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Romantic Hybridity:
Theoretical Crossings Then and Now

NASSR 96 Plenary Panel: Saturday, 16 November, (4:30pm).
Organized and chaired by William Keach, Brown University

What might it mean to conclude a conference titled "Romantic Crossings" with a plenary session titled "Romantic Hybridity"?

"Crossings" is a geographical or territorial figure, implying not only movement across boundaries or borders but also (as applied to literary and cultural studies) links to familiar disciplinary terms such as "field" and "area." There are, to be sure, other lines of signification generated by "crossings" that are, or ought to be, impossible to avoid here: sexual, racial, whatever complex of associations occurs to you when you read "At length did cross an albatross."

"Hybridity" is a figure deriving from genetics, from botany or horticulture. More emphatically than "crossings," "hybridity" has something artificial and transgressive, even suspect, about it (a "hybrida" is what you get when you "cross" a tame sow and a wild boar; it is related to Greek "hybris").

So what do the organizing figures for this conference suggests about our sense of the work we're now doing, or ought to be doing? Are we voyaging through strange seas of thought? or joining things unnaturally together--perhaps with the kind of expansion or opening up of cultural possibilities that come through such unnatural joinings? What do the figures of "crossings" and "hybridity" indicate externally, about links between our "field" and others? and internally, about debates and conflicts within our "field"?

What does it mean to return, via either "crossings" or "hybridity," to the historical and political determinations of romanticism located most familiarly in the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, or still less familiarly in the American Revolution and the slave revolt in San Domingo? How does this entire discussion bear upon the historicist turn characteristic of romantic studies in the last ten or fifteen years?

I pose these questions not because they are directly taken up by the four speakers on this panel--though some of them are--but as a way of pointing ahead to subsequent discussion and argument.

William Keach

"Of Gene Pools, Genetic Mapping, Recessive Chromosomes, and Freaks of Nature" (Stuart Curran, Univ. of Pennsylvania)
"Two Romantic Hybrids" (Theresa M. Kelley, Univ. of Texas at Austin)
"Self-Organization and Romantic Crossings" (Jon Klancher, Boston Univ.)
"From Restricted to General Economy: A Kantianism Without Reserve" (Tilottama Rajan, Univ. of Western Ontario)

(Click here to read responses to the panel or to add your own response.)

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Published @ RC

November 1996