Short Reviews

With this January 2021 issue, Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions introduces new form of collective and conjunctural book review. Inspired by the spirit of conversation and exchange that animates all of our work, and that lurks secretly behind each review, we are asking scholars to reflect collaboratively on recent publications in Romanticism. These reviews are new in another sense as well. Expanding beyond the constraints of periodization, these reviews seek to create conceptual and/or historical resonances between work in Romanticism and work situated elsewhere. In particular, these reviews are meant to spark a deeper engagement between monographs in Romanticism and Black studies, Gender & Sexuality studies, Indigenous studies, and work that is situated in a contemporary context. Perhaps most significantly, these reviews aim to make academic publications that are grounded in Romanticism more useful to us today, in both academic and non-academic contexts alike. Upcoming reviews will take up Matthew Sandler’s The Black Romantic Revolution (Verso, 2020) and Peter Linebaugh’s Red Round Globe Burning Hot (UC Press, 2019), Ryan Hanley’s Beyond Slavery and Abolition: Black British Writing 1770-1830 and Fred Moten’s Stolen Life, and Kate Singer’s Romantic Vacancy: The Poetics of Gender, Affect, and Radical Speculation and Alexis Boyan, et al. Furious Feminisms: Alternative Routes on Mad Max: Fury Road.

If you would like to propose a collaborative review, please contact us at:

Alexander Freer, Wordsworth's Unremembered Pleasure (Oxford University Press, 2020), 272 pp.
(Hbk, $70/£55, ISBN: 9780198856986)

Matt ffytche

University of Essex


Wordsworth says, “. . . hearing often-times the still, sad music of

humanity” [“Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”].

We are supposed to be in contact with our fellow human beings.

When you give an interpretation tomorrow, are you sure that it will

approximate to expressing the music of humanity or the little bit of it

which has got into your consulting-room?

Wilfred Bion, The Italian Seminars, The Complete Works of W.R. Bion, ed Chris Mawson (Karnac, 2014), vol IX, p. 166


Many contemporary psychoanalysts think of the unconscious not as a fixed entity with certain inherent conditions, but more as an opportunity. As with the invention of negative numbers, the right question to ask is not ‘Do they really exist?’, but: what are the new mental transactions such terms enable? What different narratives do they allow us to present concerning...


Nikki Hessell, Romantic Literature and the Colonised World: Lessons from Indigenous Translations. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. 269 pp. including apparatus. (Cloth ISBN 9783319709321. eBook 9783319709338 Kim TallBear, “Dear Indigenous Studies, It’s Not Me, It’s You: Why I Left and What Needs to Change.” Critical Indigenous Studies: Engagements in First World Locations. Ed. Aileen Moreton-Robinson. Tucson: U of Arizona Press, 2016. 69-82.

“Romantic Entanglements, Irreconcilable Differences: Indigenous Translations”

Matt Hooley, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina


Dawn Morgan, St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada


Dawn: Both works are exciting to read partly because it’s not clear at the outset how the risks they undertake can be successfully managed. How can Hessell claim to read Romantic literature translated into Indigenous languages of which she has incomplete command? How can TallBear justify her withering attack on the fledgling discipline of Indigenous Studies of which she is beneficiary and product?

Bristling with implications for scholarship in general, and our literary periodizations of the colonial era as eighteenth-centuryists, Romanticists, and Modernists in particular, neither Hessell’s book nor TallBear’s article comfortably reinforce what we know or what’s already been said about the...


Chris Washington, Romantic Revelations: Visions of Post-Apocalyptic Life and Hope in the Anthropocene (University of Toronto Press, 2019). 252 pp. (Hdbk., $67.00; ISBN 9781487504502).

Joel Faflak

University of Western Ontario

          One of the most powerful statements in Romanticism is Demogorgon’s speech at the end of Act Four of Prometheus Unbound, which entreats us “to hope, till Hope creates / From its own wreck the thing it contemplates” (4.573-74). Earlier criticism took this as an injunction to wage creative resilience and resistance against sociohistorical adversity. This view tended to elide or ignore gender, sexual, racial, and class differences, an indifferent politics of imagination Romantic studies since worked hard to redress. More often than not such field reconstructions reflect their sociohistorical moment. But Romanticism in particular holds up and holds itself up as a rather uncanny mirror of whatever future our present demands. Shelley predicted as much at the end of A Defence of Poetry. But there’s the catch. As Jacques Derrida reminds us, the future is always avenir. It never exists except as it...


Dara Rossman Regaignon, Writing Maternity: Medicine, Anxiety, Rhetoric, and Genre (Ohio State UP, 2021). 204 pp., (Hardcover, $69.95; ISBN 978-0-8142-1469-5).

Diana Pérez Edelman

University of North Georgia, Gainesville

Dara Rossman Regaignon’s Writing Maternity: Medicine, Anxiety, Rhetoric, and Genre begins with a compelling analysis of a 2017 Facebook post by an anxiety-ridden mommy and blogger, Bunmi Laditan. Illustrative of the conflicting messages that mothers and mothers-to-be receive, Laditan’s post, as Regaignon unpacks it, is an accretion of generations of advice literature that makes motherhood synonymous with neurotic anxiety. Regaignon’s central claim, which she traces historically in advice literature, fiction, and life writing, is that “maternal concern is cultural rather than natural” (x). The aim of the study is to “understand how anxiety was written onto motherhood in the early nineteenth century—in other words, how that emotion came to be part of maternity’s affective script” (xii).

After defining anxiety using the work of Sigmund Freud, Søren Kierkegaard, and Sarah Ahmed, Regaignon deploys...


Samantha Matthews, Album Verses and Romantic Literary Culture: Poetry Manuscript, Print, 1780-1850 (Oxford UP, 2020). 304pp., 24 illus. (£60, ISBN: 9780198857945)

Kacie L. Wills

Illinois College


Samantha Matthews begins Album Verses and Romantic Literary Culture: Poetry Manuscript, Print, 1780-1850 (Oxford UP, 2020) with a definition of what she terms “albo-mania” or the “collective enthusiasm, usually short-lived” for the album in the 1820s and 1830s. As with other manias, Matthews alludes to the inherent disorder, the “excess” and “pathological passion” this term incites. In its efforts to recuperate album poetry, Matthews’ book examines the personal and institutional, the fashionable and pathological, the amateur and professional, the creative and authentic, and, ultimately, the complicated gender dynamics that characterize the album in this period. In her examination of these various facets of “albo-mania,” Matthews seeks to debunk the assumption that album poetry is “bad” poetry, that it is unoriginal and derivative in its form and content. Instead, Matthews suggests, album poetry is “distinctive and...


Peter Linebaugh, Red Round Globe Hot Burning: A Tale at the Crossroads of Commons and Closure, of Love and Terror, of Race and Class, and of Kate and Ned Despard (University of California Press, 2019); Matt Sandler, The Black Romantic Revolution: Abolitionist Poets at the End of Slavery (Verso Books, 2020)

 Dear Joe,


I hope you're doing well! I'm just writing with a quick note to say that I'm about halfway through Red Round Globe Hot Burning, and I'll be so interested to hear your thoughts. My short take is that I wonder if this is an impossible book -- a book defined by failure, by incomplete archives, by irrecoverable experiences … 







Hey Shelby,


Thanks for touching base -- that's spurred me to start reading in earnest now too! As a career’s culmination (I almost said fulmination--in the best way), Red Round Globe seems to be Linebaugh at his most exuberantly Linebaugh, where both the galvanizing, exhilarating strengths of his work, as well as its limits and occasional missteps, are on full view. But ultimately I’m on his side--or that’s the side I want to be on, in endless search of “the commons” as “the bridge linking romanticism and radicalism, philia...


Griffiths, Devin, The Age of Analogy: Science and Literature Between the Darwins (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016). 339 pp. (Hdbk., $55.00; ISBN 9781421420769)

Kurtis Hessel

University of Colorado Boulder


In 1784, the astronomer William Herschel offered an early indication of how he would revise humanity’s understanding of the cosmos. Herschel famously proposed a cosmology characterized by depth and constant change, quite different from the fixed field of stars so long presumed to fill the heavens uniformly. To clarify his vision, he wrote in his “Account of Some Observations tending to investigate the Construction of the Heavens” that future astronomers would “look upon those regions into which we may now penetrate by means of such large telescopes, as a naturalist regards a rich extent of ground or chain of mountains, containing strata variously inclined and directed, as well as consisting of very different materials” [1]. Here, an analogy with contemporaneous geological theory helps to clarify a celestial conundrum: how to present the depth of the night sky to earthbound observers? Describing a formal...


Frances Botkin, Thieving Three-Fingered Jack: Transatlantic Tales of a Jamaican Outlaw, 1780-2015 (Rutgers UP, 2017). 240 pp. (Paperback, $31.95 ISBN 9780813587387; Cloth, $120.00, ISBN 9780813587394; Kindle, 28.95, ISBN 9780813595733; EPUB, 31.95, ISBN 9780813587400; PDF, $31.95.ISBN 9780813587417).


Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (U of NC P, 2000). 480 pp. (paperback, $47.50, ISBN 9780807848296; ebook $29.99, ISBN 9780807876121).


Marronage and Discomfort with the Black Rebel: a Collaborative Review

Gabriella I. Johnson, New York University 


Gregory Pierrot, University of Connecticut—Stamford


Greg: Frances Botkin’s Thieving Three-Fingered Jack is a cultural history that makes the deceptively simple but necessary argument that things are always more complex than they seem. Botkin’s careful exploration of the figure of Three-Finger’d Jack as he came to us in cultural production, but as importantly in the collective memory of Jamaican Maroons themselves, is an injunction to take portrayals (and these sit at the confluence of history and fiction, I suppose) with a grain of salt. As she unpacks how the fictions of Three-Finger’d Jack intersect with what is known of the events from English publications and Maroon accounts and history, we’re reminded that in memory (and forgetting), storytelling is indeed a practice of community-making and...


Matthew Bevis, Wordsworth’s Fun (University of Chicago Press, 2019). 303 pp. (Hdbk., $82.50, ISBN: 9780226652054)

Jeremy Noel-Tod
University of East Anglia

It’s easy to laugh at Wordsworth. Connoisseurs of parody will know J.K. Stephen’s sonnet on the poet’s ‘two voices’: one sublime, one ‘an old half-witted sheep’,

Which bleats articulate monotony,

And indicates that two and one are three,

That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep

And connoisseurs of radio comedy may know Sue Limb’s The Wordsmiths at Gorsemere, ‘An Everyday Story of Towering Genius’ which rewrites the early years at Grasmere as The Goon Show. The first episode opens with Dorothy Wordsmith rhapsodising, to appropriate sound effects, about being close to nature (‘the wind in your hair, the rain on your face’), only to be interrupted by brother William: ‘But we’re indoors, Dorothy’.

The common joke is that Wordsworth is, like lakes, wet: a solemnbore. Matthew Bevis’s Wordsworth’s Fun sets out to show that the poet’s uses of humour are, in...


Joseph Drury. Novel Machines: Technology and Narrative Form in Enlightenment Britain (Oxford University Press, 2018.) 272 pp., 8 B&W illus. (Hdbk., $90.00; ISBN 9780198792383.)


Deven M. Parker

Queen Mary University of London

Joseph Drury’s Novel Machines: Technology and Narrative Form in Enlightenment Britain breaks new ground in the field of technology and literary studies not just because it offers deep historical dives into several under-researched areas of eighteenth-century technology and science—musical instruments and medicine, carriage and road design, and theatrical engineering, among many others—but even more so because it theorizes a mutually constitutive and constantly evolving relationship between technology and literary form. The argument at the book’s center is that eighteenth-century novelists sought to transform the novel into a machine that could produce knowledge about the world, much like those other Enlightenment machines, such as air pumps and automata, that scientific philosophers believed could recreate natural phenomenon in order to help them better understand it. It follows, then, that if the novel...



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