Date of Degree

9-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

English

Advisor(s)

Alan Vardy

Committee Members

Tanya Agathocleous

Alexander Schlutz

Subject Categories

Children's and Young Adult Literature | Cognitive Neuroscience | Digital Humanities | English Language and Literature | Environmental Studies | Other Social and Behavioral Sciences | Philosophy of Mind | Theory and Philosophy

Keywords

Envrionment, Romantic, Green, Literature, Technology, Mind

Abstract

This dissertation explores Romantic responses to the role of architectural technologies in the development of material being, consciousness, and culture by applying a critical approach in which I combine radical embodied cognitive theory, ecocritical perspectives, and a phenomenological lens to select Romantic texts written from 1789 to 1884 in response to industrial modernity. While scholarship has thoroughly explored technology as a cultural force which inevitably shapes consciousness, I propose that a slight shift of emphasis from technology’s external influence to the material internalization of its influence allows for new perspectives—particularly in light of recent proposals in cognitive philosophy which assert that the “self” may not be located within an individual but in the delicate reciprocity of mind, body, and environment. Romantic texts are particularly well-suited to the study of this reciprocity because, from William Blake onward, each author explored here insists upon a dynamic wholeness, an unpredictable, uncontainable movement, a reciprocity of minds, bodies, and worlds—embodied minds embedded in our environs.

In doing so, my project complicates long-standing readings of Romantic authors as nostalgic reactionaries to the effects of technology and argues that what has been taken for nostalgia in Romantic literature was very often an intervention in prevailing dominant ideologies. These Romantic interventions reflected a strong resistance to the splintering effects of an accelerating culture which refused the intermingling of mind, body, and environs while it overlooked the effects of burgeoning technologies on individuals and environs. With this radical Romantic resistance in mind, this dissertation shifts the focus toward the ways Romantic authors locate themselves as witnesses to the effects of accelerating environmental changes on abject human figures and communities amidst industrialization. This dissertation also looks at the ways Romantic texts create new interpretive spaces by complicating the effects of architectural technologies on people and places, and on culture and society.

I argue for the pressing contemporary relevance of Romantic texts through a critical lens which facilitates an understanding that Romantic perspectives provide us with new ways to rethink our relationships with the technologies we create at a time when technologies have now become fully integrated throughout the earth and soaked into every aspect of life and the world. I propose that the Romantic generation parallels ours; Romantic authors lived amidst a transitional time of enormous technological change as well—as they watched their world transition from a pre-industrial world into an accelerating, fully industrialized one. Likewise, we are living amidst a transition from a pre-digital world into a fully digitalized one. Today, the omnipresence of technology is inescapable. Instead of seeing technology as separate from our “selves” and separate from nature, this dissertation argues that we need to acknowledge the ways technologies become part of the environs we inhabit and to the ways we become embedded within these technological architectures which shape our environs as our conscious and unconscious minds, as well as our visible and invisible bodies, intermingle in them. Through poetic language, and perspectives which embrace the intermingling of minds, bodies, and environs, the literature of Romantic authors provides us with new and contemporarily relevant ways to responsibly rethink our relationships with the technologies we create.

 
 

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