Sounds Romantic: The Castrato and English Poetics Around 1800

In contrast to the notion that Italian opera has no relation to romantic opera or to romanticism generally, this essay demonstrates that the Italian castrato was a prominent figure in London during the period around 1800. The essay argues that the idea of the romantic castrato makes it possible to revise understandings of the (aggressive) relationship between sight and sound that is so often attributed to literary production of this period, particularly to William Wordsworth. The essay explores the ways that the castrati-c imagination (ironically) facilitates an analysis of romantic sound imagery that is mindful of materiality, offering in particular a reading of the relation between castrati, sound imagery, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.