British Romanticism (1780s to 1830s) has long been viewed as a revolutionary period that established founding tenets of democratic ideals, processes, and habits of mind. It also has long been viewed as promoting imagination and its powers of creativity and transformation as a necessary counterweight and even alternative to reason-based or objective modes of cognition. This seminar sees these two truisms about British Romanticism as intimately connected. It also sees the connection between these two areas of interest as directly relevant to urgent issues on our minds regarding the need for radical social change, including institutional and curricular rethinking.
Thus this seminar reads selected Romantic-era poems and prose treatises as formulating a "science" of mind that foregrounds unconscious modes of mentation, and it explores these texts in the context of contemporary study of 1) neuro-cognitive approaches to literature and 2) modes of achieving social change and anti-racist sensibilities. An initial section explores contemporary theories of imagination and improvisation from cognitive literary studies and anti-racist perspectives and then considers poems and prose treatises from the period that link mind studies to social transformation. The seminar places canonical writings by i.e., William Wordsworth, Anna Barbauld, Joanna Baillie, Olaudah Equiano, S. T. Coleridge, P.B. Shelley and others in conversation with formulations of mind by cognitive scholars (i.e., Alan Richardson, Mark Bruhn, Irving Massey) and anti-racist theorizers (i.e., Dream Defenders, Sylvia Wynters, essayists in Anti-Racism, Inc.).