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John Savarese

Assistant Professor

PhD, RutgersJohn Savarese head shot
MA, Rutgers
BA, New York

Extension 33019
Office: HH 143
email: 
john.savarese@uwaterloo.ca

Biography

I'm from the New York City area and studied English at NYU, where my interests in poetry and philosophy (along with some really great teachers) turned my attention to the Romantics. After writing a thesis on Coleridge's notebooks I headed to Rutgers for doctoral study, and became involved in a number of multi-disciplinary initiatives there that kept me thinking about how the questions and problems addressed in literary studies relate to those addressed in disciplines like history, anthropology, and cognitive science. As a result, while I continue to spend most of my time thinking about things like poetic form, or the emergence of new styles of narrative, I also have an abiding interest in what literary studies stands to contribute to interdisciplinary conversations.

In particular, my work focuses on the relation between poetics, the history of science, and philosophy of mind. I'm very interested in the ways that big universal claims (like “the human mind,” but also “religion” or “narrative”) became important historically. That leads me to teach and write about topics like nineteenth-century pseudoscience; global religion and secularism; and popular song from the eighteenth-century “ballad revival” to more recent folk revivals.

Selected publications

Ossian’s Folk Psychology,” ELH 80.3 (Fall 2013).

Reading One’s Own Mind: Hazlitt, Cognition, Fiction,European Romantic Review 24.4 (2013).

Lyric Mindedness and the ‘Automaton Poet,’” in Romantic Numbers, ed. Maureen N. McLane. Romantic Circles Praxis Series (April 2013).

Psyche’s ‘Whisp’ring Fan’ and Keats’s Genealogy of the Secular,” Studies in Romanticism 50.3 (Fall 2011).

“Cognition, Culture, Romanticism: A Review Essay,” co-written with Colin Jager, Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 57-58 (February-May 2010).

Fellowships & Awards

  • ACLS New Faculty Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, 2013-2014
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Texas at Austin, 2012-2013
  • Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Rutgers University, 2011-2012
  • Daniel Francis Howard Travel Fellowship, 2011
  • Predoctoral Fellowship, Center for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers University, 2010-2011

Current research

I'm currently writing a book titled Romanticism's Other Minds: The Science of Poetry from Hume to Mill, which shows how poetics offered writers ways of reimagining what it meant to have a mind. The project originated in a dissatisfaction I had with recent approaches to literature and science, which reinforced an idea of ‘the lyric’ as giving voice to a solitary or idealized consciousness. In contrast, I found, both Romantic poetry and Romantic-era theories of poetry served as the occasion for a livelier debate between diverse, competing models of the social mind. Early theories of poetry and cognition flirt with materialism, entertain the notion that the mind spreads across bodies and linguistic technologies, and explore the individual mind’s entanglements with a social environment made up of other minds. With case studies that range from Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s poems on the technologies of social life to William Wordsworth and Walter Scott’s affiliations of poetry with cognitive disability, I show that poets and collectors continued to toy with the idea that poetry had its origins in early forms of thought, even as their works generate new models of what a fundamentally social mind might look like.

Areas of graduate supervision

  • Romantic literature
  • Poetry and poetics
  • History and philosophy of science
Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo

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