David A. Collings

Professor of English

Teaching this semester

ENGL 2352/ENVS 2438. Natural Supernaturalism

Examines the Romantic attempt to blend aspects of the transcendental – such as the sublime, immortality, and divinity – with ordinary life, the forms of nature, and the resources of human consciousness. Discusses theories of the sublime, poetry of the English landscape, mountaintop experiences, tales of transfiguration, and evocations of intimacy with nature. Explores the difficulties of representing the transcendental in secular poetry and the consequences of natural supernaturalism for our own understanding of nature. Authors include Burke, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Kant, and Shelley.

ENGL 2841. Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory

Explores some of the most important and compelling aspects of literary and cultural theory from the past century. Situates critical movements such as Marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism, structuralism, deconstruction, queer theory, postcolonial theory, critical race theory, and cultural studies in their historical and intellectual context. Includes such authors as Marx, Freud, Benjamin, Barthes, Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Sedgwick, Butler, and Žižek.

Teaching next semester

ENGL 1060. English Composition

Practice in developing the skills needed to write and revise college-level expository essays. Explores the close relationship between critical reading and writing. Assignment sequences and different modes of analysis and response enable students to write fully developed expository essays. Does not count toward the major or minor in English.

ENGL 2350/GSWS 2242. Radicals, Feminists, Poets, Monsters, circa 1800

Examines the rise of and reactions to radical literature in the wake of the French Revolution. Focuses on such topics as extravagant lyricism, anarchism, non-violent revolution, and the critique of marriage, family, male privilege, and patriarchal religious belief, as well as the defense of tradition and the depiction of revolution as monstrosity. Discusses radical rewritings of classical myth, the uses of fiction for political critique, and the intersections between sharp historical change and the emergence of the Gothic. Authors may include Burke, Blake, Wollstonecraft, Godwin, Percy Shelley, and Mary Shelley.

David Collings received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside. His research focuses on British Romantic literature (including Romantic poetics, radical and feminist literature, and the Gothic novel); the intersections of Romanticism and Kantian critical philosophy; the emergence of modern industrial capitalism alongside the popular radical response; and the broad cultural implications of climate change.

His first book, Wordsworthian Errancies: The Poetics of Cultural Dismemberment, explores how the poetry of William Wordsworth responded to the cultural consequences of Britain’s war with revolutionary France. His second, Monstrous Society: Reciprocity, Discipline, and the Political Uncanny, c. 1780-1848, traces the effects of new forms of social discipline on longstanding relations of reciprocity between gentry and plebeians and the response to these changes in novels such as Frankenstein. Stolen Future, Broken Present: The Human Significance of Climate Change argues that the likely disappearance of a common future under the pressure of climate change puts all of our present purposes into question. His current project, Disastrous Subjectivities: Romanticism, Modernity, and the Real examines the formation of a Romantic subjectivity haunted by the demands of an impossible ethics, a sublime infinity, and the prospect of natural disaster. With Michael O’Rourke, he co-edited Queer Romanticisms, and with Jacques Khalip, Romanticism and Disaster. He has written articles about workless Blake, oblivion in the poetry of John Clare, emotion without content, the impasses of utilitarianism, anti-biography, and much more. At Bowdoin he has served as the Chair of English, Director of Gay and Lesbian Studies, and as member of the tenure, governance, and budget committees; he has also served as the Chair of the Advisory Board of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism and is now a member of its Executive Board.

He offers courses on British Romantic literature, especially with regard to Romantic poetics, the emergence of radical and feminist literature, and the history of gender and sexuality; and on literary and cultural theory.

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Education

  • Ph.D., University of California; Riverside, CA, 1987

Selected Publications

In progress: Disastrous Subjectivities: Romanticism, Catastrophe, and the Real.

Stolen Future, Broken Present: The Human Significance of Climate Change. Open Humanities Press and University of Michigan Library, 2014.

Radio Ecoshock interview by Alex Smith

Monstrous Society: Reciprocity, Discipline, and the Political Uncanny, c. 1780-1848.  Bucknell University Press, 2009.

Wordsworthian Errancies: The Poetics of Cultural Dismemberment. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

"The Force of Indirection: 'Tintern Abbey' in the History of Mood." In British Romanticism: Criticism and Debates, edited by Mark Canuel, Routledge, 2015, 409-417.

"Emotion Without Content: Primary Affect and Pure Potentiality in Wordsworth," in Romanticism and the Emotions, edited by Joel Faflak and Richard Sha, Cambridge University Press, 2014, 171-191.

Romanticism and Disaster
.  Co-edited with Jacques Khalip.  Special issue of Romantic Circles Praxis, 2012.

After the Covenant: Romanticism, Secularization, and Disastrous Transcendence European Romantic Review 21 (2010): 345-61.

The Discipline of Death:  Knowledge and Power in An Essay on the Principle of Population.  European Romantic Review 18 (2007): 223-230.

Queer Romanticisms: Past, Present, and Future.  Co-edited with Michael O'Rourke.  Special issue of Romanticism on the Net.  No 36-37, 2004.
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"The Romance of the Impossible: William Godwin in the Empty Place of Reason".
ELH: English Literary History 70 (2003): 847-874.
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"On the Modest Tone of Recent Work in Romantic Studies." College Literature 28 (2001): 207-214.

"Bentham's Auto-Icon: Utilitarianism and the Evisceration of the Common Body."
Prose Studies 23 (2000): 95-127.

"The Harsh Delights of Political Duty: Thelwall, Coleridge, Wordsworth, 1795-1799." Romantic Wars: Studies in Conflict and Culture, 1793-1822. Edited by Philip Shaw. Pages 57-79. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000.

"Coleridge Beginning a Career: Desultory Authorship in 'Religious Musings.'" ELH: English Literary History 58 (1991): 167-193.

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