English | Romantic Literature
L741 | 24484 | Favret

1:25p – 4:25p M


This seminar is an attempt to stretch recent scholarship about
changes in history and historiography in the late eighteenth and
early nineteenth-century into an investigation of the more
phenomenological dimensions of time and temporality. Stuart Sherman,
in Telling Time, suggests that “chronometry inheres in the clock” or
calendar whereas “temporality may suffuse other components of the
culture, notably its narratives. . . . [T]he form will absorb,
manifest and respond to local temporalities, contemporary shapes of
time, without necessarily ‘knowing’ that it does so.” (6) Following
his lead, we might aim first to discern what various forms (novels,
periodic essays, lyric poems, historical narratives) “tell” us about
time. We might then ask whether an awareness of temporality in the
reading and writing of romantic texts necessarily intersects with
familiar notions of history or “the past.”  How do we understand the
temporality of, say, memory, prophecy, the everyday, or of reading
itself? And how well do these ways of keeping (or giving away) time
work alongside romantic concepts such as  “period” or “moment” or
uneven development, or more recent concepts such as “empty
homogeneous time”? We might also consider that “unknown” quality of
time at which Sherman hints, its resistance to conscious address.
In the end we will be looking for an effective way to read and write
about time and its peculiar contributions to our literary and
cultural understanding.

To focus our discussion, I’d like to keep our attention trained to a
few primary texts from the period: one or two novels by Austen and
Scott; poems by Cowper, W. Wordsworth and P. Shelley; and essays by
Barbauld, Lamb and Hazlitt. A few works of history and prophecy from
the period may be added. These will be refracted through our reading
of a number of critical and scholarly texts. I imagine breaking the
secondary reading into two parts, the first a set of approaches that
are basically historicist and/or materialist in nature (Koselleck,
Chandler, Sherman, Thompson, B. Anderson); the second a set more
formal and/or phenomenological in their bent (Kermode, Kristeva,
Stewart, de Man, Ricoeur, Massumi), but I’m not certain this split
will remain tenable or accommodate the most interesting writing on
the matter (Benjamin, for example).

Participants in the seminar will be asked to contribute to
discussion both in class and via Oncourse; to make relatively formal
presentations in class and lead discussion; and to write either two
short (10-12pp) or one long (25 pp) paper during the course of the
semester. The decision about paper-writing ought to be made in
consultation with me, and in accordance with your scholarly and
intellectual needs.