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Sociopolitical (i.e., Romantic) Difficulty in Modern Poetry and Aesthetics

This essay traces the ways that Romantic poetics and aesthetics bequeath certain problems of difficulty that emerge full-blown in Modernism proper. The essay identifies and reconsiders a number of issues around the question of "difficulty" that are simultaneously poetic, theoretical, and sociopolitical. The essay's discussions range from Kant and the Romantic poets, through the Frankfurt School and its afterlives in contemporary critical-theoretical writings, to recent poetry and cinema. Among the questions the essay pursues (from a perspective at once aesthetic and sociopolitical) is whether Romantic notions of difficulty taken up by modern art can help us evaluate whether the apparent difficulties of a given piece of contemporary critical or theoretical writing is necessary or justified or whether, on the other hand, it is simply obscure, over-complicated, and/or poorly written (and hence impedes, or renders itself irrelevant to, attempts to put literary-aesthetic materials and experiences into engagement with social, historical, and political reality).
July 2003


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Heringman, "'Manlius to Peter Pindar': Satire, Patriotism, and Masculinity in the 1790s"

This essay examines the political satires of John Wolcot (alias Peter Pindar) in the context of the numerous patriotic attacks on their author between 1787 and 1801. Wolcot's satires on George III met with ferocious, politically motivated attacks on the poet's masculinity. These can be explained only in part with reference to the French Revolution: Wolcot's literary combats, and his influence on younger satirists such as James Gillray, also testify to the longer-term importance of sodomy, scatology, and gendered notions of the king's two bodies in English political debate. This essay appears in _Romanticism and Patriotism: Nation, Empire, Bodies, Rhetoric_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (, University of Maryland.


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