Literature

Dissensus in Two Registers: “Tintern Abbey” in Taiwan

Date published: 

December, 2016

If a conversation between poetry and philosophy can be said to have inhabited the language and literature of Romanticism since its inception—and to have constituted the driving force of Romanticism-as-theory, what happens to this conversation when it crosses linguistic and cultural borders? What are the limits of the theory internal to Romanticism and of the theories that Romanticism generates beyond the confines of an increasingly monophone globalism? This paper engages with such questions by presenting and reflecting on passages of textual and cultural dissensus—à propos the specific difficulty of translating the very signifiers, “sense” and the “senses”—in the reading of “Tintern Abbey” in a non-Western context. It suggests that such sites of untranslatability may serve precisely as new grounds for restarting Romanticism’s theoretical potential in our contemporary global context of connected yet heterogeneous cultural traditions.

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The Intimacy of Infrastructure: Teaching Wordsworth with Bataille

Date published: 

December, 2016

This essay outlines how one might lead a discussion of William Wordsworth’s sonnet “Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways” (1833) in relation to Georges Bataille’s chapter “The Rise of Industry” from his Theory of Religion (1973). Such a pairing would attune the classroom conversation to questions of intimacy as they arise in the poem and in Bataille, and can show students how to read a poem for more than its apparent argument. The combination of Wordsworth and Bataille can show students how capitalist ideology generates its own internal resistance, how British Romantic writing can construe subjectivity as an injury, how poetry speaks through its formal procedures, and how theory interacts with literary texts ambiguously, in ways that go beyond serving as a metaphorical lens.

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Teaching Romanticism, Poetics, and Lyric Theory

Date published: 

December, 2016

Cumbersome terminology aside, this essay demonstrates the use and interest of teaching the debated concept of lyric ontology in the Romantic Poetry classroom across undergraduate and graduate levels. It moves from a narrative introduction on Robert Frost's very material practice of "lyric overhearing" on his Derry, New Hampshire party-phone line, to extended consideration of the recent scholarly turn to historical poetics in the study of nineteenth century British and American Poetry. I discuss Virginia Jackson's influential and compelling anti-lyric anti-theory——Jackson's version of the resistance to theory——as it presents a teachable conflict with the Romantic "literary absolute." The essay ends by reconsidering the metonymic linkage between the position of Romanticism and the position of poetry/ literature/ the Humanities in the institution of the contemporary university, and with brief suggestions for lesson plan ideas and student readings. (Post-production note: contemporary American poet Ben Lerner's The Hatred of Poetry [Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016] makes for a timely addition to the essay's bibliographic suggestions and also may impart something like a critical mass to the essay's approach to teaching in the rift between poetic ontology and historical poetics.)

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On the Uses and Abuses of Theory (for Life)

Date published: 

December, 2016

This piece relates some strategies for creating a generative tension between theory and romanticism in the classroom. Its examples are Badiou's strident critiques of romanticism as the "philosopheme" of historicism and Kant's imbrication of "theory" and "practice." At stake more broadly is the problematic notion of use (and misuse), so common in recent discussions about the humanities: how to "use" literature—which literature, or which theory, and for what ends.

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Romanticism in the Peripheries: Choe Jae-seo’s Literary Criticism in Colonial Korea

This essay explores the possibilities of literary criticism in a colonial situation by tracing the career of Choe Jae-seo (1908-64), who was one of the first scholars of English literature to write literary criticism in colonial Korea. Choe began his literary studies with a particular focus on English Romanticism at Kyungsung Imperial University, and Romantic aesthetics became a major site of struggle for Choe in finding his voice as a colonized critic. Throughout this struggle, Romanticism carries the burden of Choe’s historical and political consciousness by becoming the point of tension between literature and politics, East and West, universal cosmopolitanism and totalitarian imperialism. At the end of this road, Choe arrives at the possibility of a Romantic cosmopolitan criticism, which continues to call for a critical vigilance against colonial oppression and political violence.

December 2016

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The Romantic Revival in Early China and Taiwan: Hsu Chih-Mo’s Poetics of Liberty

The Chinese poet Hsu Chih-Mo (1897-1931), known as the Chinese Shelley, brought Romantic ideas from Britain to modern China. His conviction of liberty was manifested in his literary works, alongside his pursuit of true love and social change. This essay employs the concept of “Romantic legacies” to revisit Hsu’s Romantic philosophy and Taiwan’s Romantic movements. Firstly, the essay examines Hsu’s Romantic legacies. Influenced by Bertrand Russell, Thomas Hardy and other British intellectuals, Hsu succeeded to Shelley’s Romantic ideas of social justice and love. His journeys to Europe and experience of love helped shape and reshape his Romantic philosophy. Secondly, the essay explores Hsu’s Romantic ideas and Taiwan’s democratization. Hsu’s literary works, regaining significance in the spirit of the Fourth May movement, facilitated Taiwanese youngsters’ understanding of the significance of independent minds. Hsu’s poetics of liberty was introduced to Taiwan and gained popularity, in particular, during the period of campus ballads. In brief, the Shelleyan skylark flew from Britain, via modern China, to Taiwan and continues singing its songs of idealism.

December 2016

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Sophie Laniel-Musitelli and Thomas Constantinesco, eds. - Romanticism and Philosophy: Thinking with Literature. Review by Bysshe Inigo Coffey

Romanticism and Philosophy: Thinking with Literature, eds. Sophie Laniel-Musitelli and Thomas Constantinesco (New York: Routledge, 2015), pp. 264, £90 (Hdbk., 978113880550700).

Bysshe Inigo Coffey
PhD Student at University of Exeter

An Object-Oriented Ontology of Media through Don Juan

This essay applies concepts from object-oriented ontology (OOO) to the study of communications media specifically with respect to Lord Byron’s Don Juan (1819-1824). The essay’s primary contention is that OOO provides a conceptual stance well-suited to reveal some of the early media-ontological speculations performed in, around, and through Don Juan. This object-oriented ontology of media, rooted in Romantic-era texts, also provides us with tools for analyzing our current media ecology.

November 2016

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