Romantic Circles Reviews

Submission Policy & Guidelines

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.

New reviews will also be announced on the NASSR-L e-mail discussion group, and we encourage subscription via RSS feed.

About Romantic Circles Reviews

Romantic Circles Reviews (RCR) offers thoughtful, thorough reviews of key works of scholarship in the field that also take advantage of the particular strengths of the Internet. Our goal is delivering the timeliest responses to new directions in Romanticism, publishing reviews without the long lag-time that print generates. Rather than being collated into volumes, each review will be published "just-in-time": our hope is to cover the publications of today, instead of those of several years ago. While we focus chiefly on reviews of books—including essay collections, textual editions, anthologies, biographies as well as monographs—RCR also engages other relevant projects in Romantic Studies, especially all forms of digital media.

Steve Clark and David Worrall, eds., Blake, Nation and Empire

Steve Clark and David Worrall, eds., Blake, Nation and Empire. New York: Palgrave, 2006. 256pp. Illus: 8 halftones. ISBN-13: 978-0-3339-9314-9 (Hdbk.), $69.96.

Reviewed by
Julia M. Wright
Dalhousie University

This important collection of twelve essays, arising from a 2000 Blake conference at Tate Britain, offers an array of historical frames through which to recontextualize Blake—from sensibility to eighteenth-century ideas of sexuality, and from the Sierra Leone project to the diverse religious cultures of Blake's England and debates about art, economy, historiography, and proselytization. "Nation" and "Empire" are capacious categories here, allowed to float freely, as they did in Romantic-era discourse (though there are moments when distinctions between patriotism and modern nationalism, cultural nationalism and ideas of the nation-state, or settler colonies and invaded colonies would have contributed to a clearer picture of "Blake, Nation and Empire"). The aim of this volume is to continue the cultural materialist project of Clark and Worrall's earlier collections and, hence, to focus on the "minute particulars" of Blake's time and place—a project richly pursued here. This collection is not divided into parts, but I have organized my discussion below to highlight some continuities, and complementarities, among these diverse chapters beyond their shared historicist orientation.

Tags: 

Matthew S. Buckley, Tragedy Walks the Streets: The French Revolution in the Making of Modern Drama

Matthew S. Buckley, Tragedy Walks the Streets: The French Revolution in the Making of Modern Drama. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2006. x + 191pp. $49.95 (Hdbk; ISBN-10: 0-8018-8434-9).

Reviewed by
Lissette Lopez Szwydky
Penn State University

Matthew S. Buckley's Tragedy Walks the Streets: The French Revolution in the Making of Modern Drama is "an effort to render explicit, and thus pull into the active present, modern drama's connection—it's 'secret link'—not only to the drama of the French Revolution but also, and through it, to the dramas of the pre-Revolutionary past" (152). The author uncovers the modern drama's "secret link" to the past through an interdisciplinary analysis of the politics of the French Revolution as played out both in the streets and on the stages of Paris, as well as London. Although the title of the book suggests an historical approach to developments in the drama from the late-eighteenth century to the early-twentieth century, Buckley instead offers a history of the dramatic character of the French Revolution, its relationship to the dramas staged in the decades immediately before and after, its influence on English political and literary authors, and finally "the Revolution's relationship to the formal development of modern drama between 1780 and 1840" (1). The aims of the book are many, but in its multi-national (France, England, and Germany) coverage of the theatricality of politics during this period, its focus is fixed on the permanent effects of the French Revolution on European cultural production.

Tags: 

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).

Tags: 

Cian Duffy, Shelley and the Revolutionary Sublime

Cian Duffy, Shelley and the Revolutionary Sublime. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 63. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. xiv + 280 pp. $80.00. (Hdbk; ISBN: 0512854008).

Reviewed by
Dana Van Kooy
University of Colorado at Boulder

Just as Mont Blanc has been central to the Shelleyan canon, so too the sublime as an aesthetic discourse has been pivotal to our understanding of Percy Shelley as a poet, a philosopher, and a radical. Cian Duffy's Shelley and the Revolutionary Sublime challenges the "critical orthodoxy which assumes not only that there is such a thing as a generic 'romantic sublime', but also that this 'sublime' rehearses the transcendentalist paradigms of [Kant's] Critique of Judgment" (5). Eschewing Burke and Kant, Duffy reorients the Shelleyan sublime through two other texts: C.F. Volney's Les Ruines, ou Méditations sur les Révolutions des Empires (translated into English in the early 1790s) and Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1766-88). Both texts, according to Duffy, embody the eighteenth-century idea of "ruin-sentiment" (38-9), a term which links imperial collapse to moral decadence and, as a discourse of political and social reform, offers to resolve the terrifying prospect of ruin through an appeal to moral restraint. Shelley, Duffy argues, takes this causal formulation a step further; the sublime provides the means of representing the inevitable imperial failure as a natural cultural process that mirrors society's moral and political corruption. Shelley's sublime landscapes—significantly, inhabited by volcanoes, avalanches, and other events marking geological catastrophe—signify the natural necessity of revolution. This essentially inverts the traditional theistic discourse of the natural sublime; instead of pointing to God as the organizing principle of life, Shelley's sublime exposes "the artificiality, the un-naturalness of contemporary social structures" (9). Duffy's study places a new emphasis on the catastrophic imagery of the natural sublime while it also redefines the Shelleyan sublime as an "aesthetic ideology" in order to be attentive to the figurative power of the natural sublime to change the observer's conception of what is "natural" or what is "right."

Tags: 

Paul Youngquist, Monstrosities: Bodies and British Romanticism

Paul Youngquist, Monstrosities: Bodies and British Romanticism. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. xxxi + 224pp. ISBN: 0-8166-3979-5; ISBN-13: 978-0-8166-3979-3 (Hdbk.), $60.00. ISBN-10: 0-8166-3980-9; ISBN-13: 978-0-8166-3980-9 (Pbk.), $20.00.

Reviewed by
Debbie Lee
Washington State University

It seems appropriate that Gunter von Hagens held his London exhibition Bodyworlds in the same neighborhood where Jack the Ripper took his victims. When I attended the 2002 exhibition at the Atlantis Gallery on Brick Lane, I was both fascinated and freaked out. It progressed from body parts to full corpses, in postures that mocked their lifelessness. One was a horseman, one held what looked to be a cape but turned out to be his entire skin, while others mimicked athletes: a runner, a basketball player, a swimmer, and a pole-vaulter lodged half-way between floors. Then there was a room dedicated to the development of the baby in embryo.

Tags: 

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.

Tags: 

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.

Tags: 

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.

Tags: 

Pages