Eighteenth-Century Stoic Poetics

Shaftesbury, Akenside, and the Discipline of the Imagination


Eighteenth-Century Stoic Poetics: Shaftesbury, Akenside, and the Discipline of the Imagination offers a fresh perspective on the eighteenth-century poetics of Lord Shaftesbury and Mark Akenside. This book traces the two authors’ debt to Roman Stoic spiritual exercises and early modern conceptions of the care of the self, which informs their view of the poetic imagination as a bundle of techniques designed to manage impressions, cultivate right images in the mind and rectify judgement. Alexandra Bacalu traces the roots of this articulation in early modern writings on the imagination, as well as in Restoration and Augustan debates on wit, exploring the fruitful tension between ideas of imaginative enthusiasm and imaginative regulation that it provokes.

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Alexandra Bacalu, Ph.D (2020) is Assistant Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Bucharest, where she teaches eighteenth-century British literature and the history of the care of the self.
“Among many other things, this book is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the reception of Stoicism in the eighteenth century, reaffirming Shaftesbury’s place as a key figure in the Stoic tradition. It should also be of interest to anyone concerned with Stoicism and aesthetics."
John Sellars, Royal Holloway, University of London

"Eighteenth-Century Stoic Poetics brilliantly examines how a transition occurred from the disparagement of the imagination to its elevation. Most works miss this background to the eighteenth century, but the way in which Bacalu examines therapy, medical sources, spiritual exercises, and poetry, recovers hidden sources for disciplining some of the diseases of our own day. It is a work not to be missed!"
Michael Deckard, Lenoir-Rhyne University

1 The Stoic Imagination
 1 Sources and Genres
 2 Imagination and Opinion
 3 Early Modern Exercises for the Imagination

2 The Poetic Imagination
 1 Sources and Genres
 2 Dynamics of Wit and Judgement
 3 Wit and Poetic Enthusiasm

3 Shaftesbury and the Discipline of the Fancies
 1 True Judgment and Ingenuity
 2 Judgement and Stoic Exercises
 3 Soliloquy and Imagination
 4 Stoic Discipline and Reasonable Enthusiasm

4 Akenside and the Conduct of the Powers of Imagination
 1 Stoic Ethics in The Pleasures of Imagination
 2 Invention and Stoic Exercises
 3 Pleasure and Enthusiasm
 4 Familiarity, Habit, and Association

This book is intended for scholars and students interested in historical conceptions of the imagination, ideas about poetry and criticism in the long eighteenth century, and the early modern history of therapeutic culture. Keywords: Stoicism, spiritual exercises, enthusiasm, regulation, Augustan period, poetry, care of the self, Enlightenment, early modern period, British, wit, Restoration, passions, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius.
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