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Department of English

Sarah Eron

Valerie Karno

Assistant Professor of English

Ph.D. Cornell University
M.A. Cornell University
B.A. Brown University

Office: 308E Swan Hall
Phone: 401-874-4683
Office Hours: Mon/Wed by appointment


Sarah Eron specializes in the literature, culture, and philosophy of the long eighteenth century (1660-1820). She is the author of Inspiration in the Age of Enlightenment (University of Delaware Press, 2014). This book reconsiders theories of apostrophe and poetic authority to argue that the Augustan age created a new form of inspiration, one that not only changed the relationship of literary production to authority in the modern period but also crucially contributes to defining the movement of secularization in literature from the Renaissance to Romanticism. By reformulating the passive structure of ancient invocation and subjecting it to the more dialogical methods of modern apostrophe and address, authors such as the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, Alexander Pope, Henry Fielding, and Anna Laetitia Barbauld formally revise inspiration in a way that generates a new and distinctive representation of the author. In this context, inspiration becomes a social gesture - an apostrophe to a friend or judging spectator or an allusion to the mental or aesthetic faculties of the author himself, his genius. Articulating this struggle toward modernity at its inception, this book examines modern authority at the moment when it was still tied to the creative energies of inspiration, to the revelatory powers that marked the awakening of a new era of Enlightenment.

Dr. Eron's current project, Mind over Matter: The Eighteenth-Century Rise of Self-Consciousness,examines how developments in eighteenth-century aesthetic thought, especially in relation to the rise of the novel, led to current concepts of cognition, perception, and understanding. Critics have lately emphasized the early novel's reliance on “sense perception” wherein consciousness is characterized by the human engagement with objects. However, the rise of the novel can also be attributed to practices of self-recording wherein subjectivity is defined through a reflection upon the self within time. This, in fact, is what was novel about novels; they began to think about thinking in a temporal register. Against object-oriented readings that have dominated our study of the novel for decades, this book argues that the eighteenth-century novel developed a new theory of mind that depended upon our ability to locate the self in time. In contrast to externalist arguments about thinking in the eighteenth century, this work considers how we arrived at the assumption that there was something special about the human experience of consciousness.

Sarah Eron has published articles in a number of journals and online publications on issues of religion and aesthetics, time and form, gender and genre, secularization and Enlightenment. Her most recent work has appeared in such publications as Eighteenth-Century Novel and Blake, An Illustrated Quarterly. Sarah is an affiliated member of the Modern Language Association, the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Northeast American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies, the American Comparative Literature Association and the North American Society for Studies in Romanticism.

At URI, she teaches courses on satire, the rise of the novel, eighteenth-century women writers, eighteenth-century poetry, and Restoration drama. Recent courses include:


English 374: The Embodied Mind: The 18th-Century Passions
English 264: Theater & the Passions
English 447: Eighteenth-Century Poetry
English 480: Daniel Defoe: 1660-1731.
English 469: The Eighteenth-Century Novel
English 374: Satire.
English 265: Gothic Fictions
English 460: Wordsworth & Rousseau
English 260: Austen and Her Predecessors


English 610. Enlightenment Aesthetics
English 610. Literary Minds: How Novels Think