Abstract

"Introduction: The Romantic Rhetoric of Life"

This essay introduces a collection of articles intended to initiate a conversation about and between biopolitics and romanticism. Its broad contention is that the study of biopolitics reanimates the question of romanticism in two senses. First, the set of conceptual resources provided in recent work on biopolitics opens up inventive lines of inquiry that enable scholars to re-think the already established awareness that the literature, philosophy, and culture of romanticism displays an obsession with life. In another sense biopolitics reanimates romanticism insofar as the current scholarly concern with life as an object of power marks the radical survival of romanticism. If romanticism responds well when examined in the light of contemporary biopolitical theory, then a constitutive part of this response is a certain resistance to biopolitical theory. As the contributors to this volume demonstrate, the biopolitical intervention on life engages paradoxes, predicaments, and aporias that have been widely or fully appreciated neither by theorists of biopolitics nor by critics who take up their work. Romanticism, we suggest, is a privileged locus for the awareness that even the most assured representation of life turns upon an irreducible “literariness.”