Criticism

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Criticism
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Criticism
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Criticism

Balancing Acts: Modes of Equilibrium in Romanticism and Nature Philosophy around 1800

This paper explores the concept of equilibrium around 1800, to understand its use, and to trace the different ways in which Schelling’s positioning of equilibrium at the beginning of reflection transforms a commonplace scientific concept into a philosophically powerful one. Focusing on the early nature philosophy of Schelling and Eschenmayer and the aphorisms of Novalis around 1800—before turning to Eschenmayer’s later work on psychology from 1814—these readings concentrate on two related tendencies in the discussion on equilibrium: the first relating to its ability to move between the immaterial and the material, the second relating to questions of visibility that such movement entails.

December 2016

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Police Psychology: E.T.A. Hoffmann, Johann Beckmann, and Technological Narration

This article links E.T.A Hoffmann's prose to the neglected Enlightenment university discipline Technologie as invented by the polymath Johann Beckmann. The connection between narrative and technology occurs not at the level of symbols or in diegesis but in the manipulation of form, which had consequences for the construal of life outside the constraints of emergent disciplines like medicine, forensic psychology, and the changing institution of the police. Narrative prose came to occupy the position of that police, producing the object of its own analysis—society—with intent to alter it.

December 2016

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New Work on German Romanticism

“What’s new with German Romanticism?” – the question gestures to the important contribution of German-language writing to our understanding of the period but also to the trenchant and suggestive interrogation of the category of “newness” by German Romantic writers. The essays in this collection represent some of the most important current trends in scholarship, but each also grapples in some way or another with the challenges that the literary, philosophical, scientific, and legal writings of Romanticism pose to received narratives about history, meaning, and power, including narratives about originality and newness, revolutionary breaks and fresh beginnings.

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December, 2016

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The Prose of Romanticism

Is Romantic prose a neutral instrument of representation? Does it struggle to engage questions of experience and sensation in new ways? How should prose be understood in relation to poetic expressiveness? The essays in this volume explore Romantic prose across multiple genres as a kind of performative utterance that redraws the boundaries between the private and the social.

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February, 2017

Concerning the Spiritual in Hogg’s Art

Is there a place for the spiritual in literature? James Hogg's long poem The Queen’s Wake and his sprawling prose narrative The Three Perils of Man appear to literalize an affirmative response by giving play to spirits and other supernatural phenomena. And yet, Hogg’s answer may actually be no, if only because “literature” as imagined by his friend and rival, Walter Scott, downgrades spiritual intensities to the status of cultural differences from everyday life. Hogg did not divide up the world in quite that way, a point with implications not only for the idea of the spiritual, but also, and especially, for literature.

February 2017

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Trusting Experiments: Sociability and Transcendence in the Familiar Essay

This essay briefly explores two developments that produced a remarkable turn in the relationship between philosophy and literature between the publication of Hume’s Treatise in 1740 and the heyday of the Romantic familiar essay in the 1820s: the socialisation of experience by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers and the impact of belletristic periodical culture upon philosophical discourse. These changes were interconnected, jointly exhibiting a swerve away from systematic epistemology and towards a form of essayism. As the literary genre of trusting intersubjectivity par excellence, the familiar essay had functioned as a vehicle for philosophical experiments in communication since the days of The Spectator. And yet, Hume’s idea of an ‘easy,’ conversational philosophy grounded in social correspondence increased the epistemological burden upon essayist beyond anything envisaged by Addison or Steele. The Romantic familiar essay inherits this burden while changing the stakes: thus, while the rewards of essaying for Hume lay in the consolidation of consensus through philosophically indifferent conversation, for Lamb and Hazlitt, they consisted in the promotion of a more limited social solidarity through the production of modes of reading receptive to the authenticity effects of singularity and transcendence.

February 2017

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Incapable of Being Disentangled: On De Quincey’s Impassioned Prose

This article makes the case that perlocution, a notoriously tricky species of speech act, opens up news ways of thinking about De Quincey’s autobiographical writings, particularly Suspiria de Profundis. Because its effects are indirect, uncertain and unpredictable, perlocution helps us understand language’s ability to entangle: readers, writers, memories, experience, events, other texts. That uncanny ability to entangle things—and our inability to ever fully disentangle them—is one of De Quincey’s abiding preoccupations. Its readiest models are the famous involute and the palimpsest, but examples of it exist throughout his oeuvre. De Quincey’s thinking on these and related matters anticipates later theoretical concepts such as Freud’s “tangle of dream thoughts," Benjamin’s verschränkte Zeit (entangled time), and Derrida’s double bind, “which can only be endured in passion.”

February 2017

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Sydney Owenson’s Strange Phenomenality

This essay examines Sydney Owenson’s strange syntax—at once ornate and truncated, full of floating modifiers and attributions that remain forever unresolved—as a medium for her explorations of sensation and perception. Tracing the form of her novels in conjunction with her meditations on empiricism, it argues that Owenson’s syntax resists the ontic and formalizing claims of a Common Sense philosophy of perception. Instead her early novels enact, syntactically and therefore figurally, a conception of “life” as ceaseless, formless motion and an ethics of interdependency embodied in what Thomas Reid called “mere sensation.”

February 2017

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Introduction: Occasion and Expression

The sense of an occasion is inseparable from the productivity that characterizes Romantic prose. Carl Schmitt's account of the "subjective occasionalism" of Romanticism offers us an analytical point of departure. But I argue that Romantic prose tries to deepen, extend, or formalize this sense of occasion. It tries to express, and sometimes embeds within itself, the social conditions of acts of utterance.

February 2017

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