In this provocative and original study, Alan Richardson examines an entire range of intellectual, cultural, and ideological points of contact between British Romantic literary writing and the pioneering brain science of the time. Richardson breaks new ground in two fields, revealing a significant and undervalued facet of British Romanticism while demonstrating the 'Romantic' character of early neuroscience. Crucial notions like the active mind, organicism, the unconscious, the fragmented subject, instinct and intuition, arising simultaneously within the literature and psychology of the era, take on unsuspected valences that transform conventional accounts of Romantic cultural history. Neglected issues like the corporeality of mind, the role of non-linguistic communication, and the peculiarly Romantic understanding of cultural universals are reopened in discussions that bring new light to bear on long-standing critical puzzles, from Coleridge's suppression of 'Kubla Khan', to Wordsworth's perplexing theory of poetic language, to Austen's interest in head injury.
• Brings out the affinities between the British Romantic movement and the early history of neuroscience • Develops important new perspectives on authors as diverse as Wordsworth, Austen, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, Darwin and Gall • Demonstrates the value for literary and cultural history of learning from recent work in neuroscience and cognitive science
1. Introduction: neural Romanticism; 2. Coleridge and the new unconscious; 3. A beating mind: Wordsworth's poetics and the 'science of feelings'; 4. Of heartache and head injury: minds, brains, and the subject of Persuasion; 5. Keats and the glories of the brain; 6. Embodied universalism, Romantic discourse, and the anthropological imagination; Epilogue.
'… exciting work …' Journal of Consciousness Studies
'In his extensively researched book, Alan Richardson presents the reader with a new approach to reading British Romantic literature … offers an illuminating approach to scholarship and also to some literary texts in British Romanticism while at the same time contributing to the developing field of cognitive historicism.' Poetics Today
'British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind will shape future studies of the cultural impact of medicine on nineteenth-century literature. The Romantic discovery of the 'brain' is a remarkable story, richly recounted in this study, one to which we will be frequently returning in the future.' Romanticism