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.
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.
Taking as its main focus Shelley’s lyrical drama Prometheus Unbound, this essay examines the Romantic treatment of feeling as a kind of affective ecology sustained by love. The poem reconstitutes feeling, not as it indicates a subject formed by Enlightenment notions of words or looks, but as an unrestrained jouissance that constitutes the event of feeling itself. This event shatters the subject so that, as if to tarry with a Jupiterian desire to conscript meaning, the subject can feel its truth.
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.
Sharing Contagion: Sympathetic Curiosity and Social Emotion Regulation in Joanna Baillie’s De Monfort
In her 1798 “Introductory Discourse,” Joanna Baillie argues that sympathetic curiosity is what makes us care about others in the world. In contemporary parlance, Baillie wants to use sympathetic curiosity for “emotion regulation,” a concept used in socio-cognitive psychology and neuroscience. In this essay, we analyze Baillie’s play De Monfort to critique models of emotion regulation by 1) positioning sympathetic curiosity as a tool for emotional education, 2) disentangling affect, emotion, and cognition, and 3) emphasizing the social in the management of emotion. Ultimately, we consider how the concept of emotion regulation informs conversations in affect studies.
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.
This collection came together as the result of the annual Romantic Circles-NASSR (North American Society for the Study of Romanticism) Pedagogy Prize. Lindsey Eckert and Lissette Lopez Szwydky, co-winners of the 2014 prize, separately submitted projects that included technology as central components of their courses. Together, the six essays in this volume speak to the value of collaboration, interdisciplinary teaching, and public humanities. Underscoring all of the contributions is a belief that Romantic literature is uniquely suited to innovate pedagogical approaches that embrace new technologies because the historical period itself was characterized by questions about technology, its consequences, and its possibilities. As scholars and educators of Romanticism, we see strong parallels between the period that we teach and the age in which we live. Using multimedia projects, the essays in this collection approach themes central to Romanticism—nature, rights, collaboration, reading, the public sphere—through the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the nineteenth century and the digital revolution at the turn of the twenty-first century. This volume provides practical overviews of technical and digital alternative assignments that can be incorporated into Romantic-period courses, including critical reflection about the value of digital projects in the humanities.
1. The main text of this edition is a review of a hypothetical poem, ‘The Griffin’, the ‘maiden effort of an Indian Subaltern’s Muse’,
This essay will describe a multi-modal, collaborative, project-based approach to teaching Jane Austen’s novels through a focus on remixing and material history. Assignments that engage students in collectively remixing Austen’s novels meld individual students into a community, strengthening the classroom’s “little social commonwealth” by connecting classroom and digital learning spaces in a single learning ecosystem (Persuasion 31). Key elements of such project-based community-building include an ongoing, weekly participant-creation assignment posted to Tumblr, a short exploration of textual materiality connected to a close reading assignment focusing on historical word shifts, a physical making assignment, and a student-led collaborative project that brings all class members together into a participatory final experience. Transgressing distinctions between popular and scholarly reading communities by sharing their classwork openly online in turn empowers undergraduate students to realize that their own scholarship participates in, benefits from, and may eventually even reshape the networks that characterize our current digital social commonwealths.