About this Volume

About This Edition

What does it feel like to be (or not to be) attached to a country or community, to have (or not to have) membership or citizenship, in ways that one cannot control? This volume will turn to Romantic poetics to consider how public feelings operate and circulate through the language of poetry. How does poetry mediate the politics and sociality of feeling? How can poetry register not just a solitary, recollected overflow of powerful feeling but also a communal or contagious one? We have gathered a selection of essays that bring together in new configurations the study of poetics, affect, and politics for the field of Romanticism. In response to Lauren Berlant’s suggestion that “public spheres are affect worlds at least as much as they are effects of rationality and rationalization,” how might poetry provide a different kind of understanding of the publics and counterpublics teeming within our public sphere? In a critical tradition that has already—as Mary Favret has shown—increasingly revealed “the intractably social and material bases for romantic esthetics and the poets’ deep awareness of this dependency” (“Study of Affect and Romanticism,” 1163), we mean to pursue more explicitly questions of amorphous political urgency that emerge in an unfolding historical present (whether “then,” “now,” or curiously both). Just like any other domain of culture, Romantic poetry is rife or riven with feeling. But how might we recognize its feelings as tuned in to the political, as public? How might poetic figure or form alter our conception of the feelings that both compose and decompose the individual—the feelings that mark both our alienation from others and our attachments?

About the Editors

Lily Gurton-Wachter is Associate Professor of English at Smith College and author of Watchwords: Romanticism and the Poetics of Attention (Stanford UP, 2016). She has essays published and forthcoming in ELH, European Romantic Review, Literature Compass, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Poetry Foundation, Studies in Romanticism, The Oxford Handbook of Romantic Prose, and William Blake: Modernity and Disaster (U of Toronto Press, 2020).

 Tristram Wolff is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Program in Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Essays in Romanticism, European Romantic Review, ELH, NLH, Representations, PMLA, and Environmental Humanities. His current book project, called The Uprooted Word in the Romantic Century, tells a new literary history of linguistic thought by showing how natural metaphors for language shaped racial imaginaries during the philological revolution of the late eighteenth and long nineteenth centuries.


We would like to thank the terrific collective of participants in a double-seminar panel on “Poetry and Public Feelings” held at the 2018 American Comparative Literature Association conference at UCLA: the wide-ranging and experimental thoughts shared there, on poetry, politics, and the passions, inspired us to put this special issue together. We are particularly grateful to this issue’s essay contributors (each of whom presented papers at that seminar), whose patience and generosity of thought helped to shape the issue and our rationale for it. We thank Nancy Yousef for joining us, and for her guidance and humor throughout the editing process. Our special thanks too to the general editors of the Romantic Circles Praxis Series. Tristram would like to recognize Samantha Botz (Ph.D., Northwestern) as a valued interlocutor on ideas about collective feeling in the Romantic century. Finally, we want to recognize here the recent loss of Lauren Berlant: without their work, this project would be unimaginable.

About the Design and Markup

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