May 1999

Alan Richardson and Sonia Hofkosh, eds., Romanticism, Race, and Imperial Culture, 1780–1834

Alan Richardson and Sonia Hofkosh, eds., Romanticism, Race, and Imperial Culture, 1780–1834 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996). vii + 352pp. illus. $39.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-253-33212-5).

Reviewed by
Debbie Lee
University of Washington

On a balmy afternoon in San Francisco this past December, at the annual gathering of the Wordsworth Circle luncheon, Alan Richardson had the daunting "keynote" task of talking about Romantic scholarship for the new millennium. The very idea of projecting Romanticism into the twenty-first century seems uncannily Blakean, but rather than asking us to talk prophetically about where Romantic studies are headed, and why, Richardson instead suggested that the field has already found exciting new directions of study. One of these, he said, was to undertake a closer reading of Romanticism in its international setting. To this end, he encouraged the unearthing of the vast history scholars have access to in early printed books and manuscripts. In resituating Romanticism at this moment in time, Richardson suggested, scholars might inform theoretical hunches with a genuine historiography, one that embraces all the writers of the period. Many of us left the luncheon with the sense that Romantic studies is in the midst of one of its most vibrant scholarly phases.

Jennifer Ford, Coleridge on Dreaming: Romanticism, Dreams and the Medical Imagination

Jennifer Ford, Coleridge on Dreaming: Romanticism, Dreams and the Medical Imagination Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 26. Cambridge University Press, 1998. xii + 256pp. illus. $59.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-521-58316-0).

Reviewed by
Richard Matlak
College of the Holycross

I believe it was Walter Jackson Bate who commented that one could quote Coleridge to support either side of almost any argument, and, one might add, believe wholeheartedly in its one-sidedness. Because of the subject of this review, let us consider Bate's part in creating the prevailing understanding of the Coleridgean imagination. His influential explication of Coleridge on imagination began with Criticism: The Major Texts (Harcourt, Brace,1952), continued in his lucid and once-standard biography, Coleridge (Macmillan,1968), and rests now at the permanent center of Coleridge studies in the editorial introduction to the Bollingen Bate-Engell edition of Biographia Literaria (Princeton University Press, 1983; pp. lxxxi–civ). This finely-honed and learned exposition of Coleridge's Primary and Secondary Imaginations, which was prepared by James Engell, is illustrated by a conceptual diagram that would please anyone with a rage for order. "God, The 'Great I AM'" sits at the top, "Philosophy scientia scientiarum," at its base, and the term Imagination is positioned right above a midline of demarcation identified as natura naturata and is connected to the meaningfully ordered concepts of Reason, Understanding, Perception, Senses, Art (Subjective & Objective), Organic Form, and Symbols by arrows shooting every which way (cf. p. lxxx). Jennifer Ford, however, suggests a surreal, more fleshly, image to represent another side of Coleridge on imagination in Coleridge on Dreaming: Romanticism, Dreams and the Medical Imagination. It is Henry Fuseli's painting of The Nightmare, with its Goblin sitting on the sleeping, restless virgin, and the head of an excited stallion leering out of the gloom at the foot of her bed. As opposed to the received Germanic-philosophical-aesthetic lineage of the Creative Imagination, the "Medical Imagination" has its grounding in contemporary medical debates whose arguments are to be found in tomes such as John Brown's Elementa Medicinæ (1780), Erasmus Darwin's Zoonomia (1794–96), John Haygarth's Of the Imagination as a Cause and Cure of Disorders in the Body (1800), and William Falconer's A Dissertation on the Influence of the Passions on Disorders of the Body (3rd ed, 1796). Coleridge's relationship to the contemporary debate, coupled with his private reflections on the mysterious functioning of (his) imagination as a translator of bodily ailments and sensations into the "dramatic dreaming spaces" of his consciousness, is not to be found primarily in the public pronouncements of his lectures, essays, or the Biographia, but rather in letters, marginalia, and especially the Notebooks, more than twenty of which still remain unpublished. Ford shows that "[i]n adopting a fundamentally physiological doctrine of the source and production of dreams, Coleridge was also able to explore the physiological, medical nature of the imagination" (3). In other words, Ford knowingly counters the quite convincing "spiritual, poetic, idealist" understanding of the Coleridgean imagination with a quite convincing description of the Coleridgean imagination as "a physical and medical faculty, . . . distinctly linked to the material, to the corporeal" (185).

Diane Long Hoeveler, Gothic Feminism: The Professionalization of Gender from Charlotte Smith to the Brontës

Diane Long Hoeveler, Gothic Feminism: The Professionalization of Gender from Charlotte Smith to the Brontës (University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. 250 pages. $40.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-271-01809-7).

Reviewed by
Deborah Kennedy
Saint Mary's University, Halifax

Dand to criticism in the field. Concentrating on gothic novels written by women, Hoeveler traces patterns within the genre, ranging from the work of Charlotte Smith in the late eighteenth century to that of the Brontës in the nineteenth century, with two chapters on Ann Radcliffe forming the core of the book. Hoeveler's phrase "gothic feminism" might sound like an oxymoron, but she uses it to define the way that women writers created fictional worlds which in some way addressed the problem of their physical and social vulnerability. For Hoeveler, gender and the body become the overriding concerns of these texts. While one may not always agree with her attempt to find one key to unlock all of these novels, Hoeveler is a gifted literary critic. Her work is informed by recent theory, and she conscientiously cites a whole range of articles and books on gothic literature. But Hoeveler always keeps the novels themselves at the center of her discussion. One can see why she was first "entranced" by Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (xvii), and her detailed and engaging commentary makes one want to read these novels again.

Kevin Gilmartin, Print Politics: The Press and Radical Opposition in Early Nineteenth-Century England.

Kevin Gilmartin, Print Politics: The Press and Radical Opposition in Early Nineteenth-Century England. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 21. Cambridge University Press, 1996. xiv + 274pp. $59.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-521-49655-1).

Reviewed by
John Kandl
Walsh University

Kevin Gilmartin's Print Politics: The Press and Radical Opposition in Early Nineteenth-Century England is a timely and useful exploration of the radical press's complex and often contradictory relationship to the print culture of the early nineteenth century. Gilmartin particularly focuses upon the radical movement's "style of political opposition that aimed to replace the distinction between whig and tory with a more ominous one between the people and corrupt government, and to make the press a forum for mobilizing this distinction on behalf of parliamentary reform" (1). In studies of the various political and rhetorical strategies of such radical voices as Wooler, Carlile, Wade, Cobbett and Hunt, Gilmartin explores the "contradictory energies generated by the radical effort to remain engaged with a corrupt system while resisting its influence" (196).

Robin Jarvis, Romantic Writing and Pedestrian Travel.

Robin Jarvis, Romantic Writing and Pedestrian Travel. London: Macmillan, 1997. x + 246pp. $59.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-333-65814-0).

Reviewed by
Anne D. Wallace
University of Southern Mississippi

In this contribution to the ongoing critical discussion of mobility and literature in the modern world, Robin Jarvis significantly refines our understanding of the material histories of walking and these histories' conjunctions with literature in Britain during the crucial period from the 1780s to the 1820s. Many of his most important claims concern "pedestrian travel," the long-distance touring he characterizes as "fluid, improvised, open-ended walking" (90). But he also surveys the varieties of motivations, forms and expressions of walking during the period so that, rather than advancing one master thesis, Jarvis collects related observations of

the ways in which intellectual processes and textual effects are grounded in the material practice of walking. . . . This is not to imply some organic oneness of sense and expression in peripatetic literature, but to insist that in the displacement from physical experience to the order of imagined reality and literary representation the rhythms and modalities of walking remain a visibly determining influence. (33)

Without being reductive, I think it is safe to say that Jarvis attributes what he later calls "the potential of the genetic link between walking and writing" (91), in the specific case of pedestrian travel, to what he identifies as the freely directed, irregular, underdetermined physical qualities of such movement. These qualities, which Jarvis posits as inhering in the materialities of pedestrianism itself, mean that such travel can embody resistance to cultural categories from the personal to the aesthetic to the political, and at levels ranging from the oppositional to a suspension of resolution resembling Keats's "negative capability." Jarvis also argues that these free, resistant material and psychological conditions of pedestrian travel can be traced in the formal and thematic textual effects of writers who were themselves pedestrian travelers (or whose walking, for some reason, approached that specific modality). Like several recent critics—although no work of this kind had been published when he began his inquiry—Jarvis locates the release of pedestrianism's positive textual potential in the Romantic period, agreeing with Leslie Stephen's classic claim that "'the literary movement at the end of the eighteenth century was . . . due in great part, if not mainly, to the renewed practice of walking.