Romanticism and the New Deleuze
This volume summarizes and utilizes the arc of Gilles Deleuze's work while turning it toward Blake, Kant, Shelley, and Wordsworth. It serves both as a primer for those not familiar with the idiosyncratic vocabulary and concepts of Deleuze as well as a thoughtful intervention in Romantic criticism in order to open up new terrain on travel, the sublime, and the revolutionary. Contributors include David Baulch on representation and revolution in Blake's America, Ron Broglio on Wordsworth and the picturesque narrative of encounter, and Robert Mitchell on P. B. Shelley's sublime, with a responding essay by David Collings.
This essay highlights the relevance of Deleuze for Romanticists and Romanticism by linking Deleuze's philosophy to a central Romantic-era philosopher, Immanuel Kant, and to one of the more philosophical of the British Romantic poets, Percy Shelley. Deleuze's method of "transcendental deduction" bears on the Kantianism with which scholars of Romanticism are already familiar, but it also highlights a conception of rhythm that is assumed, but not made explicit, in Kant's theory of aesthetic judgment. Deleuze's reading of the role of rhythm in Kant can, in turn, help us to better understand the roles of passivity and temporality in Percy Shelley's writings. Focusing on Shelley's poem “Mont Blanc," Mitchell argues that Deleuze's discussion of the role of rhythm in Kant's philosophy helps us to understand how Shelley connects the thematic content of his poem—namely, the experience of being in the presence of the mountain—with the rhythmic structure of the poem itself. Where in his earlier writings Shelley had implied that poetry produced moral improvement by inculcating in readers a sense of being part of an animated whole, "Mont Blanc" instead employs rhyme to suspend the animation of his readers, which in turn allows readers and listeners to isolate their capacities for sensation.
I am interested in using Deleuze to "flatten" Romanticism and deflate the humanist subject at its center. In place of the subject, I see the physicality of bodies and effects of environmental forces as significant agents. In a sense, Deleuze gives us a phenomenology but without the privileged interiority of the human subject. The work of Deleuze and Guattari opens the way for reassessing and reassembling bodies and desires outside of social machinery and toward what Paul Youngquist refers to as "monstrosity." From a reconfiguration of language to a revaluation of the (im)proper body, the schizo-stroll produces something that cannot be adequately assessed by the social subject and the moral, religious, and even aesthetic norms of which it is a part.
The purpose of this paper is to explore specific ways Gilles Deleuze's Difference & Repetition provides a productive critical framework for thinking about revolution in William Blake's America, A Prophecy and, in turn, the way that America's peculiar dramatization of revolution offers a specific political dimension to a Deleuzian ontology. Reading Blake's America in Deleuzean terms suggests an alternative to seeing the poem as either referring exclusively to the material word, or wholly to the idiosyncratic mental world of Blake's vision. The Deleuzean third alternative for a reading of Blake's America foregrounds what is at stake in the representation of revolution as an idea whose meaning is only guaranteed by its external determinations—its difference from something. The Deleuzean point about revolution in America is that such a revolution must be thought outside of its representations to produce the conditions for real historical difference. In this way, I am proposing a third way to think the term "revolution," in Blake's text in keeping with the way Deleuze defines difference and repetition, as the cornerstone of his critique of representation. This paper intends to produce a reading of the poem in which the notorious difficulty of Blake's references are more than cryptic problems to decode and render as something that we recognize, but, instead, a step into what Deleuze calls "an unrecognized and unrecognisable terra incognita" (136). Thus rather than trying to save Blake's text from charges of obscurity by making his text represent something we all understand, the challenge I offer here is to think the kind of destabilization of reference that Blake's text produces as a fundamental philosophical premise upon which meaningful change becomes possible.
In response to Rob Mitchell, this essay extends his argument regarding the Deleuzean elements of "Mont Blanc" in two key respects. It argues that the poem engages the sublime both on the level of its philosophical content and the mode of its articulation, drawing attention to the level of sensation in philosophical argument through its easily overlooked pattern of irregular rhyme. Poetic articulation is a literary counterpart to sensation as a pre-condition for the experience of the sublime, so that the distinction between poetic language and content can stand in for that between sensation and other faculties. Moreover, by dramatizing the violence of the sublime, which the embodied speaker must at once resist and accept, the poem also foregrounds a non-teleological, unresolved conflict of the faculties. In this respect, the poem anticipates Deleuze's critique of Kant in Difference and Repetition, effectively performing a Deleuzean intervention into the poetics of the sublime.
Series Editor: Orrin N. C. Wang
Volume Technical Editor: Joseph Byrne