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:

Fred Moten, Stolen Life (consent not to be a single being). (Duke UP, 2018). 336 pp.; (Paperback, 27.95; ISBN 978-0-8223-7058-1)

Ryan Hanley, Beyond Slavery and Abolition: Black British Writing, c. 1770-1830. (Cambridge UP, 2018). 282 pp; (Paperback, 31.99, ISBN: 9781108468756)

Bakary Diaby, Skidmore College

Deanna Koretsky, Spelman College



Hey Bakary!


I wanted to get the ball rolling with a confession: I’m a little apprehensive about this review. I’m not sure that these two books, Fred Moten’s Stolen Life and Ryan Hanley’s Beyond Slavery and Abolition: Black British Writing c. 1770-1830, have much to say to each other. While they’re ostensibly concerned with many of the same topics -- most centrally, black intellectual life -- Moten and Hanley are so different in terms of their epistemological groundings that I wonder how they can be put into conversation productively.


Since we’re writing this for Romantic Circles, maybe it can be fruitful to think about these texts as representing two potential -- and potentially irreconcilable -- directions that historically Eurocentric fields such as ours might take if, as many of its practitioners have claimed in recent months...


Chris Murray, China from the Ruins of Athens and Rome: Classics, Sinology, and Romanticism, 1793–1938. (Oxford University Press, 2020). 265 pp., 8 b&w illus. (Hdbk., $85.00; ISBN 9780198767015).

Emily Sun, On the Horizon of World Literature: Forms of Modernity in Romantic England and Republican China. (Fordham University Press, 2021). 167 pp. (Hdbk., $105.00; ISBN 9780823294787).

Jennifer L. Hargrave

Baylor University


            Over the last decade, literary scholars have diversified our understanding of long nineteenth-century networks of connection and communication between the British and Qing Empires. Written in response to the pioneering studies of Elizabeth Hope Chang, Peter Kitson, Robert Markley, and David Porter, these cross-cultural studies continue to identify new points of intersection between these behemoth empires, intersections that illuminate and revise our understanding of interimperial relations. The recent works of Chris Murray and Emily Sun not only augment our understanding of Anglo-Sino discourse (both synchronic and diachronic) but also introduce reading methodologies that encourage more dynamic analyses of England’s and China’s literary overlays. Most notably, both Murray and Sun challenge synchronicity as the delimiting factor in establishing cross-cultural literary and intellectual resonances. Murray...


Bysshe Inigo Coffey, Shelley’s Broken World: Fractured Materiality and Intermitted Song (Liverpool University Press, 2021). xxi + 220 pp.; frontispiece + 11 b&w illus. (Hdbk., £90.00; ISBN 9781800855380).

Michael J. Neth

Middle Tennessee State University

Bysshe Coffey’s Shelley’s Broken World is a broad-ranging study: one part old-fashioned history of ideas; one part monograph on Shelley’s heretofore underappreciated practice of bringing much of his verse to life within the pauses and “limit-points” of sensory perception, cognition, and prosody―in the domain of the “[i]ntermittent states of being, vacancies, suspensions, strange immaterial formulations, [and] tenuous and porous networks” that “lace throughout his poetry” (8); and one part close reading of individual passages in several poems, carefully chosen to reinforce the author’s central insight that “intermittence is a pervasive quality not only of [Shelley’s] prosody but of the incidents his verse describes” (8). Coffey argues that Shelley’s “fascination with the voice, breath, and its repertoire of effects” enables him “to transgress the confines of the present and tangible object, to chart and animate...


Diana Pérez Edelman. Embryology and the Rise of the Gothic Novel. Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science, and Medicine. Series eds. Sharon Ruston, Alice Jenkins, and Jessica Howell. Cham CH: Palgrave Macmillan/Springer Nature, 2021. Pp. xii + 180. $119.99. ISBN 978-3-030-73647-7.

Rebecca Nesvet

University of Wisconsin, Green Bay

The Gothic is deeply concerned with the relationships between the present and the past and with family histories. Robert Mighall has argued that the Gothic inhabits ‘the historical past’ or else ‘identifies ‘pastness’ in the present, honing in on struggles ‘to exorcise the ghosts of the past’; struggles often complicated or stymied by problematic inheritances capable of destroying otherwise ‘respectable families.’[1] “Nothing is created ex nihilo,” Mary Shelley famously remarked in her introduction to the 1831 third edition of Frankenstein. From what, then, do monsters and stories derive? A mode of storytelling that foregrounds these types of questions must also have some interest in the biological relations between generations. As Diana Pérez Edelman proposes, the Romantic-era Gothic is concerned with the science of prenatal human...


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...



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