18th C./Romantic Studies Colloquium

Wonder: Literature and Science in the Long Eighteenth Century
Oct 5, 2023, 4:30 pm6:00 pm


Event Description
Tita Chico

In this talk, Tita Chico will speak about her current book project, Wonder: Literature and Science in the Long Eighteenth Century (under contract with Cambridge University Press), which looks at wonder as a defining epistemology for what we now understand as literature and science in the period. The Enlightenment has long been associated with reason and rationality: as an intellectual, political, and social movement, the Enlightenment names a belief in systematic knowledge acquisition. Yet the Enlightenment archive is filled with the unexplained, the mysterious, and the strange. These traces of unknowability are central to the production of Enlightenment epistemology: the strange and peculiar function as occasions for wonder, which are a simultaneously intellectual mode and emotional affect. Wonder, and its association with belief, occupy an uneasy role in the emergence of science and literature as distinct intellectual domains, and was often simultaneously celebrated and denigrated. As a consequence, wonder is a self-consciously fictive form, an affect that facilitates — and in so doing, redefines — the interpretive process by transforming epistemology into aesthetics.

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  • Department of English
  • Department of Comparative Literature
  • High Meadows Environmental Institute