American Romantic Essayists

For of course the romance-realism opposition is incoherent too.

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Thomas Warton and others cast “romantic poetry” (Warton’s phrase) as an affective relation between work and reader, a newly charged possessive intimacy, which generates the modern aura of “the literary.” Lynch offers a genesis of the aesthetic complex that Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe have called “the literary absolute.” Writing with reference to German Romantic theory, Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy analyse the literary absolute as a structural rather than an affective relation (“literature producing itself as it produces its own theory” [12]), emphasizing its ironical, reflexive modality.

Lynch’s focus on romance shows us how the literary absolute is produced as a relation between work and reader, rather than as a property intrinsic to the work itself.

So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide: Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Idealism has a role to play – it can convince us that no matter how misshapen, decrepit, or dull we are, there is someone out there for us.- Phillip Hodson I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out.

I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich.

As titles of successive periods they are incoherent, incommensurate.

One designates an aesthetic ideology (intrinsic to the literary work), the other a monarch’s reign (external and adventitious).On the contrary, our current courting practices — if they can be called that — yield an increasing number of those aging coquettes, as well as scores of unsettled bachelors.On college campuses, young men and women have long since ceased formally dating and instead participate in a “hooking up” culture that favors the sexually promiscuous and emotionally disinterested while punishing those intent on commitment.The arbitrariness, the absurdity, of “Romantic” and “Victorian” can keep us thinking about the relations between form and history – the forms through which history is mediated, as well as the forms that history shapes – so long as we don’t forget their arbitrariness and absurdity.Here I think “romance,” notoriously intractable to critical taxonomies, can help.This relation includes but is not limited to reading; indeed, it was sometimes taken to preclude reading for more perverse modes of interaction, such as the acquisition of old black-letter books that were, strictly speaking, unreadable.Alongside the romantic aura of the literary, then, this affective complex precipitates the book itself as an object of value, in the early nineteenth-century collecting craze nicknamed “the Bibliomania.”[2] Romance, to paraphrase and condense drastically, thus plays its indispensable role as realism’s excess, at once the transcendental surplus (“the literary absolute”) and material residue (books, the machinery of production, mediation and possession) of the mimetic act.Scott’s novel supplies what is still, today, the most fertile thinking-through of the terms, for Romanticists and Victorianists alike. - Relevant Magazine Do you really know when it’s right? In matters of love, how do you know when it’s right?In my own career I have found “Romanticism” especially constraining, at least until quite recently (for a long time you weren’t allowed to be a Romanticist if you worked on Scott, or for that matter on the novel, always excepting ): but also—therefore—stimulating, intellectually productive, a point of resistance.So yes, let us by all means be “one people,” if that brings a salutary alienation from these categories, whether we work within a particular period or across both of them.


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