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Romantic Frictions


Theresa M. Kelley
University of Wisconsin, Madison


1.         The essays in this volume insist that irresolvable frictions mark Romanticism in its time and in our critical present. They do so by lingering with dubieties that fissure Romantic writing about its own historical moment and by insisting on surprising and difficult alignments between Romantic historiography and contemporary theory and philosophy. In doing so, these essays convey what it means to think about Romanticism in our present time. Beginning with Ian Duncan’s reading of the problem of man and species in Scott’s later fiction and the waning of the Scottish Enlightenment, the collection moves from writing committed to a nuanced grasp of the difficulties embedded in the relay between difficult histories and texts to writing as complexly committed to philosophical readings of Romanticism. Across this array of critical dispositions, these essays describe aspects of Romantic writing that render it both difficult and difficult to leave behind.

2.        In her meditation on the proximity or distance with which Romantics write about the “field of war,” Mary Favret recognizes a parallel impulse in the way contemporary scholars and theorists remove scholarly concepts from particular events and especially suffering. Daniel O’Quinn argues for a critical triangulation between the British loss of America, its assorted defeats and victories in India and the formal, aesthetic contours of poems about trees that evoke, or are made to evoke, national interests. Matthew Rowlinson’s double interrogation of Walter Scott’s anonymity as both a matter of authorship and financial credit argues that a Lacanian allegory of Marx’s Capital inhabits the folds of credit and debt in Scott’s financial rise and fall. Colin Jager argues for a return to thinking about Romantic consciousness by way of recent cognitive theory concerning emergence, which supposes that the mind’s difference from and proximity to body and world can be postulated but not fully known. Reading contemporary philosophical writing about disaster and ruin beside Wordsworth’s poetry, Jacques Khalip argues that The Ruined Cottage lingers with disaster in ways that urge a non-apocalyptic poetic turn toward the ordinary, barely sheltered conditions of living and dying. Considered together, these six essays insist on textual remainders of the stubborn frictions that mark Romanticism then and now.

3.         They do so in significant measure by turning away from an earlier, still influential critical supposition that thinking about historicism and thinking about theory are mutually exclusive operations. In too many conferences and not a few essays, this suspicion is sustained by looking past the frictions between things, events, cultures and theories that constitute Romanticism’s problematic sense of itself, hoping instead to see a Romanticism that does one thing or the other.  [1]  The essays in this volume instead convey how these two aspects of Romanticism are, even in opposition, complexly bound to the problems and dubieties they inhabit.

4.        It is the claim of this introduction and collection that Romanticism is anything but schematically divided into round and square, and much more like a field of forces bent on fissuring and proliferating itself. This impulse works against the desire for a system that neatly bifurcates itself so that historicists might sit at one table and theorists at another, preferably in different rooms. I allude here to the cultural habits of scholarly conferences, but also to a wider impulse that would understand the interrogation of history as traduced by its inner empiricism and those of theory as traduced by a love of philosophy and concept that sorts ill with thinking about historiography. Both dispositions slight the traffic between history and philosophy or theory within Romantic writing; for that reason, they also miss a compelling way forward for contemporary writing about Romanticism.

5.        That way is through, not around, frictions between and within these perspectives. Precisely because it deals with material traits and efforts to manage distinctions, Romantic biological classification suggests how the friction between specimens, species traits and higher taxa kept distinctions in play even as nineteenth-century taxonomists sought to order them into a fixed system. In the end, taxonomists could not settle on one system to explain all possible relationships among natural kinds not so much because the ongoing discovery of biological plentitude outpaced efforts to classify them (taxonomists were and still are tireless), but because that plenitude could not be mapped adequately by a single systematic. Charles Darwin’s definition of species as whatever his fellow biologists agreed was a species registers both the problem of biological classification and his diplomatic non-solution, inasmuch as many of his contemporaries could not agree on what the term species meant or even on whether it was a viable concept. [2]  A century after Linnaeus, the effort to create a fixed system of stable species and kingdoms of nature had met its other, a spirit of differentiation that could imagine, like James Hutton’s theory of the earth, no prospect of an end.

6.        As a principle of botanical investigation that goes back to Aristotle and Cesalpino, differentiation is the centrifugal engine working inside taxonomic inquiry. Nearly as soon as the Linnaean system was more or less accepted in the second half of the eighteenth century as standard practice for botanical taxonomy, taxonomists began to devise what Antoine de Jussieu and his successors called the “Natural System.” In all its incarnations prior to Darwin’s Origin of Species, the Natural System recognized multiple affinities among plant characters or traits such that there might be both a primary taxonomic home based on one structural similarity and many more affine relationships that might well cut across recognized species, families and even genera, as the ascending plant orders were then described.

7.        Although Jussieu and others believed that the Natural System would eventually, when complete, record a continuous series of creation, the work of differentiation produced more species, subspecies, varieties in one direction and more families and genera and orders, even multiple plant kingdoms, in another, and all within the domain of what we have called the Romantic view of nature, a phrase that says nothing about the complexity of that nature, taking comfort instead in a sentimentalizing category that asks little of us and less about how Romantics thought about what nature might include. A-P. de Candolle, the Swiss taxonomist who consolidated the Natural System, concluded that Nature is not a continuous series but rather that there are leaps or gaps in nature that taxonomy cannot bridge. De Candolle’s recognition makes taxonomic differentiation a grounding principle instead of an unwelcome outsider. In his study of the history of plant systematics in the nineteenth century, Peter Stevens includes some of the cognitive maps or schematics which taxonomists devised to represent, or try to represent, different and at times competing taxonomic relationships. None of them worked. If finding one that worked forever were really the only game in town, the history of systematics right up to present work in evolutionary and then cladistic analysis would seem pointless. In recent decades the kingdoms of nature have divided yet again, to accommodate plant-like groups that now appear to be something else and to belong somewhere else, in a kingdom of their own that is neither plant nor animal.

8.         What this history of biological systematics conveys is the logical and conceptual necessity for an ongoing friction, admittedly provisional and probably impermanent, between local, material evidence and competing schematics for their meaning. Whether or not any single systematic will suffice is less important than what each finds and tries to gather up into a conceptual frame that is adequate to the array of differences it tries to gather together. The work of finding and mapping, conceptualizing the relationships among singularities or differences always turns up something to be worked at, debated, and by such means kept on the table, not shunted off into a corner where it cannot cause trouble, where its difference becomes or is claimed to be monstrous. Indeed, the taxonomic inquiry that paid close attention to so-called botanical monsters did so because their very difference suggested a mechanism or operation otherwise hidden and thus in need of attention.

9.         The parable suggested by the cascading array of frictions among natural kinds and human systematic for thinking about Romanticism is perhaps obvious, but so much the better. Attention to the on-going work of differentiation leads to friction, constant friction, between objects of inquiry and the structures used to map those objects. Competing systematics are all the better because they fight for what should be counted or not. The ensuing friction is good for heat and perhaps some light. Even so for the friction between those who emphasize Romanticism’s cultural historiography and those who emphasize its philosophy, literature and aesthetics. In one sense, this divide splits Romantic writing in remarkably artificial ways, choosing to ignore the degree to that body of writing persistently worked across these terrains. But in another sense, this disciplinary divide unfolds and expands a deeper set of frictions within Romanticism, and within our critical understanding of what this term and era entail, between the historical and the local and the abstract or philosophical. What rightly emerges from these frictions is a sharp reminder that efforts to read Romanticism as a smoothly articulated, undifferentiated field or period have often and quite rightly found it difficult, even rough going.

10.         For Jacques Derrida, Paul De Man and Jean Lyotard, différance gathers to itself the work of friction by preserving notice of the singularity of persons and events that disrupts systematic, generalizing projects. For de Man, difference is the work figures do to undo unitary reading and meaning. For Derrida, difference prompts the philosophical demand to unsettle claims to absolute knowledge. The political and institutional force of this project is, as Jean François Lyotard has argued, apparent when one considers who or what might be said to be just.  [3]  Arkady Plotnitsky observes that singularity, chance, and contingency trouble the effort to create a system or concept that would subsume differences.  [4] 

11.        Jean-Luc Nancy emphasizes the difficulty that haunts efforts to preserve singularity as a concept. In The Inoperable Community he distinguishes, after Hegel and via Hegel after Goethe, the individual from singularity: whereas the individual, like the annual plant that is the subject of Goethe’s Metamorphoses of Plants, dies, what is singular remains so in part because its identity is secured by its antithetical yet also implicated relation to community, which Nancy characterizes as the “socially exposed particularity” that Marx sought to preserve against the “socially imploded generality” that Capitalism uses to put singularity in its place.  [5]  The philosophical problem of aligning singularity with community is suggested by Nancy’s return to this topic in The Sense of the World, where singularity or “one” means necessarily “some ones and some others, or some ones with other ones.” To claim, as Nancy then does, that what mediates between singularity and community is a “transcendent curiosity”  [6]  on either side seems at once profoundly attractive and Romantic. It too is also a philosophical move that consolidates and categorizes what is singular.

12.        The task of thinking about Romanticism as an historical moment urges resistance to this move. In foregrounding the “irreducible inequality” of difference in the sensible world, Gilles Deleuze indicates how the resistant logic of historical or cultural difference might derive from the phenomenal, event-ridden domain of Romantic history. His remark that “everything bathes in its difference”  [7]  conveys what Romantics experienced, a world in which friction, not unity or closure, was the work at hand. The rub of difference is at work in the global theater of race and variety; in the politics and economics of scarcity during a time of war  [8]  ; in debates about whose religion or gender or race qualifies individuals to be counted as persons or members of a body politic; and in scientific, philosophical and literary efforts to resist, accommodate, mark or eradicate such differences.

13.        Despite Romantic and post-Romantic efforts, then, to posit the unity of the one life, as Samuel Coleridge argued one night in 1797, singularity and difference, whether found in rocky outcroppings,  [9]  plant species or recalcitrant human individuals, articulate the eruptive, discontinuous temporality of event and aesthetic response with which Romanticism works against the grain of a Burkean system of inheritance that imagines itself governing history and its remains. From this perspective, to provide one example, it becomes easier to notice how Walter Scott’s Waverley retrospectively tracks fissures in the 1707 Union of Scotland and England in ways that do not constitute fictional corroboration of that political union as accomplished without remainder.  [10] 

14.         If Romantic forms, including Coleridge’s, are as often ruins as not, as Thomas McFarland argued,  [11]  such formal difficulties specify the enabling rhythm of Romantic writing, a rhythm articulated in the midst of a jostling of events and an inclination toward dissent that no writer or philosopher of the age could quell. The view of Romanticism entailed by framing its event and discourse horizons as marked by difference evidently responds to a long-standing debate about what Romanticism is or was. Looking back on that debate in the early 1990’s, Mark Parker remarked, “perhaps we have come to a place where an ironic counterhistory of Romanticism, one less intent on closure, one more alive to the accidents and contingencies of descent, as at once possible and necessary.”

15.         Although the debate about whether Romanticism exists or whether it is not one but many typically concludes by not concluding as critics speak for, against or somewhere in the middle of this question, its persistence is instructive. In separate assessments, Parker and Thomas Vogler note the stubborn resistance that the debate about what Romanticism is (or whether it exists) presents to fixed chronologies and conceptual boundaries. They also note the equally stubborn critical desire to recognize Romanticism as a viable category and event. From A. O. Lovejoy and René Wellek, who began this twentieth-century debate, to critics in the near present, Romanticism either names a category that is convenient, perhaps even valuable, or it registers the impossibility of such a category and period designation.

16.         As the disputed middle of this long debate, Romanticism names a conceptual and historical manifold that repays critical attention less for its sureties that for its inner resistance to coherence. As a period or event horizon, it is not defined by a single leading indicator like the French Revolution (although this event evidently does matter, in manifold directions),  [13]  but by the jostling presence of many temporalities, different levels of momentum, and different moments of intensity. In one direction, which its writers certainly promoted, Romanticism enters a new era, one characterized for a time by the prospect of freedom as the projected ground of poetic imagination and Romantic prophecy.  [14]  Reading this era as a “hot chronology”—Claude Lévi-Strauss’s term for those cultures that appear at certain moments to develop more quickly than others—James Chandler evokes both to the Romantic sense that time and events had speeded up and to the modern critical desire to read Romanticism as hurrying toward the future it imagined.  [15]  Yet Lévi-Strauss’s phrase invokes more than a hint of a progressive, evolutionary bias in which a neo-Hegelian march of world and spirit moves forward, away from the “cold” chronology of primitive cultures and “the savage mind.” Such a view ignores too easily the extent to which Romanticism’s global interests permeated other cultures and sustained a retrograde preference for slavery for some, even in the midst of imagining freedom for all. That this was so Romantics were well aware. Centrifugal pressures that challenged the myth of a consolidated Britain during the era reveal how fragile and how fractured the era also looked to those who lived it.  [16] 

17.         As a category, a moment, and a matrix of ideas and contentions, Romanticism suggests how we might think about periodization without putting aside the need to historicize in precisely the differential manner conveyed by the echo of Fredric Jameson’s dictum “always historicize.” As a culture and discourse that stretch across these extremes, Romanticism may well be what it looks like—an era under construction and inhabited by transient figures who cannot locate themselves at home or even in those putatively houseless woods near Tintern Abbey. In this Romanticism, singularity and contingency belong to the concept they animate and yet, as Hegel and Derrida differently acknowledged,  [18]  these traits also make the concept, here Romanticism, tremble from within. This, rather than a posited conceptual stability, is the event horizon of Romantic history and philosophy. Even Hegel, who argued for a Romantic moment and spirit that could resolve earlier historical and philosophical shortcomings, found himself confronting a time whose “instability, …tearing, [and] passage,” as Jean-Luc Nancy puts it, is the strange fundament of history.

18.         If Romanticism is marked by frictions among competing definitions all the way down, as A. O. Lovejoy’s frustrated account of the discrimination of Romanticisms implied, those frictions, along with those among readers and critics, need to be on the table. Romantic writing and culture is shot through with local and material, literary and cultural frictions that anticipate its modern critical identity, pungently declared in Jacques Rancière’s study of what he calls “mésentente,” usually translated as “disagreement,” but closer in spirit to an idea of fundamental discord, arising from different grounds and premises. Rancière argues that to think about justice and the aesthetics of politics, we must first grant the irreconciliability of certain arguments, no matter how much we may hope or image their congruence. Under the sign of mésentente, Romanticism might be characterized as an historical moment when singularity, chance, and contingency become the work of the day. This claim is not a staging ground for an easy settling into commonality; it argues instead for recognizing that friction is always about several, discordant possibilities. The cultural and political frictions that Anna Tsing describes among inhabitants, national programs and global capitalism in modern Indonesia takes another shape in the Romantic era, when revolution, war, and imperial advance prompted occasions for thinking about as well as trying to ignore fundamental disputes.  [20]  Kept in play instead of pushed off to the side, friction and irresolvable disagreement remind us that relationships among singularities or differences always turn up something to be worked at, debated, and by such means kept on the table, not shunted off into a corner where it cannot cause trouble, or dismissed as something monstrous and thus categorically inadmissable.

19.        Viewed this way, Romanticism specifies competing refractions of time and event within or inside its pulsating chronology(ies). What counts as Romanticism is not who gets there first or last, or even who or what goes in reverse or forward, but the way that its differences jostle for attention. That said, the frictions that mark out the space of Romanticism suggest that its nature or definition has more flow than edge. This apparent weakness offers a surprising advantage: it transforms a persistent feature of Romanticism—its holding together of extremes like those Blake imagines as contraries, or extremes of scale in Romantic visual representation, or the polarities that separate Burke’s political assumptions from Paine’s—into tensile strength. Paradoxically, Romanticism becomes more flexible and commanding as a category to the degree that it does not expend itself in an effort to seal its borders. The essays in this volume insist on what this Romanticism looks like, in its time and in our critical moment.

20.         In the first essay Ian Duncan addresses the instabilities of Romantic and Enlightenment classifications of the species of man in a reading of Scott’s penultimate novel, Count Robert of Paris, as a work that thoroughly overturns Romanticism’s sense of its futurity as well as its past. Whereas Waverley, the first of the Waverley novels, could be read to argue for the shared national histories of Scotland and England, an outcome shadowed but not undone by its internal ironies, not the least of them concerning the heroic status of its reckless English hero, Count Robert raises many more questions than Waverley had put in abeyance, beginning with “man,” the biological category the later novel leaves in shreds, even as it undoes most of the traits that Scott is said to have established for the historical novel. Reaching back to a time and a place (Constantinople at the close of the eleventh century) that are at once too far off from Scotland and so Byzantine in style and manner that critics have suggested Scott was slipping even as he wrote the novel that he (mistakenly) believed would be his last, Count Robert replies, and puts an end to the great project of the Scottish Enlightenment, the science of man. A novel uncertain of its own genre or species, and rife with species that put the solidity and superiority of that of “man” in question, Count Robert looks backwards in ways that challenge Romantic hopes for the future. This eastern metropolis presents a hodgepodge of species and nations that make different claims on the idea of man, none more so that the Ourang-Utan Silvan, who speaks a dialect all its own and understands Anglo-Saxon. In the bloated world space and anarchically polygenetic array of peoples and species of Scott’s fictionalized Constantinople, Romantic hopes for historical progress stumble on the limitations of their own view of racial and species difference. As the logic of the historical novel shifts in Scott’s most phantasmagoric fiction, knights imagine retrograde motions that bizarrely undo the forward momentum of Crusade campaigns. Duncan’s account of the worlds Scott evokes in Count Robert insists on instabilities within the historiographic projections of the Scottish Enlightenment that turn essentially on problems with the category of man signaled by Lord Kames’s notice of the species of men and pursued by Lamarck.

21.         Mary Favret‘s essay takes up the phrases “field of history” and “field of battle” to consider the metaphoric slide from event and persons to concept and figure that each phrase imagines or seeks. Whereas Scottish Enlightenment historiography had supposed that writing about war required the distant perspective conveyed by understanding and describing battles as scenes on the field of history, the relative safety of such metaphors seemed by the end of the eighteenth century, a time of near constant warfare for England and its allies, as Favret puts it, little more than “wishful thinking” or worse, insofar as its call for dispassionate observation suggested that blood and suffering seen at close range were not the stuff of which history is made. Favret uses this friction between distance and metaphors that preserve that distance and what war looks like up close to query contemporary theory and criticism, beginning with Michel Foucault’s argument that history and historiography are war. For although Foucault insists that these terms should not become just figures, they nonetheless do as Foucault’s use of them slides toward intellection, away from the experience of war or, for that matter, of history. Recognizing the importance of Reinhardt Koselleck’s notice of the incompatibility between history at the micro level—that is all that happens in fine grain detail or however much of it we can capture—and the macro level—which tells grander, concept driven stories about fields of history—Favret argues that thinking about Romanticism historiographically frequently risks or assumes the status of a macrohistory by taking up the dispassionate and distant vantage point on “details” for which theory speaks. Anna L. Barbauld, Favret observes, reverses this tendency in “Dialogue in the Shades,” charging History with reckoning and limiting what happens to the mortal body. Barbauld’s refusal of dispassionate distance and the kind of history writing that occurs at a distance specifies an enduring friction within Romantic historiography and contemporary criticism between concept and event, human lives and grand designs.

22.         Daniel O’Quinn assesses the figural connection between distinct but uncomfortably intertwined British war zones: the Mysore state of India in the decades when the East India Company’s military forces repeatedly battled Tipu Sultan for control of lower India and North America, where British military forces spectacularly failed to manage the colonies. O’Quinn argues that half a globe away from each other, America and Asia constitute a cultural and historical imaginary for the British, who use triumphs in one arena to forget defeats in the other. This curious triangulation moves in this essay by way of figure and specifically figures of trees, Cowper’s destroyed British oak versus the Indian Banyan tree which William Hodges reimagines in Travels in India not as the symbol of Indian monstrous proliferation, but as one protected by the British army, whose troops are sheltered there and shelter others. The difference between the way Hodges wishes to read the banyan and earlier readings that identified its proliferation of trunks with a suspect sexuality constitute, argues O’Quinn, a crisis in representation. For although Hodges’s banyan redirects this earlier iconography to claim the banyan as a proleptic figure for the spread of Company rule well before the East India Company had fully consolidated its power in the region, that argument also exposes the “wishful thinking” or self-delusion that C. A. Bayly has identified as a crucial element of British governance prior to and during the imposition of the Permanent Settlement. O’Quinn reads both Cowper’s Oak and Hodges’s Banyan as figures whose ironies register the give and take (one battle won here, another lost there) of British nationalist identity and imperial desire. This “global historic dynamic” requires reading across both the geographic and cultural terrains each figures. Romantic historiography by way of figure here makes visible and linked arguments that might otherwise appear to be isolated claims about America or India under British eyes. Whereas both Favret and O’Quinn are concerned with what figures do, O’Quinn contends that some figures reveal a larger cultural imaginary than one might otherwise glimpse.

23.        Matthew Rowlinson’s argument about Scott’s fiction, anonymity and capital takes up an intriguing middle ground in the collection. Rowlinson offers on an astute and detailed understanding of how Scott relied on Scots systems of credit and finance that required the anonymity of authorship that he famously insisted on and played with, like money in the bank. Rowlinson reads the uncertainty about what is and what is not money in Scott’s Antiquary as one instance of a problem of textual boundary that recurs in the Waverley novels, with their serial form, indistinguishable protagonists, and the extensive textual periphery of introductions, prefaces, notes and other apparatus. By such turns, Scott’s fictional voices create the simulacrum of capital in ways that anticipate the role of Capital in Marx’s analysis as a Lacanian marker for the real in a symbolic order. Yet the point of Rowlinson’s essay is not simply that Scott anticipates Marx, but rather that its riveting historiographic evidence discloses a deeply economic rationale for Scott’s mystic and permutable anonymity and, further, that this highly fictive circulation of identities conveys the allegorical character of Marx’s Capital and the author “Walter Scott” among his various fictive voices, frequently leaked identities. Moving between Scott’s publishing history, Scottish finance, Marx, Lacan, and back, Rowlinson tracks the work of allegory and credit such that the distinction between historiography and theory remains, but their conjoined work becomes more telling.

24.         Colin Jager takes up the question of Romantic consciousness, an inquiry that recent work on Romanticism has either put aside or taken up in ways that he contends are less productive than they might be. Much of the essay considers developments in cognitive theory that literary scholars of Romanticism have only partly begun to read. He identifies two recent approaches to consciousness: neurological arguments which regard mind as a synonym for the brain and emergence theory, which has a longer track record (stretching back to the nineteenth century) but does not claim to answer the “hard question” of cognition, how mind is related to world or more precisely how we can physically know that the mind has consciousness. Using examples that recur in recent accounts of emergence and cognition, Jager notes that although neither bees nor ants possess consciousness, a bee-hive or an ant colony could be said to demonstrate the kinds of collective and individual organization we might understand as necessary activities from which consciousness would emerge. Lower-level self-organizing and self-modifying systems such as Goethe found in plant development and many other Romantic writers found in different animals and insects would constitute, then, physical evidence of activities from which consciousness might emerge. What is arresting about this argument, Jager emphasizes, is its tentativeness, its capacity to rest, as Keats urged, in doubt and uncertainty. This attitude, Jager suggests, recalls too Wordsworth’s “natural piety,” a phrase Anne-Lise François uses to imagine a Romantic environmentalist ethic poised to stand back and think about what might emerge in us that is, however indistinctly or problematically, from nature. [21]  Jager argues via emergence theory for a more tentative theoretical disposition that is less commanding than the habits of mind Favret questions.

25.         Jacques Khalip’s concluding essay argues for a dwelling with ruin and disaster that begins by asking this question about the story of Margaret and Armytage as narrator in Wordsworth’s Ruined Cottage: how can poetry and reading dwell with the non-normative effects unleashed by disaster to discover forms of non-triumphal, wasted life? Khalip addresses this question via Martin Heidegger’s shadowed notion of being as persisting in ruin, Rem Koolhaas’s vision of the accumulated wreckage of modern life, Maurice Blanchot’s insistence that disaster cannot be forgotten but must be lived with, and the strange hospitality that Derrida urges for our relation to the nonhuman, the vegetable, and the dead. With these arguments engaged, Khalip returns to the “harassed unrest” of Wordsworth’s Margaret. Working from a very different point of departure, shadowed as much by the Holocaust as it is by Romantic wartime, Khalip finds very different ground to return readers, as do Favret and Duncan, to a Romantic poetics that cannot turn from suffering, the wasting of human life, the instability of bodies and species in the kingdoms of nature. Khalip insists on unsatisfied hermeneutic economy that theorizing at times seeks to offer: in exchange for this suffering, here is a theory of war or peace that will make up the difference. The elegy of the Ruined Cottage, as Khalip puts it, “disasters the payments ordinarily recouped by acts of mourning.” It is an open question, I think, and was for Wordsworth as well, whether elegy can do even this much without denying loss.

26.         Khalip’s unremitting theoretical exploration of what doesn’t tidy up, what doesn’t find an easy settlement in Romantic writing shares with other authors in this collection a reading of Romanticism that lingers with its instabilities and doubts. Each of these essays takes up its own position along a continuum in which historiographic and theoretical interests lie, unevenly distributed, with several opportunities for friction between critical practices. None is assimilable in argument or method to the others. All six essays nonetheless insist on reading Romanticism for its frictions.

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Rajan, Tilottama. "System and Singularity From Herder to Hegel." European Romantic Review 11:2 (2000): 137-49. Print.

Rajan, Tilottama. "Dis-Figuring Reproduction: Natural History, Community, and the 1790s Novel." The New Centennial Review 2:3 (2002): 211-52. Print.

Rajan, Tilottama. "The Unavowable Community of Idealism: Coleridge and the Life Sciences." European Romantic Review 14:4 (2003): 395-416. Print.

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Rancière, Jacques. Dis-agreement: politics and philosophy. Trans. Julie Rose. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. Print.

Stafford, Barbara. Voyage into Substance: Art, Science, Nature and the Illustrated Travel Account 1760-1840. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1984. Print.

Trumpener, Katie. Bardic Nationalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997. Print.

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[1] Leon Chai recapitulates the history of this critical divide in Romantic Theory: Forms of Reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era, 264-270. Cynthia Chase presents a brief, nuanced account of the divide in her “Introduction,” Romanticism, 1-4, 31-35. Thomas Pfau argues for a philosophically oriented Romanticist criticism in “Reading beyond Redemption: Historicism, Irony, and the Lessons of Romanticism,"The Lessons of Romanticism, 1-37 and and in occasional bouts with historicist critics in Romantic Moods, 337-39. Essays in Repossessing the Romantic Past present the new historicist side of the divide. BACK

[2] Darwin, Origin of Species, 38. BACK

[3] Derrida, Of Grammatology, and “Force of Law: The ‘Mystical Foundation of Authority’,” Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, 3-67; de Man, “Rhetoric of Tropes,” Allegories of Reading , 103-18; Lyotard, The Differend and Neal Curtis, Against Autonomy: Lyotard, Judgement and Action. BACK

[4] Plotnitsky, “Difference,” Glossalalia, 51-74. “Singularity” has become a watchword in its own right. See Timothy Clark, The Poetics of Singularity and Derek Attridge, The Singularity of Literature. BACK

[5] Nancy, The Inoperative Community, 59; Goethe, Metamorphosen der Pflanzen. Tilottama Rajan examines the philosophical itinerary of singularity from Hegel to Nancy in "System and Singularity From Herder to Hegel," European Romantic Review , 137-49; "Dis-Figuring Reproduction: Natural History, Community, and the 1790s Novel," The New Centennial Review,: 211-52; and "The Unavowable Community of Idealism: Coleridge and the Life Sciences," European Romantic Review, 395-416. BACK

[6] Nancy, The Sense of the World, 71 and 73. BACK

[7] Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 222 and 243. BACK

[8] Mary Favret, “War in the Air,” MLQ, 531-59. BACK

[9] Barbara Stafford, Voyage into Substance: Art, Science, Nature and the Illustrated Travel Account 1760-1840. BACK

[10] On Scott, compare Katie Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism with Ian Duncan, “Hume, Scott and the ‘Rise of Fiction’,” Angles on the English-Speaking World, 63-76 and “Authenticity Effects: The Work of Fiction in Romantic Scotland,” SAQ, 93-116. BACK

[11] McFarland, Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin and Susan Wolfson, “Reading for Form,” MLQ. BACK

[12] Mark Parker, “Measure and Countermeasure: The Lovejoy-Wellek Debate and Romantic Periodization,” in Theoretical Issues in Literary History, ed. David Perkins, 247. BACK

[13] Marshall Brown, “Romanticism and Enlightenment,” The Cambridge Companion to Romanticism, ed. Stuart Curran, 44-47. Essays in The Age of Cultural Revolutions: Britain and France, 1750-1820, ed. Colin Jones and Dror Wahrman, argue that the idea of revolution requires a longer and broader trajectory. See, for instance, the editors’ “Introduction: An Age of Cultural Revolutions?,” 1-16 and James K. Chandler, “Moving Accidents: The Emergence of Sentimental Probability,” 137-170. BACK

[14] Ian Balfour, The Rhetoric of Romantic Prophecy. BACK

[15] In The Savage Mind Lévi-Strauss argues that there exists an “uneven development” among societies such that some exhibit “hot chronologies” while others do not, 259. Although he is wary of the primitive /civilized subplot of Lévi-Strauss’s phrase, in England in 1819 James Chandler uses it to characterize Romantic writers’ sense of the quickened pace of their era, 68-69. Reinhart Koselleck emphasized the broad European conviction that the French Revolution introduced an “accelerated tempo which seemed to open up a new and different age” in Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, 59. BACK

[16] Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-nationalism, 86; Ian Duncan, “Primitive Inventions: Rob Roy, Nation, and World System,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 82 and “Authenticity Effects,” 103. BACK

[17] Jameson, The Political Unconscious, 9. BACK

[18] Rodolphe Gasché, Inventions of Difference, 171-98. BACK

[19] Nancy, Hegel, 27. BACK

[20] Jacques Rancière, La Mésentente: Politique et Philosophe; English translation, Dis-agreement: politics and philosophy, trans. Julie Rose; Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Friction. BACK

[21] François, "’O Happy Living Things’: Frankenfoods and the Bounds of Wordsworthian Natural Piety,” 42-70. BACK

Published @ RC

September 2011