Cosmopolitanism: Oceanic, Territorial, Metropolitan


English 265 (Seminar in Romanticism)

Spring Quarter, 2012

Professor Adriana Craciun

Tuesdays 2:10-5 pm


We will approach cosmopolitanism and cosmopolitans (“citizens of the world”) in a novel way in this seminar, beginning with the impact of natural history, collecting, slavery, and early anthropology in shaping new visions of the global in the Romantic Century (1750-1850). Cosmopolitanism in literature is typically considered in tandem with the history of ideas and philosophy, i.e., through the influence of Enlightenment writers such as Voltaire and Kant, and of elite metropolitan writers, such as Lord Byron and Germaine de Staël. But long-distance voyages like those of James Cook and Alexander von Humboldt produced popular published volumes, exhibitions, collections, and visual culture that made possible the new sense of the global without which literary cosmopolitanism could not have flourished as it did. Voyagers and voyages were more diverse than the metropolitan citizens of the world that are typically the focus of studies of cosmopolitanism, and thus we will consider the role of captives, former slaves, seamen, and indigenous voyagers to Britain. Moving beyond the metropoles of Britain and Europe, we will consider cosmopolitanism as a larger oceanic and geographic phenomenon, made possible by the movement of people, animals, plants and objects across the globe. In this seminar we will read writings in natural history, geography, anthropology alongside literary writings and voyage accounts (authors include Georg Forster, Alexander von Humboldt, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Lord Byron, Helen Maria Williams, Olaudah Equiano). We will also read key works in social, political, anthropological and historical scholarship relevant to cosmopolitanism and its resurgence in the humanities and social sciences since the 1990s. As advance reading before the first seminar, students should read Linda Colley’s The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History (NY: Anchor, 2007) (isbn 978-0-385-72149-3)

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