This introduction shows how this volume crafts an intersectional Romantic pedagogy of resistance to human-made climate change in the Anthropocene. Such a pedagogy rejects ideas about “humans as one unified species” and seeks instead a dialogue between race, class, gender, sexuality, nonhumans, and queer alignments, among others. The introduction also features short descriptions of each essay.
Introduction: Living through Human Trumpery through Romanticism
1. The problem of the Anthropocene is the problem of, and for, Romanticism. Ever since biologist Eugene F. Stoermer coined, and atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen then popularized, the term “Anthropocene,” the humanities as a whole has gradually undertaken a reevaluation of its role in the creation of this new geological era. Romanticism is perhaps different than other literary periods, though. For if, as some scientists (like Crutzen) argue, humans gained the capabilities in the late eighteenth century’s industrial age to disastrously alter the earth’s climate, then the Romantic period begins to take on catastrophic resonances and implications. “Catastrophe” literally means a “down turning,” a turn we can witness Romanticism as a period and a profession experiencing. What once looked like a literary revolution marked by a turn toward the imaginative abilities of human achievement and a renewed environmental appreciation of nature now shuttles along a remarkably wilder course toward the potential, some would even say probable, end of the human species if not the end of the world, or at least (at best?) the end of the world on the anthropocentric assumption that it exists for humans.
2. Gillen D’Arcy Wood shows us that the climate disaster of 1816, “the year without a summer,” although not a human-induced event—its cause was the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia—models possibilities humans will have to look forward to in the future of the Anthropocene. So not only can we understand that the period perhaps coincides with the birth of catastrophic climate change, it also provides a preview of what such future change will bring if we fail (and perhaps we already have) to mitigate it. Another twist in this turn therefore is that the period’s long-celebrated intimate, imaginative, liberal subject takes on different contours since it is this powerful subjectivity that makes capable the institutional and systemic economic and cultural climate drivers that initiate the Anthropocene. As D. B. Ruderman puts it in this volume, it is “arguably” Romanticism’s “privileging of a liberal, democratic subject—autonomous, free, appetitive, propertied, universal, and self-willed—that provides the ‘natural’ grounds for global capitalism,” and, we could add, the Anthropocene. In this sense, Romanticism finds itself looking more like a coconspirator in climate change’s devastation rather than a poetics of transcendent individualism precisely because of its adulated emancipatory liberalism. Yet another turn, another catastrophe, is the turning of the human trope of Romantic irony around on itself, as the only thing the Anthropocene might wipe out is the “anthropos,” the human, which means in this Romantic progressive fantasy that if in becoming more imaginative humans have become more human, then they have done so at the risk of their own extinction. The Anthropocene, it seems, has a fierce sense of irony; perhaps it gets it from Romanticism, another indication that they are in latent conspiratorial cahoots. 
3. That having been said, nothing in this volume is meant to link the Anthropocene exclusively to capitalism, let alone argue for a renaming of it, as some do, as the “Capitalocene,” although it is certainly true that predominantly white, heteronormative, Western, patriarchal culture has largely been responsible for the changes in the Earth’s atmosphere.  This connection points to the problem of the blame-game in general. As Tom Cohen and Claire Colebrook observe in Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols, “one of the features of what has come to be known as the Anthropocene is that very few want to own up to being the guilty party: as soon as the Anthropocene was declared as a way of uniting humans once again, objections started pouring in” (7). One can see this, as Stacy Alaimo argues, in a foundational critical text for thinking the Anthropocene in literary studies, Dipesh Chakrabarty’s "The Climate of History: Four Theses," which, she writes, homogenizes humanity as a species rather than embraces its multiplicity and quite different levels of responsibility (94–103). The United States and Western empires, for example, pollute more than Non-Western countries whose carbon emission output, due to lack of large-scale industrialism, is minimal. To lump all humans together as a species, as Chakrabarty does, repeats the “anthropos” thinking of the Anthropocene and erases key factors about who is responsible for climate change. In these terms, as teachers and scholars of Romanticism, it seems we should pause to ask: is Romanticism, too, somehow culpable in this “anthopos”ing? Historically, the period’s big-six white male coalition, alongside two comparatively well-off white women novelists, has formed the Romantic canon, although the work of scholars like Frances Botkin, Manu Chander, Patricia A. Matthew, Joel Pace, Deanne Koretsky, and Paul Youngquist dispenses with this hagiography.  But as a kind of thought experiment, let us hypothesize for the moment that Romanticism is, indeed, somehow partially responsible for the Anthropocene and the dangers and challenges it poses.
4. The larger questions this collection asks stem from this hypothesis. What are Romanticism’s responsibilities if this indictment stands? Secondly, the collection asks whether Romanticism possesses the energies needed to survive its potential demise at its own hands or, relatedly, to provide means and method to combat the climate-changing disasters it has helped loose on the world with the Anthropocene. In other words, perhaps we might begin to think of Romanticism as we currently teach it as not simply historically congruent with the Anthropocene but instead as a thought or writing whose contemporary pedagogical charge stems from its ability to counter the Anthropocene’s violence precisely because of its unique historical and dialectical interinvolvement with it.
5. And perhaps we will find that the Anthropocene sparks Romanticism’s imagination insofar as it reminds Romanticism that one of its distinguishing features is its self-reflexivity, its ability to distance itself ironically from its own Romantic ideology ever since the work of Paul de Man, Jerome McGann, and Anne Mellor (to name only a few) demonstrated this critical trait. Perhaps in its reaction to the Anthropocene, Romanticism will remember, or learn, that it has to be radically Romantic, that it has to self-reflect on its own responsibilities and liabilities in a fashion it has not been forced to do previously without getting tied down in a self-imposed guilt it does not deserve. However, this is not to argue for a version of a “good Anthropocene,” as some do, as if it is a particularly disliked vegetable like kale that we are told is good for us anyway, since the volume assuredly does not see the Anthropocene in such crunchable, delectable lights. Instead, the writers here rightly view the Anthropocene as a period with horribly damaging consequences for all life, and nonlife, on Earth. But this is another reason to investigate Romanticism’s culpability. To this end, as writers in this volume show, the Anthropocene makes us question, in our classrooms and scholarship, what Romanticism can and will be in the time of our present global crisis, which continues to spool out in expected and unexpected ways.
6. This collection, for instance, began as a panel, "Living through Human Trumpery: Teaching Romanticism in the Anthropocene," arranged and moderated by the brilliant bricoleur Kate Singer at the International Conference for Romanticism at Colorado College in 2016. During the Q and A for the panel, one intrepid graduate student asked a question that proved crucially formative to this volume: “What about race in Romanticism and the Anthropocene?” While the panel took up many topics, race was, indeed is, an overlooked topic in Romanticism, certainly in relation to the Anthropocene. Several scholars do study race in the period, of course, with burgeoning work amongst graduate students, but the field, and canon, remains largely white—although the recent transatlantic and global explosion of the Romantic canon sketched above offers an alternative. The panel, it turned out, driven to self-reflection at this moment, showcased Romanticism’s possibilities as well as its limitations since no one on the panel had any real answer to this question.
7. In undertaking the editorship of this volume, I sought, therefore, to incorporate as diverse a set of voices concerning as wide a range of topical concerns as feasible, not the least of which was to offer some kind of answer to the lacunae the above question highlighted. Despite everyone's best intention, circumstances intervened and a planned essay on race and the Anthropocene does not appear in this volume. Nonetheless, the collection hopefully succeeds in addressing some long-standing historical as well as contemporary concerns on issues of cultural and societal justice in Romanticism: David Ruderman on social class, poetics, and war; Elizabeth Effinger on animal studies and a mobilizing nonhuman politics; Brian Rejack on the current politics of pessimism that can lead to an affirmative affect of care; Colin Carman on a queer ecology that gives us tools to realize and transcend our normative practices in the classroom; Aaron Ottinger on ecocriticism and media studies and the salutary dissolution of the solitary Romantic “I”; and Chris Washington on gender, sex, and queer families.
8. Specifically, these essays trace how the Anthropocene forces us to rethink our pedagogical and methodological practices in the classroom and beyond, as well as the values and beliefs that underscore said methodologies and practices. In the process, a kind of accretive vision of a transformed and transformational Romanticism that hails us from a burning down of our beliefs about the period begins to signal through the smoke and fire of the Anthropocene.
9. If the volume can be said to have an argument abstracted from the varied topics and inquiries the scholars in this volume undertake, then it is that Romanticism, as a scholarship based around a historical period and its culture, as a set of writers, and as a pedagogy and pedagogical set of practices, should strive for a radical intersectionality. Much like the essays in Anthropocene Feminism, which collectively clamor for an intersectional new-wave feminism equally attentive to matters of human social justice and nonhuman materialism, Anthropocene Romanticism, if we can put it that way for now (as Effinger does), displays a cross-spectrum of interests and ideas. The Anthropocene, this volume demonstrates, cannot be allowed to subsume the social and ontological differences that exist between humans and nonhumans in the name of “species.” As Rosi Braidotti, in that volume, writes, “Earth-related issues are not immune to social relations of class, race, age, disability, sexual preference and should not be renaturalized” (40). These interests and ideas exceed the narrow focus on the human that has long dominated and defined Romanticism, a picture this volume rejects in favor of an intersectional vision that connects class, race, gender, age, disability, sexual preference, nonhuman materialism, and feminist materialism into a vital politics.
10. But even as it foregrounds intersectionality, the volume queries what we mean by the term “human.” Much like Jacques Derrida once cautioned about “the animal” when he wrote that there is no animal only animals (“animaux” is his proposed nomenclature), these essays refuse a categorical humanness, or even, as Alaimo warns against above, the homogeneity of a “human species” (Derrida 32–41). Instead, the Romanticism that appears here draws lines of connection even as it is also fractured, disparate, and shattered, with each author offering myriad views of how to pick up the pieces.
11. We can observe this in Rejack’s and Carman’s different readings of Keats, Ruderman and Ottinger exploring dramatically divergent but complementary Wordsworths, and in Rejack’s, Effinger’s, and Washington’s rethinking of Romantic time.
12. Rejack’s essay, both personal and polemical, begins in melancholy as he ponders memories of his wedding, the day before which he found himself gazing up at ancient mushroom rocks in the Rocky Mountains. To him the mushroom rocks, part of a formation that dates back 1.7 billion years, recall us to deep time, the fact that the earth existed long before us and will likely persist well after us. For Rejack, a true Keatsian, a melancholy fit falls as “the shock and sadness that accompany this strange temporal situation came to mind” during what should have been a happy event. What, he wonders, will be left of the world in the future? To this end, he turns, in what could serve as an overarching explanation of not only his own but all of the essays in this volume, to “focus in this essay on how the feeling of living in the Anthropocene and its strange temporality affects how we teach, and specifically how we teach Romanticism.” The course he designed, "The Failures of Romanticism," captures something of the complicity concerns that began this introduction. But if Rejack’s essay begins in melancholy and failure, it quickly becomes something else. Winding together contemporary song lyrics, Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, Percy Shelley’s A Defence of Poetry, Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, and finally Keats’s last on-earth pun (“I am leading a posthumous existence”) and weird fairyland trip The Cap and Bells, Rejack serves up a pedagogical polemic for how to laugh together in the classroom rather than cower in fear and despair. In this sense, the essay skillfully draws an affective Romanticism between teacher, student, text, and scholar. It is a touching and forceful invocation, “a defence of Romanticism” that is thoroughly Romantic, a reminder of the pedagogical power the period still holds to teach us all something we didn’t know we didn’t know.
13. Carman’s essay serves as a kind of vade mecum for how to teach queer ecology in the Anthropocene, which he develops through a careful, in-depth, startlingly brilliant reading of Keats’s “I stood tip-toe upon a little hill” and Endymion. As Carman remarks, thinking queer ecology makes sense because both “nature” and “queer sexuality” share “a lack of a rigid outline.” Think of the example of LGBTQ, he suggests, which for now is end-stopped by Q but which looks “as intersectional as it is infinite.” For Carman, Keats draws together the queer and the ecological in these poems because they unleash an eroticized desire that comports with queerness even as it is a desire that advises us how to steward the earth by walking tenderly on tip-toe rather than mashing the ground beneath our feet. In this powerful reading that gives us a much more ecologically minded Keats than we have previously encountered, Carman reminds us that even if the Anthropocene is the “Age of Man,” it does not necessarily follow that it is the “Age of the Straight Man” since “LGBTQ people . . . are no less dedicated to preserving” the Earth even if they do not, as he says, procreate like straight people do. Carman’s essay gives us a Romanticism that finds jouissance in sexuality and eroticism, a theme that Washington likewise explores in his own essay later in this volume, evoking a Romanticism hopeful about the future.
14. And yet, Romanticism is often characterized as skeptical in nature, which speaks to the discourse and industry of climate denial. But “can this current skepticism be traced to the Romantic period?” Ottinger asks of climate-change deniers. While Ottinger notes that a spate of new studies on Romantic science render accounts of it as “anti-science . . . untenable,” worries about the period’s skeptical nature nonetheless require an exploration of how “the hierarchized different genres of media” Romantic authors created “shaped the way that that they related to the planet and thereby produced a particular brand of ecology.” An exploration of Romantic media lends itself to experiments with media in the classroom, specifically, an exercise where students draw lyrics on paper. Ottinger traces the results of one such experiment when he asks students to sketch what Wordsworth describes in a lyric from Lyrical Ballads, "Written in Germany, on One of the Coldest Days of the Century." In visualizing the poem through art, students gain an increased awareness of the perspective of the Romantic lyric “I” since they have to think through Wordsworth’s position in the cottage as well as what subsists outside the cottage, namely nature, the weather, and the earth, all of which are steadily getting colder. For Ottinger, the exercise literally mitigates our strange subject position vis-à-vis climate and the Anthropocene by staging “one’s self in an alien time, place, and climate,” the very thing the Anthropocene threatens to force us to do whether we wish to or not. In this sense, Ottinger invents a pedagogy that enacts a divestment of ourselves as we see, through the media of ink on paper, the eco-mimetic separation of the Romantic “I” from the world around it. We become disoriented from ourselves, unsure where the world ends and we begin, which places us in a certain time and space even while dislocating us from time and space.
15. D. B. Ruderman’s pedagogical experiments join nicely with Ottinger’s, and Effinger’s below, to help students query their own subject position re the larger world around them. Like Rejack, Ruderman takes a personal turn as he notes that his students in south central Ohio experience the Anthropocene in the form of the trickle-down effects of a capitalist economy that has long crushed them in its invisible hands. To grasp the full impact of these effects, though, requires listening to the ambient silence of the world. Ruderman looks to silence as theorized in the work of Wordsworth and John Cage to investigate “whether silence as a romantic concept cuts into and denatures . . . subjectivity, offering us another defamiliarized subject in its place, or whether silence merely resounds as yet another form of acquiescence.” For Ruderman, silence—which is not the absence of sound, he writes—is what allows for the outside to enter in, a formulation reminiscent of Ottinger’s pedagogical artwork illustrations of the lyric. In this fashion, Ruderman gives us an auditory pedagogy for the Anthropocene parallel to Ottinger’s visual one. In Wordsworth and Cage, on Ruderman’s and his class’s interpretation, silence “is something like a container that provides the conditions and the imaginative space for political action.” Having read Wordsworth’s "There Was A Boy" as well as listened to and read Cage’s reflections on silence, Ruderman’s students then did field work: they recorded ambient noise which Ruderman created a sound mix of in order to listen to the silence between the odd sounds found in their outside environment. To the students, this type of keying into the environment amounted to a weak type of politics, one that, they argued, while aesthetically interesting, required theorizing specific action. His students, aware that they are at the mercy of a neoliberal war aimed at the poor and the lower middle class, wanted a viable politics with which to fight back. And yet, as Ruderman writes, only by listening to the unheard, undeclared kinds of violence being directed at us, subjects of the Anthropocene, can we begin to hear “what man has made of man,” as Wordsworth puts it.
16. Effinger’s class engaged in a complimentary experiment with sound as well as a study of disruptive Anthropocene temporalities. In classical rhetoric, as Effinger notes, hysteron proteron means the temporal inversion of speech, but Effinger uses it as one basis for rethinking pedagogy in the Anthropocene. As she writes, “the goal in going about things backward—the inversion of past and future—is to revitalize a present relationship, to hear Romantic poetry, ideas, and problematics as a frenetic, undulating constellation murmuring beneath the Anthropocene.” Romantic birdsong poetry, so often obsessed with its own failure to capture the purer poetry of the bird mimetically, and thus claiming the poet and the poem as a failure, in Effinger’s lesson finally may have achieved its goal. She points out that in the Anthropocene, “climate change is now the primary threat to avian extinction,” which means that returning to Romantic birdsong can, after a fashion, return us to a time before avian extinction. It allows Effinger to locate in the birdsong of the past the full murmur of what we can no longer hear—perhaps because, as Effinger says, in the Anthropocene we are drowned by silent wars in the every day. Effinger institutes a practice she calls “close listening,” an exercise that we can hear murmuring gently in the ear of Ruderman’s silence, to help students tune into the “ubiquitous sounds, those metonyms for the unsaid or silences within discourse.” Through close listening to bird poems by Charlotte Smith, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (from whose Biographia Literaria Effinger takes and reimagines the use of hysteron proteron), John Keats, and John Clare, Effinger and her students work their way toward a political call to action in the Anthropocene that “opens up the subject to the more than human.” Politically this serves as a form of resistance to our very humanness, a to-be-called by the other in a Levinasian sense that strikes back at the heart of the Anthropocene: us.
17. Like Effinger, Washington is interested in temporally scrambled pedagogies that also invoke the nonhuman as central to any Anthropocene politics Romanticism develops. But for him, both the human and nonhuman remain categorically elusive in the Anthropocene to the extent that new hybrid formations will necessarily continue to develop. Washington invokes what he terms “hyper-jump pedagogy,” something of a counterpart to Effinger’s hysteron proteron pedagogy, to attempt to literally model how time works in the Anthropocene: we are not necessarily going back to the future so much as the future always slips away, slip-sliding us back into a past and present we have no temporal control over. His contribution presents a choose-your-own-adventure scenario with two versions of his “essay.” In the first, you can read a version that tracks backward, from the end of the essay to the beginning, an upside-down schema via a kind of chiasmus. It begins with a reading of Wollstonecraft and Rousseau—the past, in other words—but tracks forward to a reading that ranges over Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Mad Max: Fury Road, Lucy Corin’s flash fiction, and Wall-E. Yet it does so by taking flight with the readings of Wollstonecraft and Rousseau that only the later readings make possible. The second version of the essay tries to institute a nice derangement of paragraphs by allowing readers to click a button that generates a random presentation of the essay. Paragraph 21 might open this version followed by paragraph 1 or paragraph 10, a higgedly-piggedly chronology meant to mimic the erasure of telos in the Anthropocene and our own (non)experience of time’s futural pastness. In the interstices of this chiasmatic and/or contingent disorientation, we see how sex and gender might play out in the Anthropocene’s postapocalypse when who we have sex with and how we have it can stymie or unleash an energy that is not merely biopolitical in a human sense but queer in ways that crosshatch Carman’s reading of Keats’s digit(al), and Rejack’s and Ottinger’s digital, environmental protection agency.
18. With its roots in political revolution and individual imaginative expression, Romanticism has always been relevant to today, whenever that is. Yet we have faced the same so-called humanities crisis since the 1960s. To wit, academe in general does not matter, so the charge goes, not least Romanticism with its thorny questions of what exactly a modern politics might constitute, what an individual might be, what the world and our relation to it consists of, and even what it means to think the human and/or the nonhuman. No one, it seems, cares about an academe that tries to transgress the safe spaces of discourse that accounts for all viewpoints. In many ways, Romanticism of course represents the purest ideal and commitment to free, unadulterated speech, a democratic laissez faire of the individual that many libertarians look to in order to justify their desired dismantlement of the social contract (Godwin’s anarchist theory, for instance). If this volume demonstrates anything, though, then it reminds us that Romanticism can, or should, never be about injustice, to our fellow human beings or our non-fellow nonhumans, or to the idea, in general, of difference.
19. The pedagogies grouped here recollect us to Romanticism as a fight, a battle cry, a rally, a movement against injustice, against prejudice, against pride in our own perceived humanity, a battle constantly waged in our classrooms and beyond. Romanticism, Evan Gottlieb recalls, is not one thing (8). But it is, as these essays demonstrate, certainly not certain things. It is resistance in its multihued forms; it is resistance against class warfare from the 1%; it is resistance to ethnocentricism; it is resistance to heteronormativity; it is resistance to human pride, selfishness, and greed; it is resistance to inhibitions of expression; it is resistance to sexual shaming; it is resistance to misogyny; it is resistance to politics as usual; it is resistance to “sit down and shut up”; it is resistance to homophobia; it is resistance to racism; it is resistance to the Anthropocene “feel good”; it is resistance to any form of discrimination or oppression; it is resistance to the human trumpery we in the United States have subjected ourselves to. This volume is—or wants to be—a pedagogical politics of resistance. How successful its Romanticism is, is up to you, dear reader.
20. This collection reminds us that Percy Shelley’s notion of poets as the unacknowledged legislators of the world takes new charge in the Anthropocene, a time that tests teaching with its evanescence, to augur Romanticism as more important than ever in our vanishing classrooms. To remind us that we, as teachers, are unacknowledged legislators too. It reminds us that if human life begins to end in the Anthropocene, then perhaps humans and nonhumans may yet be able to live through, with, and by Romanticism.
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Claire Colebrook comes at this from the other direction, writing: “what we now call climate change is the reemergence of what made climate possible. Climate was manufactured from climate change” (19). BACK