Dream Books: Irrationality in British Literature, 1790-1900

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Night after night, author and addict Thomas de Quincey was visited by mental “spectacles of more than earthly splendour.” But the “fierce chemistry” of the dreaming mind, as de Quincey well knew, could be a source of pain and horror, as well as of pleasure and great creative power. This course explores the prehistory of the unconscious in British writing from the late-18th century through the early-20th century, a period marked by the production of dream journals, nonsense verse, visionary poetry, opium-fueled phantasmagoria, sensation novels, and the emergence of the first authentic children’s literature in English. Does daydreaming have value? Is there sense in nonsense? Why is the double uncanny? What’s on the other side of the looking glass? With works by: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Fuseli, Lamb, de Quincey, Polidori, C. Brontë, Hogg, Stevenson, Wilde, Lear, Carroll, C. Rossetti, Stoker, Le Fanu, Collins, and others.