Archive for May, 2009


May 27 2009

Nineteenth-Century Americans, Out of their Heads?

by at 9:54 am

I just came across Thomas Baily Aldrich’s Out of His Head. A Romance and it looks really interesting. From a first scan, it looks like there’s a lot of scientific language in here. Also, the main character is clearly “out of his head” which reminds me very much of Sheppard Lee and his questionable mental stability. That animal magnetic characters are inherently prone to mania is a thread that I’m noticing. I will, of course, have to read Out of His Head to make sure this makes sense. Also, the trope of the insane American is intriguing–Rip Van Winkle, Sheppard Lee, Edgar Huntly, Wieland, this Thomas Baily dude….hmm, and this could possibly connect to the work I was doing on American Nervousness and Beard’s work. Very interesting…

No responses yet | Categories: Personal Statement,Thesis,Uncategorized

May 14 2009

Some More Thoughts On Sheppard Lee

by at 12:59 am

Adam Smith sees the biological limitations of a pure sympathetic response. To Smith, lived experiences are very much tied to the individual body, so one can never fully understand another’s experience because one individual never occupy the body of another. Mesmer’s ideas on animal magnetism, I argue, solve this problem by creating networks of bodies (hmm…”networks,” like what Laura Otis is talking about?) that can be linked via electrical impulses. Sheppard Lee similarly solves the body barrier divide that is put forth by Smith by having Sheppard Lee’s soul occupy the body of dead corpses. In this way, Sheppard Lee enacts a purely sympathetic response….and, yet, these instances of body travel still seem to problematize successful sympathetic encounters. For one, the fact that Sheppard Lee’s body is restored at the end is extremely significant. The entire narrative is written by this restored Sheppard Lee, and thus it seems as if even as Sheppard Lee inhabits the bodies of others there is still a marked seperation between Sheppard Lee and the body he inhabits. This may, again, be a result of the narrative–Sheppard Lee is writing this in hindsight, but it still prevents any true sympathetic exchange.

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