Imaginations of Passion – Passionate Imagination: Shakespeare's Poetics of Feeling (309)

Principal Investigator:

The project seeks to read Shakespeare's plays and poems with a focus on the transition and interaction between passion and imagination. It aims at describing a Shakespearean 'poetics of affect'.

With a view to contributing to a cultural poetics of the emotions, this project will explore the connections between early modern affective regimes (with a special interest in their neoplatonic elements) and the textual modelling of the passions in Shakespeare’s texts. Both will be seen as negotiations between historical and cultural codifications of feelings and the attempt to articulate universal insights.

In this process, imagination (phantasia, imaginatio) is of central importance. From the beginnings of its articulation in antiquity to the present, imagination has functioned as a controversial element of the historical matrix as well as a productive and constitutive dimension of aesthetic effect. Hence, its multiple historical codings (for instance in the theory of the faculties since Aristoteles' De anima) appear not only as a relativizing factor, but, on the contrary, as a thesaurus for the articulation of systematic validity. Conversely, the projected analysis of the Shakespearean poetics of affect does not assume a supra-historical, 'humanist' potential somehow inscribed in the texts, but reads them against the background of contemporary poetical and rhetorical theories of effect.

Thus, the investigation will proceed on two levels throughout, inquiring, on the one hand, into the modes of a rationality of the imagination as historically articulated in its close and precarious proximity to the passions and its redeeming affinity to reason, and on the other into the poetic textualisations with their passionate modifications of doctrines and regimes of feeling in Shakespeare. How can we describe the affective shape of poetry and its power to shape affective dispositions? What kinds of feeling is it capable of triggering under which historical and cultural conditions? Which types of insight does it offer by virtue of its imaginative structure?


Lobsien, V. O., Lobsien, E. (2011, Im Druck). Poetische Anschaulichkeit in der englischen Literatur zwischen dem 16. und 18. Jahrhundert. Schmitt, A., Uhlmann, G. (Eds.). Anschaulichkeit in Kunst und Literatur. Wege bildlicher Visualisierung in der europäischen Geschichte. 357-401. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Lobsien, V. O. (2011). Stewed phrase and aesthetic effect in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. Received wisdom and its functions in the reflection, management, and performance of passion. Johnston, A. J., Kempf, E., West-Pavlov, R. (Eds.). Performing the Poetics of Passion: Oxford University Press.