ENGL623 - Readings in Eighteenth-Century English Literature
0101 - Tita Chico

In An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (1748), David Hume observes, “the passion of surprise and wonder, arising from miracles, being an agreeable emotion, gives a sensible tendency towards the belief of those events, from which it is derived.” This course will study “wonder” as a metaphor, affect, and technology in the disciplinary emergence of literary and scientific knowledges in the long eighteenth century. Wonder, and its association with belief, occupied an uneasy role in this disciplinary emergence, and was often simultaneously celebrated and denigrated or dismissed. Throughout the course, we will consider “wonder” in three, interrelated ways: 1) as a self-consciously fictive form; 2) as an affect that facilitates – and in so doing, redefines – the interpretive process by transforming epistemology into aesthetics; and 3) as a technology that draws upon the theory and protocols of instrumentation, itself a mechanism of critique. Our readings will include literary and early scientific texts (including cosmographies, colonial reports, works of natural philosophy and natural history, fantastic voyages, exotic fictions, and seduction narratives), as well as affect theory and science studies. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century authors to be studied will likely include Margaret Cavendish, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Aphra Behn, John Dryden, Jonathan Swift, Eliza Haywood, Tobias Smollet, Laurence Sterne, and Sarah Fielding. Theoretical readings will include works by Jacques Rancière, Michel de Certeau, Ian Hacking, Karen Barad, Bruno Latour, Lorraine Daston, Sara Ahmed, and Lauren Berlant. Assignments will include presentations, journals, and short papers, concluding with a conference-length essay. Students are welcome to take the course for seminar credit.