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 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.
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.
A “sound but half its own”: A Collaborative Exploration of Poetic Sounds in Literature and Electrical Engineering Classrooms
This essay explores a recent cross-disciplinary project aimed at bridging courses in English and Electrical Engineering at Union College. We conducted a dual exploration of the role of sound in Romantic literature, culture, and technology by the incorporation of Electrical Engineering practices and technologies into a Romanticism course, on the one hand, and, on the other, the introduction of Romantic poetry, theory, and technology into a course on digital signal processing. More specifically, we devised an interdisciplinary team experience bringing humanities and engineering approaches to the analysis of the phenomenon of sound as represented in poetry and technology of the Romantic period and used contemporary technology to measure poetic sound with scientific instrumentation. This trans-disciplinary lab required literature students to work in conjunction with their peers who specialize in signal processing for a dual investigation of the conceptual, aesthetic, and technological contexts of Romantic sound—not only of the poetry but also the age’s beloved Aeolian harp.
This collaborative essay explores some of the opportunities and challenges faced by instructors and students when digital projects are integrated into the Romantic classroom. It is based on our experience with two iterations of a course on literary manuscripts of the period, and is written by the instructor of course and two students, who returned for the second iteration of the course, a year later, as ‘digital coaches.’ We discuss the excitement and creativity afforded by working in a digital medium, as well as its utility when working with digitized objects like literary manuscripts. We also address the pitfalls, as some students struggle with the demands of mastering new technologies and with writing for digital dissemination. We found that student success was improved by explicit guidance, throughout the course, in how to construct a digital project. We share a set of how-to resources we have developed for other instructors wishing to integrate digital pedagogy into their classes, including video tutorials, assignments, grading rubrics, and links to student digital projects. We also address questions of platform selection, sustainability, assignment design and student evaluation.
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.
The Romantic period saw an explosion of printed material, ushered in by the end of perpetual copyright in 1774, new technologies that led the charge toward mass production, and the nearly insatiable appetite of a newly formed reading public. The concept of information overload far predates that contemporary term; in the Romantic period, like today, expanded access made the feeling more acute. Many Romantic readers felt the need, with the surfeit of information, to make their engagement more lasting. One way Romantic readers—and our students—could meet this need is through collection, and later indexing and reflection, in commonplace books. This article explores adopting a sustained practice of commonplacing in online classes as a way for students to position themselves as best they can as Romantic readers, confronting in the internet age a similar expansion of ideas and information. It details a semester-long project that pushes students to move from collection and organization to synthesis and reflection. Students keep individual commonplace books, contribute to a class-wide commonplace book, and reorganize and reflect upon their shared commonplace book in place of a traditional final exam. The purpose of these assignments is to foster students’ understanding of the historical and personal value of the commonplace book as a genre and to ensure students’ engagement with thematic threads within the Romantic period. Assignment sheets and “quick start” guides for students are made available with this article, along with a reference aid for those interested in incorporating these assignments in their classrooms.
When teaching British Romanticism, cultivating student interest in the material often requires the educator to explain the relevance of texts that for many seem historically and linguistically remote. One way to help facilitate student engagement is to ask them to investigate the public impacts of the assigned texts and communicate those impacts to a public audience. Digital humanists often turn to established digital humanities projects or blogs to provide students a platform for this kind of work; however, we trialed using a public resource that didn’t require a curatorial investment or the development of strict editorial oversight. Wikipedia provided that opportunity: despite nearly 4.9 million articles and one of the most visited sites on the web, there are a number of gaps in Wikipedia’s coverage of British Romantic literature, including coverage of William Blake’s most taught collection of poems: Songs of Innocence and of Experience. For a series of coursework assignments on Romantic poetry, we asked students to fill those gaps. This essay details our implementation of Wikipedia article writing assignments over two semesters of a British Romantic poetry class, including both the digital pedagogy and design concerns shaping the assignment. We explore some of the missteps regarding the implementation of digital assignments and discuss how the experience not only provided our students with different types of learning opportunities, but also how such an assignment can become a tool for shaping the public reception of Blake, Romanticism, and humanities knowledge more generally.