Romantic Circles Blog

What are you working on? (Kevin Binfield)

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From time to time we intend to use this blog to ask a scholar in our community, “What's on your desk right now? What are you working on?,” and then post the response. (We got the idea from The Believer magazine.) This seems a good way for all of us to keep up with new or forthcoming projects and to be inspired by their example. So we started by asking the question of Kevin Binfield of Murray State University.

I just spent two weeks face down in the copyedited manuscript for my book, Writings of the Luddites (forthcoming Spring 2004, John Hopkins University Press). Though famous for their violent protests, the Luddites also engaged in literary resistance in the form of poems, proclamations, petitions, songs, and letters. This volume collects complete texts written by Luddites and their sympathizers 1811-1816, organized into the three primary regions of origin—the Midlands, Northwestern England, and Yorkshire. The book includes an extensive introduction to the texts, a historical overview for those unfamiliar with the particulars of the Luddites and their activities, an exploration of their rhetorical strategies, detailed headnotes and a discussion of the social and rhetorical context. Written for the most part from a collective point of view, the Luddite writings range from judicious to bloodthirsty in tone, and reveal a fascination with the language of custom and trade, legal forms of address, petitions and political discourse, the more personal forms of Romantic literature, and the political revolutions in France and America.

I’m also working on a book tentatively titled Labor Romanticism. The book treats the poetics of several working class writers and writer collectives during the long Romantic period--Elizabeth Hands, Susanna Pearson, Janet Little, Frances Greensted, Robert Bloomfield, Christian Milne, Charlotte Richardson, William Lane, Sarah Newman, and the Luddites. My purposes are to read the verse for its formal elements, to identify a set of practices and preferences that we might call a "Labor Romantic" poetics, and to advocate reading their work as poetry with a beauty that results from locale, trade, and custom, rather than merely as sociological artifacts.

Thanks for asking!

Kevin Binfield

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Woodring to deliver Marchand Lecture

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Our server in Maryland was down for a while this week thanks to Hurricane Isabel. Charlie Robinson e-mailed yesterday from Delaware: "as I look out at the woods in the back yard. I see some swaying trees up 120 feet. So far winds here are merely 30 miles an hour--and I think we will get only the fringes of the storm." He was writing to ask me to post the following announcement:

Carl Woodring, Woodberry Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, noted scholar and author and editor of numerous works, including Politics in English Romantic Poetry and Coleridge’s Table Talk for the Collected Coleridge, will deliver the Fourth Annual Leslie A. Marchand Memorial Lecture on Friday, October 3, 2003, at 4:00pm, at The University of Delaware, 127 Memorial Hall, Newark, DE:

Three Byronic Heroes: Leslie Marchand, Don Juan, and Don QuixoteThe lecture is sponsored by The Byron Society of America and the English Department of the University of Delaware. A reception in the Byron Lounge will follow the lecture.

R.S.V.P. by Monday, 29 September 2003, by calling (302) 831-3654, or via e-mail at

Charles Robinson

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Pforzheimer Grants

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Doucet Fischer works in a wonderful place: the wood-paneled book-lined offices of the Pforzheimer Collection of the New York Public Library. Here’s a reminder from her about a funding opportunity specifically for advanced graduate students, junior faculty members, and independent scholars.

This blog offers me a new place to post information about the Keats-Shelley Association's Pforzheimer Grants, a program that was inaugurated in 1999. This initiative grew out of collective soul-searching about new directions the Association might take after the bicentennial era of the 90's, when we sponsored conferences celebrating the two-hundredth birthdays of Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, and Mary Shelley. For researchers, the Web acts as a candy-store window: the manuscript and book listings in the online catalogs of major libraries in the US and the UK are virtually right at hand, but the material objects are actually out of reach, often a pricey plane ticket away. And so, the KSAA board jumped at the idea of providing funds that would enable Ph.D. students, untenured faculty, and independent writers and scholars to pay for expenses related to their research. [cont'd]

So here’s the formal announcement:

The Keats-Shelley Association of America awards two annual Carl H. Pforzheimer Jr. Research Grants of $2,500 each to advanced graduate students, independent scholars, and untenured faculty members pursuing research on British Romanticism and literary culture between 1789 and 1832, with preference given to projects involving authors and subjects featured in the Keats-Shelley Journal Bibliography. The deadline is 1 November 2003. Further information and application forms may be obtained at:

Or applicants may write to me:

Doucet Fischer
Grants Administrator
Keats-Shelley Association of America, Inc.
The New York Public Library, Room 226
476 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10018-2788
email:; phone: (212) 764-0655.

Finally, a historical note about Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr. (1907-1996), for whom the grants are named: He was the son of Carl H. Pforzheimer, Sr. (1879-1957), a bibliophile, investment banker, and philanthropist who amassed several collections: among them were bibles, incunables, children's books, fine press editions, books and manuscripts related to English and American literature ranging from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries, as well as a large assemblage of material associated with British Romanticism. (Many readers will know the Romanticism Collection as the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, which was donated to The New York Public Library in 1986 by the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation.) Carl Pforzheimer, Jr., put the lie to the theory that acquired characteristics can't be inherited. He, too, was a bibliophile, investment banker, and philanthropist. He was also the steward of his father's collections, which he continued to augment, and the head of the family foundation that had (and still has, under the leadership of his son, Carl H. Pforzheimer III) a history of offering university presses support for scholarly publications related to the ever-widening Shelley circle. In addition, Carl Jr. served as the long-time president and generous patron of the Keats-Shelley Association of America. To honor his multifaceted contributions to the study of the authors and subjects covered in The Keats-Shelley Journal, the Association's board named the Grants in his honor.

Doucet Fischer

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digital romanticism

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One of the interesting things for me about the field of "Romanticism” right now is the way it’s being redefined around the edges, as it were, when it comes not to the canon but to its own material modes of production—not so much what we read and study as how we get our scholarship done. A case in point is our good friend, Matt Kirschenbaum, who is not a Romanticist per se but is an English professor specializing in digital studies. Matt did brilliant work early on in his career for the Blake Archive, among other projects, designing and encoding those extremely difficult images and texts alongside Joseph Viscomi and Jerome McGann. He is now an associate editor of Romantic Circles and, in that capacity, recently helped us set up Movable Type to run this very blog. Our field includes Matt and others like Matt in part because he is helping to shape our field.

Steve Jones

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Recent Conference: Queer Romanticism

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Amanda Berry, of Rhode Island School of Design, sends this participant’s report on a recent conference in Dublin:

Last month, August 15 -16, 2003, I was privileged to attend a two-day international conference on Queer Romanticism that took place at the Women's Education, Research and Resources Center at University College in Dublin. The event was splendidly organized by Michael O'Rourke (U.C. Dublin) and David Collings (Bowdoin College). Many thanks to Michael and David! Papers were presented continuously on both days, [cont'd]

beginning with a talk by George Haggerty (U.C. Riverside) on transgressive social-sexual relations in the trope of gothic terror and closing with Eric Clarke's (U. Pittsburgh) paper on homoeroticism, "lifestyle," and Kant's ethics, which began with a close reading of Kant's uncharacteristic request, during the last days of his life, for a kiss from his friend, Pastor Wasianski.

The projects that were presented at the conference varied a great deal in scope and method. Caroline Kimberley presented here work on the homosocial nature of the "trouble" the Keats circle had putting his biography together. Laura George talked about the importance of the Romantic "Thing" inside a project to queer the imagination of commodities during the period. Fiona Brideoake presented her ongoing work on The Ladies of Llangolen's attempts to invent a lesbian culture through especially their work to a amass a gigantic and very particularly chosen private library. Joe Rezek presented his work on the logic of the closet and "passing as a wife" in Amelia Opie's Adeline Mowbray. There were many more excellent presentations, by Richard Sha, Mair Rigby, Hal Gladfelder, Arnold Markley, Bridget Keegan, and others.

Given the relatively intimate structure of the conference--there were about 18 participants--we were all able to hear each other present and engage in a relatively fluid and ongoing discussion of queer work in the field and varying methodological approaches to thinking sex during the Romantic period. I understand that Romanticism on the Net will publish at least some of the papers given in Dublin sometime this spring. I look forward to that issue and hope anyone else interested in the topic(s) will take a look, as well.

Mandy Berry

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Peter Manning to Edit the Keats-Shelley Journal

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A little over ten years ago I took over from Stuart Curran as Editor of the Keats-Shelley Journal. This meant a lot to me, since I had published my first scholarly article in the KSJ while still a graduate student. It has been educational and fun, a major honor. Now it’s time to give someone else a turn.

The Journal and its readers are extremely lucky that the distinguished scholar and professor of English at the State University of New York, Stonybrook, Peter Manning, has agreed to take over from me as the new Editor, beginning in 2004. Stuart and I had a meeting at the first NASSR conference to discuss our transition. Last month, Peter and I talked at this year’s NASSR in New York (while standing in line for the performance of Death’s Jest Book and then waiting in the seats for the performance to begin), where we made plans for the new transition.

At the same time, Alice Levine is handing over the KSJ Book Review Editorship to her own worthy successor, another noted scholar and colleague, Professor Jeanne Moskal of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

In future please send books for possible review to Professor Moskal, Department of English, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599. And (it gives me great pleasure to say...) please send manuscripts of articles for consideration to Professor Peter Manning (, Department of English, SU of NY, Stonybrook, NY, 11794. I know Peter would want me to add: please send a SASE if you wish your manuscript returned, and double space everything in the manuscript, including the notes--which should be submitted as endnotes not footnotes (yes, we know they’ll be appear in the KSJ as footnotes). Consult back issues of the KSJ on other matters of style.

Steve Jones

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Teaching Frankenstein?

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For everyone teaching Frankenstein, this back-to-school note just in from Laura Mandell:

I'm writing to let people know that I have put up a page collecting all the resources that are available on the Romantic Circles Website for teaching Frankenstein. Romantic Circles has produced so many valuable resources, and this page solves the problem of finding them, remembering where they are, and directing students to everything that's available. Among other things, the collection includes a Praxis volume of critical essays (edited by Jerrold Hogle) on Victor Frankenstein's dream, the nineteenth-century stage adaptation, Presumption, a Mary Shelley chronology, and the student-created virtual reality space, FrankenMOO. The complete list can be found at:

Laura Mandell

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"Crossing the Channel" exhibition

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Andrew Elfenbein of the University of Minneapolis writes to tell us about the exhibition that just closed (September 7) at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism. It was organized by Tate Britain in association with the MIA and travels next to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (October 8, 2003-January 4, 2004).

This exhibition has a declared mission to inspire “a renewed consideration of British Romanticism as a cardinal force in the evolution of French art” (catalogue). Although the curator, Patrick Noon, sometimes suggests a model of “interchange” between French and British, the exhibition itself is mostly unidirectional in its premise that British art “saved” French art. It opens with a bang: two rooms devoted to Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. . . . [cont'd]

The first room contains other examples of shipwreck paintings (including J. M. W. Turner’s Disaster at Sea) and some of Géricault’s studies. The second has only one painting, but that’s all it needs: a nineteenth-century copy of the original Raft of the Medusa, now too fragile to travel. According to the catalogue, it contains detail no longer visible in the original itself; the copy has, unnervingly, become more original than the original. Although a copy, it has “aura” in spades. The painting is displayed at ground level (evidently in imitation of its installation in William Bullock’s Egyptian hall), and its sheer size and isolation make it at once hypervisible and overwhelming. Viewers huddled nervously at a safe distance, afraid of what might happen if they got too close.

The next rooms, “Literature and History,” have an immediate payoff for literary scholars, a wealth of paintings based on literary subjects, including, for example, Camille Roqueplan’s Equinoctial Tide, illustrating Scott’s The Antiquary; Richard Parkes Bonington’s Knight and Page, illustrating Goethe’s Goetz von Berlichingen, and the same artist’s Quentin Durward at Liège; Ary Scheffer’s The Dead Pass Swiftly, illustrating Bürger’s “Lenore”; Delacroix’s Combat between The Giaour and Hassan and Colin’s The Giaour Contemplating the Dead Hassan; and a small version of Delacroix’s famous Death of Sardanapalus. Although the catalogue parallels Byron and Scott as equal inspirations for French painters, it struck me that they called for rather different responses. While Scott was famous for his picturesque descriptions, it is usually quite difficult in Byron’s Turkish Tales to know just what is going on visually. For fans of the Gothic, the exhibit features a range of spooky monk-paintings, including an intriguing one by Alexandre-Evariste Fragonard (the son of the more famous Fragonard). This painting seems to illustrate a scene from a novel or melodrama, but no one has been able to identify it. Since Spenser is a cottage industry in my house, my partner and I also hugely enjoyed William Etty’s Phaedria and Cymochles on the Idle Lake, a fantasia in feathers, which would make a wonderful gloss on Keats’s Spenserianism. The exhibition also includes rooms devoted to images of everyday life (including many horse paintings); the rise of watercolor; and landscape painting; the watercolor room in particular has many more paintings based on literary subjects, such as Delacroix's creepy Lucy Ashton's Bridal Night.

The exhibit concludes with a miscellaneous gallery of famous images, including Horace Vernet’s Mazeppa and the Wolves, illustrating a poem that the nineteenth-century artists found considerably more interesting than academic critics have. The cornerstone of this room is Paul Delaroche’s Execution of Lady Jane Grey, which the accompanying note suggestively positions for the French as a replay of the death of Marie Antoinette. (My partner and I also had a good discussion about the extent to which the necklace held by one of the female attendants functions as a kind of crypto-rosary, a standard image in portrayals of the death of Mary Stuart.) Yet the image that drew me most was John Martin’s The Deluge, because it took me back to a memorable class I attended in graduate school, in which the day’s subject was the sublime and the central exhibit was to have been a slide of Martin’s painting. The projector collapsed, and the instructor, undaunted, proceeded to sketch the entire Deluge on the blackboard and lectured with dazzling, improvisatory élan--a flood of dark and light.

Andrew Elfenbein

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now blogging... Romantic Circles

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The Editors of the Romantic Circles Website are excited about this, our newest feature, the RC Blog. We’ll regularly post our own announcements here, but we also invite you to e-mail us with timely, brief, informal notes on new books, films, performances, events, exhibits, scholarly queries—anything of interest to the community of Romanticists. You'll find a form for contacting us at:

The Movable Type system should make it easy for us to post frequently and efficiently and to track all postings and comments. In many ways, this blog is the fulfilment of what we imagined back in 1996, in a more limited way, in our (hereby discontinued) Editors' Dispatches column. Blogging offers a form of publication more editorially controlled and less ephemeral than a listserv, but one that is still spontaneous and informal, open to input from the community. We hope to hear from you soon.

Steve Jones and Neil Fraistat,
Co-Editors, Romantic Circles

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Ron Broglio, Technologies of the Picturesque. Reviewd by Julia Carlson

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Ron Broglio, Technologies of the Picturesque: British Art, Poetry, and Instruments, 1750-1830. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2008.  236pp.  ISBN-10: 0-8387-5700-0 (Hdbk.), $50.00.




Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Part I: Water
1.  Introduction: The Sensate and the Sensible
2.  Longitude and the Inward Turn
Part II: Earth
3.  From Land to Landscape
4.  Other Maps and Other Territories

Part III: Sky
5.  From Sky to Skyscape
Part IV: Animals
6.  Cultured Cattle: From Bucolic to Beef
7.  Cattle and Human Animality


Reference List



Reviewed by
Julia Carlson
University of Cincinnati


Water, earth, sky, and animals?  At first glance, one of the four sections into which Technologies of the Picturesque is divided seems unlike the others.  We come quickly to recognize, however, that the likeness of “animals” to the other categories lies in its also being an object of picturesque vision: one of the basic “elements of nature” (15) encountered, perceived, and composed in visual art according to the rules of picturesque aesthetics.  Water, earth, sky, and animals are the basic vocabulary of the picturesque.  Yet, as Ron Broglio shows, Romantic artists were not alone in representing these objects and fitting them to human use; eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scientists and surveyors encountered and inscribed the same elements according to their particular technological, cartographic, agricultural, and immunological agendas.  In six tightly focused chapters, the author compares artistic and scientific encounters with nature, their tools and epistemologies, and their respective effects on human subjectivity and sense of space.  Crossing disciplinary divides consolidated only after the Romantic period, Broglio brings to light the reliance of poets and artists on the technologies of scientific endeavor and, conversely, the employment by scientists of picturesque principles and tools.  Both sorts of optical projects and systems made chaotic nature “legible” to humanity but in doing so enforced a Cartesian divide between human perceiver (eye, mind) and nature (body, matter) that materially distanced human beings and the environment.


Drawing on recent cultural-studies research and contemporary science studies, the book examines inscriptional technologies associated with nationally significant events of measuring and the four featured elements of nature.  Chapters consider the development of an accurate method for determining longitude at sea, the Ordnance Survey of Britain, the scientific classification of cloud types for weather prediction, and the selective breeding of cattle along with the principal tools these projects employed, including lunar charts, William Harrison’s H4 clock, the triangulation survey and map, the theodolite and measuring chain, cloud nomenclature, and the bodies of cattle and grazier guides.  Broglio strikingly pairs these technologies of measurement and representation with the tools and aesthetics of picturesque tourism, prospect poetry, cloud paintings, and cattle portraiture, exposing thereby the analogous and sometimes mutually reinforcing effects of art and technology: both transform nature into culture, render the opaque thing an intelligible object with an economic or aesthetic use value, cultivate a possessional subject position, and abstract the perceiver from the visible scene.  But Broglio does not stop here.  In movingly persuasive sections throughout the book, he considers Romantic counter-currents to optical hegemony: instances of phenomenological encounters with nature that refigure relations between the human and the environment.  Haptic engagements with nature in Wordsworth’s poetry, encounters governed by the sense of touch rather than sight, and durational depictions of nature in Constable’s painting, which prioritize time over figural space, offer radical constructions of subjectivity and space overlooked in other studies of the picturesque.  In Wordsworth’s and Constable’s “bending” (20) of the picturesque aesthetic, Broglio locates an alternative syntax that distributes thought and agency across human and environmental entities.  With increasing force as the book proceeds from “Water” and “Earth” to “Sky” and “Animals,” Broglio challenges ecocriticism’s assumption of a stable Romantic subject that pre-exists encounters with nature.


“Part I: Water” recounts the mid-eighteenth-century government-sponsored competition over the most accurate means of determining longitude at sea, comparing Nevil Maskelyne’s astronomical to George Harrison’s mechanical methods.  Broglio argues that the determining of longitude by means of Harrison’s mechanical clock produces a worldview parallel to that of the picturesque tourist.  The late-eighteenth-century navigator who looks to the face of the H4 clock performs an “inward turn” (29) away from the sea and the night sky to human-made instruments; this epistemological orientation toward the face of the mechanical object is reflected by the representation of abstract geometric lines upon globes and charts.  Similarly, the picturesque tourist navigates by means of a cluster of inscriptions and tools (Claude mirror, picturesque poems, paintings, and guidebooks) that collectively produces a “syntax”: a set of compositional rules that render the land intelligible (43).  While the grammar of picturesque landscape produces a worldview that values human representations of nature more highly than actual surroundings, tool use distributes cognition across “bodies, minds, and machines” (39).


Broglio exposes the epistemological implications of navigation by clock and picturesque tourism by way of Thomas Rowlandson’s The Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque.  Rowlandson humorously exposes the ironies of the aesthetic and the problems raised by its “cognitive ecology” (in Edwin Hutchins’ term, The Call of the Wild) of guidebooks and Claude mirrors.  Like the tool-encumbered Dr. Syntax, the user of Harrison’s clock values human representations of nature over unmediated perceptions.  Broglio intriguingly links the new prestige of “flat inscriptions” to a diminished ontology: Dr. Syntax’s frail body highlights that “our being in the world and our sense of what it means to be changes with our sense of the environment” (47).


“Part II: Earth” opens with the assertion that the rendering of a particular place—on a map as in a picturesque watercolor—employs a mode of vision and epistemology that produces a subject and a sense of space.  Building on the ideas of cultural geographer Stephen Daniels, who shows that maps “‘helped to coordinate Britain, in people’s mind as well as on the ground, as a national network of localities and regions’” (53), Broglio contrasts two Romantic period senses of space: the sensible and the sensate.[i]  Picturesque tourism and national cartography construct a disembodied viewing subject that knows itself in rationalized space—in geometric relation to abstractly perceived objects.  Wordsworth’s poetry, on the other hand, occasionally challenges the dominance of cartographic and picturesque vision by taking a phenomenological approach to the environment.  Wordsworth’s poetic re-mappings of Penrith Beacon and Black Combe shape not a citizen of the nation but an embodied, feeling self immersed in place.


Broglio gives a succinct history of the Ordnance Survey, reaching back to William Roy’s influence in its formation following the Jacobite rebellion of 1745.  Broglio highlights Roy’s survey of Scotland and the later Ordnance Survey of Ireland to show the political uses of the Survey, which as political tool “controls peoples and borders” (56).  Drawing on the work of John Barrell and visual theorists Erwin Panofsky, Jonathan Crary, and Martin Jay, Broglio shows how the “metaphysics of vision deployed in cartography and the picturesque serves a politics of nationalism,” producing land as an abstract object and a “tourist-subject” that knows itself as a citizen if a good tourist of the nation (51).  Like the surveyor, the “tourist-subject” oversees but has no significant tactile relationship to the geometrically ordered landscape.


Broglio’s interesting discussion of the “Cartesian perspectivalism” (the term is Jay’s) underlying both picturesque painting and the triangulation survey comes at the expense of sharp distinction among the related sign systems of the Ordnance Survey, its topographical maps, and contemporary tourist maps and guides (63).  Yet his brief consideration of the manifest overlay between the optics of the survey and James Clarke’s tourist diagrams of views from Penrith Beacon sets up a persuasive reading of the Penrith Beacon spot of time from The Prelude.  Disjoined from the tools of cartographic and picturesque vision, figured by the composite tool of the hand-on-horse-rein, the boy Wordsworth leaves the masterful vantage of the beacon (historically both a triangulation station and tourist site), wanders into a “bottom,” and thereby “explores a mapping through his body and a phenomenological encounter with the land” (52).  The boy is immersed in a space the surveyor and tourist would have overseen—a thickly textured, Heideggerian encompassment of the flesh of the body and “thingly” matter.


The next chapter develops these concerns by arguing that Wordsworth’s “alternative mapping” (81) of place challenges the suppositions of national cartography and the subject-object division it enforces.  Influential humanist readings of the episode (by Geoffrey Hartman, Alan Liu, and Frederick Garber) have obscured the subjective and ecological implications of the encounter with nature in Gondo Gorge.  Drawing on Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy of organism, which understands the components of the world to be resonating “entities” in a “plane of relation,” and on Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s notion of the “assemblage,” which defines things by their connections, Broglio traces in the Gorge passage a radical dissolution of subject and object and a sublime figuring of the interrelatedness of “entities” (91).  According to Broglio, the slippage of reference in the poetry maps a “trafficking of forms” (Hartman) or “vector relations” (forces of connectivity immanent in a landscape and set loose by event) (93); in so doing, Wordsworth remakes the poet “as that which connects with various elements in the landscape” (85).  The final sections of the chapter read “Resolution and Independence,” “The Old Cumberland Beggar,” “The Discharged Soldier” and “A narrow girdle of rough stones and crags” as more politically potent re-mappings of human-environment relations.  In showing connections between human figures and entities in the landscapes of the poems, Wordsworth re-envisions space as non-exclusionary and opens the possibility of an alternative social reality that doesn’t reject “the wandering poor” (107).  By redistributing agency and thought among objects, Wordsworth questions “what it means to be human,” and by linking the human and the object world, the poetry “bears witness to identity as a semi-stable state that may undergo radical change” (117).


Representations of clouds also refigure identity.  In “Part III: Sky,” Broglio considers John Constable’s surpassing of the picturesque formula for representing clouds, deftly arguing that Constable’s more dynamic cloud forms were not determined by early-nineteenth-century meteorology.  Correcting arguments that Constable figured clouds according to the morphological classifications of meteorologists Luke Howard and Thomas Forster, Broglio holds that Constable depicts clouds in greater specificity than any sign system of clouds could accommodate.[ii]  The book’s emphasis on inscriptional systems here takes an interesting temporal turn.  The scientists and Constable differently record their observations of “changeling clouds” in static media.  Howard’s taxonomy privileges distinction of form over inscription of time while permitting cloud forms to index future weather.  The sign system’s accommodation of temporality marks a “similarity in thought” between Howard and Constable, who also strives to give his inscriptions a feel of narrative (129); however, the painter’s use of a synchronous medium tells a fuller story about the weather’s unfolding in time: “Unlike meteorological nomenclature, Constable’s patterns are singular rhythms of clouds filling space over time, creating within each painting a particular rendering of spatiotemporal duration” (149).  The spatiotemporal specificity of Constable’s clouds exceeds the taxonomies of the scientists while suggesting a form of time “outside of human control” (151) and a human subjectivity constituted by its relatedness to the environment. Invoking Michel Serres’ notion of temps (time and weather) and Merleau-Ponty’s flesh of the world (“the spatial relation between objects”), Broglio reflects on the capacity of Constable’s clouds to figure ecological agency and to reveal “the possibility and latency of the felt space of interrelation” (152).  In a final insightful turn, Broglio liberates Constable’s cloud forms from conventional readings of the picturesque by asserting the non-nationalism of their agentive temporality.


In “Part IV: Animals,” Broglio significantly revises our view of cattle and of the humans who breed, paint, eat, and absorb their fluids.  Through the agricultural innovations of Robert Bakewell, Broglio introduces the communicative function of picturesque aesthetics in the agricultural revolution.  In selective breeding, “cattle are both the technological tool for changing the breed and the object that is worked upon” (162).  Still, Broglio explains, the “improvement” and marketing of a breed required a further “ecology of tools” that included grazier guides, cattle portraits, and engravings (176).  Broglio impressively evidences these historical practices and inscriptional technologies—making us familiar with the form and fame of Bakewell’s longhorn Shakespeare (“the ideal of British beef” [169]), Robert and Charles Colling’s shorthorn Lincolnshire Ox (painted by George Stubbs), and their hefty Durham Ox, who provided the most famous cattle image of the nineteenth century (174).  Portraits, prints, and verbal descriptions in the grazier guides acted as publicity that increased studding fees and the value of beef.  Broglio’s consideration of the suitability of picturesque composition to the “points”-system for assessing individual cattle demonstrates the resonant richness of this book.  Picturesque landscape convention induces a straying of the eye over lines and surfaces so as to enable the portrait’s visual argument about the worth of the cattle body.  Essentially, the side of the animal “substitutes for the whole of the landscape” while “the viewer occupies the position of the graziers, judges, and agricultural writers who with great detail and enthusiasm describe the scoops, curves, lines, and bulges of cattle” (179).


But we are not to marvel at this intersection of aesthetics and agricultural technology.  A fact the author brings forth—that the average weight of a cattle carcass almost doubled between 1710 and 1795—gives heft to his polemic (180): cattle breeding and its “ecology of tools” control the animal in profound and self-serving ways.  Broglio convincingly argues that picturesque portraiture was effective not only in fashioning the animal for human use but also in connecting beef to Britishness.  That eighteenth-century British painting had linked cattle to rural England helped prepare for the Romantic-era verbal and visual encoding of beef-eating as patriotic.


The final chapter of the book rehearses Edward Jenner’s discovery of the smallpox vaccination in order to re-interpret human-bovine relations within the picturesque.  Here Broglio relies on the research of Tim Fulford, Debbie Lee, and Peter Kitson, who relate the history of Jenner’s experimental injection of human patients with cowpox in order to immunize them to smallpox.[iii]  Developing the implications of the anxiety raised by Jenner’s “cross-species cure” (188), Broglio argues that the injection of the human body with animal fluid constitutes a point of contact between the animal and human that makes palpable to the human its animality within.  Broglio theorizes the cultural meanings of the breach of the human interior by invoking the writings of Anthony Berger, Jacques Derrida, and Gilles Deleuze, and by examining the visual and verbal rhetoric of popular caricatures that fanned anti-vaccination sentiments.  Most interestingly, Broglio explores the limits to human consciousness posed by animal corporeality and the subversive potential of the cattle portrait.  In the picturesque painting or print, the “large abstract square mass interrupts linear perspective and offers an area for contact with the real” (195) so as to upset the rational, optical dominance of the human.  Broglio teaches us to read the rough swath of cow surface (favored by William Gilpin over the smooth coat of the horse) as that which the human perceiver cannot cognitively master.  If the space figured by Constable’s clouds resists national coding, the painted bovine in profile view disrupts the optics of national forms of inscription (the Ordnance Survey and the picturesque landscape painting) and disperses agency throughout the environment.


One of the many virtues of Broglio’s enjoyable book is its systematic demonstration, case by case, of the interrelationship between picturesque aesthetics and technological developments in scientific mensuration.  The emphasis, across these cases, on inscriptional technology and epistemology ultimately produces a coherent argument about Romantic subjectivity and space that poses a significant philosophical challenge to Green Romanticism’s assumption of the independence and priority of human identity.  While the book may not revolutionize our reading of the central texts of canonical literary Romanticism, that is not its goal; working at the intersections of Romantic poetry, art, and science, Broglio offers impressive readings of Wordsworth’s phenomenological mapping of place, Constable’s temporalization of the sky, and the projection of animal corporeality within the picturesque while also revealing the conceptual and theoretical relations of these seemingly disparate topics.  The book makes a significant contribution to existing scholarship in visual culture, the technologization of vision, Romantic cartography, and ecocriticism.  While the work is highly informative throughout, Broglio is most poetically fluent and persuasive when opening our eyes to the picturesque surfaces impenetrable to human thought, and when sensitizing us to Romanticism’s points of palpable connection between human and ecological agents.



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[i] Stephen Daniels, “Re-visioning Britain: Mapping and Landscape Painting, 1750-1820,” in Glorious Nature: British Landscape Painting, 1750-1850, eds. Katharine Baetjer and Michael Rosenthal (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1993).


[ii] Kurt Badt, John Constable’s Clouds (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1950); John E. Thornes, John Constable’s Skies (Birmingham: University of Birmingham Press, 1999).


[iii] Tim Fulford, Debbie Lee, and Peter Kitson, Literature, Science, and Exploration in the Romantic Era: Bodies of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004), 198-227.

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