Printer-friendly versionSend by email

The Sublime and Education

About This Volume

This volume of Romantic Circles Praxis Series includes an editor's introduction by J. Jennifer Jones; essays by Christopher Braider, Frances Ferguson, Paul Hamilton, Anne C. McCarthy, Forest Pyle, and Deborah Elise White; and an afterword by Ian Balfour.

What kind of scene of instruction is built into the sublime experience, or is the sublime antithetical to the teaching paradigm? Consider Socrates' dialogues, for instance. The great ones may be ninety percent about instruction (they are seminars), but then there is the ten percent in which he soars out of the dialogue into sublime myth-telling. In those moments, does he actually instruct, or is something else happening that leaves his students behind except possibly through a kind of identification or transference with the role of the teacher-who-leaves-his-students-in-the-dust? And how does all this sort with the notion of application? Can there be an applied sublime? Is there not just a transcendental but an immanent sublimity? An immersive sublimity? What can we learn by critiquing the stories by which we have been taught of and with the sublime? How do we teach the sublime well? How can we continue to be good students of the sublime? How might we practice immanent critique in the face of the sublime?

"The Sublime and Education" offers a series of essays in which contributors meditate on how the concept of education intersects with sublime theory and Romantic aesthetics more generally.

Broadly speaking, this volume produces a set of revisionary readings rooted in the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant and its place in our ongoing understanding of Romantic aesthetics and sublime theory. Kant's philosophy serves as critically-engaged foundation for a volume that also offers a highly-diverse body of texts and methods of interpretation, criticism, and critique that moves between Romantic-era literature and cultural theory of the 20th and 21st centuries.

An underlying inspiration of this volume is the pedagogical theory of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who has thought widely about humanities-based training using Romantic-era texts as principal theoretical and literary tools, formative among them the aesthetic philosophy of Kant. Spivak's pedagogical theory can perhaps best be apprehended through the adroit but monumentally graceful claim that proper pedagogy consists in "the uncoercive rearrangement of desires," which is also to say a pedagogy founded on a notion of an immanent rather than a transcendental sublime. In complementary but nevertheless diverse and highly-individuated ways, contributors offer the just this type of reformative work. Taken together, the contributions of this volume are inspirational of the simultaneously abstract and practical idealism that adheres in a pedagogy whose goal is the uncoercive rearrangement of desires.

The text is encoded in HTML, but features no frames and a limited use of tables. It will work best with Netscape 4.0 or Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher or a comparable browser; earlier browsers may not display everything properly. Because you may enter and exit these files along multiple paths, you may need to use the back-arrow button on your browser to return to your starting point. The full text of the volume, like all hypertexts in the Romantic Circles Praxis Series, is fully searchable.

The essays and other files were marked up in HTML by David Rettenmaier and Mike Quilligan at the University of Maryland. The volume cover and contents page were designed and marked up by Mike Quilligan.

top of page


About the Romantic Circles Praxis Series

The Romantic Circles Praxis Series is devoted to using computer technologies for the contemporary critical investigation of the languages, cultures, histories, and theories of Romanticism. Tracking the circulation of Romanticism within these interrelated domains of knowledge, RCPS recognizes as its conceptual terrain a world where Romanticism has, on the one hand, dissolved as a period and an idea into a plurality of discourses and, on the other, retained a vigorous, recognizable hold on the intellectual and theoretical discussions of today. RCPS is committed to mapping out this terrain with the best and most exciting critical writing of contemporary Romanticist scholarship.

top of page


About the Contributors

J. Jennifer Jones is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Rhode Island. She teaches late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century British literature & culture with a focus on Romantic poetry, poetics, and aesthetics, as well as Romantic-era philosophy and contemporary cultural theory. She has published articles and book reviews in Studies in Romanticism, Romantic Circles Praxis, Eighteenth Century Life, and Romantic and Victorian Literature on the Net (RAVON) and is working on a book project entitled Virtual Romanticism

[go to essay]

Forest Pyle is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Oregon. His work explores the problems and possibilities posed by aesthetic experience, particularly in the context of Romantic and post-Romantic literature. His first book, The Ideology of Imagination: Subject and Society in the Discourse of Romanticism (Stanford University Press, 1995), examined the ideological workings and implications of the Romantic concept of the imagination from Wordsworth and Coleridge through George Eliot. He is presently completing a book manuscript on "radical aestheticism," a term that describes the nature of a recurring event in certain of the most powerful and resonant texts of the British Romantic literary tradition. He is interested in the various forms and effects of this aesthetic radicalization in a strain of Romanticism that extends from Percy Shelley and Keats through Dickinson, Hopkins, and Dante Rossetti through Wilde..

[go to essay]

Christopher Braider is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the author of three books, Refiguring the Real: Picture and Modernity in Word and Image, 1400-1700 (1993), Indiscernible Counterparts: The Invention of the Text in French Classical Drama (2002), and Baroque Self-Invention and Historical Truth: Hercules at the Crossroads (2004). He has just completed a fourth book, The Matter of Mind: Reason and Experience in the Age of Descartes, for which he received an NEH fellowship in 2005/06.

[go to essay]

Anne C. McCarthy is a PhD candidate in English and B. Altman Dissertation Fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is working on a dissertation titled, "That Willing Suspension": Signification and the Ethics of Literary Form in 19th-Century British Poetry. Her work has also appeared in Victorian Poetry. She teaches in the First Year Writing Program at the New School's Eugene Lang College.

[go to essay]

Deborah Elise White is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Emory University. Her publications include Romantic Returns: Superstition, Imagination, History (Stanford 2000) and essays and review articles on Shelley, Coleridge, Hugo, Freud, and De Man. She is currently writing a book manuscript on the rhetoric and poetics of dates in nineteenth-century writing about revolution.

[go to essay]

Paul Hamilton is Professor of English at Queen Mary University of London. He is the author of Metaromanticism (Chicago, 2003) and Coleridge and German Philosophy: The Poet in the Land of Logic (Continuum, 2007) and is currently working on a comparative study of European Romanticism.

[go to essay]

Frances Ferguson is Mary Elizabeth Garrett Professor in Arts and Sciences and Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Johns Hopkins University. She is author of Wordsworth: Language as Counter-spirit, Solitude and the Sublime: Romanticism and the Aesthetics of Individuality, and Pornography, The Theory: What Utilitarianism Did To Action and essays on eighteenth and nineteenth century literature and on literary theory. She is currently working on a study of education in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and a discussion of recent accounts of reading.

[go to essay]

Ian Balfour is Professor of English and of Social & Political Thought at York University. He is the author of several books, including The Rhetoric of Romantic Prophecy, and numerous essays on popular and unpopular culture. With the filmmaker Atom Egoyan, he co-edited Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film and with Eduardo Cadava "And Justice for All?: The Claims of Human Rights" for South Atlantic Quarterly. He was also the sole editor of a SAQ volume on Late Derrida. For 2010-11, he is the M.H. Abrams Distinguished Visiting Professor of English at Cornell. He’s now completing a book on the sublime.

[go to essay]

About this Page