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The Poetic Enlightenment

Poetry and Human Science, 1650–1820


The Enlightenment World: 26

Editors: Tom Jones and Rowan Boyson

224pp: 234x156mm: 2013
HB 978 1 84893 404 7: £60/$99


‘The essays in this ambitious volume collectively argue that poetry and Enlightenment are entangled at every point in eighteenth-century British culture. A distinguished sequence of chapters mounts a convincing cumulative challenge to the idea that the Enlightenment was an age of prose. The Poetic Enlightenment promises to reorientate critical approaches to eighteenth-century thought and poetry in relation to the comprehensive aim to develop a ‘Science’ of human life in all its aspects.’

Susan Manning, University of Edinburgh


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The essays in this edited collection look at the role of poetry in the development of Enlightenment ideas. As scholarly disciplines began to emerge – anthropology, linguistics, psychology – the ancient art of poetry was invoked to create new ways of defining and expanding this philosophy of human science.

General Introduction – Tom Jones and Rowan Boyson
Part I: Poetic Knowledge and the Knowledge of Poetry
1 Introduction – Avi Lifshitz
2 Samuel Johnson and the Science of Literary Criticism – Nicholas Hudson
3 Prosody, Knowledge and Humanity in Enlightenment Language Science – Tom Jones
4 Ferguson’s School for Literature – Stefan Uhlig
Part II: Poetic Theories of the Social Self
5 Introduction – Christopher J. Berry
6 Hobbes and Davenant: Poetry as Civil Science – Philip Connell
7 Facing the Misery of Others: Pity, Pleasure and Tragedy in Scottish Enlightenment Moral Philosophy – Christian Maurer
8 Poetical Stoical Shaftesbury – Rowan Boyson
9 Morality as a Discourse of the Imagination – Christopher Tilmouth
Part III: Enlightenment and Romantic Poetologies
10 Introduction: Poetry and/or Enlightenment – Maureen N. McLane
11 James Thomson’s The Seasons and the Transformative Potential of Poetry in the Early Scottish Enlightenment – Pierre Carboni
12 ‘Furnishing Light’: Wordsworth, Poetry and the Science of Man in Enlightenment Scotland – Catherine Packham
13 Wordsworth, Kant, Fanaticism and Humanity – Simon Swift
Editor: Tom Jones, University of St Andrews
Editor: Rowan Boyson, King's College London
  • ‘The essays in this ambitious volume collectively argue that poetry and Enlightenment are entangled at every point in eighteenth-century British culture. A distinguished sequence of chapters mounts a convincing cumulative challenge to the idea that the Enlightenment was an age of prose. The Poetic Enlightenment promises to reorientate critical approaches to eighteenth-century thought and poetry in relation to the comprehensive aim to develop a ‘Science’ of human life in all its aspects.’

    Susan Manning, University of Edinburgh

  • 'The Poetic Enlightenment gathers together essays from an outstanding group of scholars on the importance of ‘poetry’ for Enlightenment thinkers. These essays brilliantly demonstrate in a variety of ways why we need to think much harder about the resources of poetry as a form of knowing, both in our own contemporaneity and historically with reference to the many discourses of knowledge that comprise Enlightenment. The collection as a whole will make a significant contribution to our re-enlightenment.'

    Peter de Bolla, University of Cambridge

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ISBNs: 9781848934047 978-1-84893-404-7 ISBNs: 9781781440360 978-1-78144-036-0 ISBNs: 9781781443507 978-1-78144-350-7

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