Romantic Circles Reviews

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Upon slating a reviewer, RCR will request that contributors send an electronic copy of the review (as a Word document); however, submissions are not required to be in HTML. Although there is no specific length limit, reviews normally run 1,200–1,500 words. Please note that for matters of style, endnotes, and citation, RCR follows MLA guidelines. We also welcome the use of hypertext links in the review where relevant, but RCR will oversee the final HTML product.

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Christopher Z. Hobson, Blake and Homosexuality

Christopher Z. Hobson, Blake and Homosexuality. New York: St. Martin's Press/Palgrave, 2000. xxii + 249pp. Illus: 20 b&w line drawings. $55.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-312-23451-1).

Reviewed by
Kevin Hutchings
University of Northern British Columbia

When teaching William Blake's poetry and designs, I occasionally encounter student questions concerning a number of explicitly homoerotic representations in such works as Milton and Jerusalem.   Because Blake was not himself homosexual, I have tended to explain these representations as an aspect of the poet's iconoclastic propensity to "shock" his readers out of socially induced modes of complacency (as Blake clearly attempts to do, for example, in some of his more outrageous "Proverbs of Hell" in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell).  Fortunately, Christopher Z. Hobson's Blake and Homosexuality has given me much food for thought, showing me how incomplete and problematic my understanding of Blake's homosexual representations has been.

Mark Storey, The Problem of Poetry in the Romantic Period

Mark Storey, The Problem of Poetry in the Romantic Period. New York: St. Martin's Press/Palgrave, 2000. xi + 197pp.  $59.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-312-23044-3).

Reviewed by
J. Morgan
University of Kentucky

In the preface to The Problem of Poetry in the Romantic Period, Mark Storey positions his work within a school of Romantic criticism that takes the self-conscious role of questioning or doubt on the part of the Romantic poet to be the central factor in the development of Romantic poetry.   However, whereas earlier studies, such as Charles Rzepkas's Self as Mind and Andrea Henderson's Romantic Identities: Varieties of Subjectivity, treat the development of this self-conscious attitude in relationship to a more "psychological and phenomenological point of view," Storey prefers to concentrate, as he says, "much more centrally on the nature of the poet, on how each poet struggles with a definition of poetry that involves a definition of the self as poet, and on how this struggle manifests itself in the poetry" (ix).  In essence, Storey takes the position that we will be able to better grasp the how Romantic writers struggled with the concept of poetic identity if we avoid reading their poetry in light of more "abstruse" models of subjectivity (viii).  I should note though that Storey seems to takes this position not so much from a desire to shout his defiance at "theory" than from a quiet belief in the interpretability of poetry, the lives of poets, and the intersections between the two.  As such, Storey's book is not wholly a polemic, but more a practical demonstration of what one can do with texts without a structured theoretical framework.

Kevin Gilmartin, Writing Against Revolution: Literary Conservatism in Britain, 1790-1832

Kevin Gilmartin, Writing Against Revolution: Literary Conservatism in Britain, 1790-1832. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Xii + 316 pp. 3 Illustrations. $90.00 (Hdbk; 0-521-86113-6).

Reviewed by
Anthony Jarrells
University of South Carolina

The implicit claim of Kevin Gilmartin's Writing Against Revolution: Literary Conservatism in Britain, 1790-1832, is that containment is as apt a metaphor for romantic-period writing as the more widely used explosion. Of course, the effort by conservative writers to counter what was thought by many in the period to be a very real threat of revolution did itself lead to an explosion of print. Indeed, it is precisely this tension that Gilmartin finds at the heart of the "counterrevolutionary" enterprise: how do those who see print as a suspect vehicle of revolution engage in a print-based campaign to counter such a threat? Gilmartin's first book, Print Politics: The Press and Radical Opposition in early Nineteenth-Century England (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996), explored the radical side of the struggle. His new study brings a similar, rigorous approach to the "pervasive rhetorical and literary dilemma" (13) that occupied those writers working to forestall the movement chronicled in Print Politics. The five chapters of Writing Against Revolution trace the myriad forms in which this rhetorical and literary dilemma found expression: from pamphlets and tracts (chapters one and two), periodical reviews (chapter three), and novels (chapter four), to attempts (chronicled in chapter five) by two canonical writers of the period—Robert Southey and Samuel Coleridge—to extend counterrevolutionary practices beyond specific moments of crisis and to articulate "a model for a more stable society" (207). Against a scholarly field that tends to associate romantic writing with progressive strains and causes, Gilmartin aims "to demonstrate the enterprising and productive (rather than merely negative and reactive) presence of counterrevolutionary voices in the culture of the romantic period" (9).

Dale Townshend, The Orders of Gothic: Foucault, Lacan, and the Subject of Gothic Writing 1764-1820

Dale Townshend, The Orders of Gothic: Foucault, Lacan, and the Subject of Gothic Writing 1764-1820. New York: AMS Press, 2007. ix+365pp. $87.50. (Hdbk; ISBN-10: 0404648541; ISBN-13: 978-0404648541).

Reviewed by
David Sigler
University of Idaho

Some ten years ago, Diane Long Hoeveler suggested in Gothic Feminism that a wave of Foucauldian studies, attuned to the broad discursive and institutional transformations underway at the end of the eighteenth century, might be poised to supplement a tradition of psychoanalytic studies of the Gothic (53). Dale Townshend’s monograph, The Orders of Gothic, courageously takes up this challenge, and, like Hoeveler’s study, it refuses to discard psychoanalytic insights just because Foucauldian ones prove illuminating. The Orders of Gothic offers a compelling combination of Lacanian and Foucauldian approaches, while grappling with an enormous range of Gothic writing to deliver fascinating reinterpretations of signal texts. The study is clearly written and accessible—even, I suspect, for readers mildly allergic to the specialized vocabularies of Lacan and Foucault—and for the most part it maintains the integrity of its diverse theoretical investments. It marks a significant and welcome contribution to the current critical conversation on the Gothic.

Romanticism and Enlightenment by Rowan Rose Boyson

Rowan Rose Boyson collects and discusses seven wide-ranging approaches to the subject of Romanticism and Enlightenment:

  1. Marshall Brown, ‘Romanticism and Enlightenment’ in The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism, ed. by Stuart Curran, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  2. Simon Swift, Romanticism, Literature and Philosophy: Expressive Rationality in Rousseau, Kant, Wollstonecraft and Contemporary Theory (Continuum, 2009)
  3. Frances Ferguson, Pornography: The Theory, or what Utilitarianism did to Action (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004)
  4. Nancy Yousef, Isolated Cases: Anxieties of Autonomy in Enlightenment Philosophy and Romantic Literature (Cornell University, 2004)
  5. The Sublime: A Reader in British Eighteenth-Century Aesthetic Theory, ed. by Andrew Ashfield and Peter de Bolla (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)
  6. Elizabeth Eger, Bluestockings: Women of Reason from Enlightenment to Romanticism (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
  7. Jacques Rancière’s Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art, trans. by Zakir Paul (London: Verso, 2013)

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.