Savage Boundaries: Reading Samuel Arnold's Score

Samuel Arnold's musical score for the original pantomime version of Obi generates a tension between the pastoral world of the plantation ostensibly dedicated to Christian morality and the exotic world of slave insurrection associated with Obeah. It emerges to map the ambiguous and hybrid status inherent in cross-cultural encounters during the pre-emancipation era. If Arnold associates Obeah with the wilderness outside the plantation eden, then there are moments which suggest a different kind of discourse. Some music for slaves creates enough space to absorb the idea of grief and in the famous cave scene, Rosa sings the pantomime's "hit" song as an expression of transracial desire. Arnold's borrowings from his Viennese contemporaries Haydn and Mozart is of special interst; the famous movement from Haydn's "Surprise" symphony, for example, is used to accompany a night raid. In the case of Mozart's K575, the music had probably not been previously heard in London.

Theatrical Forms, Ideological Conflicts, and the Staging of Obi

John Fawcett's Obi; or, Three-Finger'd Jack in its various versions offers one way to gauge the response of English audiences to slavery and to those it oppressed. More particularly, Obi can reveal how difficult it was to find an appropriate form for bodying forth upon stage the horrors of slavery, as the genres and the institutional structure of the British theater worked to control a potentially radical message. The story of Jack Mansong, a slave in revolt, had the potential to bring a radically anti-slavery message to the stage. While the play's initial staging as a melodrama certainly did not embrace Mansong's revolt, various features of the pantomime did serve to give Mansong and the Afro-Caribbean culture he represented power on stage. Rewritten as a melodrama with spoken dialogue, the play might seem to have lost some its radical potential, but the great actor Ira Aldridge, through what Henry Louis Gates calls "signifyin[g]," managed to create in Jack one of the key theatrical images of a man of African descent.

Obi in New York: Aldridge and the African Grove

Buckley argues that Obi occupied a small and unexceptional part of New York City's theatrical scene until its strange appropriation by the first African-American theatrical troupe. The reworking of the Obi material is not only placed in the context of the city's race relations but also within the increasing transatlantic demand for novelty entertainments.

"Wedded to Books": Bibliomania and the Romantic Essayists

In this paper the "bibliomaniacs"—the blue-blooded, well-heeled book collectors who scandalized and beguiled early nineteenth-century Britain with their acquisitiveness and possessiveness—prove to be key figures for contemporary scholars' histories of the literary canon and of the notion of the literary heritage. The annals of Romantic-period bibliomania can, Lynch proposes, help us understand how those histories might be rewritten, as chapters in the history of intimacy. The bibliomaniac's enthusiasm for rare books and, more generally, for book-objects rather than the texts they housed, assisted importantly in the processes that installed "literature" within the psychic territory of people's intimate lives. To support this proposition, Lynch looks at how the bibliomaniacs' materialistic book-love haunts the pages, as it does the lives, of the Romantic essayists—Leigh Hunt, Thomas De Quincey, and Charles Lamb specifically—who appear in her paper as the first professional "lovers" of literature. In an age when ideas of the literary canon had come to be articulated with new notions of a shared national culture that was every Briton's birthright, the bibliomaniac offered the Romantic essayist lessons in how to reprivatize the stuff of the public domain. Even as the essayists chastise the plutocratic book glutton for the irrefragable materialism that makes him a mere proprietor of books rather than a reader of texts, they deliver their own commentary on canonicity's incarnation and on the possessibility that helps render a canon loveable.

What Was Mr. Bennet Doing in his Library, and What Does It Matter?

In this article, Jackson uses the familiar example of the Bennet household in Pride and Prejudice to outline some of the practices associated with the establishment and maintenance of a library about 1800. Besides gathering clues from the novel itself and providing information about the resources likely to have been available in or near a market town like Meryton, this essay speculates that Mr. Bennet might have been writing in his books and surveys some of the ways of writing that would have been available to him.


Ferris's introduction outlines the ways in which the essays by Heather Jackson, Deidre Lynch and Ina Ferris focus on the private and personal dimensions of bookishness and library culture in the early Romantic period.

Bibliographic Romance: Bibliophilia and the Book-Object

Early nineteenth-century phenomena such as bibliomania and the figure of the "bookman" helped to spark a widespread awareness of books as printed objects and an interest in the physical dimensions of the readerly relationship to them. Taking as her focus the enormous spurt of bibliophilic writing in the early decades, Ferris looks at how its foregrounding of the physicality of books helped to unsettle key categories of identity and knowledge in the period. Resisting ideals of transfer and reproduction, bibliophilic genres produced a strangely affective book-object which posited the singularity of literate beings and inscribed them in particular and contingent histories rather than in the impersonal forces of circulation and system more typically linked to the printing press. The essay makes its argument through a reading on the one hand of the Romantic familiar essay (e.g. William Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt) and, on the other, of the career of Thomas Frognall Dibdin, prolific bibliographer and premier bibliomaniac, whose reception underlines the way in which the figure of the "bookman" helped to destabilize the divisions organizing the intellectual field.

Shelley, Adorno, and the Scandal of Committed Art

Kipperman explores the notion that poetry is politically useless, using as an example Shelley's Mask of Anarchy. He uses T. Adorno's attack on "committed art" to argue that a genuinely "political" work must be judged historically, by the standards of its era; the explicitly "political" statement may have less political "import" than, for example, Shelley's implicit faith in the power and moral goodness of the masses. Such an appeal to universal Promethean virtue, shared by proletarian and stormtrooper, may indeed strike us, at the very close of the twentieth century, as so naive as to warp the very real commitment of Shelley’s art. Shelley’s poem, as a sophisticated ballad, may scandalize in its appeal to an unlikely pacifist remedy, which exposes the work’s origin in a paralyzed and distant intellectual’s hope to lead a nationalist moral apocalypse. As a ballad and a subversive “masque,” however, it is a scandal to literary form and decorum in its analysis of oppression and its attribution of Promethean virtue to the hungry, the homeless, and the despised. Shelley’s allowing the poor to define freedom as bread even anticipates Adorno’s Marxist dictum that all culture begins “in the radical separation of mental and physical work” (“Cultural Criticism” 26). Its utopianism is not a sign of political irrelevance.


Reading Shelley's Interventionist Poetry, 1819-1820


Michael Scrivener, Wayne State University

Intervention & Commitment Forever! Shelley in 1819, Shelley in Brecht, Shelley in Adorno, Shelley in Benjamin

For Romantic and Modernist studies, as well as for the history of critical theory, Kaufman uncovers and analyses the significance of Left Modernist and Frankfurt School rediscoveries of Shelley. The essay also considers the crucial role that Shelley's work plays vis-a-vis the new directions taken in the work of these Modernist artists and critics precisely during the periods often seen as having laid the foundations for the subsequent Modern/Postmodern divide, as well as for our own understandings of the Romantic legacy.