English | Literatures in English, 1800-1900
E303 | 2912 | Miranda Yaggi
E303 LITERATURES IN ENGLISH, 1800-1900
2912 - 12:20p-1:10p MWF (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.
TOPIC: "Epistemology of Secrets"
Though by no means a perfect story of forward-marching progress, the
nineteenth century Atlantic world—and its literatures in English—
confronted, represented, and gave voice to some of the most
fundamental debates which still concern the Atlantic world today.
Since trying to fit a truly representative study of this richly
diverse period into a single semester would prove an overwhelming
task, we will opt instead to focus our attention on one of the
dominant themes which preoccupied literature across both sides of
the Atlantic throughout the entire century, a preoccupation which we
will call “the epistemology of secrets.” From the beginning of the
century to the end, writers, thinkers, and readers were concerned
with questions of “knowing.” How do we know things? Do we know
through rational systems like reason, observation, and
experimentation? Or do we know through more emotive systems like
sympathy, imagination, inspiration, sensation, and superstition? How
do we really know another human being? Or even ourselves? Perhaps
most interestingly, these epistemological questions were routinely
staged in literature through the language of secrets—secret selves,
secret lives, secret motives, family secrets. This semester we will
investigate how a fascination with secrets is always and necessarily
a fascination with the very nature of knowingness.