overt gaze woven through affective textualities, and this dynamic and interactive presence strives to transform the very subjectivities of those readers who enter its entangled zones of semiotic operations. Thus, affect forms the boundary conception of such a textual condition, and its apprehension transforms them into subjective effects.

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“[H]is mind was … my disease”: Viral Affect in Eliza Fenwick’s Secresy; or, The Ruin on the Rock

This essay argues that recent criticism in affect theory emphasizing the “strictly biological portion of emotion” offers a new interpretive window into a much-neglected Gothic novel by an important though still relatively unknown writer. Its major claim is that Secresy’s emphasis on bodiliness, the extent to which characters share and absorb the same affective environment, undercuts important critical accounts of the novel—by Terry Castle, Patricia Cove, Julia Wright, and others—which claim that each of its characters occupies his or her own inalienable rhetorical or “generic” world to which the other characters have little or no access.

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