Trinity College, Cambridge
What is the value of the conjunction in “literature and science”? Various answers have emerged over two decades of studies in Romanticism: the history of science provides context for writers and their writing; the study of literature contributes to that history; more ambitiously, literary critical and scientific research might directly inform one another. This last avenue is taken by Markus Iseli’s study of Thomas De Quincey. By focusing on what he calls the cognitive unconscious, Iseli signals his opposition to the substantial psychoanalytic engagement with De Quincey, favouring an account of unconsciousness provided by contemporary cognitive science. The book argues that, for De Quincey, unconscious and “subconscious” processes are rational in aim and material in origin.
De Quincey’s unconscious has long been considered a “precursor” to psychoanalytical accounts. Iseli rightly objects that psychoanalytical...more