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BGECS Lecture SS 2012

On July 3, 2012, Dr Karin Kukkonen (Balzan Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Oxford, UK) will give a talk on

“Nature Methodis'd”: Eighteenth-Century Poetics and the Human Mind

Eighteenth-century poetics, unfashionable as it may seem today, has a common concern with cognitive
literary study, a currently emerging field: its interest is in how literature engages the human mind.
Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism states that

“Those rules of old discovered, not devised,
Are nature still, but nature methodis'd” (89-90)

On this account, the rules of poetics, like poetic justice, decorum and the dramatic unities, around
which so many critical discussions in the eighteenth century revolved, are not arbitrary rules but
correspond to basic factors of human psychology.
Poetic justice, one of the key rules of neoclassicism, is still at work in audience responses today. Why
do we expect the good to be rewarded and the bad to be punished? Why did they ring church bells in
eighteenth-century Britain when Pamela was rewarded with marriage in Richardson's novel? Why does
Samuel Johnson find it so unbearable to read about Cordelia's death in King Lear? Poetic justice seems
to be an ideal case study of “nature methodis'd” which engages the human mind today as much as it did
in the eighteenth century.
This lecture will bring together the psychological turn of eighteenth-century poetics with the insights
of today’s cognitive literary study and explore the workings of poetic justice in the eighteenth-century

The lecture will take place from 6 p.m. (c.t.) to 8 p.m. in HS XVII.

For more information please contact BGECS (Link) or Prof. Dr. Barbara Schmidt-Haberkamp (Link).