A collection of essays highlighting the pervasive, yet often unacknowledged, role of Romantic poetry and poetics on modern and contemporary innovative poetry
Literary history generally locates the primary movement toward poetic innovation in twentieth-century modernism, an impulse carried out against a supposedly enervated “late-Romantic” poetry of the nineteenth century. The original essays in Active Romanticism challenge this interpretation by tracing the fundamental continuities between Romanticism’s poetic and political radicalism and the experimental movements in poetry from the late nineteenth century to the present day.
According to editors July Carr and Jeffrey C. Robinson, “active romanticism” is a poetic response, direct or indirect, to pressing social issues and an attempt to redress forms of ideological repression; at its core, “active romanticism” champions democratic pluralism and confronts ideologies that suppress the evidence of pluralism. “Poetry fetter’d, fetters the human race,” declared poet William Blake at the beginning of the nineteenth century. No other statement from the era of the French Revolution marks with such terseness the challenge for poetry to participate in the liberation of human society from forms of inequality and invisibility. No other statement insists so vividly that a poetic event pushing for social progress demands the unfettering of traditional, customary poetic form and language.
Bringing together work by well-known writers and critics, ranging from scholarly studies to poets’ testimonials, Active Romanticism shows Romantic poetry not to be the sclerotic corpse against which the avant-garde reacted but rather the wellspring from which it flowed.
Offering a fundamental rethinking of the history of modern poetry, Carr and Robinson have grouped together in this collection a variety of essays that confirm the existence of Romanticism as an ongoing mode of poetic production that is innovative and dynamic, a continuation of the nineteenth-century Romantic tradition, and a form that reacts and renews itself at any given moment of perceived social crisis.
Dan Beachy-Quick / Julie Carr / Jacques Darras / Rachel Blau DuPlessis / Judith Goldman / Simon Jarvis / Andrew Joron / Nigel Leask / Jennifer Moxley / Bob Perelman / Jeffrey C. Robinson / Jerome Rothenberg / Elizabeth Willis / and Heriberto Yépez
Between the political revolutions of 1789 and 1848 no other subject so directly challenged the notion of "good taste" in literature as food. To be "in good taste," a work of the high style excluded references to literal taste; culinary allusions in tragedy and lyric poetry therefore represented an ironic attack on literary decorum and a liberation from the constraints of figurative taste.
In The Ambiguity of Taste, Jocelyne Kolb attempts to define changes in genre and metaphorical usage by undertaking close readings of six authors. She looks first at Molière and Fielding, whose culinary allusions herald poetic revolution but whose works do not themselves escape the limits of a neoclassical aesthetic. Byron and Heine, known as renegades, are treated in separate chapters and in the greatest detail. The penultimate chapter joins Goethe and Hugo as champions of poetic freedom, and in the final chapter Kolb briefly considers Thomas Mann and Proust, whose works display the gains of poetic revolution.
This book will be savored by students of comparative literature and European Romanticism. Its accessible style will tempt nonspecialists and food enthusiasts as well.
Jocelyne Kolb is Professor of German Studies, Smith College. This book was the winner of the 1995 American Conference on Romanticism Book Prize.
"This book can take its place on the shelf beside Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land and Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden."—Choice
"[Gilmore] demonstrates the profound, sustained, engagement with society embodied in the works of Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau and Melville. In effect, he relocates the American Renaissance where it properly belongs, at the centre of a broad social, economic, and ideological movement from the Jacksonian era to the Civil War. Basically, Gilmore's argument concerns the writers' participation in what Thoreau called 'the curse of trade.' He details their mixed resistance to and complicity in the burgeoning literary marketplace and, by extension, the entire ' economic revolution' which between 1830 and 1860 'transformed the United States into a market society'. . . .
"The result is a model of literary-historical revisionism. Gilmore's opening chapters on Emerson and Thoreau show that 'transcendental' thought and language can come fully alive when understood within the material processes and ideological constraints of their time. . . . The remaining five chapters, on Hawthorne and Melville, contain some of the most penetrating recent commentaries on the aesthetic strategies of American Romantic fiction, presented within and through some of the most astute, thoughtful considerations I know of commodification and the 'democratic public' in mid-nineteenth-century America. . . . Practically and methodologically, American Romanticism and the Marketplace has a significant place in the movement towards a new American literary history. It places Gilmore at the forefront of a new generation of critics who are not just reinterpreting familiar texts or discovering new texts to interpret, but reshaping our ways of thinking about literature and culture."—Sacvan Bercovitch, Times Literary Supplement
"Gilmore writes with energy, clarity, and wit. The reader is enriched by this book." William H. Shurr, American Literature
The Arbiters of Reality: Hawthorne, Melville, and the Rise of Mass Information Culture disrupts our critical sense of nineteenth-century American literature by examining the storytelling strategies of both Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville in light of an emerging information industry. Peter West reveals how these writers invoked telegraphic and penny press journalism, daguerreotypy, and moving panoramas in their fiction to claim for themselves a privileged access to a reality beyond the reach of a burgeoning mass audience.
Locating Hawthorne and Melville in vivid and overlooked contexts—the Salem Murder scandal of 1830, which transformed Hawthorne's quiet city into a media-manufactured spectacle, and Melville's New York City of 1846–47, where the American Telegraph was powerfully articulating a nation at war—West portrays the romance as a reactive, deeply rhetorical literary form and a rich historical artifact.
In the early twenty-first century, it has become a postmodern cliché to place the word “reality” in scare quotes. The Arbiters of Reality suggests that attending to the construction of the real in public life is more than simply a language of critique: it must also be understood as a specific kind of romantic self-invention.
The critical literary world has spent a wealth of thought and words on the question of Hawthorne himself: Where does he stand in his works? In history? In literary tradition? In this major new study, G. R. Thompson recasts the "Hawthorne question" to show how authorial presence in the writer's works is as much a matter of art as the writing itself. The Hawthorne who emerges from this masterful analysis is not, as has been supposed, identical to the provincial narrator of his early tales; instead he is revealed to be the skillful manipulator of that narrative voice, an author at an ironic distance from the tales he tells. By focusing on the provincial tales as they were originally conceived--as a narrative cycle--Thompson is able to recover intertextual references that reveal Hawthorne's preoccupation with framing strategies and variations on authorial presence. The author shows how Hawthorne deliberately constructs sentimental narratives, only to deconstruct them. Thompson's analysis provides a new aesthetic context for understanding the whole shape of Hawthorne's career as well as the narrative, ethical, and historical issues within individual works. Revisionary in its view of one of America's greatest authors, The Art of Authorial Presence also offers invaluable insight into the problems of narratology and historiography, ethics and psychology, romanticism and idealism, and the cultural myths of America.
Art of Darkness is an ambitious attempt to describe the principles governing Gothic literature. Ranging across five centuries of fiction, drama, and verse—including tales as diverse as Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, Shelley's Frankenstein, Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and Freud's The Mysteries of Enlightenment—Anne Williams proposes three new premises: that Gothic is "poetic," not novelistic, in nature; that there are two parallel Gothic traditions, Male and Female; and that the Gothic and the Romantic represent a single literary tradition.
Building on the psychoanalytic and feminist theory of Julia Kristeva, Williams argues that Gothic conventions such as the haunted castle and the family curse signify the fall of the patriarchal family; Gothic is therefore "poetic" in Kristeva's sense because it reveals those "others" most often identified with the female. Williams identifies distinct Male and Female Gothic traditions: In the Male plot, the protagonist faces a cruel, violent, and supernatural world, without hope of salvation. The Female plot, by contrast, asserts the power of the mind to comprehend a world which, though mysterious, is ultimately sensible. By showing how Coleridge and Keats used both Male and Female Gothic, Williams challenges accepted notions about gender and authorship among the Romantics. Lucidly and gracefully written, Art of Darkness alters our understanding of the Gothic tradition, of Romanticism, and of the relations between gender and genre in literary history.