Between 1965 and 2000 George Rousseau wrote a series of landmark essays about the role of the nervous system in the rise of literature and sensibility that altered the landscape of eighteenth-century studies. He showed that the nervous system was a crucial determinant in the rise of recent culture. More than any other body part it held the key to understanding how far back the strains and stresses of modern life - fatigue, depression, mental illness - extended.Now these essays have been collected for the first time. The arguments challenge thinking about the Enlightenment and reconfigure the contexts of European sensibility. Since their original publication much criticism and scholarship has been produced that engages, adopts, and expands on Rousseau's discussions. The new introductory essay surveys this fascinating cultural profile from the ancients to the moderns, and provides a personal account of what the author's quest for the past has entailed. The epilogue engages with the critical reception of the original essays and glances at the future of nerves: ethically, morally, and in the light of the stresses of modern life.

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