Short Reviews

RC Reviews is a collection of 700-800 word reviews on the most recent scholarship relating to British Romanticism, its authors, history, and ideas.

Richard C. Sha, Imagination and Science in Romanticism (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018). 344 pp. (Hdbk., $59.95; ISBN 9781421425788).

Bysshe Inigo Coffey
University of Exeter

The Two Cultures? Not so much . . .  Today, literature students of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (in particular) learn happily about analogical thinking, electricity, Humphry Davy’s laughter, the twitching legs of frogs, and vitalism. The scientific turn is triumphant—a development which is, in certain respects, welcome. There are many reasons for its success: generous funding, the instant knee-jerk seriousness with which anything featuring the word ‘science’ is met, and science is, for some, in an age of cynicism, a subtle way of justifying the importance of studying literature. There is a hope that Percy Bysshe Shelley’s philistine ‘reasoners and mechanists’, derided in A Defence of Poetry, might begin to appreciate literature if it is understood as the handmaiden of science. In the worst work of this kind, poems become supplements; they are not to be worked with, but worked on.   

With refreshing...

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Dahlia Porter, Science, Form, and the Problem of Induction in British Romanticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). 314 pp., 13 b&w illus. (Hdbk., $99.00; ISBN 97811084189420).

Jeanne Britton
University of South Carolina

Dahlia Porter’s illuminating and expansive study argues that visual elements of Romantic era pages reflect and shape the challenge of inductive reasoning. Porter’s book identifies some of Romanticism’s less pristine forms—its generic composites and verse-prose combinations—as foundational to the long-sought reconciliation between assembled details and comprehensive generalities, between empirical data and scientific truths.  The “problem of induction” is its inevitable failure to assimilate large collections of data into singular, coherent wholes. This study focuses on manifestations of this failure in the cacophonous, varied, and, in modern editions, frequently simplified pages of Romantic-era poetry. It charts new territory in uniting book history with the study of literary form, Romantic theories of cognition, the history of science, children’s literature, and pedagogical theory.

The book’s first chapter explains the...

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Jonathan Sachs, The Poetics of Decline in British Romanticism (Cambridge University Press, 2018). 246 pp. (Hdbk., $99.99; ISBN 9781108420310).

Carmen Faye Mathes
University of Central Florida

A scene in Paul Schrader’s recent film First Reformed (2017) pits the despair of one Reverend, Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke), against the rationalizing acceptance of another, Rev. Joel Jeffers (Cedric the Entertainer), who is also Toller’s boss. In crisis over the irreversible ruin-to-be that humans have made of the earth, Toller asks if God can forgive us for poisoning the world that He made. Jeffers responds, “but how can we know that this isn’t God’s plan?” and reminds Toller that this has happened once before, for forty days and forty nights. It’s no comfort, not even a cold one, and in what follows we come to understand that, while Jeffers promotes living in “the real world” (administrative tasks, finances, hiring and firing), this has nothing to do with Toller’s crisis, or God, or the warming planet. We also see how “it’s happened once before” is meant to pacify by discouraging exigency, undermining the...

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Manu Samriti Chander, Brown Romantics: Poetry and Nationalism in the Global Nineteenth Century (Bucknell University Press, 2017). 125 pp. (Hdbk., $90; ISBN 0-8387-9781-0).

Nikki Hessell
Victoria University of Wellington

What happens to Romantic literature when we attend to Brownness? This is the central, provocative claim of Manu Samriti Chander’s brilliant study of colonial writers and the legacies of Romanticism. While decolonizing and canon-expanding efforts have been underway in Romantic studies for many years, what Chander’s book offers the field is a sophisticated theoretical framework for considering the global republic of letters in the Romantic period and its afterlife. The writers Chander focuses on are, as he points out, Brown because they are marginalized, not marginalized because they are Brown. This conceptualization of Brownness opens up a potentially vast array of texts, authors, and revisionings for our field.

Chander chooses to focus on four such figures. Henry Derozio, the brilliant poet, teacher and intellectual of early nineteenth-century Bengal, might be considered one of the first international critics to...

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George Gordon, Lord Byron, Manfred (Ontario: Broadview, 2017). 138 pp. (Pbk. £14.50, ISBN. 9781554813681)

George Gordon, Lord Byron, Manfred (Ontario: Broadview, 2017). 138 pp. (Pbk. £14.50, ISBN. 9781554813681)

This Broadview edition of Manfred (1817) has something for anyone interested in Byron’s troubled mental drama, although it is mainly directed at undergraduate students who want a clean uncluttered text to add notes to, with useful supplementary material appended. The ‘Literary Contexts’ section has relevant extracts from: Paradise Lost; Gothic influences such as Horace Walpole’s The Mysterious Mother (1768); William Beckford’s Vathek (1786); Anne Radcliffe’s The Italian (1797); the first scene from Goethe’s Faust (1808); Caroline Lamb’s Glenarvon (1816); Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Percy Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound (1820). The section on ‘Byron’s Life, Writing and Work’ has parts of The Corsair (1814); Childe Harold (1816); ‘Prometheus’ (1816...

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D. A. Dunkley, Agency of the Enslaved: Jamaica and the Culture of Freedom in the Atlantic World (Lexington Books, 2013). 240pp. (Hdbk., $65.00; ISBN 978-0-7391-6803-5).

Rebecca Schneider
University of Colorado Boulder

There is something Romantic about revolution. Between throwing off the constraints of tyrannical institutions and reimagining more equitable collective life, modern conceptions of liberty in the West echo the political convictions of the Romantic era. While revolutions in America, France, and yes, Haiti/Saint-Domingue provide sites for exploring revolutionary action, the accretion of small, daily acts of resistance throughout the West Indian slave colonies reveal something more pervasive, insurgent, and durable about the revolutionary spirit. Such acts provide the main focus of D. A. Dunkley’s examination of freedom in Agency of the Enslaved: Jamaica and the Culture of Freedom in the Atlantic World.

In 1823, one hundred and forty imprisoned Jamaicans submitted a petition rejecting their criminal status. Their alleged crime? Failing to prove that they were free. By the time the list of “Persons Committed to...

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Ingrid Horrocks, Women Wanderers and the Writing of Mobility, 1784-1814. (Cambridge, Cambridge UP, April 2017). 309 p. (Hdbk. $98.00; ISBN 978-1107182233).

Kathryn Pratt Russell
Clayton State University

Ingrid Horrocks’s rigorous study of “women wanderers” in the late eighteenth century contributes to a critical tradition in British travel studies, recently represented by Elizabeth Bohls, Celeste Langan, Michael Wiley, Robin Jarvis, and others. Horrocks, though, attends to a gap in gender studies and the theory of travel by not merely focusing upon a particular author or genre, but instead enlarging the scope of her analysis in order to argue that at the end of the eighteenth century, British women authors began to write about travel and wandering in ways specific to their gender position, and not limited by genre. As opposed to their male counterparts, who, when depicting women wanderers, portrayed them as objects of loss and abjection, female authors wrote of women wanderers as representative of a “deep homelessness” (7) that reconfigures eighteenth-century theories of sympathy.

Horrocks acknowledges the influence...

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Mary Shelley, Mathilda, ed. Michelle Faubert (Broadview Press, 2017). 208 pp. (Pbk. £14.95, ISBN 9781554812271)

Anna Mercer
Keats House

“I offer the present edition as an effort to release Shelley’s Mathilda from its readerly purgatory, for it deserves a wider audience than it presently enjoys” (33): so Michelle Faubert closes her introduction to the Broadview edition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novella Mathilda. The editor writes with a clear sense of hope that the text may find new readers thanks to this publication. I share her optimism.

The Broadview editions should be praised in general: they provide introductions that often represent a particular critical moment and which therefore reflect the scholarly ‘mood’ at the time when that edition first appeared. Along with this important framing material they include carefully selected appendices, usually excerpts of related texts. They are indispensable to scholars of Romanticism; we need Broadview editions of all of MWS’s novels, and as I will explain in this...

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Richard E. Brantley. Transatlantic Trio: Empiricism, Evangelicalism, Romanticism, Essays and Reviews, 1974-2017 (Culicidae Press, 2017). 740 pgs. (Hdbk., $79.80, ISBN: 1683150023; pbk. $42.95, ISBN: 1683150031; ebook $59.95. ASIN: B01NARHXTN.)

Andrew O. Winckles
Adrian College

For those of us brave enough to walk into the minefield that is the study of evangelicalism and Romanticism, Richard E. Brantley has always loomed large. I can remember when, as a graduate student playing with the idea of writing about Methodism during the Romantic era, my dissertation director recommending I read Brantley’s Wordsworth’s Natural Methodism (1975). In typical graduate student fashion, I put it off, somehow convincing myself that the book would be my exact project and I just could not face knowing that someone else had already done what I wanted to do. Of course, it was not, and when I finally did get around to reading both Wordsworth’s Natural Methodism and then Locke, Wesley, and the Method of English Romanticism (1984), they both proved foundational to my own understanding of evangelicalism in the Romantic era and helped contextualize my own project. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say...

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Devoney Looser, The Making of Jane Austen (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017). 304 pp., 23 b&w illus. (Hdbk., $29.95; ISBN 9781421422824).

Meaghan Dodson
Fordham University

"She was not born, but rather became, Jane Austen." And so Devoney Looser begins, analyzing the myriad ways Austen's persona has been portrayed, studied, and interpreted over the past two hundred years. Looser's work is the latest entry in a veritable modern genre-what we might call "Austen-cult scholarship"-which includes, among many other works, Deidre Lynch's Janeites: Austen's Disciples and Devotees (2000), Claudia L. Johnson's Austen's Cults and Cultures (2012), and Janine Barchas's Matters of Fact in Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (2013). The Making of Jane Austen, however, stands apart as an engaging, even gripping account of both the newly discovered and under-appreciated aspects of Austen's legacy. Looser's generative curiosity moves among a catalogue of fresh topics: Who was Austen's first illustrator? Why is she studied by paranormal psychologists? What inspired Colin Firth's infamous wet-white-...

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