The Romantic Circles
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An uncouth story, in the taste of the German novelists, trenching in some degree on
delicacy, setting probability at defiance, and leading to no conclusion either moral
or philosophical. In some passages, the writer appears to favour the doctrines of
materialism: but a serious examination is scarcely necessary for so excentric a
vagary of the imagination as this tale presents
from The Gentleman's Magazine 88 (April 1818): 334-35.
This Tale is evidently the production of no ordinary Writer; and, though we are
shocked at the idea of the event on which the fiction is founded, many parts of it
are strikingly good, and the description of the scenery is excellent.
Shelley's political legacy passed through an often-neglected
school of writers to world leaders and revolutionaries globally in the
decades following his death. When assessing his legacy, we should not
overlook those early, ardent appreciators known as "the Spasmodic School."
Alexander Smith, Sydney Dobell, J. Stanyan Bigg, and even James Thomson B.V.
took Shelley's call to a revolution conducted through imaginative sympathy
seriously, and together, helped to fan his "fading coal" to flame.
This essay reads Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Mask of Anarchy in the context of the
resurgence of critical interest in anarchist theory. The essay meditates on
how recent developments in anarchist-related critical theory, specifically
the work of Jacques Rancière, make visible an aesthetics of anarchism. Using
Rancière's re-contextualization of the Romantic aesthetic philosophies of
Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Schiller, the essay argues that Shelley's protest poem can be read
as an anarchism not only in terms of its political content, but, perhaps more
radically, with respect to its form. In so doing, the essay attempts to think
beyond the critical impasse in which The Mask is understood as sacrificing
aesthetics for politics, or politics for aesthetics, by asking how The Mask
might be read as expressing an anarchic politics, in Rancière's words,
"simply by being literature."
In the short run, government prosecution of radical publishers
after Peterloo affected literary sensibilities of late Romanticism, evident
in the fall in popularity of political satire in the 1820s. In the long run,
government repression, by silencing dissent, shaped the canon of radical and
Romantic literature. This essay explores the forgotten career of the radical
satirist and publisher, John Cahuac, cut short by his transportation.
This essay argues for a close relationship between Shelley's
aesthetics and the modern concept of nonviolence. By reading Shelley with
Theodor Adorno and Jacques Rancière, the essay establishes a critical Romantic nonviolence
at the core of their aesthetic theories.