L. Adam Mekler (Morgan State University)
One of the primary characteristics associated with British literature of the Romantic period is the celebration of the emotions, especially as viewed within the context of both interpersonal relationships and humans’ engagement with Nature. Whether in Wordsworth’s description of Nature in “Tintern Abbey” as “the nurse,/The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul/Of all my moral being,” or in the failure of the title character of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to provide for the Creature he has produced, throughout the works of this period the importance of care finds expression. As Julie Carlson’s recent article “Care: For Mary Wollstonecraft” makes clear, of course, the issue of care (especially caregiving) would also have had very powerfully gendered associations during the period. Indeed, her exploration of the intersection in Wollstonecraft’s writings of the concepts of care and social justice demonstrates the challenges of navigating among the period’s different theoretical and experiential concerns, for both writers of the period and modern critics alike. At the same time, Romantic caring by no means needs to be restricted to such matters. The emotional and intellectual engagement with contemporary political events—caring, for example, about the abolition of slavery or the victims of religious or economic oppression also inspired important works of the period as well.
This panel will invite participants to analyze works of the Romantic period in terms of the concept of care, as broadly viewed as necessary, as they investigate the various uses made of it by writers of the time.