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Books That Make You Cry

ENGL 016.301
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

You may have shed tears over a textbook while studying for an exam, but why would a book or a poem WANT to make you cry? And why would you seek out a book or poem that would do such a thing to you? This class takes print as the primary medium through which the later eighteenth century's cultural preoccupation with affective responses ("sensibility") was fostered and spread. "Sensibility" represented the eighteenth century's efforts to conceptualize the emotive manifestations of sensory perception - in other words, the body's effects upon the mind - and its symptoms became both fetishized and satirized. Why was eighteenth-century society so preoccupied with blurring the boundaries between body and mind, feeling and reason, books and bathos? What impact did it have on contemporary understandings of gender? Of the printed word itself as an expression of intangible things like thoughts and emotions? The course investigates these and related questions through literary representations and invocations of sensibility in the works of eighteenth-century writers on both sides of the Atlantic, like Sterne, Goldsmith, Smith, Temple, and Austen (among others). Regular weeping in class is recommended but not required.