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: lh117@nyu.edu

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...

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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 … 

 

Warmly,

Shelby 

 

*

 

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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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...

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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 

and

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...

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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...

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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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Andrew O. Winckles. Eighteenth-Century Women's Writing and the Methodist Media Revolution: 'Consider the Lord as Ever Present Reader' (Liverpool University Press, 2010). 288 pp. (Hdbk., $120, ISBN 9781789620184).

Elizabeth Bishop

As Andrew Winckles notes in his review of Richard Brantley’s Transatlantic Trio: Empiricism, Evangelicalism, Romanticism: Essays and Reviews, 1974-2017 for Romantic Circles Reviews & Receptions, the study of religion in British romanticism has often been a fraught endeavor. This has changed in recent years, however, as our field expands its scope while also revisiting familiar figures with a renewed curiosity. My work on Hannah More has been immeasurably edified by scholars who have reconsidered the innumerable facets and entanglements of religion and romanticism such as Winckles, Natasha Duquette, Joanna Wharton, and others.

It bears stating that Winckles’s Eighteenth-Century Women's Writing and the Methodist Media Revolution: 'Consider the Lord as Ever Present Reader'...

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Keith Crook, The Imprisoned Traveler: Joseph Forsyth and Napoleon’s Italy. Lewisburg PA: Bucknell University Press, 2019. Pp. xiii+247. ISBN: 9781684481620

Diego Saglia

Università di Parma, Italy

A major product of Britain’s geo-cultural imagination, early nineteenth-century manifestations of Italia romantica were intricate knots of fact and fiction, distant observation and personal involvement, resting on a solid bedrock of age-old myths and stereotypes. Given its extent and complexity, many features of this vision of Italy remain opaque, continuously inviting critical questioning that often results in significant contributions to our understanding of what the Romantic-period imagination ‘did’ with Italy. One such is Keith Crook’s book on Joseph Forsyth and his Remarks on Antiquities, Arts and Letters during an Excursion in Italy in the Years 1802 and 1803. Building on Crook’s 2001 critical edition of Forsyth’s Remarks, this is actually two books in one. The first part is an informative, insightful and enjoyable study of Forsyth’s Remarks. It starts from a reconstruction of its...

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Daniela Garofalo and David Sigler (eds.) Lacan and Romanticism (SUNY Press, 2019) 208pp. $95.
Brittany Pladek, The Poetics of Palliation: Romantic Literary Therapy, 1790–1850 (Liverpool University Press, 2019) 296pp. £90.
Seth T. Reno, Amorous Aesthetics: Intellectual Love in Romantic Poetry and Poetics, 1788–1853 (Liverpool University Press, 2019) 256pp. £90.

Alex Freer

Trinity College, Cambridge

‘Bid the wan maid the hues of health assume. / Charm with new grace, and blush with fresher bloom.’ So Charlotte Smith’s poem ‘Flora’ asks Fancy for powers to heal and create, turning from mourning and misery, ‘the crimes and follies of mankind’, seeking not only tender images but the promise of human flourishing. But does it work? Three recent books explore the question in different ways, each positing, tracing and testing the claims of romanticism on psychological life.

Some years ago, Alan Liu described romantic New Historicism as a work of mourning. From the outset, it mourned for historical reality: a reality lost to repression; traded for fraudulent aesthetic wholeness; or simply blown away like factory smoke on the breeze. Yet, Liu observed, as New Historicism matured, this tight polemic gave way to a more capacious, self-conscious form. ‘[A]ll the critic’s anger of denunciation turns into something else. It is...

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Claire Connolly, editor, Irish Literature in Transition, 1780-1830 (Cambridge University Press, 2020). 456 pp. (Hdbk., $110, ISBN 9781108492980).

Rebecca Anne Barr

University of Cambridge

Irish writing of the romantic period is often neglected by literary scholars and marginalized by universities keen to entice their post-romantic students with more brand-familiar fare. As a result, pre-1900 works are frequently dismissed as being of purely historical interest. Claire Connolly’s Irish Literature in Transition, 1780-1830 is a riposte to such views. This period above all others, Connolly argues, is ‘the crucible of Irish writing in English’ (9). As Pat Coughlan has noted, Connolly’s book is ‘a gauntlet thrown down’ to political histories of Irish literature, whose approaches have long dominated Irish Studies. By prioritizing the literary, the volume challenges the historicist prejudice that literature in Ireland is merely an amanuensis of political and social change. In contrast, the works analyzed here are internationally attuned, critically self-aware, and responsive to aesthetic developments and...

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