Shelley’s Spasmodic Afterlife

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.

September 2015


Masks of An-Archy: Shelley, Rancière, and the Anarchist Turn

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."

September 2015


Remembering John Cahuac: Post-Peterloo Repression and the Fate of Radical-Romantic Satire

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.

September 2015



The introduction to The Politics of Shelley: History, Theory, Form begins by returning to a 2001 volume in the Romantic Circles Praxis Series that addressed Shelley's politics. Homing in on the complexity of the possibility of a poem intervening in its immediate political context, the introduction frames the volume as sustaining the necessity of seeing through and beyond the antinomy of commitment and autonomy by rereading and reimagining the political in Shelley’s writings and his legacy.

September 2015


Shelley’s Aesthetic Dimension: The Politics of Resistance and Reform

Given the resurgence of interest in the relation between Shelley’s political essays and poetry, what concept of relationality can be posed to move beyond an old, entrenched opposition between the social commitment of prose and the abstract withdrawal of poetry to theorize a novel form of “political poetics”? In what ways do Shelley’s reflections on the history of modern revolution inform his ideas of literary experience and political subjectivity? How, moreover, does Shelley’s work provoke what he outlines in A Defence of Poetry (1821) as “a beneficial change in opinion or institution” through aesthetic experience, without falling prey to an escapist flight into inwardness? Taking these questions as points of departure, this essay traces within Shelley’s work a theory of aesthetic resistance by reading between his historical-political reflections on the British reform movement in A Philosophical View of Reform (1819-20) and his critical aesthetics. The essay also explores how Shelley’s appeal to an aesthetic dimension in politics creates new modes of experience that resist forms of inhumanity by making visible the otherwise invisible wrongs suffered by groups who remain excluded from participation in the public commons.

September 2015


The Politics of Shelley: History, Theory, Form

This volume takes as its starting point a 2001 volume in the Romantic Circles Praxis Series, Reading Shelley’s Interventionist Poetry, 1819-1820, in which volume-editor Michael Scrivener, employing Theodor Adorno's terminology, interrogates a potential binary in our understanding of Shelley's "interventionist" work: the "antinomy of commitment and autonomy." Asking what it means for a work of art to intervene in its immediate political context, the present volume asserts the necessity of seeing through and beyond the antinomy of political commitment and artistic autonomy by rereading and reimagining the political in Shelley’s writings and his legacy. Indeed, the essays in this volume chart new political possibilities in our estimation of Shelley’s body of work—pathways that take us back to post-Peterloo repression through to the Victorian Shelleyans, and then forward to Jacques Rancière’s post-Marxism.

Date published: 

October, 2015


Reviews & Receptions

September, 2015

The new Romantic Circles Reviews & Receptions section is an innovative venture in contemporary Romantic scholarship, comprising short reviews of recent work, live BookChats, BookLists, a forum for debate, and an evolving compendium of appearances of Romanticism in popular culture.

Jon Klancher on Transfiguring the Arts and Sciences: Knowledge and Cultural Institutions in the Romantic Age

A conversation with Jon Klancher (Carnegie Mellon University) about his text, Transfiguring the Arts and Sciences: Knowledge and Cultural Institutions in the Romantic Age (Cambridge UP, 2012).

Other participants in the interview include: Ross Wilson (University of Cambridge), Orrin Wang (University of Maryland), and Stefan Uhlig (University of California-Davis).

Romantic Circles BookChat: Romantic Globalism by Evan Gottlieb

Evan Gottlieb, Romantic Globalism: British Literature and Modern World Order, 1750-1830 (The Ohio State University Press, 2014). 214 pp. (Hdbk., $59.95; ISBN 9780814212547 ).

Siobhan Carroll​, James Mulholland​, Miranda Burgess​, and Evan Gottlieb​ discuss Romantic Globalism: British Literature and Modern World Order, 1750-1830 (Ohio State UP, 2014); Moderated by Roger Whitson.

This marks the first ever Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions BookChat.


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