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Title: Romanticism and the Aesthetics of Modern Transport
Authors: Ortiz, Ivan
Advisors: Schor, Esther
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Aesthetics
Emotion and Affect
& Technology
Subjects: British and Irish literature
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Romantics are commonly considered ardently technophobic, especially when it came to the railways. Wordsworth in particular expressed apprehension about the corrosive encroachments modern transportation made on nature and culture, pitting it squarely against "old poetic feeling." In Romanticism and the Aesthetics of Modern Transport, I reconsider the fraught relationship Romantic writers had with transport modernity. Laying aside well-documented anxieties, I identify many of the ways in which innovations in Romantic-era transport--the air balloon, the postal coach, steam navigation and the railway--made new demands on human feeling that significantly contributed to literary forms and representations. Drawing on contemporary writings about these new vehicles, each of my chapters traces their shaping influence on central Romantic aesthetic and affective concepts, including sublimity, fancy, and nostalgia. I suggest that such categories are each responsible for some form affective displacement ("transport"), whether spatial, temporal, or fictional, that finds representation in at least one new mode of transport. My study thus addresses a neglected area of Romantic studies: the impact of emerging technologies on poetics and aesthetics. It uncovers a history of emotion within a history of technology. I situate my argument within a long history of philosophy and poetry in which transport features as a trope for the management or willful eruption of emotion, one that stretches from Plato's Phaedrus to Freud's writings on trauma. I read the Romantic vehicle as a modern trope that accounts for distinctly modern aesthetic experiences. If poets like Thomas Hood identified the air balloon as "fancy's car," a perfect image for a vagrant or dispersed consciousness, J.M.W. Turner and Percy Shelley found in the steamboat an analogue for the counterforce of the imagination during sublime experience. In similar fashion, the supplanting of the mail-coach service by the mechanical railway prompted De Quincey to remark that steam power "disconnected man's heart from" from what moves him. Seizing on the superannuated coach as rhetorical figure to advance his project of impassioned prose, he recruited structures of feeling native to mail-coach transport to generate both nostalgia and trauma in his readers. This study thus proposes that despite their feelings, the Romantics were indebted to modern transport for some of their most essential feelings.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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