||On June 17, 2000, the Romantic
Circles MOO hosted a conference called "Romanticism and Contemporary
Culture." The papers appearing in this issue by Ron Broglio, Jay Clayton,
Atara Stein, and Ted Underwood were first "delivered" at that
conference. That is, shorter versions of these essays were posted on a web
site, and then approximately ten people met in the MOO at a specific time
to discuss them. Our
discussion was extensive. We discussed how copyright law affects readings
of contemporary cultural artifacts (it is extraordinarily expensive to quote
contemporary musical lyrics); we thought about how methods for raising and
lowering cultural capital differ between the Romantic era and our own time.
The essays themselves are primarily about teaching Romanticism in the context
of popular culture. During our virtual
discussion, Atara coined the term "fan/academic" to describe
similarities between the kinds of emotional cathexes fixating students to
popular culture and academics to Romantic studies. In various ways, each
one of these essays offers a plan for capitalizing on students' emotional
investments in contemporary cultural artifacts as a way of bringing them
to understand the past and then using that understanding to gain critical
insight into the present.
||Broglio, Clayton, Stein, and Underwood
describe what are clearly delightful pedagogical moments in the field of
Romantic Studies. As ballast, then, we have added to this special issue
a section titled "Presentism versus Archivalism" in order to address
theoretically the problem of how the present moment enters into Romanticists'
pedagogy and research. Not surprisingly, theory offers a darker view of
fan/academicism, complicating our understanding of possible relations to
the past. A separate introduction by Laura Mandell describes the debate
more specifically, but basically we have reproduced in this issue of Praxis
an essay by David Simpson attacking presentism, and then four defences of
it by Phillip Barrish, Gregory Tomso, Jon Klancher, and Jerome McGann. Since
Barrish and Tomso work in the field of nineteenth-century American literature,
we can call this theoretical interlude "transatlantic."
||Both practically and theoretically, then, all
the essays in "Romanticism and Contemporary Culture" try to think
about the similarities and differences between the fan's love for pop culture
and the academic's love for literary history. Fan/academicism is indeed
a love story, Romantic to the core.