Clara Tuite, Romantic Austen: Sexual Politics and the Literary Canon

Clara Tuite, Romantic Austen: Sexual Politics and the Literary Canon. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 49.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. xiii + 242 pp.  Illus.: 4 halftones.  $60.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-521-80859-6).

Reviewed by
Devoney Looser
University of Missouri-Columbia

Debates about whether or not Austen is "Romantic" have raged for decades, so it is surprising that Clara Tuite's forceful book is the first to address the subject.  Tuite's argument, that Austen's writings are steeped in some of the ideologies of Romanticism, is certainly accurate.  It should seem odd to label Austen an Augustan or Regency author, either removed from her own day and age or placed in a literary category all her own. Tuite's book might provoke arguments about which ideologies Austen's texts display, but Romantic Austen provides the groundwork on which future scholars who consider the matter will need to build.

Those who expect to see comparison to the "big six" and their relationship to Austen's oeuvre will be either disappointed or surprised. Though there are a handful of references to Wordsworth and Coleridge, the names Shelley, Keats, Byron, and Blake do not appear herein.  The Romantic to whom Tuite repeatedly compares Austen is Edmund Burke; the term she most often associates with both figures is "organicism" (11).  As Tuite puts it, "it is possible to identify Austen with a kind of Burkean position that venerates the country ideal and attempts the 'renovation' of the paternal aristocratic order" as the natural order (170).  Likening Austen to Burke does not tell the whole story for Tuite. What complicates Austen's debt to Burke is "feminocentrism," a feature that shows Austen's "commitment to upward mobility for women" and that makes her a kind of "Tory feminist" (95; 170). Austen manifests a greater liberal and professional investment in writing than does Hannah More or Jane West, according to Tuite; Austen also exhibits a greater sense of the "aesthetic as an autonomous category" (171). Tuite's study explores "the relationship between aristocratic apologia and female social mobility" in Austen's writings (155).

Michael Gamer, Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception, and Canon Formation

Michael Gamer, Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception, and Canon Formation. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 40. Cambridge University Press, 2000. xii + 255pp. £37.50/$48.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-521-77328-8).

Reviewed by
Anne Williams
University of Georgia

Ever since professional criticism of the Gothic emerged in the early decades of the twentieth century, this literature's relationship to high Romanticism has been a vexed question. Although early critics such as Eino Railo (The Haunted Castle, 1927) took it for granted that since Gothic motifs and archetypes appeared in "Romantic" poets such as Coleridge and Keats, the two modes were fundamentally akin. It was the newly professional critics of the equally emergent "Romanticism," however, who established, usually by simply ignoring their favored poets' use of Gothic conventions, that Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner" had nothing in common with Lewis's Wandering Jew, for instance, or that Keats's Gothic edifice in "The Eve of St. Agnes" was no Udolpho (though Keats himself had commented on the "fine Mother Radcliff [sic]" names he had chosen for his characters). And as feminist critics have more recently demonstrated, another latent motive for marginalizing Gothic works lay in their associations with women both as writers and as readers.

Michael Gamer's fine study directly confronts this critical amnesia or repression. In exploring the historical roots of the literary phenomenon we now call "Gothic," he exposes not only the ways in which this concept emerged around the turn of the nineteenth century in Britain, but he also argues provocatively that "the reception of gothic writing . . . played a fundamental role in shaping many of the ideological assumptions about high culture that we have come to associate with 'romanticism'" (2), and that the "Gothic's reception tells us much about how readers . . . organized and attempted to make sense of gothic as a 'new' kind of writing" (3).

Susan J. Wolfson, Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism

Susan J. Wolfson, Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism. Stanford University Press 1997. xiv + 344pp. illus: 10 b&w. $39.50 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-8047-2657-4).  $19.95 (Pap; ISBN: 0-8047-3662-6).

Reviewed by
Robert Kaufman
Stanford University

Maybe the best thing that ever could have happened to those contemporary literary criticisms passionately committed to history, material culture, and the sociopolitical in general—not to mention theory—was the challenge of a reinvigorated formalist criticism. Such a challenge is more than a speculative possibility or even a late development: there is a long if discontinuous narrative of the historical (or social, political, cultural), theoretical, and formal camps sharpening one another's critical instruments through amicable, cordial, or hostile joinings of debate. Just within the past few decades' Romanticism-focussed studies, contributions made through and across these categories have helped clarify and reconceptualize literature's relationships to its traditional Others. Yet questions have been raised about whether the players in these contests have already, against their own intentions, been caught in an antiquarian fiction. For this moment in criticism is often enough said to be the Jetztzeit of a fateful disciplinary drama, in which cultural studies ruthlessly analyzes new-just-yesterday versions of historically and theoretically oriented literary study, finding them effectively to have become the latest (last? parasitic? reliquary? finally transitional?) incarnations of a superannuated formalism whose few remaining drops have dripped into our exponentially postformalist era. Still, some contrary evidence suggests that reports of the demise of historically and theoretically inclined literary scholarship may be premature. And it would prove no small measure of poetic justice and post-Romantic irony if concerns for history and theory should in turn find themselves inextricably bound to the survival of form and formalism within literary studies. At any rate, questions about the formal's status vis-à-vis the material, sociopolitical, and historical may not be so moot after all.

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