Wang, Excerpt from _Studies in Romanticism_

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From Orrin N. C. Wang, "Romancing the Counter-Public Sphere: A Response to Romanticism and its Publics," Studies in Romanticism , 33 (Winter 1994), 587-588.

"The fantasy of "The Lady of Shallot" discloses, if not the laborer's alienated reality, a surplus of indeterminate value that is in the process of becoming an alienated economy of signs. In fact, the Lady accomplishes another signifying practice in the poem, other than the fantastic song she sings, heard only by the rural laborers. I refer to her inscription of The Lady of Shallot on the prow of the boat that will bear her dead body to Camelot. It is this odd semiotic image of the Lady of Shallot in  The Lady of Shallot  that confounds Camelot's citizens. Their confusion comes from the two conflicting signs that the image emits: of one historical moment in which the words Lady of Shallot  refer to the present corporeal subject who organizes one narrative of Great Britain's imagined past, and of another historical moment underwritten, as Fredric Jameson argues, by the increasing abstraction of capital, one that allows a human body to become a signifier--an ad--for a textual commodity, a poem entitled "The Lady of Shallot" (Jameson, Postmodernism, 95-96). The citizens of Camelot thus do not know if they are standing before the signified Lady of Shallot or the signified Lady of Shallot; before a feudal body of legend or a commercialized advertisement. They do not know what reading public they are, what age of consumption they are in. It is this cognitive, semiotic, and material dissonance that I would add to the other confusions that Chandler identifies and that Tennyson's poem allegorizes as the beginning of the end of the bourgeois public sphere."


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