We look before and after,
And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest Laughter
With some pain is fraught--
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.
-P.B. Shelley (from To A Skylark)
My college career has never known such forlornness at the close of a class as it does at the termination of "The Enlightenment and Romanticism: The Writing of Pleasure" with Rowan Boyson. My mind has truly been opened and my intellect enlarged. The above excerpt is but the smallest fraction of a sampling from our poetry readings, but it represents the most amazing seminar we had all month. Somehow, while dissecting Shelley's "To A Skylark", our class experienced a unanimous "ah-ha" moment. Chalk it up to luck or inspiration, but we all just REALLY got it. We left class, not feeling the usual sluggishness and drudgery from sitting for over an hour, but invigorated and excited!
Throughout the course we explored many different views on the essence and implications of true pleasure. From Aristotle to Wordsworth, Johnson to DeQuincey, the theories ranged over an expansive spectrum. After a final essay synthesizing Bentham, Rousseau, and Goldsmith in analysis of the role of the individual and community in relation to pleasure and a final exam with two essays, one comparing texts and another VERY close reading, I can pretty confidently say that I have barely skimmed the surface of this subject. I look forward to the imminent publishing of Dr. Boyson's book (probably entitled "Common Pleasure")...look for it soon through Cambridge University Press :) Speaking of Dr. Boyson, let me just say how wonderful she is! Her passion for her research is contagious, and her classes were delightful. I will miss her.
Here's to hoping that I can find at least some of the same enthusiasm for my next class, Development Economics!