April 2008

Gordon Bigelow, Fiction, Famine, and the Rise of Economics in Victorian Britain & Ireland; Philip Connell, Romanticism, Economics, & the Question of Culture; & Maureen N. McLane, Romanticism & the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of..

Bigelow, Gordon. Fiction, Famine, and the Rise of Economics in Victorian Britain and Ireland. Cambridge Studies in Nineteeth-Century Literature and Culture, no. 40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. ix + 229pp. $43.00 (Pbk., 2007; ISBN-13: 9-780-521-03553-8).
Connell, Philip. Romanticism, Economics, and the Question of Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. xii + 338pp. $50.00 (Hdbk; ISBN-13: 9-780-199-28205-0).
McLane, Maureen N. Romanticism and the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of the Species. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 41. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. x + 282pp. $50.00 (Pbk., 2006; ISBN-13: 9-780-521-02820-2).

Reviewed by
Alex J. Dick
University of British Columbia

Most literary critics are familiar with economic terms like class, market, exchange, circulation, and production even if they aren't all that interested in economics. But people working in the field now called "literature and economics" or sometimes "the new economic criticism" are not primarily interested in using economic terminology to enhance readings of literary works. Nor are they particularly invested in using the tools of rhetoric or linguistics to challenge the ideological principles of academic economics, as even some economists have recently done. The new economic criticism, so called, is not really a branch of literary criticism at all. Rather it is part of a larger emerging field—discipline studies—that has attracted linguists, intellectual historians, anthropologists, and even economists and that is beginning to make headway in literature. Borrowing methodologies from discourse and systems analysis, the object of discipline studies is to understand when, how, and why literature and economics converge within institutional systems like the print marketplace or the University. These scholars share an interest in the way the different academic disciplines operate not discretely but in relation to one another. Disciplines formulate epistemologies by dismissing the usefulness or legitimacy of other competing epistemologies. At the same time, each discipline also adapts terms and ideas from others as part of their own disciplinary mandates.

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James Najarian, Victorian Keats: Manliness, Sexuality, and Desire

James Najarian, Victorian Keats: Manliness, Sexuality, and Desire. New York: Palgrave, 2003. x + 240pp. $110.00 (Hdbk; ISBN-10: 0-333-98583-4).

Reviewed by
Peggy Dunn Bailey

In Victorian Keats: Manliness, Sexuality, and Desire, James Najarian traces the influence of Keats upon the ways that male sexuality came to be understood and expressed in the Victorian era. One of the most valuable and insightful elements of Najarian's discussion, however, is that he extends his analysis beyond the Victorian era to the World War 1 era poetry of Wilfred Owen and to appropriations of Keats's "story" by contemporary artists struggling to find a language for the horrors of HIV/AIDS and its legacy, especially for the gay community. Doing so solidifies his point that Keats became, and continues to be, a phenomenon of sorts, not just because of his poetry but because of the ways in which the poet himself was turned into a symbol of transgressive sexuality and a commentary on its manifestations and potential consequences. Najarian is careful to point out that Keats's "influence" was transmitted not just by his poetry but also by biographies and conceptions of the "doomed," "sensuous," "effeminate" poet and to make clear that his goal is not to uncover the "real" John Keats but to examine the legacy of "Keatsianism" (2). Will we understand Keats and his poetry better if we "prove"/"know" him to have been a latent homosexual instead of (or, titillatingly, in addition to) a frustrated heterosexual? Not necessarily. Najarian astutely points out that late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century attempts to categorize would be unwise for practical and theoretical reasons; we would do well to remain vigilant regarding the dependability of our knowledge of the sexual proclivities and practices of human beings in a culture and a time within which the discourse of sexuality was so very different from our own. Furthermore, such attempts to "out" Keats, the man, are irrelevant to Najarian's project. In the Introduction, Najarian candidly announces his text as "unashamedly a literary history" (2).

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Noah Heringman, Romantic Rocks, Aesthetic Geology

Noah Heringman, Romantic Rocks, Aesthetic Geology. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2004.  xix +304 pp. $49.95 (Hdbk; ISBN-13: 978-0-8014-4127-1).

Reviewed by
Kate Rigby
Monash University

Noah Heringman is one of a small but growing band of Romanticists and other literary scholars whose work is located in the liminal zone between the terrain of the natural sciences and that of the humanities and social sciences. As is the case with such interstitial spaces in the physical environment, so, too, in the world of scholarship, this often proves to be fertile ground. This is certainly the case with Romantic Rocks, Aesthetic Geology, which reframes current understandings of both Romantic aesthetics and geological science through a detailed examination of their historical interconnections.

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Ian Baucom, Specters of the Atlantic

Ian Baucom, Specters of the Atlantic. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005. x + 387pp; illus. $84.95 (Hdbk; ISBN-10: 0-8223-3558-1; ISBN-13: 978-0-8223-3558-0); $23.95 (Pbk; ISBN-10:0-8223-3596-4; ISBN-13: 978-0-8223-3596-2).

Reviewed by
S. Adair Rispoli
Greg Pierrot, Shawna Ross, David Jefferson, Dustin Kennedy, Laura Collins,
Tyler Hollet, Esther Deutsch, Paul Johnston, Brian Neff
Pennsylvania State University

Ian Baucom's stimulating and rigorous Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History provides a philosophically sophisticated account of the role of slavery within the development of Western capitalism. Borrowing from Walter Benjamin's angel of history and Giovanni Arrighi's The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origin of Our Times (Verso, 1994), Baucom advances the notion that "now" is never simply the present but rather an accumulation of history, which also moves through alternating cycles of economic development. Slavery, then, is no issue of the past, but one with the most salient consequences in the present, not only because the past has gathered itself within the present, but also because, according to Baucom, our era of high finance capitalism is comparable to that which arose out of the consolidation of the slave trade in the eighteenth century. Through a minutely detailed analysis of the 1781 Zong incident—in which one hundred and thirty-three slaves were thrown overboard in order to collect insurance—he shows how slaves as physical merchandise became at that historical moment the equivalent of finance capital: a potential, abstract and impersonal medium of exchange.

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David Perkins, Romanticism and Animal Rights & Christine Kenyon-Jones, Kindred Brutes: Animals in Romantic-Period Writing

David Perkins, Romanticism and Animal Rights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 58. xvi + 210pp. $95.00 (Hdbk; ISBN-10: 0-521-82941-0; ISBN-13: 978-0-521-82941-0); $37.99 (Pbk.; ISBN-13: 978-0-521-04598-8).
Christine Kenyon-Jones, Kindred Brutes: Animals in Romantic-Period Writing. Aldershot, England: Ashgate Publishing, 2001. The Nineteenth-Century Series. viii + 229pp; illus. (10 halftones). $99.95. (Hdbk: ISBN: 0-7546-0332-6).

Reviewed by
Janelle A. Schwartz
Loyola University, New Orleans

In A Memoir of Thomas Bewick by Himself, we are told that the Farmer (well-known to the 12-year-old Bewick), proposing to have "a bit more sport" with a captured hare, broke "one of its legs, and then again [set] the poor Animal off, a little before the Dogs" (qtd. in RR 15). Thinking that the Farmer would help to save the life of the hapless hare, the young Bewick gave the animal into what he thought would be beneficent hands. To his surprise, the Farmer's intervention served only to exacerbate the already brutal scene of the fox hunt. This vignette encapsulates the key figures and concepts in David Perkins' Romanticism and Animal Rights and Christine Kenyon-Jones' Kindred Brutes: Animals in Romantic-Period Writing; both texts present comprehensive, sustained studies of how and why animals appeared in the literature of the Romantic era. Seeking to draw attention to contemporary and modern ecological concerns, both Perkins and Kenyon-Jones couch their arguments in the multitude of discourses about animals in the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Ranging from the didacticism of children's literature and the practice of keeping pets to contemporary debates surrounding hunting and vegetarianism, as well as parliamentary debates on the rights of animals and the encyclopaedic texts produced on the subject, these discourses not only highlight the presence of animals in English culture, but they also demonstrate the inextricable link between animals and humans. Romanticism and Animal Rights and Kindred Brutes, therefore, reveal the essential, and often times varied, role of the animal to aid in an understanding of the human.

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Josephine McDonagh, Child Murder and British Culture, 1720-1900

Josephine McDonagh, Child Murder and British Culture, 1720-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. xiii + 278pp; illus. (6 halftones). $95.00 (Hdbk; ISBN-10: 0-521-78193-0; ISBN-13: 978-0-521-78193-0); $32.99 (Pbk.; ISBN-13:978-0-521-05456-0).

Reviewed by
Lynne Vallone
Texas A&M University-College Station

For Josephine McDonagh, child murder from the eighteenth through nineteenth centuries—both actual cases and, in particular, the "idea" of child murder—is an especially sensitive barometer that reveals cultural values, anxieties and obsessions that change over time. Through probing and cogent readings of court records, newspaper articles, novels, poems, political and polemical tracts, medical treatises, legislation (such as the 1803 Offenses against the Person Act), works of philosophy and economics, McDonagh's book, Child Murder and British Culture, 1720-1900, convinces the reader that the motif of child murder is indeed at the heart of Britain's self-fashioning and self-imagining. She concludes the introduction: "I hope to confront and come to terms with the obvious disjunction between the unnatural and violent deaths of infants . . . —events which demand our most sober regard—and the extraordinarily potent array of traces—tragic, grotesque, trenchant, and ludic—which child murder left in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century culture" (13). Thus, McDonagh's project must juggle the various and often competing discussions about child murder, the contexts of these debates, and the interpretive moments—moments of cultural imagination—that inhere to the figure of the murdered child. This is a difficult trick, yet one which McDonagh achieves with panache.

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