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"Introduction: The Romantic Rhetoric of Life"

This essay introduces a collection of articles intended to initiate a conversation about and between biopolitics and romanticism. Its broad contention is that the study of biopolitics reanimates the question of romanticism in two senses. First, the set of conceptual resources provided in recent work on biopolitics opens up inventive lines of inquiry that enable scholars to re-think the already established awareness that the literature, philosophy, and culture of romanticism displays an obsession with life. In another sense biopolitics reanimates romanticism insofar as the current scholarly concern with life as an object of power marks the radical survival of romanticism. If romanticism responds well when examined in the light of contemporary biopolitical theory, then a constitutive part of this response is a certain resistance to biopolitical theory. As the contributors to this volume demonstrate, the biopolitical intervention on life engages paradoxes, predicaments, and aporias that have been widely or fully appreciated neither by theorists of biopolitics nor by critics who take up their work. Romanticism, we suggest, is a privileged locus for the awareness that even the most assured representation of life turns upon an irreducible “literariness.”
December 2012


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"What is Poetry in the Theater of Biopolitics?"

Sun examines how J. S. Mill develops in his aesthetic writings a theatrical rhetoric of poetic citizenship that challenges the bio-political theatricality of Benthamite panopticism. Mill derives his definition of poetry, which involves at its core a dissociation between the visible and the audible, from the Wordsworthian figuration of nature as the site of a disjunction between sense and sense-perception. Poetry, for Mill, serves as the medium of a voice that circulates beyond the regulatory gaze of panopticism to address the political subject as helpless, inactive overhearer rather than as bio-political actor-spectator.
December 2012


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Archive of Comparative Romanticism Sessions at Modern Language Association Annual Conventions (1990- )

Romantic Studies at the MLA, 1990-
Comparative Romanticism Division Sessions

1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998


Gender and Genre

Division on Comparative Studies in Romanticism and the Nineteenth Century. Presiding: Cynthia Chase, Cornell Univ.

1. "Mourning, Masochism, and Mothers: Felicia Hemans on the Origins of Poetry," Carol Barash, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick
2. "'As I Am a Man': The Structures and Stakes of Masculinity in 'The Thorn,'" Philip Barrish, Cornell Univ.

Romanticism and Anti-Semitism: Texts, Contexts, Criticism


"The Ruins of Empire and the Contradictions of Restoration: Barbauld, Byron, Hemans"

This essay explores how Regency ruin culture developed at once as the apogee and the ambivalently repressive (and repressed) symptom of British imperialism, articulating the nuances of “Britain’s role in determining the trajectory of the Napoleonic imperial project at moments unstably situated between triumph and catastrophe, commercial and military pre-eminence and social crisis.” Working through Walter Benjamin's comments on ruination in The Arcades Project, Keach marks out how the difference between a “canonical” and “critical” ruin culture depends on gestures of delayed fascination tempered by an “awakening” that throws the ruin into sudden critical knowledge. For Keach, the ruin is indelibly coupled to restoration, thus producing a double movement of destruction and reconstruction that not only operates separately, but is intrinsic to the ideology of the ruin. As fragment, the ruin figures as a remainder of other cultures newly “acquired” and transmuted into the mournful excesses that haunt their reinstallment in pre- and post-Waterloo Britain. Even more, it either constitutes a celebratory surplus that hints at renovation or offers itself as unyielding matter—the debris of political and social violence.
January 2012

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