The History Channel and other outlets insist that knowing about the past is not enough: It must come alive and we must feel it. But are our emotions and sentiments a reliable guide to historical understanding? Daniel Block finds that Wordsworth, Keats, and other British Romantic writers may have something new to offer about the use and value of our affective experience.
It is certainly familiar turf for Baby Boomers, this persistent effort to figure out the ’60s or ’70s. Can history be parsed — actual occurrences considered apart from emotion-laden memories? And can a reliable picture of the whole be teased out, something that might be enriching, informative, or useful?
Daniel Block has been studying writers of the British Romantic era — the poets Keats and Wordsworth, the historical novelist Walter Scott and others. It’s a great, rich body of writing that speaks to the formation of historical feeling. (more…)