Criticism

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Criticism
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Criticism
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Criticism

Playing with Independence: Using Multiplayer Online Narratives to Explore Independent and Interdependent Tensions in Romantic-Period Literature

Date published: 

May, 2016

This paper discusses the outcomes of a multi-year project to engage undergraduate students in active and constructive encounters with Romantic period themes and contexts via web-based, multi-user gamespaces. Interactive, participatory learning environments, akin to humanities “lab” spaces where controlled experimentation and exploration can take place, encourage students to innovate, create, share, and play together. This pedagogical strategy engages students with the complexities, advantages, and difficulties faced by the intersection of independent and interdependent approaches to creativity, communication, and action during the Romantic period, allowing them to become performatively involved in experiential situations (as players/classroom citizens and as builders/authors) that reflect the thematic issues that they are studying.

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Byron’s Cain and Romantic Education

Date published: 

May, 2016

Byron´s engagement with Romantic discourses of education in his closet drama Cain has been overshadowed by critical discussions of the work´s theology. This essay repositions Cain within period debates about the goals and possibilities of pursuing knowledge. Falke suggests that although Cain appears to endorse the epistemology implied in many discussions of elite education, it ultimately undermines the dichotomies of knowledge vs. action and mind vs. body upon which these discussions relied.

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About this Volume

About this Volume

The essays in this volume probe the way that Romantic writers explored the limits and possibilities of thinking in terms of systems. The purpose of the collection is not to provide a single perspective adopted by Romantic authors, any more than it is to provide a single theoretical perspective with which to view those authors. Still, the

March 2016

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In the Spirit of “clever inventions and constellations”: the Mechanics of Romantic Systems

This essay offers a new perspective to German Romanticism's thinking about systems by exposing its indebtedness to a mechanical idea that pervades the organic model of systems and operates in the blind spot of organic discourse. Against the common point of view that to think “organically” is to think “non-mechanically,” this essay argues that these two perspectives can in fact co-exist, and it is precisely the particular dynamics of this co-existence that will put the Romantic concept of system in a new light.

March 2016

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Models for System in Idealist Encyclopedics: The Circle, The Line, and the Body

The Eighteenth Century has been called the “age of the encyclopedia,” but the understanding of that word is very different in the encyclopedias of Chambers and Diderot on the one hand, and on the other hand the German Idealist tradition variously exemplified by Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Schelling’s On University Studies, and Novalis’ Romantic Encyclopedia. In Kant’s terms, the first provides an aggregate of knowledge, whereas the second attempts a system that entails an architectonic. Focusing on Hegel’s desire to unify all the sciences through the meta-discipline of philosophy, this paper explores the increasing complication of his architectonic by the very figures he uses to safeguard it: namely the circle, the line, and the body. Tracing the supplementary relationship between the first and the second, I argue that the body with its multiple subsystems brings to a head the collapse of the “smooth” system Hegel intended into a “tangled’” system: a productive collapse, because instead of being a forced unification of knowledge, the encyclopedia becomes a thought-environment for transferences between disciplines and potentially the emergence of new disciplines. Or, in effect, it becomes a form of “Theory” avant la lettre.

March 2016

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Introduction: Making and Unmaking Romantic Systems

This essay introduces the essays in the current volume by beginning with the work of William Hazlitt. Hazlitt’s relation to the work of noted system-builders of the age (from Kant to Bentham) was far from straightforward: he criticized their “derangement” but admired and even envied their vision. Hazlitt’s views echo a range of other writers (Blake, Wollstonecraft, and Godwin, to name a few) who were adept at constructing systems as well as attacking them. Such responses demonstrate the startling range of positions that could be taken with respect to systematic thinking of the age, and the essays in the volume demonstrate that Romanticism presents us not with a unified set of beliefs or ideologies about systems but rather with a vibrant display of contrasting arguments, anxieties, and ambitions.

March 2016

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Shelley’s Pauses: Systemic Change in Laon and Cythna

This essay examines two interrelated strategies Shelley uses to conceive of the systemic context for individual agency. In both cases, Shelley portrays agency as moving or acting upon air. First, drawing on new scientific accounts, Shelley examines the weather as a global system that is subject to local variability. Comparing the movement of weather to the movement of ideas, Shelley postulates that systemic change occurs when air from a “free” region moves into and temporarily disrupts air that has been tainted by despotic social and political structures. In this analogy, weather provides a model for the action of poetry because air is the medium through which the poet acts on readers by literally changing their breath. And the second way Shelley explores the possibility of systemic change is through adopting and altering poetic form to move readers’ breath. ​Poetic form proves such an important resource for Shelley not only because it shapes readers’ breathing to its metrical patterns but also because, originating in another era, it stands apart from current sociopolitical systems. In Laon and Cythna, Shelley envisions the caesura within the Spenserian stanza as a tool for moving systemic structures.

March 2016

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