Pathologies of Motion


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Historical Thinking in Medicine, Aesthetics, and Poetics

Kevis Goodman

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An original study of late Enlightenment aesthetics, poetics, and environmental medicine as overlapping ways of comprehending the dislocations of historical existence lodged in the movements of bodies and minds
This book studies later eighteenth-century medicine, aesthetics, and poetics as overlapping forms of knowledge increasingly concerned about the relationship between the geographical movements of persons displaced from home and the physiological or nervous “motions” within their bodies and minds. Looking beyond familiar narratives about medicine and art’s shared therapeutic and harmonizing ideals, this book explores Enlightenment and Romantic-era aesthetics and poetics in relation to a central but less well known area of eighteenth-century environmental medicine: pathology.
No mere system of diagnosis or classification, philosophical pathology was an art of interpretation, offering sophisticated ways of reading the multiple conditions and causes of disease, however absent from perception, in their palpable, embodied effects. For medical, anthropological, environmental, and literary authors alike, it helped to locate the dislocations of modern mobility when a full view of their causes and conditions remained imperfectly understood or still unfolding. Goodman traces the surprising afterlife of the period’s exemplary but unexplained pathology of motion, medical nostalgia, within aesthetic theory and poetics, arguing that nostalgia persisted there not as a named condition but as a set of formal principles and practices, perturbing claims about the harmony, freedom, and free play of the mind.

Kevis Goodman is professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to published essays and edited collections, she is the author of Georgic Modernity and British Romanticism: Poetry and the Mediation of History.

“In tracing how eighteenth-century pathology and aesthetics registered causal forces beyond our immediate ken, Kevis Goodman offers an electrifying account of the way poetics made abstract historical processes visible at a pivotal moment in global modernity.”—Lynn Festa, author of Fiction Without Humanity

“Goodman provides a new way of thinking about human freedom, the imagination, volition, and mobility. This is a richly erudite and theoretically lucid book that anyone working in this period will want to read and reread.”—Alan Bewell, University of Toronto

“By bringing together aesthetics and medicine, Goodman offers a new and enthralling description of modernity. Pathologies of Motion also brilliantly vindicates, as it demonstrates, the practice of symptomatic reading.”—Deidre Lynch, Harvard University

“Goodman’s elegant, learned work is the entering wedge in a radical rethinking of Romanticism and its predecessors. It reveals a pathological counter-current in tension with the age’s dominant aesthetic quest for harmony.”—Marjorie Levinson, author of Thinking through Poetry

“Goodman rediscovers eighteenth-century pathology as a synoptic discipline projecting the material body and the imagination as mutually involved and evolving agents of human behavior and consciousness. Her book thereby offers exciting new readings of reading itself—of the physiological functions of organized sound—as well as of Schiller and the Scottish doctors, of the newly privileged phenomenon of nostalgia, and of some of the best-known Romantic poems.”—David Simpson, author of Engaging Violence

“Kevis Goodman’s book on nostalgia, the disease lurking at the junction of motion and stasis, fulfills her promise to consider tautology as ‘the continuation of homesickness by another means.’ Like the flaneur who advances by tarrying, or the beggar who moves forward to a sight of nothing but the same, her victim of motion is stranded in a hopeless obsession that nevertheless supplies poetic language with an immense charge of elliptical energy.”—Jonathan Lamb, author of Scurvy
ISBN: 9780300243963
Publication Date: January 17, 2023
320 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
2 b/w illus.
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