Romantic Circles Reviews

E. J. Clery, Women’s Gothic: From Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley

E. J. Clery, Women's Gothic: From Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley. Devon, U.K.: Northcote House, 2000 viii + 168 pp.  $21.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-7463-0872-8).

Reviewed by
Harriet Kramer Linkin
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces

The explosion of interest in Gothic literature during the past twenty-five years has resulted in a tremendous group of books, especially among scholars working on women's Gothic literature or the female Gothic (notably Bette Roberts's 1980 The Gothic Romance, Julian Fleenor's 1983 collection The Female Gothic, Kate Ferguson Ellis's 1989 The Contested Castle, Eugenia DeLamotte's 1990 Perils of the Night, Michelle Massé's 1992 In the Name of Love, Terry Castle's 1995 The Female Thermometer, Anne Williams's 1995 Art of Darkness, and Diane Hoeveler's 1998 Gothic Feminism). Emma Clery's Women's Gothic makes a rich contribution to the field that is both distinctive and innovative in looking exclusively at women's Gothic literature to argue against the simplicity of a separatist tradition that differentiates the male Gothic from the female Gothic. Rather than read women's Gothic works as "parables of patriarchy involving the heroine's danger from wicked father figures, and her search for the absent mother," the classic approach that positions the "'Female Gothic'" within the "notion of a distinctive women's tradition" (as Ellen Moers usefully defined "Female Gothic" in her 1977 opus Literary Women), Clery productively turns the issue of valuation upside down to ask "what happens if we lay aside our assumptions about women's writing and look again at women's Gothic? What we find there suggests the need for another story: wild passions, the sublime, supernatural phenomena, violent conflict, murder and torture, sexual excess and perversion, outlandish settings, strange minglings of history and fantasy" (2). That is the story Clery seeks to tell in Women's Gothic as she offers lucid, concise, and finely researched overviews of the works of Clara Reeve, Sophia Lee, Ann Radcliffe, Joanna Baillie, Charlotte Dacre, and Mary Shelley for Isobel Armstrong's "Writers and Their Work" series (which currently includes over one hundred brief studies of authors and literary movements).

Jerome J. McGann, Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web

Jerome J. McGann, Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web. New York: Palgrave, 2001. xv + 272pp.  $39.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-312-29352-6).  $19.95 (Ppbk; ISBN: 1-4039-6436-X, 2004).

Reviewed by
Ron Broglio
Georgia Institute of Technology

Jerome McGann's introduction "Beginning Again: Humanities and Digital Culture, 1993-2000" gives us a glimpse at how far computing in the humanities has come in less than a decade, and it signals possible directions for the future. McGann situates humanities computing at a critical moment:

[W]e stand on the edge of a period that will see the complete editorial transformation of our inherited cultural archive. That event is neither a possibility nor a likelihood; it is a certainty. As it emerges around us, it exposes our need for critical tools of the same material and formal order that can execute our other permanent scholarly function: to imagine what we don't know in a disciplined and deliberate fashion. (18)

The way scholars work with new media has changed drastically over the years. As a collection of McGann's essays during the 1990s, Radiant Textuality bears witness to these changes--from digital editing in the mid-1990s, to pondering the ontology of the text in the late-1990s, and then to critical gaming in the new millennium. As the collection proceeds, chapter by chapter we see McGann's concerns shift, themes emerge, and new possibilities arise alongside the developments in digital technology. Unifying the diverse experiments in Radiant Textuality is McGann's persistence in finding ways that new media can improve the exploration and interpretation of aesthetic works.

Susan Manning, Fragments of Union: Making Connections in Scottish and American Writing

Susan Manning, Fragments of Union: Making Connections in Scottish and American Writing. New York: Palgrave, 2002.  vii + 249 pp. Illus.: 7 halftones.  £55.00/$69.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-333-76025-5).

Reviewed by
Janet Sorensen
Indiana University, Bloomington

Scotland, once relegated to the margins of studies in Romanticism, has reemerged in recent scholarship as a geographical and intellectual site that at once anticipated key Romantic topoi and provided the conceptual basis of much Romantic cultural theory. Susan Manning's contribution to these studies is the most theoretically sophisticated and wide-ranging to date, moving fluidly between cultural politics, post-structuralist and psychoanalytic methodologies and traversing Scottish and American texts produced between the 1707 Act of Union and the American Civil War. At all points hesitant to identify causal relationships between specific political and cultural circumstances and the philosophical thought she outlines, Manning nonetheless makes a convincing argument regarding the significance of the post-Culloden Scottish intellectual milieu to subsequent Romantic motifs of fragmentation, of structural dismemberment, of incomplete memory, of unregistered mourning, and to the unstable narratives of union designed to acknowledge and sometimes overcome these threats to personal and national identity. In her discussion of the Scottish and North American literary negotiations of such fraught narratives, Manning profoundly complicates the very notion of national Romantic traditions. Temporally, she reveals links between Scottish Enlightenment and Romantic thought, particularly through her focus on David Hume and the Common Sense philosophers, such as Thomas Reid, who sought to discredit Hume but unwittingly propelled his views into the future. Spatially, she demonstrates the intricate connections between Scottish and North American writing as she describes how that most American "structure of thinking," e pluribus unum, is "characteristic of the writing of the Scottish Enlightenment" (2).

Dustin Griffin, Patriotism and Poetry in Eighteenth-Century Britain & David Morse, The Age of Virtue: British Culture from the Restoration to Romanticism

Dustin Griffin, Patriotism and Poetry in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. x + 316pp.  Illus.: 7 halftones.  $60.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-521-81118-X).
David Morse, The Age of Virtue: British Culture from the Restoration to Romanticism. New York: Palgrave, 2000.  viii + 330pp.  $69.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-312-22353-6).

Reviewed by
George Justice
University of Missouri-Columbia

Both of these books take seriously affective identifications that are commonly depreciated as "ideology" in much recent critical study. Dustin Griffin's Patriotism and Poetry in Eighteenth-Century Britain examines well-known poets during the century in the context of various understandings of "patriotism"; David Morse's The Age of Virtue surveys a broad swath of writing during the century in relation to "virtue." A strength of both books is the flexibility with which they address their topics. Patriotism and virtue emerge from these studies as crucial ways through which writers understood themselves and their culture. The authors' takes on their subjects result in refreshing works of scholarship (in the case of Griffin's book) and criticism (in the case of Morse's sometimes maddening book). Some readers may rush through the pages of these books looking for a central argument, but the absence of artificially unifying theses emerges, finally, as a strength rather than a weakness.

Samuel Lyndon Gladden, Shelley's Textual Seductions: Plotting Utopia in the Erotic and Political Works

Samuel Lyndon Gladden, Shelley's Textual Seductions: Plotting Utopia in the Erotic and Political Works. Studies in Major Literary Authors Series.  New York: Routledge, 2002. xviii + 351pp. $90.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-415-93702-7).

Reviewed by
John Kandl
Walsh University

Samuel Lyndon Gladden's Shelley's Textual Seductions itself presents a seductively engaging study of the political implications of Shelley's major "erotic" works, including Oedipus Tyrannus, The Cenci, Julian and Maddalo, Epipsychidion, Laon and Cythna, and Prometheus Unbound. Throughout the book, Gladden demonstrates how Shelley's "processes of textual seduction model political strategies for displacing larger oppressive social structures" (xvi ). "Time and again," Gladden states, "Shelley stages the erotic as a device for renegotiating power and privilege, so that every context in which the erotic figures must be understood as a resolutely political one" (xvii). Acknowledging that the erotic has traditionally been associated with the apolitical and private, Gladden draws upon a "range of interpretive strategies" (xv) as well as an impressive range of critical authorities, to reveal the ways in which, for Shelley, the physical (or public, exterior world) and the psychological (or private, interior world) "dissolve into a radical contingency" (xvi). Shelley's dissolution of boundaries between the private and the public, which Gladden playfully and appropriately terms "ooziness," expresses at once the most definitive characteristic of the erotic while exploiting its subversive potential for exposing, and offering alternatives to, oppressive social relations. Gladden contends that Shelley, perhaps to avoid charges of treason, transposed "the language of radical politics into a discourse of eroticism," developing "a parallel language for the production of anti-hegemonic texts [which enabled him] to speak about political engagements even amidst seemingly apolitical retreats to pleasure, love, and aesthetics" (18).

William H. Galperin, The Historical Austen

William H. Galperin, The Historical Austen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. viii + 286 pp. Illus.: 4 halftones.  $39.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-8122-3687-4).

Reviewed by
Mary A. Favret
Indiana University, Bloomington

In a recent profile in The New Yorker, Slavoj Zízek recalls the failed revolutionary rhetorics of the late '60s, insisting that they offered, at least, a sense of possibility, of alternative futures. Now, with the hegemony of American capitalism, he laments, we imagine no alternatives and have the bleakest sense of possibility. The probable is all too palpable: "[I]t is much easier for us to imagine the end of the world," notes Zízek, "than a small change in the political system." For all the differences between them, Zízek's stance nonetheless approximates that of William Galperin in his important, revisionary study, The Historical Austen. At the turn of the nineteenth century, when Great Britain was consolidating its empire, when the cultural norms of domesticity were pressing more forcibly upon women, when economic and political changes were sculpting a straitened version of the real, Galperin finds Austen simultaneously registering and resisting this reality. Acutely aware of the rise of the realistic novel, "in which she surely knew her own instrumentality," and alert to the "probabilistic" (215) and hegemonic world view it inscribed, Austen chafed, wrestled and devised experiments to distance herself from the probable and make space for the possible. Increasingly in her writing career, Austen broached the possible through a sense of belatedness, or, as Galperin sees it, through nostalgia for "a [lost] interval when other prospects were abroad" (215). In so doing the novelist becomes, in Galperin's hands, more Romantic, more historically-minded and more urgently contemporary than ever before.

Richard Cronin, Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840

Richard Cronin, Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824-1840. New York: Palgrave, 2002.  vii + 296pp.  $69.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-333-96616-3).

Reviewed by
Cynthia Lawford
Independent Scholar

Though the subtitle of Richard Cronin's latest book is English Literature, 1824-1840, a skim of the table of contents should alert those who hope it will give them a strong sense of the distinctiveness of the period's literature. Of the eighteen names listed under eight chapter headings, Tennyson's name occurs four times, as his work is given detailed treatment in four chapters. Browning, Carlyle, and Mary Shelley each receive discussion in two different chapters, and a decent amount of space is accorded to Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Barrett Browning, and Macaulay. Add to that lot Caroline Lamb, whose Glenarvon (1816) alone wins her attention, and precious few names are left who have not long been considered as unmistakably Victorian or Romantic, indeed, precious few whose writings have not been considered essential to our understanding of what those two terms mean for English literary history. Those few are Benjamin Disraeli, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Letitia Landon, Felicia Hemans, George Darley, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, John Clare, and Catherine Gore. Among those, Disraeli alone is seen to deserve space in two chapters, as he wrote a novel using Byron and Shelley as characters.

Gillen D'Arcy Wood, The Shock of the Real: Romanticism and Visual Culture, 1760–1860

Gillen D'Arcy Wood, The Shock of the Real: Romanticism and Visual Culture, 1760-1860. New York: Palgrave, 2001. vii + 273.  Illus.  $55.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-312-22654-3).

Reviewed by
James Robert Allard
University of Toronto

The Shock of the Real is the latest in a string of recent texts that explore the often conflicted relationship between late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century popular visual culture and literary Romanticism.  In an effort to explore that conflict in greater detail, Wood reads such popular and influential phenomena as David Garrick's peculiarly "visual" acting technique, public art exhibitions, panoramas, the installation of the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum, and the emergence of photography against the elitist complaint--made most tangible in Coleridge, but present in the writings of many of the canonical authors of the period--that "visual representations intended to deceive the viewer into mistaking them for the real thing, are not pleasurable but 'disagreeable'" (4).  More than just disagreeability, though, Wood argues convincingly that what Coleridge and his contemporaries experienced was the sense of shock occasioned by skillful deception: whereas "in 'a work of genuine imitation, you begin with an acknowledged total difference'" that produces "a Work of Art," in "a real Copy . . . . Not finding the motion and the life which we expected, we are shocked as by a falsehood. . . . In short, the same pictorial effects of similitude produce pleasure in a work of art, but shock and disgust in a sub-artistic 'real Copy'" (4).  Wood then goes on to explore the different results of that shock effect on both the popular imagination and the sensibilities of the cultural elite and suggests that not only were the effects different, but also that the differences themselves only served to magnify the sense of shock: "The shock of the real discloses its double value: for the 'vulgar crowd' it represents a thrilling novelty, while to the discerning eyes of the cultural elite it effects a 'disenchantment'" (4).  Lurking in the background on nearly every page of the text is Wood's contention that "the late Georgian fascination for replicating the visible world . . . constitutes the template of our own popular tastes and expectations in visual culture in the new millennium.  This includes the sometimes violent minority reaction against visual culture, for which, I suggest, Romantic aesthetic ideology continues to provide the conceptual vocabulary" (222).  With an eye fixed not on diagnosing and "curing" the continuing fascination with visuality and spectacle--and, ultimately, the by now tired culture wars--but on exploring the roots of that fascination and the ubiquity of the conflicts, Wood proceeds with a set of perhaps surprising juxtapositions that at once manifest and illuminate the very "shock of the real" he wants to discuss.

The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Vol. 1. Edited by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat

The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Vol. 1. Edited by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. xlviii + 492pp.  Illus.: 7 halftones.  $80.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-8018-6119-5).

Reviewed by
Nancy Moore Goslee
University of Tennessee

Scholars and critics have long needed a new, complete version of Percy Bysshe Shelley's poetry.  His controversial politics, his marital complexities, his Italian exile, and his unexpected early death all contributed to a legacy of textual confusion that even the magisterial "Julian" edition of Roger Ingpen and Walter Peck in 1927 could not solve (see, The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 10 vols., edited by Roger Ingpen and Walter Edwin Peck, Julian Editions [London: E. Benn, Ltd.; New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1927]).  Now that Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat have given us Volume 1 of The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley (CPPBS), our needs have been answered with a profoundly well-planned, meticulously-executed edition.  Its editorial commentary and notes often read like the denouéments of detective stories, offering solutions to long-standing textual problems with a clear placement of these poems in the all-too-human contexts of compositional occasion and production difficulties.  This volume, the first of a planned seven or eight volumes in the completed edition, explains and tests the editorial principles that are to govern the entire project.  It then tests these principles on six groupings of Shelley's earliest published or otherwise circulated poems.  Volume 1 brings into focus scattered, suppressed, and virtually unknown works by this brilliant, busy, and oddly canny young poet.  If the uncanny of the gothic is the most unifying characteristic of these early works, the real uncanny here is the mystery of how the mature poet, with his verbal and intellectual brilliance, emerges from such derivative, if playfully derivative, poems as these.

William J. P. Neish, The Speaking Eye: Byron's Aberdeen – Places, People and a Poem

William J. P. Neish, The Speaking Eye: Byron's Aberdeen - Places, People and a Poem. Sussex, England: Book Guild Ltd., 2001. xviii + 312pp. Illus.: 4 halftones. £10.50/$22.50 (Ppbk; ISBN: 1-85776-593-1).

Reviewed by
Ann R. Hawkins
Texas Tech University

In 1866, William Neish's great-great-grandmother received a bequest of the entire estate of John Raeburn, a childhood schoolfellow of George Gordon, Lord Byron, that included an oil portrait, several engraved portraits, manuscript copies of three poems by an Aberdeenshire poet, and a piece of Delftware tile with a motif of a sailing ship reputed to have come from the house of the Byrons (xiv).  But among those items Neish discovered a manuscript of an elegy memorializing Professor William Duncan by "Old Pupil" that was published in the Aberdeen Journal on September 6, 1815.

Neish's The Speaking Eye records his exhaustive research to discover who Professor William Duncan and the "Old Pupil" who memorialized him were.  Along the way Neish uncovers a significant amount of data about Raeburn, Duncan, Byron's schoolfellows, and the Byrons' Aberdeen neighbors.  Neish chooses to provide much of this data--even when somewhat tangential to his argument--having discovered a number of discrepancies between published information about these figures and the archival evidence.  Ultimately, Neish considers that Byron might have written the elegy, and he compares "Old Pupil['s]" phraseology with Byron's poems of the period, particularly Parisina.