Pathologies of Motion: Enlightenment Medicine and Romantic Poetics


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project studies the intertwined development of Enlightenment medicine and Romantic aesthetics as forms of knowledge (“sciences” in the original sense) that registered and responded to conditions of unprecedented mobility. For medical and literary authors in Britain, working in the same circles, the porous body—open to its surroundings and preserving its past—retained its circumstances as physiological motion. Both therefore understood persons, in the very bodies that appeared natural, as sites of history in process. A special focus of this study is the way in which pathology’s insight into the physical effects of environmental influence shaped accounts of the reading process and debates about how poetic form should direct the movement of thought and emotion.