October 2010

Robert Miles, Romantic Misfits

Robert Miles, Romantic Misfits (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). 256pp (Hdbk., $75.00; ISBN: 9781403989932).

Reviewed by
Celestine Woo
SUNY Empire State College

Robert Miles’s Romantic Misfits is an erudite, far-ranging reconsideration of Romanticism that cleverly fuses both old and new conceptualizations of the period. Miles recuperates a more conservative (in more than one sense) reading of Romanticism, returning to older sites of scholarly interest in order to defamiliarize them with recent work on theatre, science, and hitherto unrecognized writers and genres. Miles writes for an advanced audience familiar with major theorists, scholars, and arguments within Romantic studies. Even graduate students may find portions of Romantic Misfits difficult to parse without aid, especially the discussion of Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria and its political context (which arrives with minimal explanation), or the ongoing presumption that the reader has internalized the thought of Jürgen Habermas as fully as Miles. This is not to say, however, that Romantic Misfits is an abstruse, arcane book—at its best, the prose is lucid, even lyrical.

Colin Jager, The Book of God: Secularization and Design in the Romantic Era

Colin Jager, The Book of God: Secularization and Design in the Romantic Era (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). xiv + 274 pp (Hdbk., $59.95; ISBN 978-0-8122-3979-9).

Reviewed by
Tristanne Connolly
St. Jerome's University in the University of Waterloo

The prospect of reading Nature as the Book of God in and around the Romantic period immediately calls up both the precise, “rational religion” of the eighteenth century (how much can be known of the true God without Revelation?) and the vague, evocative pantheism that has traditionally defined high Romanticism. Colin Jager navigates a way between the two, and the topic of design, seemingly only one small detail in the larger relations of theology, philosophy and literature, reveals itself as influentially everywhere, much like the hand of God. Design becomes a deft little needle to embroider the broad fabric to which Jager sets himself, a repatterning of the relation between Romanticism and modern secularism. The project points suggestively toward multiple significances of the concept of design, and ways to rethink Nature and Reason in early and late Romanticism, and in modernity. More explicitly, the book considers how to read religion in Romantic literature where it might seem most elusive, critiques Romantic criticism through its own investments in a certain narrative of modernity, and extrapolates that critique into a revisionary theory of secularization that accounts for the persistence of divine design and human faith.