ENGL719D - Seminar In Renaissance Literature. Earthquakes Of The Mind: Disaster And Imagination

How do we read and write natural disaster? How do disasters influence our relation to the past, our ideas about order and chaos, our understanding of scale, and our approach to the physical world? In this class, we will explore the history of the disastrous imagination at the convergence of physics, philosophy, geology, and poetry. From Plato's vision of Atlantis swallowed by an earthquake and flood to the plague that virtually decimated Europe in the 14th century to the Lisbon earthquake that captured the minds of Voltaire and Kant, this class will move across different kinds of texts and different time periods as we begin explore the histories of skepticism and belief, the emergence of rationalism, and the shifting relationship between literature and philosophy. Readings will be drawn from Plato, Lucretius, Virgil, Petrarch, Da Vinci, Montaigne, Bacon, Shakespeare, Kircher, Hooke, Leibniz, Voltaire, and Kant. In addition, we will position these readings in light of recent interpretations of contemporary disasters and the literary and philosophical responses they have engendered.