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7ABA0015 Reading Emotions

Credit value: 20 credits
Module convenor: Dr Daniela Cerimonia
Assessment: Class presentation (10%); 4,000-5,000 word essay (90%)
Teaching pattern: One two hour seminar weekly
Pre-requisites: None

Module description

How do we want to talk about emotions in comparative literature? 

For some time, a common answer to this question might have been 'desire,' a term that often seemed ubiquitous in critical theory, and that, while slippery, could seem to speak to diverse literary periods, languages, and genres with little real need for translation. But with the waning (or transformation) of theory, an increasingly common answer might be 'through emotions history.' This field offers less an alternative vocabulary than a set of methods and questions for approaching not only the history of particular feelings, but the whole domain that we commonly call emotions (passion, affection, will, mood, affect, etc). What difference might this make to comparative literature?  

This module takes love as its (usefully amorphous) case-study 'emotion,' and books as its primary object. It looks at how loving books has been represented within literature and discourse about reading, with a focus on the long eighteenth century. This is a period when a revolution in reading and feeling is often held to have taken place, and when emotionally-charged texts proliferated about how to read, how not to read, how to stop reading, and how to move between reading and reality. We'll put a core of novellas, images and essays by writers like Goethe, Barbauld, Hoffmann, Blake, Austen, Fuseli, and Nodier into dialogue with pre-modern and recent ideas about book love, from Horace to current literacy research and book art. By doing so, the module invites students to think about the long history of the so-called crisis of poor little books in the present, and the ways that texts encourage us to feel about reading.   

Educational aims and objectives

This modules asks the question: how do we want to talk about emotions in comparative literature? It focuses on the case study of book love in the long eighteenth century in order to give students a deep understanding of why this period is so often seen as crucial to current ideas about both feeling and reading. Students will develop insights into a range of primarily British and German literary texts in this period, and will put their readings of these texts into dialogue with their own ideas about contemporary book culture, and with theories and methods from the history of emotions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and practical skills appropriate to a Level 5 module and in particular will be able to:

  1. Form independent readings of sources based on a solid understanding of texts and of textual analysis
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of theoretical and methodological debates within literary studies and emotions history, and evaluate competing and contradictory claims
  3. Develop abstract and/or complex ideas in dialogue with existing theories
  4. Formulate meaningful research questions and follow them through independent research
  5. Flexibly integrate existing knowledge with new materials, questions and approaches 
  6. Reflect critically and creatively on their own reading practices and experiences 

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

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