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:

Catherine Spooner, Post-Millennial Gothic: Comedy, Romance and the Rise of Happy Gothic (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017). 232 pp., (Pbk., $30.92; ISBN 9781441101211).

Diana Edelman
University of North Georgia, Gainesville

In 1764, Horace Walpole famously described The Castle of Otranto as a “new species of romance,” a hybrid blend of “the ancient and the modern.” In addition to this hybridization of genres, the novel, Walpole claims, blends both the comic and the serious in a way that tends to “excite smiles.” In her latest work, Catherine Spooner demonstrates that an essential feature of twenty-first-century Gothic is this tendency to “excite smiles”: “There are a growing number of Gothic texts that are distinctly celebratory in tone, which hybridize Gothic with comedy or romance, or which convert Gothic to lifestyle. Contemporary Gothic can increasingly be described as comic, romantic, celebratory, gleeful, whimsical or even joyous” (p. 3).

While the history of Gothic criticism has tended to focus on the ways the Gothic evokes the darker side of human nature and human history, Spooner uncovers the “celebratory”...


G.A. Rosso. The Religion of Empire: Political Theology in Blake’s Prophetic System. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press, 2016. xvii+273 pp. 978-0-8142-1316-2. $69.95 hardcover, $19.95 e-book.

James Rovira

G.A. Rosso’s The Religion of Empire: Political Theology in Blake’s Prophetic Symbolism is a carefully and densely argued analysis of William Blake’s critique of the relationship between British state religion and imperial ambitions in Vala or The Four Zoas, Milton a Poem, and Jerusalem. Rosso defends the idea that Blake critiqued these interrelationships rather than succumbed to his own version of British nationalism through masterful close readings of Blake’s poetry and art focused on the character of Rahab, approaching Rahab through both Blake’s and his own readings of the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament, readings informed by twentieth-century Biblical scholarship. Because of Rosso’s approach, I would like to emphasize in this review that Rosso here studies Blake’s political theology. His work should be taken as a significant step forward in the study of Blake and religion, which at different times in the...


Anna Kornbluh The Order of Forms: Realism, Formalism, and Social Space (The University of Chicago Press, 2019) 240 pp., 6 halftones, 5 line drawings. (Paper $27.50, ISBN: 9780226653341; Cloth $82.50, ISBN: 9780226653204).

Aaron Ottinger

Seattle University

Anna Kornbluh’s second monograph on Victorian-era literature, The Order of Forms: Realism, Formalism, and Social Space, joins a coterie of recent studies invested in the intersection of mathematics and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature, including Alice Jenkins’s Space and the ‘March of the Mind’ (2007), Matthew Wickman’s Literature After Euclid (2016), and Andrea Henderson’s Algebraic Art (2018), among others. These texts tend to be more strictly historicist. For Kornbluh, there is little room for anything resembling a source study (169n.25), and instead she uses contemporary mathematical concepts, including set theory, limits, symbolic logic, and non-Euclidean geometry, to articulate the formalism of British, realist authors, including Emily Brontë, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carrol, and Thomas Hardy.

Kornbluh’s formalism is ultimately in service of outlining social space, or what...


Bethan Jenkins, Between Wales and England: Anglophone Welsh Writing of the Eighteenth Century (University of Wales Press, 2017). 248 pp. (Hdbk., £85.00, ISBN 9781786830296)

Matthew C. Jones
Northeastern University

Early in Between Wales and England: Anglophone Welsh Writing of the Eighteenth Century, Bethan Jenkins identifies the central issue that necessitates turning attention to “Anglophone Welsh writing” (that is, literature published in English by bilingual Welsh-English authors). Responding to Linda Colley’s construction of “Britishness” in her celebrated 1992 Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837, Jenkins writes that “the character of Britishness is essentially English (and of a specific English region…)” (29). As the authors, work, and histories Jenkins brings together testify, contemporary Welsh figures understood this mentality’s inherent threat to their culture and language. As importantly, they likewise knew that in order to reach those who threatened them they needed to convey their anxieties in the dominant language of English. Jenkins’s engagement with Colley’s book raises a significant question: why...


Marjorie Levinson, Thinking Through Poetry: Field Notes on the Romantic Lyric (Oxford University Press, 2018). 330 pp. (Hdbk., $82; ISBN 9780198810315).

Carmen Faye Mathes
University of Regina

Even before this book came to me, I’d been carrying the previously-published parts of Levinson’s study around for years in PDFs on two successive laptops, printouts in clear plastic sleeves, quotations long embedded in chapter drafts and my brain, hand-written conference notes recorded in variously colored, unlined Moleskines. I suspect that for many of us this is the case: that Thinking Through Poetry: Field Notes on the Romantic Lyric is a book unavoidably read out-of-order and with retrospect, as an “index” (Levinson’s word) of significant turns not just in the field of Romantic studies, but also in our own scholarly developments (1). Of ten chapters, the final three and the introduction are new. Of each previously published chapter, Levinson keeps the stand-alone style, asking us to retread paths of thought that likely include our own. The book is “an intellectual history conducted from within” whose...


Yohei Igarashi, The Connected Condition: Romanticism and the Dream of Communication (Stanford University Press, 2020). 237 pp., 4 b&w illus. (Hdbk., $60.00; ISBN 9781503610040).

Andrew Burkett 
Union College

A transformative contribution to the vital subfield of Romantic media studies, Yohei Igarashi’s The Connected Condition: Romanticism and the Dream of Communication investigates the dense network of connections among a range of canonical Romantic writers and texts and the period’s heightened fantasies and anxieties concerning the modern communications order. Despite the fact that the Romantics lived and worked during the period just previous to what John Guillory has persuasively shown to be the emergence during the Victorian age of the modern media concept as the technological channel of communication, Romantic writers were keenly aware of and tuned into what Igarashi refers to as their era’s version of the “dream of communication,” or the fantasy of a “transfer of thoughts, feelings, and information between individuals made as efficient as possible, and of perfectible media that could facilitate the quickest and clearest...


Chris Bundock and Elizabeth Effinger, eds., William Blake’s Gothic Imagination: Bodies of Horror (Manchester University Press, 2018). 312 pp., 22 b&w illus. (Hdbk., $120; ISBN 978-1-5261-2194-3).

Diana Edelman
University of North Georgia, Gainesville

Given Blake’s assertion that “Gothic is Living Form” and the clearly Gothic visual elements of Blake’s oeuvre, such as the hunched skeleton of The [First] Book of Urizen that graces the cover of this book, it is a mystery why there has yet to be a book-length study of Blake and the Gothic until now. A collection of essays, William Blake’s Gothic Imagination represents, as the editors claim, the “first sustained and focused treatment of Blake as a Gothic artist, taking ‘Gothic’ in the fullest sense of that term” (18). The chapters “offer a space for concentration on some of the intersections of Blake with the Gothic,” including its aesthetic, political, philosophical, and psychological manifestations (18). 

The book is divided into four parts: Blake’s innovations on Gothic concepts, the body, the body via the visual elements of Blake’s work, and sexuality. Grouping the chapters is a good...


Mark Coeckelbergh New Romantic Cyborgs: Romanticism, Information Technology, and the End of the Machine (Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2017). 320 pp. (£14.00, ISBN. 9780262035460).

John Gardner
Anglia Ruskin University, UK

New Romantic Cyborgs is a philosophical work about the persistence of Romantic ideals and thinking. Machine innovation increased hugely during the Romantic period, and we are now allied to new machines, like the smartphone, as ‘romantic cyborgs’. Mark Coeckelbergh argues that humanity will only get beyond romanticism, to the ‘nonmachine’, when new technologies emerge that are so integrated with humanity, they are no longer machines. This is an ideas book rather than a work that concentrates on close-readings of Romantic period texts; nonetheless, it convincingly argues that we still live in a Romantic machine age.

Coeckelbergh repeatedly states that ‘Romanticism is not necessarily hostile to science and technology.’ (97)  This is a long-established notion and Romantic Cyborgs is related to other works that unite romanticism and technology, such as: Pandemonium (1950) by Humphrey Jennings; J....


Anna Mercer, The Collaborative Literary Relationship of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (New York and London: Routledge, 2019). 210 pp. (Hdbk., $155, ISBN 9780367277956).

A Q & A with Anna Mercer
Cardiff University and Keats House, Hampstead

By Mathelinda Nabugodi
University of Cambridge

Mathelinda Nabugodi: The book studies the Shelleys’ mutual involvement with one another’s literary writing through an examination of surviving manuscripts, evidence provided by letters and journals as well as recent editorial scholarship, especially Charles E. Robinson’s seminal work on the Frankenstein drafts. It centres on a concept of ‘collaborative literary relationship’ that encompasses giving feedback on drafts (Frankenstein), discussing ideas (The Cenci), Mary Shelley’s posthumous editions of Percy Shelley’s works, and even her ‘continued […] inner conversation’ with her husband manifested in ‘his presence in the novels’ she wrote many years after his death (p. 170). Is there any aspect of the Shelleys’ ‘literary’ lives that you would not classify as part of their collaboration...


Timothy Michael. British Romanticism and the Critique of Political Reason (Johns Hopkins UP, 2016). 283 pp., (Hdbk., $ 54.95; ISBN 978-1-4214-1803-2).

Chris Washington
Francis Marion University

Seeing print before it could begin to account for the elections of Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán, Jair Bolsonaro, and Boris Johnson, to name only a few of the national nightmare figureheads right wing politics have disastrously dropped on the world like so many carelessly released bombs, Timothy Michael’s British Romanticism and the Critique of Political Reason nonetheless offers us something unique and unexpected in terms of thinking about contemporary revolutionary politicsof both the left and the regrettable right—by tracing a Kantian philosophical lineage foundational to such a politics. While I would be remiss to frame explicitly the book in terms of what the V21 Collective calls “presentism”—the “awareness that our interest in the period is motivated by certain features of our own moment”—Michael does gesture in this direction himself. He writes that Romanticism may aid us “as we make...



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